Last month was my birthday. No I won’t tell you my age, but I will tell you it was the year of the book.
I made an Amazon Wishlist thinking I might get one of 2 of my choices – and I jolly well got them all. Hoorah, and thanks family.
They’re an eclectic mix of books about sugar flowers, branding, blogging, faith and the smallest book of all “The Little Black Book” by Otegha Uwagba. It’s one of the most photographed books by instagrammers and bloggers, often featuring in flat-lays and coffee shop shoots. It’s just a really easy to read, helpful and practical book for people in business.
So feeling thoroughly inspired, I thought I would share some thoughts on maximising our productivity. My productivity varies massively from day to day – anyone else? Some days I’m hot to trot, powering through my tasks, fuelled by positivity and ambition. Other days I’m distracted and slow, flat and listless, and open to any and all suggestions of coffee out.
It can’t be just me?
So here’s my thoughts on getting it done, inspired by The Little Black Book.
1 Up with the Larks
This is a hard place to start for me. I have never been a natural morning person. I love the idea of it – the quietness, the birdsong, the early coffee …. but my body just doesn’t want to move out of it’s cosy cocoon!
So I’m taking Otegha’s advice and starting with just an hour. Surely I can get up just an hour earlier. It might be painful at first but I’m good with routine so if I can just do it long enough to make it normal – we might be onto something. Imagine having a whole hour to yourself? Time to think, check your diary, plan your tasks for the day, brew coffee and get your head in the right space to be really productive.
2 Power Hour
What’s the first thing we all do when we wake? Check our phones right? Scan emails, scroll instagram, check twitter – and before you know it you’re down the “Internet rabbit hole” and wasted an hour!
Let’s make it a power hour. The first hour of the day, when you’re full of the joys of spring, is for planning, scheduling priorities, and allocating time.
If I don’t start the morning with a plan, my day is all over the place. I’m so easily distracted it’s frightening.
3 Dressing right
I worked for many years as an Executive PA. It was easy – every day was a 2 piece suit. I had 6 or 7 of them and they rotated round the wardrobe.
You’ll now find me at home, much less formal, and often dusted with icing sugar. Dressing is easy – it just needs to be comfortable enough for bouncing round the kitchen and smart enough to dash off to networking or to meet a client for coffee.
They say that for maximum productivity, it’s best to wear a similar thing every day or at least lay it out the night before so getting up is speedy and doesn’t require too much thought.
Also don’t forget that what you wear is part of your business image and having a consistent look is a great way of establishing your personal brand.
4 Write a list, check it twice
Now if you know anything about me, you’ll know I’m a compulsive list writer. I sometimes even add things to my list just so I can tick them off! There’s something deliciously old fashioned about actually writing words with a pen on paper. In a world of laptops, tablets and efficiency apps, often the straightforward list is the most effective option. They say actually writing something down better imprints it on your memory.
I run a paper diary because for me it’s a much better planning tool than anything digital. But if you do everything on your phone, at least have a desk planner. I use one from Busy B. It sits on my desk all week and reminds me of my tasks. Heartily crossing things out is very therapeutic and results in great self satisfaction. And I don’t think I need to tell you that all the best planning stationery comes from Busy B.
5 Time blocking
Our minds are not intended to work for marathon stretches of time. In fact there’s nothing more likely to lead to poor performance than just working non-stop.
We need breaks. Fresh air. Coffee. A leg stretch. It makes us more efficient and effective for the time that we are working. How about a 2 hour focussed activity slot and then a 30 minute brain break. You can plan your day into a few of these work blocks and assign specific tasks to each time slot.
And the advice is to finish when time’s up, even if you’ve not completed the task. Having a blast of fresh air will rejuvenate your brain and give you fresh inspiration for the next slot.
6 Peak Time
What’s your best time of day? When do you feel most alive and productive? Then assign your most important work to that time slot. Check your list and schedule the most difficult task, the one you’ve been putting off, to do at your best time. Then imagine how you’ll feel when you can tick if off your list.
7 Stop and think
In the haste of life, it’s easy to feel guilty about taking time just to think things through. There’s always an email to reply to, or a post to schedule. But the value of “deep thinking” time is not to be sniffed at.
I try to do this through my Goal Setting Powersheets. I spend time every few weeks reflecting on the month gone by, and setting tasks for the month ahead. It makes me evaluate how I’m working. It forces me to confront my distractions. It highlights which activities aren’t really working and which are bearing fruit. It forces me to reflect on my personal and business goals and measure progress. I use Cultivate what Matters Powersheets and would highly recommend them. Happy to talk if you’re interested.
8 Done is better than perfect
Perfectionism is often the enemy of progress. It’s true.
I’m terrible at this. If all my ducks aren’t just lined up perfectly, I’ll put off the button pushing for ever. Anyone else?
Perfection is unattainable, so getting it done and ticked off is surely more important. Take care, of course. Check properly. Proof read. All of that – but get it done and out.
As Otegha says “after all, if no-one ever sees your work, then it doesn’t really exist does it?”
We all have the same number of hours in the day. A lot of us have a business whose progress depends entirely on us. So we can either drift along without much of a plan, or we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get moving.
Take one of these suggestions, or take them all. What you achieve in the average day is entirely within your gift.