“I like things to happen. And if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.”– Winston Churchill (1874-1965), former UK Prime Minister, statesman, and writer
It’s 8:57 am.
You sit down to work for the morning.
You smile politely at Kathy sitting across your desk and secretly hope she doesn’t talk to you until you are thoroughly caffeinated.
Bzzzzz….nope, it’s not a bee. It’s your phone vibrating.
You quickly glance at the screen – 2 new texts and 3 new gmails.
You ignore them and immediately applaud yourself for your self-restraint.
You start sifting through your emails for a solid twelve minutes.
To reward yourself, you take a sip of coffee and glance briefly at your desk.
A framed photo of your dog reminds you of your boyfriend.
(Take that however you want.)
You then remember that his parents are coming over for dinner this weekend and all you have in your fridge is half a bottle of Naked Grape and some wilted spinach.
In a panic, you google: “things to cook to impress your inlaws”.
You work for another ten minutes.
Bzzzz…your phone vibrates again – this time it’s a call from your mom…
It’s almost impossible to get any work done with all these daily distractions.
But even so, it’s important to find better ways of working so we can reach our maximum productivity.
Because getting shit done is rewarding.
We feel more accomplished and we are closer to achieving what we want in life.
Most importantly, we want to get shit done so we can spend more time with the people we love and do the things we truly enjoy.
DO THESE FIRST:
1. Put your phone away.
No seriously – put it away.
During a workday, I leave my personal phone in my purse and don’t take it out unless it’s lunch time or after 5 pm.
My friends hate me because I am always the last to respond to a group chat, but they get over it.
2. Use some tough love to eliminate online distractions.
Sometimes you just need a fire lit under your ass to get moving.
This chrome extension allows you to block super seductive productivity-sucking websites like YouTube, Facebook, etc. to keep you on track.
You simply add the site you want to block, and when you try to enter the URL of the blocked site in your browser, variations of this screen will pop up instead:
Aggressive, but highly effective.
3. Get organized, bro.
Make sure your work space is clutter-free.
Spend 3 minutes tidying up your desk so all loose papers are in a neat pile, and anything non-work-related is out of sight.
My mom used to joke that as a kid, even my clutter was organized.
(Shut up, I was cool.)
This is a small but powerful tip to getting shit done. When your space is clear, your mind is clear.
4. Create calendar events for important tasks.
What are considered important tasks?
Anything that helps you achieve your top goals.
I have two calendars:
- A 3-month whiteboard calendar – I like to see what’s coming up so I can plan in advance.
- I put all my non-work-related appointments, daily fitness goals, birthdays, and any other big events on here.
- An online calendar – I use Google Calendar to get shit done.
A screenshot of my crazy calendar:
- At the start of each day, I open up Google Calendar in my Chrome browser. I review the tasks for the day (these were entered last week) and see if anything urgent has come up that will need me to reshuffle my calendar. (Sometimes, even just having the calendar open as an additional tab acts as enough pressure to keep me on track.)
- After completing a task, I create a calendar event for what I did. I am completely honest with myself. For example, I will make an hour event that says “wasting time” if that’s what I did.
- At the end of the week, I’ll analyze my calendar and see if there are any particular times that stand out. For example, I found I am more productive between 8 – 11 am and my productivity fades around 4 pm. Knowing this, I plan my important tasks (to achieve my top goals) in the morning and more menial tasks (like checking emails, paperwork, etc.) in the afternoon.
Google Calendar will also automatically send you an email notification to your Gmail to keep you on track:
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but eventually you become hyper aware of how you’re spending your time and your productivity skyrockets!
5. Use the 2-min rule.
Try holding your breath for 2 minutes and if you pass out, then you don’t have to do any work.
That is not the rule at all.
If you have quick tasks that can be completed in 2 minutes or less, get them out of the way NOW!
Even better if the task is something that will improve your life in some way or if it is a step closer to achieving a bigger goal.
- Short responses to emails – emailing a colleague to ask to go for coffee to get some work advice
- Setting up important meetings – that chat you’ve been dying to have with your boss to discuss a promotion
- Booking doctor’s appointments – it’s all about your health, yo.
6. Break it up.
Break up your work into smaller, more manageable chunks.
It’s 9:30 am and your boss just plopped a huge presentation on your desk.
She says you have to drop everything else and complete this before lunch.
Son of a bee sting.
Don’t freak out. Just divide up the seemingly large task into smaller ones.
Why not focus on just the outline for the next 15 minutes?
Find 5 key areas of the topic to focus on, and hack away at each of them, one by one.
Tip: aim to be done your draft by 11:30 am if not sooner, as I’m sure everyone and their brother will have to review and approve before it’s final.
7. Go ahead – procrastinate!
Procrastinate productively, that is.
Procrastinate productively, that is.
Let’s say you’re a Marketing Manager for a mid-sized B2B Marketing Automation Solutions company.
(YAYYY You have a job!)
Your main goals for the morning are as follows:
- Finish one post for the company blog.
- Format a marketing plan presentation deck for tomorrow’s meeting.
- Write a creative brief for an upcoming email campaign.
Instead of starting one task and giving up and giving into a productivity sucker like Facebook, you can switch back and forth between your main goals.
You can start writing the blog post and if you get stuck, immediately switch to completing the presentation deck.
For me, I would start the deck first as this is a quick and easy win. This will get you motivated to do the harder stuff later.
I get that some work is urgent, though – sometimes your boss needs it ASAP. In that case, just suck it up and do this first.
8. Put it in your face.
We humans are forgetful.
It’s easy to forget or lose sight of your goals especially if you can’t physically see them on a daily basis.
Put your goals where you can see them.
This is my fridge at home:
Whether it’s a vision board or post-it notes on your computer screen, keep reminding yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish and why.
My desk at my old office:
STILL CAN’T GET INTO THE GRIND? DO THESE:
9. Seduce yourself with rewards.
This one’s especially effective if you have a treacherous task ahead of you like proofreading endless pages of financial services marketing material.
(It happened one time.)
The reward doesn’t have to be big. It could be a cappuccino, a pastry, a five minute walk, or ten minutes of browsing online.
I like to treat myself to 15 minutes of reading.
Set an event in your calendar two hours from now. Call it something like, “TREAT YO SELF: CAPPUCCINO” and whenever you glance at your calendar, you will be motivated by seeing what’s waiting for you in a couple of short hours.
10. Increase your stress levels.
WHAT?! Girl, you crazy.
Yup – true story. There is an optimum level of stress.
This can be explained by the Yerkes-Dodson Law. It states that performance increases with arousal, but only to a certain limit. It also follows that with too much or too little arousal, performance decreases.
Here’s a screenshot of an infographic to help explain how it relates to workplace stress:
Bryan College/Via bryan.edu
See the full infographic by Bryan College here.
What does this all mean?
It means that adding pressure or stress at work can help increase your productivity:
- Ask your boss for more responsibilities. See if there’s anything you can take off her plate.
- Create deadlines for yourself. But be realistic. In daily emails with colleagues, make it a habit of giving an exact day and time they can expect your deliverable.
- Make it public. Email your boss and cc your team if your goal is to get them an important deliverable today.
11. Dig deeper.
Sometimes you have to do some soul-searching and ask why you’re putting something off.
Is the task difficult? Do you need more information? Is fear holding you back?
Did you watch too many episodes of Breaking Bad and are seriously considering quitting your job and entering the “pharmaceutical” industry?
What is stopping you from getting starting?
12. Find out what the pros are doing.
Beyonce has 24 hours just like the rest of us.
(She also has a boat load of assistants, trainers, and hired help, but still – you see what I’m getting at.)
Here are some productivity habits of the most successful people to get you started.
WE’RE HUMAN. GIVE INTO THE CAT VIDEO:
No matter how good our intentions are, some days are a pure struggle.
(Mondays come to mind.)
13. Take a break.
Sometimes you just need to watch Jimmy Fallon with some tight pants on to keep you moving:
But make sure to set an alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder to get back to work ASAP!
Entrepreneur and digital marketing guru, Neil Patel recommends doing focused work for 50-90 minutes and then taking a break for 15-20 minutes.
14. Use a website bookmarker.
Let’s say you tried everything above but still caved and logged into Facebook.
(What?! That never happens at work.)
It’s all good – just browse through the articles you want to read and videos you want to watch and bookmark them for later.
I am currently using Diigo but I know there are a ton of other great ones on the Interweb.
Here’s a screenshot of how the bookmark works as a chrome extension on your browser:
I unfollowed most of my friends on Facebook (#sorry #amIthough) and just follow my favourite online magazines – TechCrunch, Mashable, Lifehacker, Forbes, etc.
My newsfeed is now filled with articles on topics I’m psyched about.
I skim over them and use the “Read Later” feature (shown in the screenshot above) to keep them saved.
15. Give your work away.
I’m not talking about off-loading your work to an unsuspecting colleague, but if you are swamped and your colleague has extra capacity, give it away!
While some of his ideas may be a bit radical, the concept is clear:
He recommends hiring virtual assistants to take care of daily administrative tasks so you are free to focus on your core tasks (the ones that bring you closer to your goals).
Check out upwork.com if it would be worth it to you to get some help.
16. Plan out the next day.
Since you weren’t able to get as much done as you had hoped today, you’ll have to catch up tomorrow.
Make sure you include any outstanding tasks in tomorrow’s schedule and shuffle tasks and meetings around accordingly.
BONUS: Incorporate booze.
Obviously, this only works for certain activities, primarily outside of work.
Here are a few of my least favourite activities and the recommended booze for each:
- Filing your taxes – add wine
- Cleaning the bathroom – add beer
- Building anything from IKEA – add whiskey
You get the idea.
Want more advice on how to be a better human at work and in life? Read What Should I Do With My Life? 17 Simple Ways to Find the Answer.
How do you get shit done?
I would love to know your tips! Please share in the comments section below.