First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight: You are so much more than what you get done or check off your list each day. As more and more of us find ourselves balancing personal and professional lives simultaneously, it’s important to remember that, while important, your productivity levels don’t determine your worth. And they most certainly don’t define who you are.
But, with that being said, we all know, especially us entrepreneurs, how important every minute can be. Being highly productive is almost always an asset that the most successful people in the world have. Why? Because it means they know how to optimize each and every second, maximizing their efforts in order to create major impact.
Now, for most of us, we usually stumble upon one major road block on the way to productivity: fatigue. Whether it hits you immediately when you get up, right after lunch, or at some point during your evening, many of us lose our ability to be productive because we quite literally hit a wall. Despite our best efforts to keep moving, this fatigue leaves us feeling like failures and, oftentimes, our checklists unchecked.
So, before we dive into my little productivity secrets, it’s important to tackle this issue first.
The moment you start to feel fatigued, first give yourself some space to allow it. One of the worst things you can do is to start talking negatively to yourself – this will only not only keep you from being productive, but it’s detrimental to so many other areas of your life, too. Once you’ve given yourself some space, try to encourage yourself to get something done before you rest, even if it feels super small. Remember, something is always better than nothing. And, even if it’s not everything you were hoping to accomplish, even getting a little something done will help you from feeling like a failure. In psychology-talk, it will help you close the loop so that you can actually rest when it’s time to do so.
Forward momentum is key to your productivity – and your success.
If your fatigue keeps you from getting everything you need to get to, make a short list of the items that are remaining and plan for a time when you’ll be able to get back to work. Make sure it’s far enough away that you can rest and breathe, but not so far away that it stalls your progress.
This concept of balance, not too much but not too little, is actually the core of productivity success, and it leads me to those little secrets that result in big results. For so many entrepreneurs, we find ourselves stuck in the constant ups and downs of doing things on our own. For every “this-is-awesome” moment, we have an equally intense “why-am-I-doing-this” moment.
This entrepreneurial rollercoaster is exactly what leads to burn out – and failure.
Productivity, however, is the antidote, the secret that allows you to keep going while striking some semblance of balance. These four productivity secrets are proven to be effective tools for giving you the clarity you need to see the horizon, even when you’re in the thick of things. Use them regularly and see how much better you (and your business) are because of them!
1. Categorize Your To-Dos. While it might seem counterintuitive to productivity at first (I just want to start getting things done!), the exercise of writing down everything you need to do for the entire week is actually incredibly helpful. Often referred to as “time batching”, the goal is to write down everything you need to accomplish, each task on a separate piece of paper, so that you can categorize them in order to work most effectively. Although some people use their own unique categories, most people can get by with these: Marketing, Management, Content, Finances, Loose Ends. Plan a day where you’ll tackle each of these categories, and then sort your to-dos into each day. This type of “batching” allows you to zero in on a specific task-at-hand, rather than spinning your wheels as you try to maneuver from one priority to the next.
2. Take Advantage of Apps. There are so many tools available that it’s almost impossible not to find one that checks all of your boxes. Many of these apps are incredibly intelligent, allowing you to categorize your tasks, add notes, share, and check them off when you’re done. If a task is recurring, apps like Asana allow you to schedule them to show up on your calendar as often as you need. Need to hit specific deadlines? These type of organizational apps can make sure nothing important gets forgotten. And, if you run up against that entrepreneur fatigue, moving a deadline, changing a task – or even assigning it to someone else – is a piece of cake.
3. Schedule Your Time Diligently. We all know how dangerous it is to say, “I’ll do this today!” and then hope the time to do it just magically appears. In order to focus your attention on all of the items you’ve categorized, you need to block out chunks of time specifically dedicated to everything you are hoping to get done. And, to be held totally accountable, tell as many people as you can about your work schedule, and keep it on the books like you would a date with your best friend.
4. Prioritize Your Priorities. When you start to break down every task you need to do, it’s easy to feel like there’s too much on your plate (and there probably is!) In order to be as productive as possible, you need to prioritize the top three most important things and get those done first. Think of them like the big dominoes – once they get knocked down, these are the things that have the biggest ripple effect in your day. Getting these done first not only leave you feeling like a success, but it ensure that you won’t keep putting them off.
Inevitably, some task will come up during your super focused productivity sessions that will tempt you away from what you’re working on. Do your best to minimize all distractions, like turning off alerts and notifications and keeping your email tab closed. And, when something important does come up, be sure to have your pen and paper near by to jot it down – and then batch it for success!