If you're a freelancer or entrepreneur, productivity (or a lack thereof) can be a major concern. The axiom “time is money” has real meaning for you. Falling into a slump can translate into some disappointing balance sheets – so you need to stay in peak form!
Full disclosure: I am a total productivity nerd. I'm at my best when I'm getting things done. I actually feel strange just sitting and watching TV unless I'm also actively doing something, whether it be folding laundry, designing marketing materials, or even just doing my nails.
Obviously, not everyone is as Type A as I am (nor should they be!) But if you're reading this blog, chances are that you're looking to take your hustle game to the next level. And I would love to help you out with that!
Here are 4 very easy-to-implement life-tweaks that I swear by:
Get up earlier – or not. I've seen so many productivity tips that admonish people to set their alarm clocks for an earlier hour. And that advice can work really well – for morning people. But not all of us hit peak productivity before noon. Studies have shown that people fall along a spectrum defined by two endpoints – the early birds (or larks) and the night owls. About 10% of people can be grouped as larks and 20% are pure night owls, while everyone else falls somewhere in between. German scientists have discovered evidence that larks and night owls actually have different physical brain structures. What does this mean for your productivity? If you're a night owl, getting up earlier can actually lower your productivity and even increase your risk of depression. If you're an early bird, then great – aim for an earlier wake-up time and enjoy that extra hour or two of energy and focus! But if you're a night owl, don't give up on that snooze button yet. Find a way to take advantage of your sharpened night-time focus and ignore the ubiquitous lark propaganda that claims that early-rising is the only way to be productive.
Keep track of your tasks. There are few things I find more satisfying than making lists. I love having a way to keep track of my action items – and I really love being able to cross them off! Having a clearly defined list of tasks is a great way to make sure that you actually get them done. Being able to check them off can also be very motivating – you're able to see what you've been able to accomplish and add to your momentum. There are as many different ways to track tasks as there are people. I have friends who absolutely swear by the bullet journal method. My mother jots down her lists on the back of receipts. I tend to use my phone's Note feature or pen-and-paper lists – I have a small addiction to attractive notebooks.
Don't overestimate. This ties into the previous tip. When making your daily or weekly task lists, don't pack them so full of tasks that you overwhelm yourself. Be realistic about how much time and energy you actually have to expend and plan out your lists accordingly. Getting the feel for this may take some time – when I first started my daily scheduling years ago, I was overly optimistic about my productivity. More often than not, I'd have to carry tasks over to the next day (or two or three!) Once you have a good grasp of how long it usually takes you to complete specific tasks, you'll get a lot more accurate with your lists. These days, I'm able to finish 100% of my tasks the majority of the time – and it feels great!
Schedule in downtime. This may seem counterintuitive, unless you've lived life as a human being for any period of time. We can't be 'on' all the time. At a certain point, productivity will start to flag. For this reason, it's important to regularly include some downtime in your schedule. The amount of downtime needed will vary from person to person. Some people can work long hours for a few days at a time without losing steam. Others will benefit from taking a walk to clear their head once or twice per workday. I'll often take a short nap between drafts when I'm working on larger projects – it leaves me feeling refreshed and helps me get a slightly different perspective on my work. Taking a needed break isn't slacking. It's recharging your productivity – so make sure your breaks get the same respect as your other tasks!
Are you an obsessive list-maker like me? Do you kick it oldschool with notebooks or are you using apps to keep yourself on track? Let me know in the comments!