Do you ever find yourself sitting down to work and then end up browsing Instagram, ordering something from Amazon, reading blog posts, and then wonder where the day went? It is pretty hard to stay productive when there are so many distractions. Being Busy is NOT being productive. So how here are 15 productivity tips that you can use to structure your day so that you aren’t distracted while you work.
1. Have a Task List for the Day
This one seems obvious right? I’m not really a list person, but just writing down your tasks for the day helps so much. I used to ALWAYS find myself working on one client’s project and then I will get inspiration and want to start the next client’s project and then I find myself just not achieving anything at all. When I have a task list for the day, it keeps me on track. I know which tasks need to be done and I’ve learned not to stray from those tasks. If an idea pops in my head for another project or course idea, then I will simply write down the idea or draw an image of it, and then continue on with the tasks on my list. Plus actually writing down your tasks holds you more accountable to follow through with them instead of thinking “I will do this, this, and this today” which can very easily be pushed away when you start browsing Instagram.
2. Prioritize Tasks | Finish Tasks Instead of Starting New Ones
Since we are on the subject of making a list for your tasks. Make sure you prioritize your tasks when you write them down. There are always tasks that I have to get done, such as client work, in order to meet deadlines so I will make sure that I put those at the top of the list to ensure that I get those done first. Any tasks that don’t get done by the end of the day, I will move to the next day and prioritize it with the next day’s tasks. Also make sure that you are finishing current tasks instead of moving on to two ones. I am notorious for starting new tasks instead of finishing the ones I am working one. This is something you should not do. Once I started writing down my task list, even if it is quick and simple and on a blank sheet of paper, it gives me something to look at as a constant reminder of what I have to finish.
Download the task list from Pxl Place – a Free Resource Library that helps with all your branding and business needs.
Make sure you plan for flexibility in your schedule. Sounds kind of contradictory, doesn’t it? But if you plan your day down to the minute, it will backfire if something else comes up and you will need to put the rest of your tasks on hold. Sometimes I get calls or emails from clients that need help ASAP so I will put my current work on hold to take care of whatever issues they have. So you have to make sure that you plan your day loosely because something could come up that you didn’t plan for and it can affect your schedule. This is also why waiting until the last minute to finish a client job isn’t a good idea either. Also, planning for those moments of inspiration or those times when you want to work on your own creative projects will allow you to make sure you are doing what you love to do.
4. Bulk Tasks Together / Batching
When I first heard of this technique, I was a little skeptical, but after trying it, I have found that it makes it much easier and much more productive for me. For Example, I will have a day when I write our all of my blog posts for the next two weeks or month. I will choose the topics that I am going to write about and then I will come up with all of the content. When I come up with topics for my blog posts, I research and outline what I am going to say so when it comes to the batching day of writing blog posts, I already know what I am going to write. (I use Trello to organize my blog posts). Once all the writing is done, then I will also batch all of my tasks of creating the images and content upgrades, and thumbnails for the posts. The reason why this works is because once you are in the zone, you can just keep going and you will get a process down that will make it even quicker for you to finish the tasks. Blog posts are probably the most time consuming part of my business and I found this process allows me to write them faster so I can focus on my design work. Blog posts are just an example of how I use batching, but you can apply it to your needs. Another good batching idea is to schedule all of your social media for the month. So only one day a month, you will have to sit down and plan the content.
5. Track Your Time
Another thing that tends to happen is losing track of the time. When I am in the zone, I am not paying attention to the time and somehow the time seems to fly by. I have learned to track my time to make sure that I am not spending too much time on one task. How much time did you spend reading your emails? How much time did you spend exploring Pinterest? How much time did that meeting take up? Knowing how long these tasks take will also give you insight on how you can structure your day better. Are you spending way too much time getting sucked into Pinterest? ( I know I do) You can time yourself to see where your time is actually going and how productive you are actually being. There are apps that help you keep track of your time: Rescue Time and Timely
6. Recognize Your Distractions
Once you start tracking your time and finding out where you spend most of your time, you can see which of those are distractions and which of those hours you’re actually being productive. Now you can see what types of things are distracting you and decide if you need to decrease the time you are focusing on these distractions. Become conscious of your day instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. If you find that websites and apps are part of your distractions, block them. Use Freedom to block apps and websites for a certain amount of time. A google chrome app called “StayFocusd” can also block domains as well. Another app to help you focus is: Focus Booster
7. Have Realistic Expectations
Lets be honest with ourselves, we have a million things to do, you aren’t going to be able to get everything done in one day. Don’t try to juggle too many tasks and don’t work yourself from morning to night. If you are a freelancer, then you probably try to use the whole day to get as much stuff done as possible, but this will burn you out and could lead to more serious health problems. Also, you just might have too many clients at one time. If you find that you have to work all day to keep up with your deadlines and client work then you might be scheduling too many clients at one time. Which in return can have a negative effect on your client’s work.
8. Plan Your Next Day at the End of Each Day
When I am done for the day, I like to plan my tasks for the next day. The reason this is the most helpful is because everything is fresh in my mind. I know what I finished that day, I know what I still need to get done, and I can plan for it for the next day. This is also advantageous because the next day you can just jump into your task list and not plan it out first.
9. Get Sleep
I love sleep but there are some nights that I stay up late working and I just think “that’s okay I can sacrifice a little sleep.” However, the next day it definitely takes a toll on me and instead of being alert and ready to go, I am thinking about how tired I am and how I just want to go back to bed. Also, your mind and body need to have rest too so that you can keep the creativity going. When I don’t get sleep, my brain just wants to shut down and not even focus on the things that I have to get done.
10. Eat Healthy and Exercise
Your body needs to be physically well in order to keep you functioning and focusing on the tasks that you need to get done. Your body’s number one goal is to get proper nutrition and if it isn’t then your focus and concentration just isn’t going to be there. There are foods that are “brain” foods, that should help you stay focused including: green tea, avocados, blueberries, water, dark chocolate, nuts, and a few others. Keep these handy while you are working. Also, exercise is also important. If you are at a desk job or constantly working on a computer, you probably don’t realize how little that you stand up and walk around. I currently use a Fitbit and it notifies me hourly to stand up and get my steps in. Now that I have one, I realized I would hardly ever stand up. You can also check out Stand App which will notify you on your computer on when you should stand up and walk around.
5 Tips if You Work From Home
11. Pretend Like You are Going Into the Office.
I used to work in an office all of the time, so I am used to the structure of waking up and getting ready for the day. I always get ready for the day including doing my hair and makeup before starting the work day. This puts me in the mindset that I am up and ready to get to work. If you stay in your pajamas or yoga pants all day, you might find that you just want to go back to bed. Also, don’t work while laying in bed. Sometimes its awesome, but most of the time not productive.
12.Structure Your Day Like You Would in the Office.
This tip might not be helpful for everyone, but this has helped me. Most people who work from home like the idea that they don’t have to have a structure to their day and they can work when they want. Yes, this is true but I need structure to be the most productive. When I worked in an office, I took 10 minute breaks and a 1 hour lunch. I would also use these times to break up tasks. I like to get business tasks out of the way in the very morning and then I like to jump into my more creative work.
13. Choose a Dedicated Work Space.
I have finally setup my home office and I cannot believe how much more productive I am. I can setup my laptop on my desk and just get started. I have everything organized and ready to go and it allows me to be in the mindset that I am actually working and not just laying in bed searching the internet. If you don’t have a dedicated work space, then you may also find that going to a coffee shop or a library might help you be more productive. Some work better when there is background noise and some don’t. Or if you do like working at home but like the noise of a coffee shop, check out: Coffitivity. Sounds like you are actually at a coffee shop. Spotify has some good playlists as well: “Your Favorite Coffeeshop” or “Deep Focus”. If you have Spotify and have really good playlists, let me know your username in the comments!
14. Work When You’re at Your Most Productive.
If you have the option of working from home then you can schedule your day around when you are the most productive. For me, I find that I am more of a morning person. I am more productive during the day compared to night time. At night I find myself falling asleep or getting distracted by TV shows or going out with friends. So I make sure that I structure my day around the morning and afternoon and then I can relax in the evening.
15. Pick a Definitive Finishing Time Each Day.
Like I said earlier, if you are working from home or freelancing, you might find yourself wanting to work all day. As this can lead to burning you out, pick a time to finish each day. Have a set schedule that you can tell your clients that you will be available and then give yourself a break and enjoy your free time. This will also prevent clients from trying to contact you at random inconvenient times of the day.
So I hope these steps help you with your productivity. Try these out and let me know if they help you. Also, since most of these tasks focus around creating a to do list, I am giving away the daily planner that I use to schedule my day. I know that most of us use to-do lists differently so I have added a fillable pdf so that you can change the titles before you print out your to-do list.
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