A lot of people live under the misconception that productivity means doing more things or being perenially busy.
Up until last year, I too believed in this phenomenon.
But productivity really means doing more of the right things. It is also one of the basic principles of Minimalism which gives more importance to quality over quantity.
As an Illustrator, Blogger (with 2 blogs) and an eBook creator, I often get asked how I do it all and have time for my personal life.
The truth is, I don’t actually work all that much.
I spend 3-5 hours at most in front of my laptop/tablet daily.
I don’t focus on doing everything – just the right things that will push my businesses forward.
And in this post, I want to talk about specific productivity hacks that I follow to the bone to accomplish all my work, give time to my family and dogs and still have time to do the things I love.
Let’s dive in!
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1. Know your highs and lows
Before you start setting an alarm clock for 5 am in the morning or downing a jug of coffee, stop for a moment.
I want you to identify at which times during the day you are most productive and which times you just can’t focus (no matter what you try).
Rewind and think about your school days and your workdays.
For me, I cannot function between 2-4 pm no matter how hard I try. I’ve been this way ever since I was little.
I always needed an afternoon nap. Even if I don’t nap, I cannot do high-energy tasks like writing a blog post or drawing a picture from scratch.
It just doesn’t work.
I find that I can do my best work in the mornings (right after I wake up) and in the evenings just before the sun has set.
I go back to procrastinating after dark.
If you find yourself extremely productive at night after your children have gone to sleep, that’s fine.
Don’t force yourself to wake up early if you are usually zonked out in the mornings.
This is one of the best productivity hacks I picked up recently.
During your high-energy time, focus on high-energy tasks.
For me, that’s writing or coming up with headlines, or drawing sketches. You will be able to accomplish so much more in your peak zone times.
During my low-energy time, I do very basic tasks that aren’t too heavy like replying to emails or comments, creating Pins for Pinterest, colouring my illustrations and so on.
2. You can’t do everything, so don’t even try
Remember how I talked about quality vs quantity?
If you are a mom of 2 kids under the age of 5, you cannot have a job, cook and clean, write 1 blog post on your side-hustle blog and post on Instagram daily.
It’s not possible or faesible.
Even if you do manage that, you will burn out eventually.
Spend a day or two to analyse what work you can do and what work isn’t very important.
The idea is to focus on essential tasks. I picked up this productivity hack in this beautiful book.
If there is something you’re doing that is not bringing in good returns, consider scrapping it all together.
This also follows the 80-20 rule. Basically, 20% of the work we do brings in 80% of the results.
Figure out what that 20% is.
Try to focus on what is absolutely essential. It will make a drastic change to your productivity.
I usually keep a list of the 3 most important tasks (MIT) on my Notes app. If I finish these 3 tasks every day, I consider my day to be extremely productive.
3. Batch your tasks
I used to spend 1-1.5 hours replying to my emails every morning. It was valuable time that I could have spent writing newsletters or blog posts.
I used to create 1-2 pins every day too.
The problem is, switching between tasks takes time.
As human beings, we aren’t very good at multi-tasking. Once we’re focussed on one task, it becomes difficult to switch between tasks and it can take us a while to get in the zone.
We are constantly interrupted, distracted by notifications and unable to focus because we are switching between multiple tasks daily.
So instead of doing a little bit of everything every day, batch your tasks.
Do your keyword research for the whole month on 1 day, create a content plan for a quarter over the weekend, write your newsletters for the whole month on the first Monday and so on.
If you’re stepping out of the house, try clubbing several activities like buying the groceries, stopping by the postbox to drop mail, visiting a family relative, etc. so that you can save time and finish all your chores of the week in 1 day.
It will feel good and you will save a lot of time.
4. Have some systems in place
You cannot plan every part of your day especially if you have a family and work from home. Your daughter might suddenly ask for help on her project or your dog might need to go to the vet.
So, automate what you can.
If you can automate your bills to be paid online and make sure it gets paid automatically on the first of every month – do that!
It will save you so much time.
You can sweep the house on Mondays, and do the laundry on Wednesdays.
This way, your cleaning tasks won’t pile up till Saturday and you can actually use your Saturday for something more special – like self-care or spending more time on things you love doing.
Make meal plans so that you don’t have to waste time deciding what you need to prepare for each place.
Practise the same approach when you’re working.
When it comes to blogging/working, have a list.
I have a list of everything I need to finish before a blog post goes out into the world. This is an SEO checklist combined with all the technical stuff that needs to get done.
This list helps me work faster because I don’t miss out on anything.
5. Have a morning routine
Have you ever noticed that if something doesn’t go right at the beginning of the day, you feel like the whole day is ruined?
The best day to combat this is to claim your mornings and make it work for you.
Your morning routine is your own. You can look at several other morning routines for inspiration. But your morning routine should help you feel extremely energized and give you the motivation to work.
Even if you take just 30 minutes, make it special. And be consistent.
6. Make use of waiting time
One of my daily to-dos (it’s not a highly important task) is to read a little something every day. Whether it is a chapter of my current book or an article on Medium, I like to keep myself well-read.
And I do this while I’m waiting for the elevator, or kept on hold on a telephone conversation.
Make use of waiting time.
When you’re talking on the phone, use that time to walk and finish some steps on your pedometer. It’s a good way to keep moving and stay fit.
Wash the dishes while you’re waiting for your vegetables to boil. You’ll save time and you won’t have that many dishes to wash after you finish eating.
Listen to an audiobook when you’re sitting on the toilet. Or use that time to reply to messages from friends/family.
There are so many better things you can do with your waiting time other than browsing social media.
7. Eliminate distractions
Email and social media notifications are a huge distraction. We are naturally inclined to open up a notification the second it pops up on our desktop or phone.
This is the number one killer of productivity.
Go to your settings and disable all your social media notifications
It will make a huge difference to your productivity.
I used to reply to my email every day. But now, I reply to only the important ones daily and leave the remaining emails (that require more time) on one day of the week.
This has also saved me a lot of time.
If you want to stay productive, plan your day the night before or in the mornings. It will give you a lot of clarity on what you need to achieve and it will hardly take 10-15 minutes.
Avoid distractions like the plague because social media and Netflix are huge time-sucks.
Focus on your high-energy tasks at the beginning of the day so that you can finish all your important tasks by the afternoon. That feeling of accomplishment will also give you a huge motivational boost.
Don’t try to implement all these productivity hacks in 1 day. Start small and slowly work toward your goals by implementing 1 hack a day or a week.
You will notice your productivity increase substantially.