Being productive isn’t easy, but can it be simple.
Today I want to talk about productivity hacks we often overlook or aren’t really aware of. During my journey to use my time more wisely, as well as be as present as I can be for those I love, I have tried a lot of different techniques and methods. Some have significantly changed the ways I have viewed “being busy” as well as the getting stuff done motto. Personally, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t need help in this department. These six hacks have helped me reach some pretty goals--planning a wedding in less than four months and starting a new career with a side business. There are a couple on this list that may be well known, but I have included because I think there are beneficial for less common reasons.
I have a love/like relationship with brain dumps. It has taken me awhile to understand them; as well as implement them on a steady basis. When you brain dump, you are allowing your tasks to flow in a stream of consciousness. Because of that, you often can write down too many tasks that can’t be accomplished in a week, or even longer sometimes. I know, the idea is to write it all down and cross off the excess. Honestly, if you are a person who thinks you can do all the things, finding tasks to cross off is going to be tricky. I am one of those overachievers who wants to complete 20 tasks each day. I’m lucky if I can check off five things some days. So, trying to reel in my thoughts was a challenge in the beginning. What I realized was, although I was starting to see everything in one big picture I was getting very overwhelmed by the amount I thought of. Crossing insignificant tasks seemed daunting and almost impossible to do. Then I read The Bullet Journal Method by the man behind the method himself.
So, I have come to my own conclusion that I needed to do a part brain dump/ part organized brain dump inspired by Ryder Carroll. I have started to swear by Carroll’s method of creating a mock chart divided into three parts: currently working on, need to be working on, and want to be working on. Similar to the first method, you need to cross those insignificant, can wait tasks on your list. Just because there is a want to work on section does not mean it all has to be crossed off. Try to keep two to three things that excite you the most.
By having a bit more structure in my brain dump opposed to a regular, stream of consciousness one, I can see more realistically what my priorities are, should be, and what I would like them to be. I highly recommend doing either a brain dump, or the Ryder Carroll method each week before you write down a weekly task list. For me, I use Carroll’s method, then categorize the tasks by personal, work, and home. I have been using this method for a month now. I have found I am so much more on top of things! I pick a couple of tasks from my list each day that I want to accomplish. By doing a sort of daily check in with that list, I can get a feel for how my day should go and how I want it to go. Of course, there may be day specific tasks that had come up after my weekly tasks set up. You don’t want to do what I have done and jam everything in. Trust me, the migration signifer is a handy one to use--only when you truly need it. Another way to strategically implement a brain dump is to practice what Eisenhower had done.
Carroll isn’t the only person who has thought about combining productivity with prioritizing. Similar to Carroll’s method, the Eisenhower principle is great to use after a traditional brain dump. Traditionally, when you do a brain dump, you need to organize it somehow by dividing your thoughts and tasks into categories. Eisenhower took this a step further by saying there are only urgent tasks that aren’t important and important tasks that aren’t urgent. With his method,
Eisenhower separated his tasks into four categories: urgent, important; important but not urgent;urgent but not important; and not urgent and not important. Eisenhower used this method throughout his life, especially during his presidency. He accomplished great things by focusing first on what was urgent and important, rather than what he just felt like doing that day.
Before I switched to Carroll’s way, I used this method because there was more to do than there was done. I became a heavy multitasker, bouncing from project to project whenever I had a good idea. I *may* still be a little all over the place, but when I really need to focus I try his method. I can start to see where my priorities should be. It can be hard, for me at least, to determine what is urgent or important because I want to do it all. However, after the second look around, I realize there certainly is too much I am trying to take on.
If you are one of those fly by the seat of your pants person, it can be hard to differentiate between what is urgent and important and what is not really urgent or important. Yet, it is important to figure it out. You don’t want to be working on one project when it doesn’t align with any of your goals. I haven’t talked too much about goals and goal setting, but when we are trying to be productive, there always has to be an end goal in sight; even if we don’t know what it is yet.
To take your productivity a step further, I recommend using the Eisenhower technique at least twice a week. Whereas it’s good to start off each week with Carroll’s method of what we are working on and so forth method, there needs to be regular check in’s because priorities and tasks can change so quickly. Life happens. Plans can often change in the blink of an eye. By using Eisenhower’s method a couple days a week you can see the shifts in priorities, the lack of changes, or adjustments to be made. Now, what happens once you have an ideal structure built for you? It’s time to make the time.
This is a game changing tip. Do you ever lack concentration that doing even a minute task seems impossible? Setting a timer not only challenges you to work, it also becomes a sort of contest with yourself. For example, I often use a timer when I am trying to start or finish an important project; especially when I notice I am dragging my feet. There is something that triggers us when we only have a limited amount of time to get something finished. The adrenaline kicks in. How much can I accomplish? Can I set a personal record?
There are a bunch of different guidelines out there. There is the pomodoro method of 25 minutes of work and a short break of 3-5 minutes. You can do as many sets as you feel you can handle; or, that you feel will help you reach your end goal. What I do is usually set the timer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Sometimes my breaks tend to be a tad long. However, I feel being interrupted every 25 minutes puts a damper on my focus. You need to find a system that works for you. Setting a timer allows you to give your projects your undivided attention; which leads me into my next productivity hack.
Yes, we are all aware how bad multitasking is. But, are you really aware? It takes your brain about 20 minutes to catch up as you switch your attention back and forth. If you are working on an assignment of any sort, checking social media for five minutes will set you back at least 20 minutes. Image all you can get done in that time? We, as a whole, are bound to be distracted. Yet, balancing between five different things won’t produce get results; in fact, you will be less likely to finish any of your projects if you are scrambling to work on all of them. Say it with me “No more multitasking!”
The culprit behind bad multitasking is not just social media, but it is definitely a co-conspirator. Think about it, how many times a day do you spend mindlessly scrolling? Liking all the pictures on Instagram, posting status updates on Facebook and Twitter; you know, just being “social” There is something you can definitely do to either limit your scrolling, or freeze it all together.
Blocking social media feeds
After watching a video on productivity tips that focused on having the best week every week, the woman talked about limiting checking your email to once a day; currently, she has decreased that further for herself to once to twice a week. Checking your email infrequently can help you stay more focused and less distracted; because, let’s face it, what email is really that urgent? It’s mostly spam anyway. However, checking your email every five minutes isn’t as damaging as scrolling mindlessly on social media. Why, you may ask? Aren’t you doing the same thing as checking email? No, wrong! There are times when your emails can be urgent and important. Most of the time, things on social media are not. It’s not urgent to know what monthly theme AmandaRachLee chose. Still love her work, but I don’t need to check constantly.
If there is a will, there is a way. The productivity expert talked about how she blocks all her social media feeds. Now, this may sound extreme. But, trust me, this can be such a game changer when you have a tight deadline and decide to spend 30 minutes “connecting” with people. I won’t go on a rant about this, but I do think there are better ways to use your time. However, I, too, am human so I check my feeds enough, too. I have downloaded an app that blocks my Facebook feed. However, I only installed it on my phone accidentally, so I do cheat sometimes. Again, only human. If you google feed blockers, there will be plenty you can download; both for your phone and other devices. You don’t need to go cold turkey. But, if you are like me and noticed you keep hitting fifteen minutes when your phone says time’s up, then you need to make some adjusts.
Sound off below what top productivity tips you have. What works best for you when you need to get it done?
Remember, it’s all about planning one night at a time.
~ Hannah ~