My Top 11 Ways To Stay Consistently Productive
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There was a recent article that showed that through history, women’s time for creativity, productivity, and innovation was often divided and absorbed by “womanly” work; chores, children, listening to husbands’ thoughts being worked over out loud.
I think we all can attest to having domestic relationships, familial responsibilities, chores, or even getting bogged down with emails and “personal administrative” tasks completely derail us from being productive. Why is it so difficult sometimes to sit down and focus for 3 hours, and more importantly, what will happen if we carve out that time?
Get yourself a nice cup of coffee, and let’s get to work with some of my favorite ways to chisel out time and stay productive:
Make a to-do list
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to complete? I do, and the “productive anxiety” can turn itself so large and so intimidating, that I sometimes give up before I begin. Write out all of your tasks,
Set a timer and track your time
To help the mind wander less, and to get out of the black hole of a million tabs, I time myself when I perform tasks like blogging, making videos, or even doing research. It helps to keep me honest, and ask “does completing this task help me achieve my larger goal that I set for myself today?”. For example, if I have a deadline for editing photos, does it make sense for me to start browsing SEO tricks for my blog? Absolutely not. By setting a timer, I help myself focus, especially when every task seems to be a priority.
Practice the Pomodoro method
Similarly to setting a timer, a great way to get large chunks of work done, especially if you are tackling one large assignment (2000 word blog, 400 photos to edit, 100 emails to send, etc) is the Pomodoro method. How it works :
Choose a task you’d like to perform
Set your timer to 25 minutes
Work on task un-interrupted, for the duration, until the clock goes off.
When the timer goes off, put a checkmark on paper. Congrats! You got through the first round
Take a 5 minute break, but not with technology. Go get a coffee, relax, close your eyes, go for a walk, stretch.
Every 4 Pomodoros (25 + 5 min rounds), take 1 longer break of 10 minutes. Same thing, walk around, get some air, relax.
I love using an app like Headspace for a quick meditation session. It helps to reflect, but it mostly helps to catch my breath. I know breathing deep sounds really silly, but every time I am stressed, or feeling anxious, taking long breaths in and long breaths out is often the only thing that helps to immediately calm me down.
Add priorities to your tasks
Once you have your to-do list, look at it and analyze which task deserves which spot on your day. Some freelancers recommend putting down no more than 5 tasks in a day, and completing them all. I like to see the “pipeline” so I like to add ratings to my list, as well as how much time I plan to spend on that task. If I don’t have a time associated, this task might unravel and may never get done.
Look at your long term goals. See what needs to stay. Get rid of everything else.
We as creatives have tons of ideas floating around, all the time and they seem like they are perfect, and wonderful, and need to be brought to life, now. But, this is a great time to a) set the idea aside and let it simmer, and b) think about how does this idea fit into your larger plan.
For example, I wanted to create a little side gig with my friend to create a digital store where we sell vintage and rare clothes finds. Sounds like a great idea, right? It includes our passions, my photography skills, and our mutual love for social media. The reality is, that this idea makes absolutely 0 sense for my personal goals of being a social media manager & consultant to small businesses and influencers. The idea was time consuming, and the returns on investment (mostly of time) were dismal. I was pregnant, and tired, and with a baby on the way so the less physical projects I could take on, the better.
So step back, think about what about an idea excites you, and think “how does this idea benefit me long term? Does it fit nicely into my overarching plan?” I’m not saying don’t engage with the idea, but let it simmer first.
Prepare as much as possible to get rid of tasks that don’t matter
One of the worst time-sucks and the biggest disappointment is, sitting down to get some creative juices flowing and realizing that before you can start blogging / edit photos / work on your business, you have to answer quick emails, respond to texts or calls, or do other small tasks that add up to hours and hours of work.
These tasks seem to take 5 minutes (How long does it really take to answer that one email?) but can turn into legitimate time vampires if you do not approach them at a different time.
Ask yourself whether you absolutely need to complete that task before beginning your large chunk of work. Chances are, we might just be procrastinating and blaming it on all the other small stuff, which feels better to complete.
Schedule an irrevocable, untouchable time in your schedule
I make it a priority to have at least 2-3 hours every day to do nothing but focus on creating content. Your responsibilities and goals might be different, but no matter what they are, you will not write the next best-seller, or become the next top-watched YouTuber, or have the biggest Rolodex of clients, if you do not allow yourself to carve out time to focus 100% on your tasks. Block the time out, turn the phone off, hide away from the world. That time is yours, and yours alone, and nothing is more important than you getting it done.
When hitting a wall, get inspiration
Sometimes I feel “Khrystyna, sit down and do not dare get up from this desk until the blog post is complete. One way or another, we are getting this work done!” But that’s a very destructive way to get myself burnt out.
The better options are to take a walk, turn the phone off, get some exercise, do a quick stretch, or really anything that will help me let loose and allow the thoughts to flow.
If I need to truly disconnect, my husband and I take a little vacation, or even a staycation where we do nothing but read and chat about
Put on a solid playlist
There is very popular advice of “do not multi-task when working!”. One of the recommendations is to stop listening to music, turn off all distractions, and just focus on the work. What worked really well for me is not turning off all music, but allowing myself to listen to the right kind of music.
If music helps you focus, but lyrics are too distracting, and classical music doesn’t quite get you into the right groove, check out this playlist from Spotify called Brain Food. It has a terrific tempo, and blends well into the background while also helping you tune the sound out.
Or, if you prefer a little bit of background noice, check out Coffitivity, a tool that recreates ambient coffee shop sounds. Layering the coffee shop vibes with good music? Perfection.
Iterate, and see what worked
The advice that worked for me, may not be perfect for you. I encourage you to check in with yourself about what works for you and what harms your productivity. Finetune it so that you can keep coming back to the same tricks that work well with your personality and your work style.
I hope these tips will offer you a way to accomplish your goals and not put off tasks until “the next day”. You are talented, and capable of incredible successes. The only thing to do is to a) make the time, and b) make the time consistently.