Your to-do list isn’t going anywhere (unfortunately). Try these tips to help you build the kind of habits that will help you actually get shit done.
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1 | Set Up Your Space
You’ll work better in the right environment. Set yourself up for success from the start by creating a work space that works for you.
Here are a few things to consider when setting up your work station:
- Do you have everything you need within reach? Take a minute to make sure before you get started. You don’t want to waste time hunting down your laptop charger or something later on when you’re in the ~zone~.
- Is your space too cluttered? A few personal items are fine, but too much extra stuff will get in your way and distract you from your tasks.
- How’s the noise level? The wrong type – or amount – of noise can make it way harder for you to get stuff done. If it’s too quiet, try working in a coffee shop or other public space with ambient noise. More of a music-while-you-work kind of person? Try listening to video game soundtracks! The music is designed to help you focus without distracting you. Need white noise? Try Rainy Mood or a classic white noise machine (here’s what I use at home). If silence is your best friend, try to find a private workspace or invest in some noise-canceling headphones.
Just don’t make the mistake of spending too much time getting your environment just right at the expense of actually getting shit done. Set the scene, then move on to the actual work.
2 | Work Backwards
Think about what you want to accomplish with your current project. What is your goal? Make sure this is something concrete and specific. (If you want to learn how to set better goals, check out this post.)
Once you’ve pinned down what you want at the finish line of your project, you can start thinking about the things that need to happen in order to get there.
Say, you want to start making money from your Etsy store. What do you need to do? Well, first, let’s make that goal – to make money – more specific. Maybe you want to make $100 in sales this month. Great. What needs to happen in order for you to make that much money in sales? Work backwards from your goal to the beginning – where you are.
Well, to make that money, all those buyers need to order your products (duh). To order your products, those buyers need to (1) find your store and (2) decide they want to make a purchase.
How will customers find your store? In other words, how will you market your products to reach people who want what you’re selling?
Keep working backward. What do customers need in order to make that purchase? Great product pictures, solid descriptions, and prices that make sense, to start with. Keep heading down the rabbit hole until you’ve identified each step you need to take to reach your goal.
Btw these steps might still feel a little overwhelming at this point. Here’s where the next tip comes in –
3| Break Down Big Tasks
You write a novel one page at a time, train for a marathon one step a time, and fall in love one day at a time. Big projects are no different. Once you’ve outlined all the steps involved in a project, break each step down into smaller chunks.
Let’s go back to your Etsy store. Say you decide your first step is to start advertising your store on Instagram. Great! Now you can break that task up into smaller pieces:
- Open an account on Instagram
- Write your bio and link to your store
- Add your profile picture
- Do hashtag research for your product niche
- Share your first piece of content – upload your pic, choose a filter, add your hashtags
- And so on…
Don’t overcomplicate things. The point is to get more done, not to create unnecessary to-do lists to check off. Use this strategy to the extent that it helps you focus your energy and spend your time more effectively.
4 | Take Breaks
You may feel more productive working ten hours straight without a break, but you’ll be more effective (and less cranky) if you take regular breaks. If you haven’t tried the Pomodoro Technique yet, it’s a great place to start. Here’s how you do it:
- Choose a task to accomplish
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work until the timer goes off
- Take a short 5 minute break
- After 4 cycles, take a longer 15-30 minute break
This is the simple timer I like to use when I’m working, but feel free to use your phone timer if you can resist the temptation to check your Twitter feed.
5 | Stop Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking isn’t a thing, I don’t care how good you think you are at it. Every time you stop working to check your notifications (or whatever), it takes you an average of 25 minutes to get back on task. Yes, seriously. So, when you try to “multi-task” all day long, the time you waste adds up – fast.
Do whatever you need to do to prevent distractions from getting in your way. Turn your phone off. Hang up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. And seriously – take breaks. The million little things clawing at you for your attention can wait until your break time rolls around.
6 | Try Task Batching
Think of an assembly line. Each person in an assembly line does one job and one job only. And what happens? They’re super efficient! No distractions or wasted time.
This is how I approach blogging now, and it’s been so helpful. Instead of trying to write, edit, add images, and promote a post all at once, I do one thing at a time. I write an entire post. That’s it. Then I go back to edit. Once the piece is edited, I add images. Once it’s published, I can start promoting the post.
Because it’s so time-consuming to switch back and forth between different types of tasks, this trick will save you so much time. Try it out and see if it improves your productivity!
What are your productivity secrets? Share the stuff you do to get down to business in the comments!