I have shared my thoughts on productivity on the blog before about how to handle overwhelm, multiple priorities and deadlines (read here). But in this post, I wanted to share some of the practical tools that help me get through my daily/weekly routine by actually being productive.
The first place I start is with Todoist which is where I add all of my smaller and on-going tasks. (For my larger projects, I stay on track using Trello.)
Some examples of what’s in my Todoist:
- schedule status call with assistant
- update website
- send client homework
- pick up dry-cleaning
Todoist gives me the ability to scan my whole list of to dos in one place. If you choose to get the paid version, you can set up reminders and add comments to the tasks. The subscription will cost you $29 a year – an amazing deal for the value and flexibility you get from the tool, but I’ve also seen amazing value with just the free version. It also has some cool tech in the background to assist you with your due date scheduling and it integrates well with Google Calendar and iCal.
In the second step of my productivity process, I reach out for a paper-based product – the Productivity Planner. I love this planner and am so impressed with it. At the beginning of the week, I scan my entire Todoist list and then breakdown what needs to get done each week: the 5 most important tasks, secondary tasks and additional tasks.
There are so many aspects of the planner that fit my working style:
- I love how it helps me prioritize my tasks each week, each day. It’s an undated planner, so it forces you to really THINK about what needs to get done TODAY.
- Once you’ve figured out your game plan for the day, the planner encourages the use of the Pomodoro technique to help you avoid distractions. (If you’ve never heard about the Pomodoro Technique, I’ll explain more below) It gives you a chance to track the number of Pomodoro’s you’ve completed.
This planner is really a clever productivity methodology wrapped in a beautifully designed book. It supports you by weeding out the clutter tasks, and emphasizes working on “quality” tasks. This is the key to feeling AND being productive.
Now, let’s chat about the Pomodoro Technique that I mentioned earlier. In case you haven’t heard of it, it was developed by an Italian student, Francesco Cirillo, during his university days when he realized that he needed a way to be more productive with the time that he had. Using his mom’s “tomato” kitchen timer, the Pomodoro Technique was born.
I use it often to move forward on the meaty tasks I have to get done. The steps involved look like this:
- Decide on the task you want to work on (do your taxes, answer emails, or researching potential jobs to apply to.)
- Set your timer on your phone for 25 minutes.
- Then get to work. Try to remain focussed and not get side-tracked.
- When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break, stretch, get some water, look out the window, or do something that allows your mind to wander a bit.
- Then start again. Rinse + repeat.
Once you have looped through 3 or 4 of these, then take a longer 20 – 25 minute break. If you do get distracted in the midst of a Pomodoro, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again from the top. And know yourself – if 25 minutes is too long to commit to, then give 15 minutes a try. You can be flexible with this method.
More info about the Pomodoro Technique can be found here.
Let’s be honest – we all procrastinate! Somedays it can be hard to stay focussed simply because we are just drained of energy or life is a bit more complicated than usual. Or, sometimes we are drawn to certain, more appealing tasks than others! (For me, I am more than happy to scroll through Instagram or check out a new restaurant in town than do my bookkeeping!)
But, using Todoist for the bulk of my tasks, committing to my Productivity Planner for the weekly tasks, and using the Pomodoro technique, I’ve been able to create momentum in my business.
What does productivity look like for you? Any tools you would recommend? Please add your comments below!