June 12, 2018
The creative brain is really interesting to me. There are so many ideas, passing thoughts and good intentions that are more often than not lost in a matter of seconds. One of the most common side effects of our sporadic tendencies is a long to-do list that never seems to dwindle.
It’s really irritating, am I right?
But who wants to be tied down by rules and lists…I mean I wanted to be my own boss for a reason… FREEDOM! 💃🏻
What I didn’t realize in those early days of being a CEO is that the “freedom” that comes with self-employment is a fickle mistress. It seems glamorous, it seems easy. I mean, when you have all day to just do whatever you want, that HAS to be the best case scenario…but then you find yourself sitting on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, attempting to bust through some work with Netflix streaming in the background when all of a sudden you blink and it’s 9pm and you’ve made prettttty much no progress.
And the guilt sets in.
Why do I suck at this? Why can’t I just get it done? Why is nobody hiring me? If only she could see me now, she’d realize how much of a fraud I am. How do people do this? I just can’t.
Oof. It’s rough. And it’s REAL. I’ve been there and I know you have too.
But there’s something we need to come clean about.
It’s time we debunked the myth that working from home and entrepreneurship is a cakewalk and the good life. Friend, it’s HARD WORK and requires boundaries and some real, raw EFFORT. And IF being your own boss is the right fit for you (news flash, it’s not for everybody!!) it actually can be the “good life,” but good ≠ easy.
The discipline it takes to be productive may not come naturally to you and I’d actually argue it won’t come naturally to MOST of us creatives. It most certainly does not come naturally to me! 🤷🏼♀️
BUT good news!! You don’t have to get an MBA to fix this problem, and half the battle is just deciding to make the little changes that will have a HUGE effect on your productivity! I’ve put together my 9 favorite life-changing and super simple productivity hacks that took me from crying to killin it! Let’s get to it!
1| Get ready for the day
Even if this means just changing from your PJ’s into a different pair of sweatpants or leggings, make your bed, get dressed and get ready for the day! Sometimes, I’ll even put shoes on when I have no plan to leave my house because I just feel more put together and in the ‘real life’ mindset 😂
Sidenote: There are some days (usually once a month 😉) that I wear jeans for about five minutes and then put sweatpants on because I’m just distracted by being uncomfortable. 🤷🏼♀️ Do what helps you focus!
2| Set working hours with planned breaks
Decide what your working hours will be and stick to it! Take a lunch break EVERY DAY and let your brain rest. Sometimes I’ll watch a short TV episode or read a chapter in a book while I eat, and other days I even take a 20 minute nap before I start the afternoon. Sometimes a girl’s just gotta nap, ya know?
3| Create a Weekly Priority List
This has honestly been one of the MOST life changing hacks for me. I would get SO overwhelmed with my novel of a to-do list and every time I saw a task on that list that I knew I was not going to have time for this week, month, maybe even year, I piled on another pound of guilt. And sometimes that just spirals into those moments of “I’m not good enough, I suck at this, I just can’t get anything done.”
A weekly priority list only holds what you plan to accomplish that week. Be careful what you put on that list and ignore all other backburner projects until you decide they are a priority for the current week.
When you prioritize your to-do list and only look at the current week’s list, it frees your mind of everything else and allows you to focus on the most important thing.
Pro Tip: Have a brain dump where you keep a running list of all the ideas swirling around in that creative brain of yours! Whether it’s a note on your phone or a Google doc, decide on a place and commit to writing those thoughts and ideas down the second you think of them! Then, once you’ve “dumped” that idea, move on! Now your brain doesn’t have to try to keep that locked away cause you’ve already taken care of it!
4| Commit to Time Blocking
Once you’ve got your weekly priority list created, look at your week and block out time for every single thing on that list. You’ll have to estimate how long each task will take, and you might not estimate perfectly on your first try, but you’ve gotta give yourself grace…you’ll get there!
5| Define & Batch Your Work
Another one of the most revolutionary hacks I implemented was separating my to-do list into projects, tasks and errands and reserving certain times of day to each. It’s important that you spend your most focused and productive time of day on your projects. For me, that’s the morning, so I reserve that time for the bigger tasks (projects) like blogging and writing. When I was a wedding photographer, this was commonly culling, editing and creating client-facing collateral like a pricing guide or website page.
A task is anything that takes you around 30 minutes or less and requires a relatively small amount of brain power. This most commonly includes quick emails, paying bills, writing notes and the like.
When you intermix your little tasks in with your projects throughout the day, you lose focus and it’s so easy to get distracted and caught up in all those little details. When I don’t hold to this hack, I seriously waste so much time!! Try it, it’s life-changing!
Pro Tip: The big kahuna, friend: batch and limit your email time. Seriously…only check your email 1-3 times every day and have intentional, focused inbox time. One of the BIGGEST instigators of distraction is your email inbox. It sucks you in, kills your focus and it does it all day long. Nobody actually expects you to respond within 5 minutes and most people would be more than happy to hear back from you within 4 – 8 hours. If you check your email once in the morning and once in the afternoon, you’re still able to give an impressively timely response without losing half your day! I know you’ve got an argument to this one on the tip of your tongue, but trust me, I’ve heard it all and I’ve seen this CHANGE LIVES PEOPLE. Just ask my clients… it’s worth it. Promise.
6| Do first things first + one thing at a time
When you’re laying out your week and separating your tasks, decide what’s most important and do that first and only that. Even if it’s the biggest, scariest task of your week, get it done first and the rest of your week will feel SO MUCH BETTER! The feeling of accomplishment and just plain success is a huge morale boost that will make you want to keep checking off those boxes and you’ll work better, faster, stronger 😉 Multi-tasking isn’t actually real (#science) and it’s not efficient. Remember, do the most important thing first and do one thing at a time. Close those tabs, girl!
7| Turn all the distractions off
Turn off the TV, Quit Netflix, close those 15 browser tabs I know are open right now (especially your email!) and change your notification settings to OFF when you’re working! It’s pretty simple and I know half of you want to argue it, but just try it for a week and then let me know how much more you got done, cause I know it will be a LOT 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻
Pro Tip: All Apple devices have a setting called ‘Do Not Disturb’ that changes everything! Turn it on and your phone won’t keep buzzing and distracting you alllll day errday! Your Mac has this setting in the top right Notification panel!
8| Set yourself up for success
We’re all different. Some people love to work in their bed and can be super productive that way. I am not one of those people 😂 I work best in a pretty, naturally-lit space at a desk or table with back support. And a few days every month 😅 I do work better from the couch, but those days are much less common. Know your tendencies and play to your strengths. Not what seems most fun, but what makes you most productive. Maybe it’s at a desk, maybe it’s on your couch. Maybe you have to close your office door or you work best in a busy coffee shop. Maybe you work best to the sound of Mozart or maybe you need silence. Whatever it is, pay attention and make the choice to set yourself up for success with your work atmosphere.
Pro Tip: So many of us creatives sit on a computer all day and are just plain tired at the end of the day. Enter: Lifesaver, aka: Blue Light Glasses. These babies literally changed my life! Now I don’t spend any time on my laptop without them and I have seen a drastic difference in how long I am able to concentrate on my screen and how much more energy I have at the end of a full day working on my computer!
I got mine from Eye Buy Direct, use this link for $10 off! 🤓
This may be the last one on the list, but it’s actually one of the most powerful! If you know you really need to grow in discipline and productivity, ask someone to help you! Ask a friend, fellow creative biz owner, business coach or family member! For me, this is the hubs. Mark and I meet once every week to talk through what I will be spending my time on and throughout the week we keep up with each other as to whether the day was productive or not. Since starting this routine with him, my productivity has skyrocketed once again. 🙌🏼🙌🏼
Here’s to taking ownership of your work and managing your to-do list like a literal BOSS. Aaaaaaand cause I love y’all I put together a little step-by-step guide to implementing my favorite productivity hacks! Download that bad boy and get ready to have your most productive week yet!
You can TOTALLY do this! Download the guide and drop a comment below to tell me what changes you’re going to make this week and what has worked for you! Let me know if you have any questions and let’s kill it this week, friend! 💪🏽💪🏽
Interested in reading more about the vision and heart behind much of how I approach productivity? Check out the book that changed the way I view productivity, What’s Best Next by Matt Perman!
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