Today we’re going to power-up your workday because I know you’re just dying to launch a whole slew of blog posts, products, services and programs and finally feel like a productivity superstar. And let’s be serious, 24 hours in a day just doesn’t cut it sometimes. It’s one thing to load your to-do list with exciting projects and ideas, but quite another to be productive and actually accomplish that massive amount of stuff without being glued to your computer, heading straight for burnout city. (I don’t really know where that is, but we should probably stay far, far away, right?)
Since I have a major thing for being uber productive and knocking out my to-do list like Ronda Rousey, I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into my day and share how I conquer my to-do list every day.
For first off, this is what my day generally looks like:
- Wake up around 9, walk the dog, make breakfast
- I have a strict rule of not checking email in bed. Anytime I do there’s a crabby email, which makes me crabby instead of smelling the fresh California air and basking in the sunshine as I take Slayer around the block. Unacceptable – my day must start on a positive note.
- Eat breakfast and read/respond/file email
- Once the dog has been walked I make breakfast + a big cup of tea and park it on the couch to blast through my email. Everything is responded to, taken care of, unsubscribed/deleted, and filed away. (More on whipping your inbox into shape here)
- Check off anything that can be done quickly
- Next I knock out any tiny tasks that will take less than 20 minutes just to clear my plate a bit so I can focus on the big stuff without all those little tasks sitting in the back of my mind. Generally this involves responding to comments on the blog, updating spreadsheets, pinning on Pinterest, or answering questions in the Dare to Blog community.
- Tackle the most important task first
- Then I get down to work on the biggest task of the day – you know, the one that will have actual consequences if it’s not finished. I know I’m most focused a couple of hours after I wake up (and the caffeine kicks in), so I make good use of that time.
- Eat lunch/watch tv/read in the middle of the day
- I generally stop at some point in the middle of the day to do something non-work related and feed myself. Twice a week that’s teaching aerial classes and twice a week I’ve got some awful reality TV to catch up on. Other days I might read, meet a friend for lunch, or take the dog around the block again.
- Knock out the other two most important tasks on my list
- Then it’s time to conquer the other big tasks on my list – likely writing a blog post, an email, or working on a product or launch.
- Go through email again around 4 or 5
- I hit email once more later in the day to make sure no one has last-minute requests that need to be taken care of and to keep my inbox from being an explosion in the morning.
- Set up my to-do list
- Lastly I put together my task list for tomorrow so I don’t have to decide what’s most important when I’m all groggy in the morning or think about it all night. I like to wake up and know exactly what direction my day is headed, so I can be focused from the start.
If I can stay super focused and I’m not in the middle of a launch I’m probably working about 4-6 hours/day.
I also train, teach, or rehearse almost every day, which provides me with an hour or two that I’m away from work, exercising, and not thinking about my to-do list at all. Having something that requires 100% focus and gets my endorphins going has been really helpful in not burning out. I also don’t shower and get ready like I’m going to a corporate job every morning – I shower and get ready (or at least put on clothes) after I workout, so sometimes that’s in the morning and sometimes it’s at night. I still have those days where I’m working like mad, switching tasks every couple of minutes, one hand on my keyboard, the other clutching my phone, and then staring at my to-do list at 5pm realizing I’ve gotten nothing done. But luckily I’ve figured a few things out working for myself the past three years, so those days are few and far between. Here are 10 things I do in my work week to ensure I’m kicking ass and taking names on a daily basis.
Pssst! This post was written in 2015 – see what my schedule looks like in 2019.
Create systems + processes
Yes, you’ve got your trusty to-do list, but how exactly are you accomplishing each task? Having systems in place and processes for things like answering email, client intake, writing blog posts, and creating social media graphics can cut down on the time you’re spending on each item. When you know what steps are included and how long each one will take, completing a task becomes much easier because you’ll end up running through the steps like muscle memory.
Evaluate where you’re spending your time
If you get to the end of the day feeling like you’ve been working non-stop, but you’ve barely checked off anything on your to-do list, it’s time to start tracking where you’re spending your time. Grab a sheet of paper or start a note in your phone and write down every single thing you do during your day, noting the time you start and the time you stop. Consider which tasks are taking more time than they should, where in your day you tend to lose focus, and then make adjustments to avoid distractions and tasks that aren’t really adding value.
If you have more going on in your day than working at your computer, setting alarms for events and appointments is a superb way to maintain your focus. Anytime I have a Badass Babes hangout, teach an aerial class, or need to be somewhere, I set an alarm about 20-30 minutes before, so I can focus on my work without repeatedly checking the time to make sure I’m not late.
Realize the benefits of putting in the work
What do you get out of getting your work done? Income, subscribers, traffic, connections, clients, good feelings. And what does all of that turn into? The ability to work while traveling, more time to spend with your family, money to blow on shoes and clothes? I know exactly why I make the time to write blog posts twice a week, why I send my Monday emails, why I schedule social media posts (and which platforms bring in the most traffic), and why I drag my ass to aerial class in the morning. What do you get out of the things you spend your time on?
Make adjustments if there are no benefits
Are you spending time on tasks that aren’t really benefiting you or your business? I rarely keep tasks or projects on my list that I’m just not into anymore. One of the biggest perks of being the boss! If writing two blog posts a week, cranking out another ebook, or creating content of Instagram didn’t feel good and truly benefit me and my biz, then I wouldn’t do it anymore. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to work on something that your heart just isn’t into. Not only will those tasks take longer and bring down the tone of your day, but it will show in your work. And if your business is solely online, sub par blog posts or Instagram content that isn’t interesting or exciting tends to bring your business down as a whole as well.
Create productivity rewards (aka bribe yo self)
If you’re feeling worn out or not very excited about a task that needs to get checked off then make a deal with yourself. If you ______ (write this post, finish a client mock-up, host a webinar), then you can ______ (take a break for trashy TV, crack open a beer, read for an hour). Whatever it is that will light a fire under your ass, use it.
Have a weekly / monthly productivity plan
I am very attached to my calendars and with good reason! I currently have five Google calendars set up to coordinate personal stuff, biz/blog stuff, Badass Babes hangouts, Badass Babes sessions, and my client design schedule. It tends to make for a pretty overwhelming looking month, but there’s never any wondering if I missed a deadline or a date – it’s all there. I check my calendar every night and every morning so I know exactly what I need to get done that day (and set those alarms on my phone). I also use the Clear app for my daily task list and the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, so I can plan blog posts a month or two in advance.
Allot specific times for specific things
I shared this with my email list yesterday (sign-up here if you want in on that), but it’s good enough to be repeated – for weekly tasks, schedule them at the same times and on the same days each week. I learned this from my grandmother who vacuumed on Mondays, did laundry on Tuesdays, and dusted on Weds. All of her household chores had a place in her week and so they always got done. Taking a cue from her I now write blog posts on Friday and Monday, my weekly mailing list emails on Thursday, which is why you’re getting content from me on a consistent basis now :)
Be realistic about how much work you can get done
To hone your productivity skills, it’s important to be aware of your limitations (though sometimes we ignore them) and spread work out over a week and give yourself enough time to finish everything. I know it takes me about two hours to write a blog post, one week to finish the first design mockup for a client, and that after taking an aerial class in the morning I probably won’t get going on work until 1 or 2pm. It may take a little while to grasp how long everything takes and where you need more space in your schedule, but it’s super helpful to pay attention and figure it out so you’re not always scrambling to finish things at the end of the week.
Hire someone for the stuff that’s necessary but taking up time or causing distractions
Last month I finally caved and hired a virtual assistant. She works 8-10 hours for me scheduling social media content into Buffer, answering customer service emails, editing my blog posts and emails, and other tasks that need to be done, but don’t require my personal touch. The big one for me was scheduling social media posts (the ones that promote products, not the ones about what I’m eating for dinner ;) – it was one of those tasks that almost always dragged me into researching, reading, editing and adjusting things that didn’t really need to be done immediately. She takes care of all those little things now and I have more time and brain space to focus on the big stuff. (Like writing more ginormous blog posts!)