For this month’s Operation Organization theme on OMHG here are some hacks for creatives that can help you increase your productivity and get more done during the day.
WAIT TO CHECK YOUR EMAIL
Email can be a major time suck for us. It’s not farfetched for me to assume that you get hundreds of emails every day! A huge game changer for me was something I learned from my friend and mentor, Andreea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy.
If you’re in the habit of checking your emails first thing in the morning, stop! You’ll take off with a better start to your day.
For someone like me who’s always connected to my business through my iPhone and tablet, it was extremely hard to break the habit. Let me share with you why it’s worth it:
Between the handfuls of spam, you’re probably getting a myriad of emails – your newsletter subscriptions, bills, receipts, online purchase confirmations, customer questions, leads and opportunities, to name a few. You’re setting yourself up to have a bad day if you check your emails first thing in the morning.
If you start your day with a customer complaint email, that negative energy will follow you through the day.
When you get emails that add unplanned tasks to your workload, like a 50 page contract and a signed copy faxed back, you might feel inclined to add that to your to-do list that day, putting aside the other important tasks you had planned already.
Essentially, reading emails first thing in the morning triggers your reactive self. Instead, we need to get that proactive side of you turned on more often in order to see great things happen in your business.
So, rather than checking your emails first, why not go for a run, mix up your favorite green juice, read the newspaper, do some yoga, meditate or have a nice breakfast? You’ll feel a lot more optimistic and ready to take on the world.
TRY THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
Another productivity hack I wanted to share with you is called the Pomodoro Technique. The basic premise of this is getting you to break down your tasks into manageable time blocks – 25 minutes to be exact (according to time management guru Francesco Cirillo).
In a nutshell, the Pomodoro Technique asserts that taking 25 minute sprints with short breaks in between will help you amp up your productivity levels and keep you from burning out.
Here’s how the Pomodoro Technique works:
- Choose one task that you’d like to get done.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Do nothing else but the task you have on hand until the timer is up.
That was easy, right? Here are a couple of extra tips to help make the Pomodoro Technique even more effective for you:
- What if something comes up during your 25 minutes? Write it down on a piece of paper so you can handle it later. Even if it’s to return an important phone call, in most cases it is okay to wait 25 minutes before you respond.
- Pace yourself. Take 5-10 minute breaks in between, with a longer 15-30 minute break after four consecutive runs. This helps to keep you fresh!
Can you already see why so many have found the Pomodoro Technique helpful? It keeps you laser focused, saving you time overall so you can get stuff done, even when your day feels chaotic!
You now have all the information you need to get started implementing this technique in your day. If you’re curious, you can get more information at http://pomodorotechnique.com/.
Also remember that it’s the people that implement and take action that become successful at what they do!
SET GOOD GOALS
Do you know what your goals are? Goals change as you learn more about your values and what you want out of your life. Are you consistently reaching your goals?
A big secret that isn’t widely known is how successful people are able to accomplish so many of their goals in so little time. Well, I don’t like secrets so I’m going to share:
- Not every goal is a good goal. Be very specific and make sure your goal is measurable. Specific, because you will have a much better chance of accomplishing a focused goal. Measureable, so you know how to pace your progress for success. For example: sell 100 widgets within 5 months.
- Next, break that goal down into smaller milestones. To reach our goal of 100 widgets in 5 months, we need to sell 20 widgets per month. You can further break this down into weekly milestones if you want.
- Figure out your action steps. What do you need to do to sell those 20 widgets? Post daily on your Facebook page? Write a blog post every week? Send an email to your mailing list? Call your customers?
- Now that you know what needs to be done, schedule these tasks into your calendar. This gives you a clear roadmap for your goal.
You’ve just completely taken the guess work out of that elusive goal!
Try it now. What’s one goal you’ve wanted to reach? When would you like to cross it off your list? What small action steps do you need to take every day or week to help you get closer to achieving your goal?
A lot of us self-employed business owners tend to have so many exciting and amazing ideas swimming in our heads. We can be creative out-of-the-box thinkers, but we may not be the most organized people in the world (and I think it’s safe to say that photographic memories are very rare. If you have one, I’m so jealous of you!).
Whenever you get a brilliant light bulb moment, instead of storing it in your mind and trusting that you’ll remember it an hour from now, write it down immediately.
How many times have we had a random moment of inspiration only to forget about it because we didn’t jot it down?
You should also schedule to-dos into your calendar. If it’s not scheduled, it’s not likely you’re going to take action and get it done!
We’re all human and have less than stellar days every now and then. You can help combat that lack of motivation when your calendar clearly states the things that need to be done.
DON’T SET DAILY TO-DO’S
My friend, Stacey Trock, is the owner of Fresh Stitches, a crochet pattern business. She blogs almost daily, has 400k Facebook fans, has published three crochet books and attends conventions and tradeshows every year.
She runs her business full time but works only six hours a day (her goal is to eventually get to four hours a day).
When I asked her to give me a look into how she plans her schedule and how she gets so many things done with so little time, here’s what I found out:
Instead of setting daily to-dos, set weekly goals.
Prior to learning this, I used to write down what I needed to do that day. Most of the time, I don’t complete the entire list. I also tend to cross off the easiest things to do first, leaving the more important (and usually harder or more time consuming tasks) to be done later in the day when I’m tired or unmotivated. Then, procrastination kicks in and I don’t get stuff done.
Does this sound familiar?
Instead of cramming everything into one day, write a list of things you want to get done for the entire week. The only deadline you have is the end of the work week, which depending on how you approach it, could end on any day; but I recommend Friday so you have the weekend to rest and relax.
This way, even if you have a sick day, feel unmotivated or something unplanned comes up, you’ll still have the rest of the work week to get through your to-dos. You’ll tend to feel less disappointed about yourself, so you’re keeping your spirits and enthusiasm high for the next day.
You’ll achieve bigger things and get more done. I’m rooting for you!
At the end of the day, if these suggestions don’t work for you, don’t give up yet! If you’re looking for a more structured environment to help you be more productive and reach your goals, Craftivity and its simple yet powerful features might come in handy. I’ve personally been using it and it has completely replaced Google Calendar for me. It’s helped keep me on track to achieve bigger and better things. Instead of the constant hamster wheel spin, I’m finally being proactive in my business! You can find out more about how Craftivity can help you at https://www.craftivity.me
What productivity or goal achieving hacks have you found that work for you and your business?
Mei Pak | The Pragmatic Designer & Craftivity
Mei Pak designs a line of scented food jewelry at Tiny Hands. She sells in over 70 stores across the USA, appeared on TV numerous times, was featured on glossy magazines like Every Day With Rachael Ray, InTouch Magazine & Earnshaw’s and is praised by the likes of Hello Giggles, Incredible Things, Cool Mom Picks and more. On the side, Mei also blogs at The Pragmatic Designer and together with her husband, developed Craftivity, a webapp that helps makers, artists and designers reach more of their goals and be more productive.
What a great post! Managing to-dos on a weekly basis instead of daily is a great tip!
Glad you like it, Toni! 🙂
I keep my phone out of my bedroom; that way, when I wake up, I’m not reaching for it to check my emails. I’m also not staring at it instead of going to bed, either. It’s been a big help to me!
I still like daily to-dos, but I like to write at most three things (three!) the night before. Sometimes, I just write one. *gasp*
That’s smart to keep your devices out of your bedroom! So in moments of weakness (like when you’re just waking up from slumber) you have no choice! 😉
I’m with you on to-dos. My weekly goals dictate what my daily tasks are. Then in my mind I have just one mission for the whole day. I think people sometimes fall trap into writing way too many things on their to-do list, and then only doing the easiest and least important task first. I like that you keep your list at 1-3 items. Thanks for sharing!
Great tips! I am definitely a check-email-first culprit… but I do find it works for me. I grab my phone first thing in the morning and use it to quickly (and easily) filter out the newsletters and spammy emails… delete delete delete… so that by the time I make it to my actual inbox on the computer, it’s less daunting and only the important stuff remains. It also gives me a snapshot of my day – how many orders do I have to tackle, are there any important emails that I need to answer right away, etc – so I can plan how my day is going to look.
Thanks for sharing Marisa! I used to handle my email that way as well, but the trap I fall into is reading customer emails right away. Like this morning! (Old habits die hard.) A mailing list subscriber accused me of selling her email…
Your way of cropping your inbox so it’s easier for you to manage later makes a lot of sense. Love that you get that snapshot of your day! Sounds like you have a great system set up!
Great tips! I have been doing the weekly to-do list instead of daily and that has helped a ton.
Thanks Amy! That’s one of my favorites on the list as well. It really helps change my mindset without being too harsh or strict on myself.
I have been really contemplating proactive vs. reactive. As soon as I read your checking email explanation triggering your reactive , I went and wrote a blog post on the subject. I’ll be quoting you. The rest of the article is equally fantastic Mei. I needed to hear all of what you wrote. Thanks So Much.
Shalagh, thank you for your kind words!
I think being proactive is just another habit that can be formed with enough practice. Just being aware of proactive vs. reactive is a great first step for anyone wanting to get off the hamster wheel run. I’d love to see your blog post! Do you have a link?
Knowing you have a choice is half the battle Mei. The article went live tonight. Thank you for the inspiration. http://shalavee.com/proactive-verses-reactive/
Love everything in this post! I started using Pomodoro technique recently and it’s super helpful when I have a ton of very different things to crank through in a day. Thanks for posting Mei!
Glad to hear the Pomodoro technique helps you @saradimantova:disqus! Such a tiny action yet so effective and powerful! 🙂
I wrote an article about productivity a while ago, and some of the advice I gave coincides with yours, which I guess means those are generally good advices 🙂
(I didn’t focus on goal setting though, but that is an essential component of productivity)
Not setting daily to-dos sounds a bit counter intuitive, but I’m willing to try it out.
I started writing down weekly goals, and I use daily to-dos as well. I try to keep my daily list to 3 MIT’s (most important tasks), and a list of “would be nice if…” tasks that contribute to my overall goals, but I realize I can’t do it all. And on most days I don’t.
OK to be honest, on most days I don’t complete all 3 of my MIT’s either 🙂 I usually wander off to do something else that I just felt “inspired” to do. Oh well.
(If you’re curious, here’s the article I mentioned earlier: http://neladunato.com/blog/productivity-tips-from-a-hopeless-procrastinator/ )
Hi @nelchee:disqus! I love your blog post on productivity, it sounds like we’ve gone through a lot of the same waves. I procrastinate because I overthink tasks, but have recently learnt, like you, to get past the possibilities of failure by asking myself: what really is the worst that can happen? This really goes hand in hand with my JUST DO IT attitude I’ve been trying to harness.
I totally agree, I think it’s really important to have down time as well; I was just on Jena Coray’s post on that. Just having an afternoon off to do whatever the heck I like or want to has really helped in having a rekindled energy and fire for my business.
I’m not against setting daily-to-dos and I think they can be very effective if done right – just the way you described! But I also believe daily to-dos need an overarching, big picture “why” component as well which I think “important this week” helps with.
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