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5 Ways to Put the “Pro” in Productivity

It’s tough being a self-employed entrepreneur. You’re the only one holding yourself accountable to be productive at work. When you have 64 unread emails, two meetings before lunch, and a massive proposal due the next day, it can feel like too much, and you may have no idea where to start.

Here are a few work productivity tips for the self-employed.

Tell Kathy to beat it.

If you work in an office environment, you know which Kathy I’m talking about. The chatty one. Maybe she has a good excuse to interrupt your workflow, or maybe she just wants to show you the latest throw she crocheted or her grandchild’s lost tooth. But just because she’s ready for a break, doesn’t mean you are.

Subtly (or not so subtly) let her know she’s interrupting your flow and that you’re not available to chat. Creating boundaries is the first step.

Make to-do lists.

It helps when you know exactly what you need to do each day. It’s good to keep both a daily list and a weekly list.

It can help if you update your to-do list at the end of each day so that it’s ready for the morning. That way, when you get back to work, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what needs to be done.

Stay busy.

There’s always something that needs to be done, even when things are slow. Compile anything you can think of into your weekly to-do list and tackle it.

Exercise.

You’ll be more productive and clear-headed if you regularly exercise. It’ll help your brain stay in shape so you can solve problems better at work.

Pretend you’re an employee.

It can feel like you’re floating when you’re not on a deadline.

You can make yourself more productive if you imagine that you have strict client deadlines for all the nitty gritty administrative things you need to take care of.

Keep an eye on the big picture.

It’s great to plow through your to-do lists and feel productive each day. But are these tasks moving you forward and growing your business?

Take a step back once in a while to make sure you’re moving forward toward your goals and not just spinning your wheels.

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Don’t check your email every 3 minutes.

Each time you look at your phone or computer, you momentarily forget what you were working on. This takes time and brain power, and it disrupts your flow.

Set aside a couple of time blocks for emails throughout the day. If you’re up for it, you can also turn off push notifications on your phone.

Dedicate a block of time for bullsh*t.

Now that Kathy’s off your hands, you still have a lot of little things that are pulling your attention away from that very important proposal.

Enter: Bullsh*t Monday.

Well, that’s what we call it. But you can make a Bullsh*t Tuesday or a Bullsh*t Hour every single day, for that matter.

Rather than trying to work on your proposal while tackling the influx of emails you’ve received, set the emails aside for a period of time when you can respond. Go offline for a bit.

Group similar tasks.

If you have similar tasks that can be grouped together, do it. If you’ve got errands and meetings, schedule them back to back. Then, you can group tasks that need to be done on your computer for another time.

Grouping tasks is hugely important when it comes to efficiency. Do emails for an hour, bills for 30 minutes, and then work on your proposal for two hours straight.

You will complete each task much faster when you get into a methodical flow, because each task has your full attention, instead of half.

If you’re going to work, work.

If you run your own business, you understand that, often, the work isn’t going to get done unless you do it. Well, in order for the work to get done, you actually have to work.

Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you are working.

So, before you start patting yourself on the back for getting to work before 8:45 am, take into account all of the time you spend socializing, Facebooking, Instagramming, LinkedIn-ing, Snapchatting, Googling, Yelping, and staring at the wall.

Work smart, not hard.

Sound familiar? It’s overused because it’s true. If you’re not actually working for an hour and a half while you’re at work, what’s the point of being there?

A friend once said, “If you have to work, you may as well make money.” That’s another good one. So work hard, get stuff done, and make that money.

Don’t forget to take breaks.

You shouldn’t work from sunup until sundown without a break. Breaks are crucial. In fact, they can improve concentration. Quick breaks throughout a long task can actually keep your momentum going.

You can’t put anything out if you’re not putting anything in.

This basically means that if you’re not getting inspired, how can you expect to put out creative, impactful work?

Going on a quick walk, doing a few jumping jacks, or simply scrolling through Designspiration can get your juices flowing and ready to get back in action.

Make sure to take breaks with intention. Don’t let yourself drift into the depths of the internet without realizing.

Maximize productivity when you’re feeling the most efficient.

Schedule your hardest tasks during your peak. Then, do mindless or less important work during the period when you have less energy.

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Don’t have meetings about meetings.

There’s nothing worse than an unproductive meeting. Sitting in a room talking about nothing is a big, fat waste of time– and everyone knows it. That’s why Forbes published an article on how to avoid wasting time in unproductive meetings.

Essentially, if you’re going to have a meeting, make the goal clear. Do you need to go over marketing? Sales? A new client pitch? Great!

Figure out a couple of key points that need to be addressed in your meeting.

Then, actually discuss said points in said meeting. Otherwise, you’ll just be having a meeting with a few other people going over what it is you need to discuss.

Next thing you know, you’ll have wasted 45 minutes, with the only result being another meeting tomorrow to tackle the points established today. Talk about a time suck!

Break your day into chunks.

Take each task and give yourself a time block to complete it. X should take 20 minutes. So at 1:00 pm, work on X and have it done by 1:30 pm.

Giving yourself mini deadlines can really help you stay focused, and you can treat yourself to a quick break to celebrate each completion.

Make time.

Whether you need to make time, save time, set aside some time, or take a time-out, pay attention to where your time is going. Dedicate your time to actionable things that will help you achieve your goals and make your business flourish. God speed!

Get rid of distractions.

Either you want to be distracted (which means you need a break), or you’re not isolating yourself from distractions.

Understand the difference and make sure that when you’re working, you’re working. Keep the flow, and when you need a break, you can intentionally take a break.

Use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) to prioritize: 20% of what you do is vital, 80% is trivial. Each day, figure out what that 20% is and finish it to get closer to your goals.

Keep your workspace organized.

A clean workspace helps keep a clear mind. Keep your mind free from clutter and you’ll be able to work more efficiently.

(Make sure it’s inspiring, too.)

Schedule shorter meetings.

If you reduce your meetings by 25-30%, you’ll save a lot of time. Quicker meetings mean less time to chitchat, which gives you the opportunity to get straight down to business.

Pay attention to the things you’re putting off.

At some point, you have to acknowledge that thing that’s been on your list for weeks. Can it be delegated or broken up into smaller chunks?

Or maybe it’s not worth doing at all? Either way, figure out a plan, because tackling it will lighten your load. (And you’ll stop thinking about it as you’re dozing off at night.)

Finish things.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can opt to ignore life activities for a day or two and just focus all your energy on finishing up what you need to get done.

You’ll be more productive without any life distractions, and you’ll be able to get back on track.

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