We discuss productivity regularly here at The Savvy Solopreneur, but today we’re giving you some really simple strategies that (almost) anyone can use to squeeze some extra productivity out of every day.
Get up early (or just earlier)
No, you absolutely don’t have to join the 5 am club (unless that suits you) but getting up earlier than you need is a simple but effective way to find an extra 30 – 60 minutes of focused work time. Unless you have little kids. Then you’re probably already up at 5 am. I’ve been there. I feel for you. It doesn’t last forever.
Manage your energy
One of the most impactful books I’ve read is Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. When we think we have time management problems they’re often energy management problems. Managing your energy involves living a balanced life, eating right, getting enough sleep and knowing your own natural rhythms and how to capitalise on them. It involves working out what energises you (whether that’s a certain activity or a particular essential oil). Many of us also get a surge in energy when we switch to a new task or activity (see the next point).
Mix it up
Sometimes a change really is as good as a rest. And that can be a change of activity, or a change of task. I’m a freelance content writer for hire, but also a blogger and Medium writer, so switching task for me can mean switching from a boring topic following a formulaic brief, to writing about a topic I’m fired up about, in a style and tone of my choice.
Switching activity can be even better. When I have no more creativity left in the well for putting the right words in the right order, I can generally switch to picture research or dive into Canva and start making images, and it feels like play rather than work.
Dress in sweats
If you work from home, dressing in clothes that are comfortable to exercise in can make all the difference, especially if exercising (or just stretching) is one of those things that energises you. If you’re dressed right, you’ll be much more inclined to take a ten minute break every now and then and get a bit of movement in, which is likely to make you fitter, healthier, and more productive in the long run.
Use the Pomodoro technique
This technique basically involves working in short bursts and taking lots of breaks, usually 25 minutes on and five minutes off, (but you can totally do 50 minutes on then 10 minutes off, or whatever works best for you). In fact, I recommend tracking your work sessions for a while and seeing when you naturally start to slow down. That’s when it’s best to take a break. Use your break to stretch, walk around the block to grab a healthy snack. Do not use it to surf the net or visit social media.
Use apps and tools if you need to
Some of the most popular tools in my eBook, Free Tools for Writers, Bloggers and Solopreneurs are in the productivity section. My readers seem to like Focus Booster, which helps you stick to your Pomodoro schedule, and Work Rave which aims to help you avoid Repetitive Strain Injury. Many people also like the Forest app which helps you commit to short sharp sessions of focus, and lets you grow a virtual forest while you do.
Keep your daily to-dos manageable
No matter how long your master to-do list is, keep the list of things you absolutely have to do today to a short, manageable list. Many people manage to pick just one to three things a day, that definitely have to get done. Once you’ve ticked them all off, you’re ahead of schedule. You can keep going of course. If you’ve managed your energy well, you’ll probably want to, but everything extra you get done is a bonus, so remember to give yourself a pat on the back, or preferably some other, more tangible reward, because you’re officially ahead of the curve, baby!
Outsource what you hate
Outsourcing can be a life saver and a productivity booster. Not just because you’re doing less but also because you’re saving time on procrastinating, which we tend to do most when we have a task to do that we really don’t want to. Here are the three things you need to do before you outsource, and here’s a whole (super affordable) Kindle book on how to outsource efficiently. (No Kindle? No problem.)
Systemize what you can
Systems are my secret sauce (and one of the three things you need to do before you outsource). I have a system for everything from producing my blog posts and promoting them, to syndicating my content (much of what I produce gets republished, on Medium, NewsBreak, MSN, and other websites). I work with various checklists and templates to help my systems run smoothly. I love this FREE set of templates, for example, that you can use in your coaching business (or adapt if you’re a virtual assistant, freelancer or other type of solopreneur).
Save the time wasters for after the work’s done
Work done for the day? Now you can surf the net or visit social media. It can be your reward. If you have to use social media during the day for work (as many of us do, especially if we’re writers, bloggers or broadcasters), then just make sure you only use it for work. Look at social media for pleasure as after work socialising. You know, like we used to do, back in the olden times. In 2006.
Use (some of) your downtime productively
I find once I’m too tired to create any more output, I’m still receptive to input. I try not to work in the evenings, but I will take some time to read, listen to a podcast, or watch videos on topics that interest me. This is where I get a lot of my ideas for new articles. But I try not to effectively ‘go back to work’ by starting the article, no matter how fired up I am. I’ll just make a note of the idea, maybe with a link to the article or video that triggered it, or a note of the book (and page) that inspired it.
Use (some of) your downtime unproductively
Sometimes we can convince ourselves that we need to be either productive or asleep, most of the time. We don’t. Downtime where we truly relax and ‘switch off’ completely from work is valuable in itself. So yes, no matter how productive you want to be, it’s OK to do something totally pointless each and every day, as long as you enjoy it. You’ll (probably) come back stronger and with renewed energy.
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