Over time I have tried many strategies for productivity and coached hundreds of business owners and students about how to find greater productivity in their day-to-day work life so that they have greater freedom to brainstorm, breathe, and just be. So, I’m going to share 3 of my best tips for increased productivity that anyone can implement, right now, for free, regardless of what type of business you’re running.
The Brain Dump
Practicing a brain dump is one of the most effective strategies to get organized and to get more done. Set a timer for 5 – 10 minutes and get out a blank piece of paper and pen. I personally suggest doing this with pen to paper rather than electronically because it triggers our brain in a different way. Then, literally, dump out everything in your brain without any rhyme or reason. Write out household tasks, self-care tasks, appointments, follow-ups you need to handle, groceries you need to buy, and of course, tasks that need to get done.
When you’re doing the brain dump, do not think about a timeline – just write down absolutely everything without any restriction. In other words, don’t tell yourself that you’re only going to do a brain dump for the week, it won’t provide the mental clarity you need for this to work. If it’s taking up space in your mind, it’s taking up time in your life so get it all out.
After your brain dump, then go through and organize the list. I do this in terms of quadrants for life, work, and home. Categorize all of the things, then triage the tasks. Break everything down into reasonable timelines and days of the week where you can get things done.
PRO TIP: I always brain dump in the same notebook (I love this one because it’s big) and then I can go back and make sure I didn’t forget anything and also assess how much I’m really getting done week after week.
Blocking and Batching
Do you have one of these timer blocks yet? It’s a game-changer for productivity. A popular method, known as the Pomodoro Technique, encourages work in blocks of time. Set the timer for 15 or 20 minutes and do an email sweep, then don’t come back to your inbox until your next block of time, and move on to the next task.
Working in blocks of time can help us focus on one task with greater intention and clarity, which can ultimately help us get more done in less time.
Similar to working in time blocks is batching your work. Set aside one day a week to plan and schedule all of your social media posts, for instance. Allow one day of the week to be free of all meetings and appointments so that you can clear your list and keep your life in order (I do this on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Dedicate one day each month to analyze your efforts from examining your financials to tracking your communication efforts.
Batching your tasks helps you allocate time to ensure things get done, but also helps you work from a plan that sets you up for success, rather than trying to fit everything into a schedule that’s controlling you.
Eat The Frog
This is a classic book about productivity and one of my favorites. Start with your worst task of the day first. I hate doing dishes. It’s inexplicable but for some reason, I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher more than any other chore. I think it’s because it’s such a short task that I just constantly put it off and find it annoying. So, I need to do it first because when I don’t, I think about it all day long!
When it comes to work, I tend to let the smaller admin tasks pile up so when I have one of my meeting-free days, I set a timer for 30 minutes and get all of those things done first. Then, the rest of the day’s work flows with greater ease.
Sometimes, the most dreaded task is a larger project and can’t be accomplished in one sitting. That’s okay, just make time each day to work on it first. You know those people who wake up and go to the gym and then have more energy and brag about it? The “eat the frog” strategy is how you can be one of those people, even if you skip the gym and get to work instead.
PRO TIP: When you’re working during a time block and find your mind wandering, write down every thought that passes. Get it out so that you can move on. When I start reading, my mind has trouble settling so this is when I remember a lot of other random things (like what I need to buy at Target) and I just jot them down as they come in, and after about five minutes, my mind relaxes into the task at hand so that I can eat the frog in front of me.
I would love to know your top tip for productivity or if there’s an app you especially love to keep you organized – so please drop it in the comments! I’m partial to the reminders app that syncs between my phone and laptop (and it’s totally free).