Let’s chat productivity. It makes sense because even if we may be getting towards the end of lockouts and safer at homes, life will still be different. Now is still the time to make new habits. When life is less busy its easier to make new habits. So while is still a little less demanding because less is going on, now’s the time to try out new productivity tips. I’ve compiled a few of my favorite tips that I’ve used over the years.
A few years ago I discovered the Pomodoro method for productivity. I love using this method for projects.
The Pomodoro method is a 2 hour block of time where you work consistently for 25 minutes then take a 4 minute break. You cut out all distractions and focus solely on the task at hand. Your phone is silenced (if possible) and you don’t deviate from the task.
During the 4 minute break you can respond to messages, stretch, get a drink, whatever. Then repeat.
I love this for projects. If I’m working on writing a presentation, or creating a marketing campaign, or anything that is more than a simple task. I found it causes me to focus better than if I sat down and said “I have 90 minutes to do this.” My mind might drift easily or I might slug around because I think on how I’m going to be doing this for 80, 70, 60 more minutes anyway. With the Pomodoro I focus for the full 25 minutes on the task and leave the distractions to the 4 minute break.
I’m fortunate to work from home almost every day of the month, so I do have less people distractions but if you work in an office I encourage you to give this a try. If you have an office door, close it. If you don’t, just pause your timer and quickly inform the person who needs something from you, that you are in a workflow and ask if you can discuss it later.
If you are planning on using two Pomodoro blocks back to back (2- two hour blocks) it is recommended that you take a 25-30 minute break in between. Not a break to work on other things but a break to rest your mind and get some good body fuel.
Saving The Errands
I used to run errands 3-4 times a week. I’d schedule grocery shopping on Tuesday, bank and post office on Wednesday, Menards on Thursday, and fit in that miscellaneous stuff pretty much when I felt like it.
I eventually began to realize how much time I was wasting by driving the same route usually multiple days to accomplish different errands. I figured I was losing about 120 minutes a week due to “duplicate driving” I call it. Plus I didn’t necessarily have 1 day where I just focused on working without being obligated to leave the home. I honestly thought I was breaking up the monotony of working at home, but I was actually breaking up my ability to be highly productive.
As part of a weekly block schedule I instituted “errand days”. Every week (when not in Quarantine) Friday is my errand day. Its when I go to the bank, post office, Menards, do small grocery runs (if you remember from a previous blog I’m a huge advocate for grocery delivery), etc.
If I have to make appointments for outside the home I leave those for Thursdays. Medical appointments in the morning, others in the afternoon. (Medical appointments in the afternoon are a huge time sucker. (Doctors could have fallen 25 minutes behind easily by the time afternoon appointments roll around.)
On days when I have monthly networking events, I might allow myself two hours of errand time before traveling to the event. On average I have 3 networking events outside the home per month. If it makes geographical sense, I’ll switch up my errand schedule to get some or all of it done before the networking event. This way I’ll Friday morning to do more highly productive work.
Having Monthly Goals
One of the big things I have loved doing the past 2 years is setting monthly project goals. I pick 4 projects I want to work on in the month. I outline the basic steps (usually 4-5) and I prioritize the projects. Usually the projects are pulled off of a “Off Field Advantage” sheet I create twice a year. (This sheet is comprehensive life at how I run my life and my business. It also accounts for sporadic ideas I’ve had that many didn’t get implemented or finished.)
I have blocks of time devoted to my projects in my weekly schedule. I usually have 3 blocks of 2 hour project time in my schedule. Then if I find myself (somehow) without anything planned or pressing do, I devote more time to monthly projects (as long as its at least 60 minutes).
And I always use the Pomodoro method when working on them.
Mornings Are For Projects, Afternoons for Reacting
One of the better things I did for my motivation (and sanity) was I created a rule for myself as the paragraph title implies.
What this means is I work on my “want to do” list in the morning. My projects, the things that normally get pushed off as not urgent, OR the things that are urgent for looming deadlines (usually less than 48 hours). I mastered understanding what was urgent and what wasn’t a couple of years ago so I can now put some items in the morning that aren’t my “projects”.
I also don’t check my email until after 11:30 and I screen phone calls until after lunch. (To be honest I always screen my calls. If you aren’t in my phone book you go to voice-mail. But I’m not a realtor so I have that luxury.) I limit who I talk to in the morning and I make all my return phone calls in a 1.5 hour time frame in the afternoon.
Doing these 4 things has made a major impact in my overall productivity. I mentioned block scheduling in here but I didn’t go too in depth for the sake of the blog. I’ll be dedicating an entire blog to block scheduling. So stay tuned!