We are all facing a new way of working. Even if we have always worked from home, now we may have spouses, pets, children or others around us as well. We usually take this time to find out how we can be more productive, but this may just be the opportunity we need to reflect on our productivity and come up with some new plans. Consider this your guide to getting your new way of working started successfully with 30 days of increased productivity.
Day 1: Choose a Day Planner
Whether it’s digital or paper, a day planner is an organization system for the rest of your year. Choose one and stick to it for the next 365 days. You’ll be amazed at how much easier your days become when you get organized. Our longtime writer, Kevin, shared how he has increased productivity through calendaring.
Day 2: Set a Schedule
Become intentional about how you spend your time. Try this over the rest of your 30-day productivity reset: write down everything you do and schedule every activity of your day. This includes your sleep, meals, work, family time, workouts, TV time, drinks with friends, all of it. Decide how much time you want to spend on each aspect of your life and schedule it in. Then stick to your schedule. Having a timeline will help you fit everything in. This may not feel like the best productivity hack, but just me, it works. It helps you make the most of each window because you’ll give that one activity your full focus for the allotted time.
Day 3: Set Bills on Auto-Pay
Any recurring bills such as cell phone, internet, utilities, etc. should be set to autopay. This will save you at least an hour a month. This is my favorite productivity hack. I do not have any bills that I pay manually. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something as I know it is already done!
Day 4: Automate Your Business Finances
While you’re on the topic of finances, take the time to set up a system that automates your business finance processes as much as they can be automated. There are plenty of apps and websites out there that can help you do this. Look for an all-inclusive option that has cost estimates, invoices, and payment processing so you can get every financial task done in one place.
Day 5: Automate Scheduling
Scheduling every client meeting and service appointment by phone can be a total time suck. Break free! Set up an online scheduling system that suits your needs and make it available where appropriate (i.e. through your website, email signature, social media profiles, etc). I use Calendly regularly and I know a lot of people who use similar tools. It is a simple way to increase productivity by taking a to-do off your list.
Day 6: Hire an Assistant
If managing the minutiae is taking away from your time spent on substantive work, then it’s time to hire an assistant. You can hire on local help or opt for a virtual assistant. Just make sure that you have the desired tasks well defined so you get your money’s worth. One service you can use is LifeSquire.com, they have even updated their model to do virtual babysitting while we are all home with children and trying to work.
Day 7: Exercise
Exercise can help you focus better at work. The mental and physical break is essential. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and schedule it like a meeting. Not to mention with so much time spent at home right now we all need more exercise. Exercise is not just great for our mental clarity throughout the day, but to help keep us in shape from so much time spent at home.
Day 8: Eliminate Distractions
Everyone has their own work style, and everyone has their own distractions. Make sure that you have a reliable system in place for blocking out distractions for your dedicated work time. I know this can be difficult right now. I am working at home with my whole family and it is hard to not be distracted. If you get sidetracked by certain websites, then install a program that blocks the offending URLs for a set timeframe. If your kids or pets distract you in normal times you could find a co-working space, coffee shop or library where you can work. Now though you may have to be more creative. We started setting a timer for play time. I set a timer and the kids get my full attention, when it is done then they get playtime, reading time, or time with their mom. Although, I am dreaming of the day they are back in school or when I can work from my favorite coffee shop again.
Day 9: Keep Learning
Identify a few areas – no more than 4 or 5 – that you want to up-skill this year. Perhaps you want to master WordPress or refine your sales process. Whatever it is, invest in a course, book, or other learning tools to grow your skill set. While you are home right now, brush up on those skills. We have thousands of training hours and many are free for you to use.
Day 10: Set Up a CRM
A Customer Relationship Manager or CRM is a tool that allows you to manage your interactions with current and prospective clientele. There are many free and paid CRM systems available today. They have features like contact logs, task lists, deal management tools, and tickler files to remind you when it’s time to follow up with someone.
Day 11: Meditate
Meditation is like a cleanse for your brain. It can help you focus, be more present with whatever task you take on, and remain calm when you encounter challenges along the way. There’s a reason many of the world’s most elite business people, performers, and athletes make use of meditation!
Day 12: Backup Your Data
Backup your files, website data, and other important information for running your business. A good rule of thumb is to have a double back up system – one physical hard drive and one digital such as a cloud storage service. Regular backups ensure that if your computer goes down, you won’t skip a beat. If you’ve ever had a critical device crash you know exactly what we’re talking about. And if you are running a WordPress site, you know you should have BackupBuddy to protect you.
Day 13: Create a Filing Convention
Have you ever wasted an hour (or two) searching for a file you mislabeled? You can save valuable time by committing to a naming convention for your files. For example, you can use a date-project-title structure. This will make it easier to organize and search your files in a snap. One productivity hack I use for this is in Gmail. I can label each subject by color and create files. Some of my emails are auto-labeled and moved to the right folder. Then when I am working on that topic, or reading from a specific colleague I can go to their folder. It saves me a ton of time not searches through hundreds or thousands of emails.
Day 14: Use Aromatherapy
Scents like peppermint or citrus have been proven to sharpen the mind and increase the ability to focus. You can incorporate aromatherapy into your workspace with something like an essential oil diffuser. If you don’t like room fragrance, then try for a small bottle of aromatherapy blend oil that you can open and inhale with a few deep breaths as needed.
It sounds counterproductive that in order to be MORE productive you need to take a break.
Day 15: Take a Break
Burnout is a real thing. Fortunately, it can be avoided. Make sure that you’re taking time to nourish yourself with self-care, enjoyable activities, and rest. It’s critical to your health and your ability to focus on your work. Just because you are practicing social distancing does not mean you cannot take a break. From work and from the news. It sounds counterproductive that in order to be MORE productive you need to take a break. But try it once and you will know it is a great productivity hack.
Day 16: Batch Tasks
The idea of batching tasks is simple. You process similar tasks together at one time. This helps limit the transition time between tasks which can really add up.
Day 17: Wake Up Early
There are a few precious hours before the official workday begins where you can be your most productive. Waking up early is a trick many successful business people swear by. Use the time to work out, prep mentally for your day, and get to work before everyone else. You’ll be shocked at how much you can get done in just an hour or two when your phone and email notifications are blissfully quiet.
Day 18: Pull Focus
Force yourself to focus on just one thing at a time today. By giving just one task 100%, you’ll work faster and better.
Day 19: Make a Soundtrack
Music has an amazing ability to enhance what we’re working on. Just like music can propel your workouts in the gym, it can help you get laser-focused at work. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but once you have, make yourself a work soundtrack. Then pop on your headphones whenever you need a jolt.
Day 20: Cut Back on Caffeine
We know this one sounds counter-intuitive, but caffeine has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to your productivity…and your health. Aim to stop after 2-3 cups of coffee or 1 energy drink, and cut yourself off after around 1:00 p.m. Caffeine stays in your system for hours, so drinking late into the afternoon or evening can really mess with your sleep.
Day 21: Go Outside
Put down all your work and go outside for a walk. Remove the screens and step out into the world. Giving yourself a mental break with some fresh air can do wonders for your productivity. You may even find yourself spontaneously problem-solving as you stroll! Right now we are taking family walks on a trail by our house. We are staying away from other people, but still need to find our way outside. It is great for me, my wife and our children to breathe some fresh air.
Day 22: Relocate
Stuck in a rut? Try changing the scenery. Legendary self-improvement guru Tony Robbins would call this “changing your state”. When you alter your physical location and surroundings it allows you to shake out the gridlock in your mind.
Day 23: Write Tomorrow’s To-Do List Today
Close the loop on your day by wrapping up the tasks at hand and making your list for tomorrow. Doing this type of “brain dump” at the end of each day will help you know exactly what’s coming tomorrow and leave work at work as you transition into your personal time.
Day 24: Tackle Something Tough First
It’s human nature to put off what’s difficult or labor-intensive. Whether it’s a tough conversation or a rigorous project, dive in first thing in the morning. When you’ve tackled something really difficult first the entire rest of your day is a piece of cake! Since you’ve already done something major it takes off a ton of pressure and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Ride that wave to 5:00!
When you’ve tackled something really difficult first the entire rest of your day is a piece of cake!
Day 25: Ask for Suggestions
This piece of advice can go 360-degrees. Often times we get used to doing things a certain way and may not realize there are other, better, more efficient ways available to us. Ask your peers, boss, and subordinates for ideas about how to make certain tasks or projects run smoother. Do they have any productivity hacks they use that would work for you? It’s a great opportunity for productive interaction and you can unearth some fantastic ideas in the process!
Day 26: Do Plyometrics
Feeling zoned out or sleepy? Stop and drop for a few burpees, jump squats, or jumping jacks. It will get your blood flowing and your heart pumping. It’s honestly better than a cup of coffee! The jolt that you get will keep you going for another 30-60 minutes.
Day 27: Define Your “Why”
Sometimes when we get so deep into a project or the routine of the day we can lose sight of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing. Align with your “why” and it will clarify what’s important. That alone can help you focus and be more productive in your work and your approach to your day.
Day 28: Use the 2-Minute Rule
Getting through the workday can feel like triage sometimes. You constantly have to receive and evaluate tasks and messages. The end result is often a small mountain of unfinished replies and tiny to-dos that fall through the cracks. This is where the 2-minute productivity hack comes in. When you receive an unplanned message or task, ask yourself if you can complete what you need to do about it in 2 minutes. Yes? Do it right now and cross it off your list. No? Write it down in a reminder list for later.
Day 29: Respond to Emails and Calls Twice Per Day
You don’t have to be a slave to your inbox and voicemail all day. Losing focus on the task at hand to reply every time the notification beeps can really take a toll on your ability to get things done. Instead, set a time each day to reply to emails and return calls. It can be whatever time works best for you – just keep it limited to that time every day. For example, you can do 30 minutes at 10:30 a.m. and 60 minutes at 3:00 p.m.
Day 30: Celebrate Your Wins
Take time to reflect on the past 30 days. What worked? What didn’t? Take stock and structure your next 30 days around what you’ve learned. Then take a few minutes to celebrate your wins. You made it through 30 days of self-improvement and mastery. Congrats! You’re off to a fantastic start.
If you noticed, this productivity list has a lot of ideas on taking care of yourself. And ultimately, that is what we care about, making sure you are taken care of.