Something that I constantly think about is TIME.
How much time will it take me to answer these emails?
Do I have time to grab a quick coffee / go to the gym / finish this one last task before picking up my son?
I must say, after starting my own business, I have quickly learnt the importance of time and how to take more control of my schedule.
Fast forward to becoming a mother and I’ve now tried and tested various hacks that help me to achieve optimal productivity when needed.
Below are six of my favourite productivity hacks. I hope they give you the power to produce your best work and get the most out of your time too!
Organisation is key
My morning, unfortunately, isn’t brunch dates and early morning yoga classes, it’s running after my now 18-month old, chugging a large sized coffee and consulting my daily to-do list.
I am definitely a sucker for a good to-do list - and I write one almost every day.
But here’s the hack; I write all of my to-do lists the night before.
It’s the last piece of work I see when I’m winding down for the night and the first thing I review to get me motivated in the morning. Having my to-do list ready to go the night before frees up time for me to focus on any priorities first up in the morning and, most importantly, gives me peace of mind that (at least the start of) my day is sorted.
Whoever told you multi-tasking works, lied
I am a task-oriented person. Notice how I said "task", not "tasks"? I happily take on a lot in life, but I much prefer to focus on one task at a time.
For me, multi-tasking never results in a great product - when I take on too many things all at once nothing is ever completed properly. I am much, and I mean much, more effective when I write a list, prioritise the tasks, estimate roughly how long each task will take to complete, then systematically work down the list completing one item at a time. Getting something done right once is the most productive way I can spend my time.
Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule
My father has always been a big fan of Warren Buffett. Given this, many of Mr Buffet’s life pearls have found their way into my upbringing. Mr Buffet definitely has a few aces up his sleeve when it comes to productivity and prioritisation. His simple, yet effective 5/25 rule is a winner.
Here’s how it works:
- Go ahead and write down each task you want to achieve today (this week / this year / whichever time period works for you – it has to be a defined period though).
- Thoroughly go through this list and circle the 5 most important items.
- Now move those 5 circled tasks to a new list. These are your priorities for completion during your defined time period. All other items on the original list must not be touched until your 5 prioritised items have been completed.
This process helps me focus on what is critical on any given day / week / year. It also helps to reduce stress and ensure that I don’t feel overwhelmed with too many tasks on my list at the one time. Once your top 5 tasks have been completed, go back to your original list, add new tasks that may have popped up in the meantime and reprioritise the full list again, circling the next 5 to create your new priority list to focus on.
Now this one is a gem and one of my favourites for those stubborn, often time consuming tasks that tend to linger over your shoulders because you keep putting them off – you know the ones? Well, created in the 1980’s and named after the humble kitchen tomato timers, the Pomodoro technique uses timing and breaks to get you through your task list. I used this technique all through law school and still use it at work to this day. Here’s how to apply the technique:
- Go ahead and set a timer for 25 minutes or another specified period that is less than 1 hour (configure it to your personal stamina). I usually go with hour-long blocks; focusing for 50 mins with a 10 mins break.
- Work on the one task for the allocated time period until the buzzer goes off. You must now stand up and STOP working for your allotted break time (Ie, you may decide to Work/Rest for 50 mins/10 mins or 25 mins/5 mins). You have now completed one block. Following your break, restart the timer and move into focus for the next block of time.
- Repeat this process throughout your day using the allotted focus time to complete certain "chunks" of work or specific tasks..
Like anyone, I work best when I’m well rested, energised and can take a step back and reassess. The timer aspect of the Pomodoro technique keeps you accountable to your work load and much more focused on the task at hand. The 5/10 minute break after each block clears your mind, ensures you return to the next block of 'focus' with a fresh set of eyes. A great app to accompany this style of working is FocusBooster.
If you're anything like me, you don't always have a pen and paper handy, but you do always have a phone! A great app that I’ve found super helpful for capturing to-do-list items is Wunderlist
. This free app allows you to create lists, set up reminders and collaborate and share your lists with others. While I'm a traditionalist at heart (there is just something cathartic about physically crossing off to-do-list items with a pen), I regularly use Wunderlist
to capture notes when I’m out and about without a pen and paper during the day.
Another trick I've found quite handy - particularly when I feel like I'm losing track of the hours in the week - is to create meetings with myself; sacred spaces in my calendar where people cannot book meetings. This way I know that I have certain time allocated in my diary to focus on completing whatever needs to be focused on during that time slot. Obviously you need to be relatively flexible with yourself when using this method, but gosh it takes the pressure off when you have estimated roughly how long you think you'll need to complete a task and then have this time booked into your calendar for exactly that purpose. Remember though:
- You must be realistic and kind to yourself. Take your to-do list and allocate a realistic time period for completion of each task and when each task is due.
- Following your prioritisation above, block out appropriate time in one, or multiple blocks, to complete each of your prioritised tasks at suitable times for you.
- Try and stick to it, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out. Life happens, it’s all about being adaptable and ready to shift when need be – this way, it is much easier to replan and provide realistic expectations to whomever you’re working with about progress because you’ve already scoped the task and can look at your diary to work out when you will next have appropriate time to complete it.
For more tips and tricks on productivity, check out this fabulous article here
published by MyDomaine featuring productivity tips from a range of other female entrepreneurs.