It always seems to be the times when I've got the MOST to do that I find myself the least able to focus. Juggling a full time job, a freelance career, a blog, a social life, and a keen interest in fitness is tough sometimes, and along with finding it l nigh on impossible to switch off, it also means I need to be as efficient and productive as possible. Now let's be honest, that can't always happen (I wonder how many hours have been lost just refreshing and looking at my blog homepage? Or pouring another glass of wine confident the second glass will definitely help me focus) but you can at least try your best to lay down the ground work for as productive a work session as possible: one with less time staring at a blank page, less time on Facebook, and more shit getting done. In case you’re in a similar situ to me, juggling one too many balls maybe, or simply having a hard time focusing, I thought I’d go ahead and share a few of my trustiest tips for improving productivity below…
Until recently (well, still sometimes), I was that person who started new to-do lists when the old one didn’t look quite right. I’d have spelt something wrong or used a pen I didn’t love, so I’d procrastinate by starting a new one….and that was 10 minutes gone right there. Step one for improving your productivity: don’t obsess over your to-do lists. They don’t need to be pretty. The tick boxes don’t need to be perfectly 1cm². They just need to be functional, and not too long. That said, I do find it helps to add in a few things like "eat lunch” and "text brother back” — quick jobs you can tick get those productivity levels off to a good start.
An important one. And one I’m still definitely working on. I have a habit of sitting down to work and starting a piece, then I’ll text a few people back…I’ll write a few more words…reply to some emails on my phone…write some words…check my bank statement…write…browse some new trainers…. Then two hours have gone by and I’m like, huh, didn’t write much. ANNOYING. The secret: isolate tasks. Before starting work, text everyone back so that’s done, reply to your urgent emails, and get any other pressing tasks out of the way. Then, put everything else on hold and focus on the job in hand. And hide your phone. Instagram KILLS productivity.
Contrary to when I was at high-school, revising for my GCSEs and begging my brother to “Pleeeeease turn the music OFF”, now a little background music is essential to a productive writing session of mine. Listen to something that’s going to get your creative juices flowing and not disturb you. Cranking up the volume and dancing around to Beyonce is not what I’m talking about right now. I swear by this mix, this mix, and anything from Maribou State.
Realistic ones. I’ve spent one too many nights lying in bed kicking myself that I haven’t got as much done as I wanted to. ’Til I started to set more realistic goals and more manageable to-do lists. Aim high, but not on-another-planet high. You’ll only leave yourself feeling flat. Whether they’re time goals (“I’ll work ’til 10pm”) or task goals (“1 post this evening and some image editing”), make ‘em and stick to ‘em.
I’m well practiced in the art of procrastination (most of my travels start from “ooh, let me just look at flights prices…) but the key to getting shit done is to eliminate distractions. Browser tabs are both the best and worst thing ever, but in view of getting more work done, try opening a new window with JUST the piece you’re working on in it and making it full screen so it’s harder to click on other windows and tabs. Ta-da. Improved focus.
As much as I hate to admit it, caffeine does help productivity (though I know it doesn’t suit everyone)(there is a fine line between being productive and being too jittery to type). On a day when I’ve really got LOADS to do, a couple of coffees down and my fingers do seem to FLY over the keyboard. Similarly, on totally brain dead evenings, a G&T does really help the creative juices flowing…I favour Four Pillars.