The past few months I’ve felt like I was constantly working in a frenzy, and yet not accomplishing anything. This wasn’t entirely true, I was accomplishing things that popped up unexpectedly and that put my to-do list on hold. But my schedule fell by the wayside and I found myself scrambling to get back on track. I feel like I’ve finally got a handle on things again, so figured I’d share some tips that worked for me in case you’re struggling too!
Make a list (and check it twice)
I am a huge fan of to-do lists. HUGE. Whether you use a program, app, or good old pen and paper, planning out what you need to accomplish for the month, week, and day can help you break down projects into digestible chunks–while not losing site of the big picture. Personally, I use a set of whiteboards to stay on track. This keeps my goals visible at all times, and keeps it easy to adjust and move things around.
Use Streak to “Snooze” emails
I know you’re not supposed to use emails as a to-do list, and I don’t, but just having emails in my inbox waiting for a response or action stresses me out. For example, I had a friend send an invite to use some sort of photo app at her wedding so everyone can share photos. That’s awesome, but her wedding is in June, and it’s October. I don’t want to forget about it, but I also don’t want it sitting in my inbox for the next eight months. That’s where Streak comes in. This handy Gmail extension lets you snooze emails until a future date, which is pretty sweet.
That’s not all Streak does, it’s also a handy CRM for your inbox, allowing you to keep track of projects. I like using it for client intake, as well as keeping client project files neatly contained–because let’s be honest, not every client is going to hop on Basecamp or another project management system. (Boomerang also lets you “boomerang” emails out and back into your email.)
Pause your inbox
I’ve blogged about Inbox Pause before, but seriously, it’s a lifesaver. Before Inbox Pause I’d find myself getting distracted by new emails, and feeling overwhelmed constantly. But now? Nope. When I need to focus I just hit the “pause” button and get to work! It also helps me relax on the weekends and evenings as I’m not aware of emails coming in while I’m trying to get away from my computer.
Dedicate time to social media
Specific times, not just “oooh, I wonder what’s new on Facebook?” I like to use social media breaks when I’m hitting a wall in my workflow. Typically around 10am and 3pm I feel the snoozies coming on, so I grab a cup of coffee and spend 15-20 minutes hopping around on social media. And the rest of the day? I try my best not to go on there, knowing that I’ll have a chance later. This helps prevent getting terribly sidetracked or putting off things I NEED to do for clients or my own business.
Let there be noise
I can’t work without some background noise, and it can actually help you focus. I normally prefer music (something upbeat and energetic), though if listening to a TV show, radio program, or podcast works for you, go for it! Just make sure it’s not TOO distracting. You don’t want to be stopping work to to figure out what you missed. I like listening to music already I know for that reason. I can sing along (you don’t wanna hear it) if I feel so inclined, but don’t need to expend extra brain-power on the lyrics. So yes, if you walked into my office you’d likely find me singing along to lots of 90’s music.
Oh, and if you’re one of those people who can’t work with noise, make sure you shut everything down, close the door, and make a nice little bubble of quiet for yourself!
Don’t forget to take care of you
I think the first thing to go when I feel swamped and crummy is working out, followed very shortly by eating. Yup. I just sit at my computer feeling worse and worse, and with less and less energy–so I get less done. When I make the time to get away from my computer, get some exercise, and feed myself, I get a lot more accomplished!
And proper sleep? You need that too! Running yourself ragged may work in the short-term, but after even a few days productivity goes way down. Make the time to eat, exercise, and sleep! Trust me, you’ll get more done (and have less to redo) if you take care of yourself.
Have any productivity tips? I’d love to hear them!