Productivity Tips To Get More Done In Less Time

My Organization Quest for 2015

Throughout last year, I’ve been on a quest to create efficient blocks of time to manage my social media marketing. Some small business owners would just tell me to hire a VA (virtual assistant), give them my logins and shift that into my list of ‘things that are done.’

Honestly, I’m on the fence about hiring someone to do this work for me. While I totally see the benefits of freeing up that time every week, I wonder if that would hurt those moments where I’m connecting with someone on Twitter or I’m finding new content to share with my fans when I’m on Facebook.

Can I really pay someone to tweet like me and comment with my personality? I’m still not 100% convinced to hire a VA to handle social media (but now some of this admin work that feels like busy work, well that’s a different story!) so the organization quest continued throughout 2014.

Great stuff, but …

I’m pretty impressed with where my quest took me last year. Until I got some comments that usually started with the phrase, “This is great stuff, but …” and there was always a reason why this person couldn’t do these steps.

Or there was this person who admitted to struggling with just the very concept of organization.

I had a hard time responding back to that email. I can’t imagine not being organized. The opposite of organization is chaos to me. And I can’t function or get any work done without being organized. It bugs me when things aren’t where they’re suppose to be on my desk.

But that’s just me. I’m wired that way.

So what if you’re not like me? What do you do when the productivity methods don’t work?

You try them out for a month but you can’t make the steps stick. The planners you bought are dusty and shoved in a corner. And your daily to-do list is just getting longer.

Do you throw up your hands, hire that VA and say, “Whatever, I’m no good at this stuff.”

Or do you find something that works for you?

Tips to create your own productivity system

1. Build on your strengths and improve the areas where you’re weak.

The best place to start is to figure out what you’re struggling with. Take a look at how your day is planned and honestly ask yourself, “What am I not getting done that I know I need to do?”

And then look at WHY it’s not getting done. Could it be any of the following?

  • You can’t focus on your tasks at hand because you’re constantly distracted by social media, searching the Interwebs or talking on the phone or sending too many emails.
  • You procrastinate and then suddenly try to get everything done in an hour.
  • Your to-do list never gets done. Every week, you transfer the same thing over to a new list.
  • Your email inbox is crowded, you’re feeling overwhelmed and all this stuff just makes you say “Why bother?”

Think about your answers to those questions.

And then spend the next week tracking yourself while you work. Track everything you do from the moment you turn on your computer until you ‘officially’ stop work for the day (some people go back to work after the kids go to bed).

Notice how long it takes to do each item on your to-do list. Track which tasks are taking longer than they should and take note of those moments in your day when you’re getting distracted.

Are you getting distracted at a certain time of day or does it happen when you’re working on a specific project? Monitoring your work week like this will help you get a better understanding of how you’re spending your time.

2. Figure out your organizational work style.

I went into more details about discovering your organizational style in the Small Business Guide for Getting Things Done post.

Which one of these planning systems are you?

  • Digital Doer – You function best with everything digital. Your calendar is in your phone, you take notes in apps like Evernote and all your programs are connected to each other so you can work on your projects on your laptop and finish the work on your iPad at night.
  • Visual Workspace – You gotta see everything around you to make sure it gets done. Your desk is covered with Post-it notes and you have a huge bulletin board over your workspace to keep all your notes in front of you.
  • A Little Bit of Everything – You write things down but still use some digital programs to keep you organized. You use a Google calendar for your appointments but print out project lists and post them on next to your laptop to keep you on task.

I believe the secret sauce to this organizational stuff is finding what works for your style.

There are way too many productivity methods out there, telling you to use this app, buy this planner or log to this tracking website. And while these programs work for some people, the rest of us will try it for a week and then find every excuse not to log back in.

I’ve tried for way too many years to use a Google calendar. I’d see others type into their phones, check their available dates and then lock me into a meeting with them in less time than it takes me to check my email on my phone.

But not me. I use a Daytimer book. I’ve had this thing for so long that it still has an address book in the back. { Remember those days when we had an address book instead of contact listings in our phones? }

I like to write things down. I like to type up a master list of all my projects, print it out and keep it right next to my laptop. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t get done.

Your style may be digital with different alarms and notification noises. Or maybe you own a multi-colored stack of Post-it notes and you have rows of binders on your shelf.

It doesn’t matter if the latest productivity method comes with a free app and every one is swearing by it’s methods. If it doesn’t fit your style, you’ll find yourself going back up to the list in the first step.

3. Use your work style to develop your system for managing your tasks.

There’s a great productivity program called GTD (Getting Things Done) and I use these principles to get my stuff done every week. These steps are a great place to start when you’re setting up your productivity system.

Think about how your work style can help fit the GTD process into your daily schedule. I’ll walk you through how this works using my own personal planning process:

1. Capture – Putting everything in one place.

I keep all my research digitally in Evernote and Pinterest (I love my secrets boards for gathering ideas!). But my schedule and my daily list of things to do, that gets written in my Daytimer.

2. Clarify – Write out in detail what each action item is that you need to do. Let’s use writing a blog post as an example.

I’ve been blogging awhile, I know what to do but I still write out the following steps: post research – write draft – create image – review/finalize copy and finally schedule.

Some days, I can’t get to everything for one post, so I can look at my blogging list see what’s left for me to do. This is a huge part of getting more done – it’s knowing what you need to work on next and how long it’ll take.

3. Organize – Prioritize your action items and schedule them into your planning system.

I usually spend about 30 minutes every Sunday to review what’s coming up that week. I review what client work needs to get done, what I need to work on with my project master list and I schedule these into my Daytimer. Then I add in blocks of time for creating blog posts and managing my social media marketing.

4. Reflect and Review – Review your list often and make adjustments.

The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk in the morning is review my list. I look through everything that didn’t get done the day before and what I have planned for this day and ask myself, “Do you have the time or energy to get those things done?”

That ‘energy’ question is a big one that I think most people forget to ask themselves.

Have you ever taken the time to notice when your peak work times are? What time of day do you feel the most productive?

My power hours are from 10am – 4pm. I’m a mid-day kinda of gal who occasionally works through lunch because I’ve got the energy to keep on keeping on.

I’m not much of a morning person so that’s the time of day when I check emails or do my low-energy activities. But come 10am, my energy switch comes on and I jump right into my biggest project for the day.

But that’s just me.

For your productivity system to work, you need to work it during your peak energy times. So, when you’re doing that week long tracking thing about your tasks, make sure you add in some notes about what time of day you felt the most productive.

5. Develop your productivity system.

After your week of tracking yourself, take a look at your notes. And then write out your planning system as if you were training someone to do your job.

In your notes, include the following:

  • What’s the best – most comfortable – method for you to keep track of your schedule? Is it digital or do you need to write things down and make lists?
  • What tasks took longer than you realized they would?
  • Which action items did you put down as priorities but found excuses not to do them? Maybe these items need to be cut from your list or you need to break them down into smaller steps so they don’t feel so overwhelming.
  • What were the times of day when you have the most energy?

Work your system for a week and see if anything needs to be tweaked. You’ll know what’s working and what’s not.

Make little changes as you need to make them. It’ll only improve your productivity system to help you get more done in less time.

Remember, this is about finding a productivity system that fits your needs. Not the hot new cool thing everyone is tweeting about.

I’m sure there are still a few people who chuckle at me when they see me pull me Daytimer out as they’re typing into their online calendar. But it just doesn’t work for me to schedule my day digitally. I just get lost trying to work that way.

So, create and find free printable worksheets you need to make your system work. Buy some supplies from the office supply store or install any apps or plugins that complete your planning system.

Just do what you need to do to work your way. Because the saying really is true, it works when you work it.

PS If you’re looking for time management tips like these to help you handle your social media marketing , download your FREE copy of my 10 Social Media Time Management Strategies ebook. You’ll learn some cool strategies to help you create a social media routine that works with your crazy busy world.

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