We’re all always trying to figure how to maximize our time so that we can work when we work and rest when we rest. We spend endless hours iterating on our own personal productivity hacks. Yes, I said it. The dreaded “P” word that a lot of us fear most, after the other one – procrastinate. Once we get ourselves into gear, figuring out how to be effectively productive with our workday can be a challenge in a number of ways.
I will admit, having worked in the broadcast and digital media world for major networks for 13 years, then becoming an entrepreneur in 2012, where I was my own boss for the first time, was a major change.
But once I accepted the new lifestyle and found daily ways to make it work, I started to enjoy being a Girl Boss! While I am a naturally organized person who pays attention to detail, I recognize everyone’s work style is very different based on their personality. So I want to share some of my tried and tested productivity tips which are fairly simple, and have become a lifesaver (and a timesaver).
Read more: 4 Ways to Control Your Inner Control Freak
Whether you are a freelancer like me, a self-made entrepreneur, or work for corporate America, there are ways to implement these tips so they work for you.
1. Find your “list” style and make it a priority
I have gotten to the point where I almost cannot function without my list!
Next to my computer at my work station is a notepad and pen. Every evening, I jot down the things I need to get done as well as the things I want to achieve the following day. I find it is extremely helpful to visualize what I need to do, because when I cross it off after completing it, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. It can be as small as “pay phone bill”, “reply to emails” or even “start proposal document”.
We all have different “list styles” – pen and paper, Trello, a draft email to ourselves, etc. Whatever your preferred method, the most important thing is you make time to brain dump all of the to-dos that are in your head so that you can set yourself up for success.
For those of us with full time jobs, it can be a stretch to find time during work hours to do anything except work. But if there is a way to accomplish one non-work-related item each day, by the end of the week you will have crossed 5 things off your list!
For us freelance workers, I find a to-do list can help organize a potentially overwhelming schedule into priorities. It doesn’t have to be a physical pen and paper like mine, it could be one of many amazing apps that are designed to organize our busy lives.
2. Block off dedicated “email reply time”
I know, it sounds like a no-brainer, but I have been guilty of just letting certain emails go, and before too long I forget they even exist.
When you are running a business or working for someone else, your email etiquette is part of your professional “brand”. How quickly you take to reply to emails sends a loud and clear message how committed you are. With inboxes filling up so quickly each day, personally make sure I end each of my work days without any important unread emails related to work. I set time aside each morning to be my “email replying” time before the rest of my day gets going.
A growing unread number of emails can be very daunting as the day goes on, but you have the power to decide how much demand they have over your life. Be ahead of the email game each day so you don’t have to dread opening your inbox every morning.
Read more: 5 Life Hacks For the Overcommitted
3. Know your typical distractors. And nix them!
If you are like me, this means social media! While I have my own business and a self-determined schedule, social media can be a huge drain on my productivity and effectiveness.
Hands up if you have randomly been drawn into a long Facebook conversation or Twitter argument that took a couple of hours out of your day and put you even further behind in your workload? Yep, I am guilty of this!
No matter what your Achilles heel is, it can wait until later. I have resolved to turning off notifications, not opening a web browser with Facebook, and not watching videos unless they are work related.
One of the secrets to a high level of productivity is effective time management. My rule of thumb is: unless it absolutely urgent, it can wait for later. Trust me, you will NOT regret the time you forego dealing with distractions in favor of getting more work done.
Read more: How Running Became My Best Therapy
4. Incorporate self-care into your day
Eating right, exercising and doing everything you can to remain stress free is super important! That means a decent breakfast each day (not just Starbucks!), taking time to have a lunch break (not just eating in front of your computer!) and getting some fresh air to give your eyes a break from your computer screen or your phone.
5. Take time off (if you can)!
Take those vacation days. Choose not to open your laptop or answer emails on your phone over the weekend. Going on vacation is your time to recharge your batteries and come back to workplace motivated and excited.
This can be tricky, depending on where you work and what your job is. The US is the only developed nation in the world not to have any form of federally-mandated paid family leave, which can put a huge strain on families, and especially mothers. While there are many companies which do offer it, it is not a standard social institution like it is in, say, Europe.
Likewise, studies show that people who take a vacation regularly report higher levels of productivity. A happy worker means a profitable company and satisfied customers.
It has become too easy to expect employees to be “on call” 24/7 because we are so attached to our phones and digital devices, but that shouldn’t negate the fact that we deserve a break. France recently passed a law stating employers could not email their employees during the weekend, and I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the right idea!
These are just a few ideas to get you into a basic productivity pattern that is easy and effective to maintain – and can get you some of your downtime back.