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A day in the life of working me

A day in the life of working me

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.

The basics

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.

I have a swift shower and I brush my teeth. On a good day I might even brush my hair.
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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.)

 

Getting started

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:

  1. Reconciling Xero.
  2. Clearing out junk mail.
  3. Reviewing real emails (not answering at this stage—just reviewing).
  4. Making my ‘to do’ list.
  5. Posting in my FB groups.
  6. 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.

A photo posted by Kate Toon (@katetoon) on

My calendar

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).

Calendar

 

Rewards

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.

Phone calls

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.

 

 

Getting help

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?

kate toon fit

Me in fitter times.

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?

If you need a Copywriter, SEO Consultant or Information Architect, then please contact me.

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  • Kelly Myers

    I like this Kate, thanks for the insights. I must invest in a tomato timer 🙂

  • Fabbo Toon – velly inneresting and depressingly impressive! (My mouth dropped open as I started to read the 4am start bit!) P’raps you could squeeze a bit more of the dancing in? – it’s meant to be one of the best exercises. 🙂

    • hah, yes I thought the 4am bit might be a shocker. Never going to happen. Love my bed! More dancing for sure.

  • I managed to break a bone in my foot doing just that years ago, so watch out for stray furniture – and sleeping dogs!

  • Kat

    As always, your honest is so appreciated! After all, if Wonder Woman can’t get it all together, I should be easier on myself, right? (Ha) Thanks for a great article.

    • I’m not sure I’m Wonder Woman, more like the hulk. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Angela Fedele

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest Kate – loved this post! I too am a huge fan of the Pomodoro timing Technique. I used to be a night owl but slowly shifted myself to 5am wake ups (15min earlier at a time over a few weeks) and am so much better for it productivity wise. Still trying to get that morning workout in though… hasn’t happened yet 🙂

    • I’m gradually working back from 7am – trying to get to 6am for the summer months, so I can do some exercise before the day begins. But I LOVE MY BED!

  • I still think you are a powerhouse. With exercise, I have 3 set in stone times that I do it each week – 7.30pm Monday, 6am Wed (involving a 5.30 alarm, yuck, but it’s only one day) and 7.30am Sat. I tried having more fluid times and it just didn’t happen, I need the structure. I’m trying harder not to work on the days when I don’t have childcare and just be present with my little one but it’s difficult when I’m trying to get a bit more traction in my business. I am making an effort to be realistic on how much capacity I have and just do my best at work/parenting/having a life with varying degrees of success.

    • Yep – it’s so important, it might take us longer to reach our goals but we’ll get there. Also it’s about the journey right? If it was all work work work and nofamily time, it would be hideous. So it’s good to keep the balance and accept it. Thanks for your comments lady. P.s. impressed with your in stone times. I just need ONE in stone time to start with.

  • You’re a machine and I love the fact that you’re so normal. The hair flicking, perfect teeth mum-preneurs (with the depth of a sweat stain) that Facebook is full of, don’t inspire me to do anything. You on the other hand, have inspired so many women to achieve things they hadn’t imagined possible. If I’ve got to be in a tribe at all, I’m happy to be in yours.

    • Hey I’m not THAT normal 🙂 Thank you for that lovely comment, it means a lot. I find it bizarre that anyone should find me inspiring though. And we have a GANG remember, not a tribe. A gang with flick knives and silky jackets.

  • Such a great article, thank you for sharing!

    “Refrain from coming up with new ideas” made me snort – I can’t see this happening, ha ha.

    I like Angela’s technique of having a ‘set in stone’ time for exercise, and as you say you could start with just one day a week.

    I have taken it to the extreme of having one time per year, lol – I’ve just returned from a 1000km cycling trip that involved riding over the Pyrenees, an idea I instantly regretted voicing when I realised I couldn’t back out of it. I was anxious for months but it turned out to be like any other massive project – I just had to break it into small chunks and achieve one bit at a time, and reward myself a little at each milestone (or kilometre post). I definitely noticed some body shape changes but the real benefit is a kickstart back into exercise, a reminder to get off my bloody computer and get moving!

    • Wow so impressed with your trip. I once did something similar from the base of Thailand up to Bangkok. An amazing experience. I need to get healthy and like your idea of making it a project, Maybe i can even set it up on Basecamp with milestones!

      • Great idea! Maybe you could invite other ‘sitting in front of a computer all day’ people to join you. I’d put my hand up. The challenge could be to cover a certain number of kilometres by body power – walk, run, bike, rollerblade, whatever. And we could see how many km we all covered together. We could…..and we could….
        NO! WAIT! STOP!
        This is a new and shiny idea. Down, Rover!

        • Down down. I love a new idea. But I musn’t. I MUST STOP!

  • How many of those 40 hours do you spend writing? I find I have 4 or 5 hours of really solid writing in me in a day, at the most. After this I am extremely exhausted mentally and I wouldn’t feel right to bill for anything I come up with. And I can do 4 or 5 hours of writing a day for a few days in a row. But I can’t manage it for 5 days a week, every week. The non-writing part of my work rarely takes even an hour. When I was an agency copywriter, they were really squeezing the hours out of us, and the quality of our output definitely suffered for it.

    • Hi James, yes I can only manage 4-5 hours a day MAX, thankfully I write quite quickly and then shoot it off to my editor. And like you I can’t do that day after day. Now that I have other businesses I’m able to alternate marketing and admin tasks with writing and that breaks it up.
      I remember those agency days too, it was hard yakka, having to be ON all the time and come up with great ideas at the drop of a hat. So glad I’m no longer in house!

  • Janet

    Awesome article! Way to go, Kate. Thanks for sharing your real story (not just the yoga/smoothie version). It really is inspiring and some of the challenges are so familiar I think we might actually be leading parallel lives. Although I only have one website and none of your fame 😉

    • haha, yes I do love yoga and smoothies but never seem to find the time. So it’s netflix and crips instead 🙂 P.s. eww to the fame comment. If I’m famous then the world seriously has problems.

  • Rashida Mamujee

    Wow! I’m feeling exhausted just reading about your day. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    • Yep, it can be exhausting, but today I’m skiving off early. I do sometimes give myself a break 🙂

  • Nadia Barlow

    For the first time in a long time I feel like I’ve finally found the right balance with work this week and it’s been lovely. I feel like I’m living dream as a writer. Seeing how I can simplify things yet still lead a full and rich life is important. I want it to continue!

    • It’s very important and something I’m still working on!

  • Tahlia Maynard

    Thanks for this Kate! Certainly makes me feel ‘normal’. Keep going, I love reading your stuff and you’re certainly helping me become a better writer and marketer with everything you produce. PS Your templates are my favourite short-cut – so thanks for those 🙂

    • Thank you so much @tahlia_maynard:disqus – I’m not sure I’m that normal but I try to be 🙂 And so glad my templates are helping you out.

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