It's a pretty safe assumption to say that no matter what we do for work, our time is extremely valuable. We've all struggled with the evil temptations of procrastination, and have quickly realized the importance of working smarter and more efficiently. The act of trying to balance everything you're working on on any given day can be a tough challenge for the best of us, and I'm always on the hunt for tips and tricks to learn the coveted secrets of increasing productivity. And though it's different for everyone, there have definitely been some gems I've discovered along the way.
Though I won't claim to know all the secrets, here are 10 tips for increasing productivity that I've begun to integrate into my workflow and that have worked especially well for me.
1 // Focus on the tasks you can do now/today. Having a clear understanding of all the projects and tasks that are on your plate is essential, and lets you prioritize and plan.
2 // At the end of each work day, make your to-do list for the following day. The last thing you want to do is waste your first hour of work in the morning scrambling to organize yourself and figure out what to prioritize. You’ll feel frustrated behind before you’ve even started. Doing this will also help you clear your head for the night (assuming you’re not working, ahem!)
3 // Clear and organize your workspace at the end of the day. This is something that I’m trying to get better at, since my workspace - whether that’s just the desk itself, the entire studio, or wherever else I’ve set up shop temporarily- tends to get littered with post-it notes, Pantone books, inspiration images, bits and pieces of whatever project I’m working on at the moment, maybe a bottle of nail polish and a tube of lipstick… you get the idea! But it’s along the same lines as writing your next day to-do list - it’s a good routine to establish, finishing off one day and jumpstarting the following day with an organized space. Clear desk, clear head. I think that’s a thing, right?
4 // Cross off the task you’re dreading first thing in the morning. Get it done, and the rest will feel easy. I have a tendency to procrastinate whatever task has made it to the bottom of my list, and all of a sudden everything else seems more appealing, even if they were the dreaded tasks the day before.
5 // Limit your emailing to specific times throughout the day. I think we can all agree that tackling email can be stressful and a huge time suck, and the worst thing to do is to constantly check it and get sidetracked by replying to this email, clicking on that link, remembering that you also needed to email that person and RSVP to that event… you get the idea. Instead, try scheduling two email sessions during the day and sticking to that.
6 // If you can reply to an email now, do it. I have a bad habit of going through my inbox and instead of replying to emails, flagging the ones I need to reply to. Instead, if it just requires a quick reply, get it out the way and that’s one less thing you’ll need to add to your to-do list for later.
7 // Use the 50/10 rule. Work for 50 min, and then set aside 10 for a break. By abiding by this general rule of thumb and allowing yourself to step away for short breaks, you’re freeing up mental space and bringing clarity.
8 // Be conscious on how you’re spending your time on social media. I know, it’s an essential part of our businesses and brands, and it definitely requires a certain amount of time dedicated to it. But checking social media channels constantly is not helping your productivity, but instead detracting from it. How often have you gone on to Instagram just to post a quick photo, or logged in to Twitter just to tweet a link to your most recent blog post, and then found yourself still scrolling 20 minutes later. And don’t even get me started on Pinterest. I’ve become extremely conscious of how and when I use social media. Remember the 50/10 rule? Factor social media into that time, and schedule time do your business-focused “heavy duty” social media activity the same way you would schedule in time to write a blog post or tackle any other project, instead of flipping through aimlessly and wasting your time. It’s also worth noting here that when it comes to posting on social media, there are better times to post and engage with your readers than others, so that’s definitely something to pay attention to. More on this in a later post!
9 // Figure out the systems that work best for you and stick to them. It’s taken me a long time to do this, and I’m still learning. For me, it’s a mix between good old fashioned pen and paper (have I mentioned how much I love post-it notes and to-do lists?) and various web and phone apps. There are so many options out there, so it may take awhile to find the ones that work best for you, but it’s worth it once you have them working for you, not against you.
10 // Pay attention to how and when you work best. Whether you work an office job or from home, you always have some flexibility with how you spend your work day, and should have a pretty good sense of what contributes to your most productive routine. For me, I know I get antsy in the early afternoon, so if I do need to schedule a quick meeting or have an errand to run, I usually do so around 2 pm. (Note: This also happens to be my preferred coffee time. Coincidence? I think not). It gives me something to look forward to and provides a little break in the day. I also know that I tend to do my best writing and strategizing in the evening, finding it easier to find inspiration and get focused at that time, so I usually try to set aside that time to write my blog posts, design inspiration boards or work on brand development. Finding that balance is essential.
Photos: Jason Matos