My how things change! I was reading an article I wrote seven years ago and I rolled my eyes at the naivety of myself. I was pontificating about how to get things done and be more productive. And while some things haven’t changed (I still write at 5 a.m., for instance), nearly everything is not the same. Before the small one arrived, I literally worked 16 hours a day—without a single break.
Ah, to be young and childless.
No wonder I could be so productive.
Or was I?
The interesting thing is, I get more done now. And I work far less. There is something about not having the time that forces you to be more productive.
I used to spend an hour every day reading. An hour every day engaging on social media. Some time every day to curate and schedule social media. I also worked every weekend.
One hundred hour workweeks were not uncommon. And boy was that stupid!
As it turns out, you can get just as much done in half the time. And while even 50 hours a week sounds like a lot to some people, I’m coming at it from the perspective of it being half. HALF of what I used to work.
A Visual of My Work Day Schedule
It’s my favorite event to do because I don’t have to prepare a speech. He and I just have a conversation. It’s two friends talking about digital marketing with an audience.
This past year, one of the things he asked me was about time blocking, deep work, and how I get things done.
I put together this quick visual so people could see that I actually do sleep.
It’s one of the most important things I do—and I love my sleep.
Based on the time of year, I change my exercise schedule.
Right now, it’s cold and dark at 5 a.m. so I prefer to ride later in the day.
Plus, I’ve found I’m far more efficient on the bike after I’ve had several meals than first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
You’ll also notice most days I really have only about four hours of time to do actual work.
I always surprise myself at how much I get done during that time…because I buckle down and focus.
Be More Productive with These Eight Tips
Here are some tips to help you do the same.
- Treat exercise like you do brushing your teeth. It’s just something you have to do every day.
- If writing is a priority for you, set time to do it. Make it the same time every day and don’t sway from it. It helps that I have a deadline. Our blog publishes at 6:45 a.m. CST so I have to get up and write. If I don’t, no blog post. That’s a pretty big incentive to haul my butt out of bed each morning.
- Write your to-do list before you shut down for the night. I have everything in Wunderlist and, each night, I go through and write down the top three things I have to accomplish the next day.
- Add in action items that will take you less than 15 minutes. Because, while I’m typically scheduled in meetings from 8:00-12:00 every day, some meetings end early and I have extra time. Rather than spend that time in email or on the social networks, I have my list of smaller items to get done.
- Turn your email to “work offline.” I stopped using MacMail and only use Gmail in a web browser. This makes it significantly easier for me to ignore it when I’m in meetings or in deep work mode.
- Same thing with Slack. I LOVE Slack and it has made us far more productive internally, but it’s also a distraction. I close the desktop app and reopen it at the same times that I check my email.
- Take time off from it all. I used to work all weekend, but found myself thinking, “I can do that this weekend” and I’d procrastinate something I didn’t really want to do Now that I have a small one who demands my attention and likes to say, “Mama, will you play with me?” I just can’t work weekends…and I’m far more productive because of it.
- Take time during the day to just think. If that’s a 15 minute walk around the block or scheduled exercise time, your brain needs a break. As my mom would say, “Take time to sharpen the saw.”
Of course, this doesn’t always work. For instance, today I’m with a client from 8-1 and then I have a couple of meetings this afternoon. I won’t accomplish much today.
But I have a short list of things I know I can get done—and I’ve not overpromised things to my team or to other clients.
Read Deep Work
It’s also really hard to be this “scheduled.” I get that and I know it won’t work for everyone.
I also understand that being the owner means I’m more in control of my schedule. If someone wants a meeting during my afternoon deep work time, I typically can (and do) say no.
There are some meetings that can interrupt that time, but they’re rare.
One of the things that was life-changing for me was reading Deep Work.
(Don’t worry, Paula. I’m a fan of the book, not the author.)
It helped me understand that having all of the distractions was detrimental and was the reason I was working 16 hour days.
The author also suggests you time block as I do, but you start to figure out what works for you.
And what works for me may not necessarily work for you.
My Must-Haves for You
The only things I advise are:
- Schedule exercise time;
- Have a “small to-dos” list for those 15 minute breaks between phone calls and meetings; and
- Schedule at least two hours of deep work every day.
Other than that, you have the flexibility to create your own productive work schedule.