This post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.
So here’s the thing, this post was going to be about productivity. I was going to talk about how I plan my day, revisit my inbox zero strategy, and throw a shout-out to my favourite to-do list, astrid. Sadly, yesterday I got hit by some kind of stomach bug, started puking like crazy and ended up spending the rest of the day alternating between lying in bed sipping water and hanging over the toilet seat retching like I’d been on a ten-day bender.
This post will therefore be short and sweet, before I get back to the business of getting better.
1. Know what you are doing
So the biggest single boost to your productivity (and sanity) is keeping a master to-do list. I have one for work, and one for home. I use Astrid, because I can forward emails with attachments to it, and therefore keeping my inbox clean is much easier. My ‘home’ one is actually more for my two businesses (writing & webdesign) but I also use it for reminding when to do various tasks. Even a pen and paper list is fine, as long as it travels with you and you keep it up to date.
2. Plan out when you are doing what
My Google Calendar includes marked out hours for work, both my day-job (easy since they are fixed) and my businesses. Here’s a screenshot for next week. When there’s a repeating event, but I can’t make one of them, I mark it in red instead of deleting it.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, but it doesn’t always work. There are a couple of things I’ve learned over time:
- Always leave a lot of wriggle room – you’ll notice that there’s a lot of empty space in my calendar. When you start, it can be tempting to fill every hour of every day… programming in meal times, bed time, shower time. This just means that the second you hit something unexpected it throws you off. It’s practically impossible to stick to an hour-by-hour schedule on an ongoing basis. (though let me know if you’ve managed it!)
- Don’t get too detailed. My ‘writing’ blocks, for example, can be for blog posts, flash-fiction, my novel or any other writing I feel like doing. My web-design blocks can be for actual web-work for a client, or can mean invoicing, marketing or training. By keeping it loose, you can respond to the most urgent things on your to-do list.
- Don’t worry if you miss something. Nobody is perfect! This a framework to help you achieve, not a stick to beat yourself with. Another good reason for keeping things flexible and with plenty of ‘white space’ is that you can move things around. If I’m late starting writing, I’ll power through for another hour. Equally, if I’m having a good day of writing and don’t want to stop, I can keep going… even if my calendar reckons I’ve done my time.
3. Track your time
I use something called the Pomodoro technique, and also use Astrid to time myself on various tasks. This helps me know if I’ve scheduled enough time for something. We often overestimate what we can achieve in an hour or so, and over time I get a better picture of how long it actually takes me to write the average blog post, or how long it takes me to complete 2000 words on my novel.
Again, the key is averages and flexibility. Don’t bother timing yourself to the minute. Twenty minute chunks are fine. This isn’t about forcing yourself to work faster, harder or become a machine… it’s about getting the best use out of the time your have available.
4. Leave some unscheduled time (especially on weekends and holidays)
Spontaneous fun is often the best kind of fun, like waking up on a Saturday morning and deciding to go on an impromptu road trip, or suddenly getting an urge to go for a day-long hike in the woods… or possibly getting the urge for a marathon RPG session. Give yourself a weekend off from any constraints every now and then, and pay attention to your moods. If you feel stressed and demotivated, chances are you need a day off.
5. Get rid of stuff
What you’ll find, if you do all of the above steps, is there are various tasks on your to-do list that basically never get scheduled in because you never have enough time. This is where having some BIG GOALS or principles can help. Health (exercise/food), writing and financial freedom are my three biggies, so they get scheduled in. Other stuff happens if and when it happens, and if it goes a month or so without getting completed? I knock it off, because it obvious wasn’t essential.
Got some productivity tips? Let me know in the comments!
The low-sugar challenge
My tally for yesterday was fairly dismal. I ate nothing except two slices of bread which I promptly threw up. I did manage to drink a glass of ginger beer, which was full of sugar, but also much required (and the only thing I could keep down, other than water.) The best laid plans… however, today I am back on track. Full report tomorrow, when I return with the letter Q!