My productivity highs and woes
When I chat with business colleagues, or am interviewed for podcasts, these are the phrases I hear the most:
“I don’t know how you do it!”
“How do you get it all done?”
“What’s your productivity secret?”
And I get it. I’m prolific. There’s a lot of Toon spread around the interwebs.
So in this post I thought I’d share my average day and week, and pass on some of my favourite productivity tools and motivational tactics.
For those who don’t know me:
- JOB: Copywriter and SEO trainer.
- HOURS WORKED: 35-40 pw.
- INCOME: I’m doing okay (but not ‘island buying okay’)
- WORKING DAYS: Short days Monday, Thursday and Friday (school run both ends). Long days Tuesday and Wednesday (husband does school things). Can also work on Saturday (but try not to).
My morning routine
I wake up at 4am feeling refreshed. After meditating and doing an hour of yoga, I make myself a wholesome green smoothie while listening to whale music.
On alternate days I jog on the beach and swim in the golden morning surf…
Okay, so I’m lying.
While I’d like to be ^^ that ^^ person. I am, in fact this person.
I wake up at 7am feeling more tired than when I went to bed. I lurch to the bathroom with a rigid totter, my legs having seized up in the night through extreme lack of exercise.
Then I stumble out into the world to either:
- Make breakfast for small human, prepare backpack/lunch box and do school run.
- Walk dog to coffee shop for jumbo three-shot coffee with half a sugar. (Halving the sugar makes me feel healthier.)
There are many* days when I really want to sack off the entire day and lie in bed bingeing on Netflix and eating crisps. But once I reach my Toon Cave my motivation usually kicks in, helped by coffee and pumping up Spotify.
I spend the first 30 minutes:
- Reconciling Xero.
- Clearing out junk mail.
- Reviewing real emails (not answering at this stage—just reviewing).
- Making my ‘to do’ list.
- Posting in my FB groups.
- Acknowledging shares and tags on social media.
And I do it all while standing up, having set my Tomato Timer for 25 minutes.
Sometimes I even dance while I’m doing the tasks above, a bit like this:
My ‘to do’ list
When it comes to ‘to do’ lists I’m a pen and paper girl, although I did use Teuxdeux for a while.
Obviously I try to prioritise my list, and guess the time needed for each task, but I usually start with a few easy ones to give myself a sense of achievement. Silly I know, but it works.
I have several ‘to do’ lists running at once. With 6 websites to maintain and three core lines of business there’s a lot to remember.
So I have a ‘Nice to do’ list as well as a ‘must do’ list’.
The first task
I try to ensure the first proper job I start is a money earner. And that means something I’m being paid for, rather than my own marketing.
Early morning is also when I’m most creative and cognisant, so it’s usually when I write client copy.
I try my hardest not to procrastinate and get stuck in.
For a while I tried blocking out time for certain things (something I picked up from Darren Rowse at ProBlogger 2015).
But it just didn’t work for me, and so now my diary is simply for appointments.
I use Google Calendar, and colour-code the appointments based on lines of business.
I try not to have meetings before ten (in case I do manage to go for that swim) or after four (I’m too pooped). Chats with overseas clients and students (not to mention podcasts) are often after business hours, so I try to limit them to one day a week (Tuesday or Wednesday).
I use social media and fun jobs (I love making and editing videos) as a reward for completing tougher jobs, such as completing first drafts of client copy decks.
I don’t answer my phone, instead, I let calls go to voicemail and call back at a nominated time.
I’m bad at this though, and often don’t realise (or simply forget) I have messages. So much for customer relationship management.
I used to have a virtual assistant (VA) for seven hours a week, but she found a full-time role (sob). I’m trying out a few VAs on an ad hoc basis, but I’m finding it’s quicker to do things myself.
While I do a lot of DIY things for my websites and marketing, I have a designer and developer for when it gets serious.
I have an accountant who does my BAS and end-of-year tax, but I do all my own book keeping myself.
What works well
- Mornings: I tend to get a lot done in the mornings.
- Scheduling/batching: I spend time each month creating and scheduling social media posts all in one go.
- Project management: I use Basecamp to manage all my projects. And I have ready-made projects set up, which means I can ‘set and forget’ and get alerts telling me what to do each day.
- Documentation: I have documents for everything and templates for all kinds of project emails, as well as ad hoc things, such as interview requests, favour requests and tech issues.
- Toggl: I use Toggl to track my time (when I remember to switch it on)
- Typing: I type super fast.
- Bravery: I’m willing to give stuff ago without fear of failure which means I don’t procrastinate much.
What doesn’t work so well
- Afternoons: Once it hits 2pm my brain doesn’t work so well. I use this fuzzy time to do monotonous tasks such as social media scheduling, WordPress fixes, editing, etc.
- Scheduling/batching: I’d also like to batch things like blog post writing and videos. But I tend to do them randomly, when the urge takes me, which isn’t productive at all.
- Social media: It’s a huge time suck that I wrestle with all day, every day.
- Boundaries: I try to switch off each evening around 3pm (school days) or 6pm (work days), but often find myself logging in again. It doesn’t help that Netflix is on my laptop, so it’s easy to flick over to email or FB.
- Bravery: Because I’m willing to give things a go, I sometimes launch them without thinking things through!
Still with me?
If you’ve read this far, congratulations. As a reward, let me give you a truth blurt.
I work too hard.
I had many financial successes last year, earning almost double what I earned in the previous year. But I’m also paying the price.
The hard truth:
- I’ve gained 15 kilos in two years from general lack of exercise and greediness.
- I do not make my personal health a priority. At all. Ever.
- I do spend a lot of quality time with my son, manage to keep a tidy house, and cook the odd meal.
- I do get stressed about work — even a little manic at times.
- I frequently feel overwhelmed, and that I should pack it all in.
The way forward
I have enough self-awareness to realise that sometime in the past year I got bitten by the entrepreneur bug. I believed I could possible create a passive income, and achieve the four-day working week.
What I did instead was add two more businesses to my already successful business, and go from working 20 hours a week to double that.
Yes, I’m financially better for it. But personally? Not so much.
Over the next six months my objectives aren’t to grow, but rather to maintain the status quo. This will involve:
- Saying ‘no’ to some opportunities (that often aren’t opportunities anyway).
- Holding myself back from fiddling with websites and products.
- Refraining from coming up with new ideas.
- Focusing on what earns me money and what brings me JOY!
So there you have it — an insight into my daily working life, my stresses and worries, and my highs and woes.
Over to you
Is it similar to your week? Do you have any productivity tips you can share? If so feel free to comment. I’ll take all the help I can get.
Want to have a chat?
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