I’m not naturally productive.
My brain gets easily distracted, and despite my many lists and plans, I find it exceptionally hard to get everything ticked off my daily To Do list.
I’m constantly jumping around from task to task, and I’m awful for starting things and never finishing them.
If my browser takes longer than 2 seconds to load, I’ll automatically open a new tab… and suddenly it’s lunchtime and all I’ve done is read a ton of Buzzfeed articles about Joe Biden and Barack Obama. (AREN’T THEY ADORABLE THOUGH? ♥)
Obviously, this isn’t great in terms of successfully running a business.
Because the more I look around and read about the people who are rising to the top in their field, the more I feel like the ability to get stuff done is a pretty important skill to have. (I know, right. Who knew?!)
So for the past few weeks I made it my mission to figure out some new ways to clear my head and give me more focus.
And I think I’ve cracked it!
Here are five of the top tricks that have helped me become more productive.
1. BRAIN DUMP
I started doing this before Christmas, when my brain was going 100 miles per hour, and I’ve found it super helpful.
Every morning, I wake up, make breakfast and coffee, then curl up on the sofa, switch on my SAD lamp, and spend 30 minutes writing down everything I need to do. Not just the things I want to get done on that particular day, but EVERYTHING I need to do.
These lists are usually messy and disorganised, but I find that getting everything down on paper helps declutter my brain and make my priorities a bit clearer.
Once I get to work, I go through the Brain Dump list and pick out a maximum of 6 items for my daily To Do list.
I’ve learned that I’m much more productive when I plan properly!
2. TURN YOUR PHONE OFF
Or at least, turn your phone to airplane mode.
If I I see Whatsapp notifications pop up on my screen, I HAVE to open them. I have to. That’s just how my brain works. You know those people who have 3800 emails, 12 texts and 7 missed calls flashing red on their phone? That’s not me. Sooooo not me.
The thought actually makes me shudder.
So you can imagine how hard it is for me to focus on work if my phone keeps buzzing, especially as I’m in a chatty Whatsapp group with eleven other people!
AIRPLANE MODE IS YOUR FRIEND.
Turn the phone off.
3. POMODORO TECHNIQUE
I mentioned it in my Happy Monday post this week, but Pomodoro has completely revolutionised how I work.
The basic technique is to pick ONE task that you need to get done. Just one. Then set a timer (this is why my phone stays on airplane mode!) for 25 minutes, and get to work on that task and nothing BUT that task.
Keep a notebook near you, and if anything pops into your head whilst you’re working, if you suddenly think of something “urgent” that you have to do, write it down so you don’t forget, but go straight back to your chosen task.
Once the timer goes off, take a five-minute break to check your messages or send a tweet or get a coffee, then either carry on with your first task, or choose a different one to work on.
The idea is that by focusing on just ONE thing, instead of multitasking, you’ll get way more done.
And you know what? It works.
I’m the WORST for multitasking. I jump from one thing to another and end up not finishing anything. So Pomodoro works reaaaally well for me because it makes me focus and concentrate, so I end up speeding through and actually finishing tasks far quicker than I originally thought I would.
Turns out I can write posts in one hour instead of two, if I’m not constantly getting distracted by Twitter and Buzzfeed!
4. BE REALISTIC
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from using Pomodoro for my work, is that I have a seriously skewed sense of time.
If I write “CLEAR INBOX” on my To Do list, I expect it to take me an hour at most. But since I’ve started using Pomodoro, I’ve realised it actually takes me at least FOUR 25 minute slots to get that task done.
That’s almost double what my head was telling me. (On the bright side, this apparently means I’m super positive and optimistic. So that’s nice.)
So use the Pomodoro technique to learn how long it ACTUALLY takes you to do things.
Then be realistic in how much you can get done, and plan your day (and tasks) accordingly.
5. TIME YOUR BREAKS
Everyone needs breaks.
They’re a crucial part of refreshing your brain and not getting burnt out. But if your 5 minute breaks are actually lasting 30 minutes, then you’re kind of shooting your productive levels in the foot really, aren’t you?
I like to check my Twitter feed on my quick five-minute breaks, but without a timer to buzz me, I’m likely to spend a good half hour on there, and that time adds up and eats into my productivity.
So pick how long you want your break to be, then set that timer and once it goes off, get back to work.
In my head, I always thought having timers and bells going off would be really off-putting, and make me feel like I was at school again…
But actually, it’s been so freeing!
My brain is more focused, I’m more productive, and that in turn makes me feel more relaxed. I can chill in the evenings, knowing that I’ve done everything (or most!) that I needed to do that day.
Long may it last!