I’m a productivity junkie.
When I tell you that I go to seminars on the weekend just to learn how to schedule your time more effectively, it’s true. (This weekend, I went to a conference on interpersonal communication -- one I’d wanted to take for two years.) I really love learning how to use time more efficiently, with as much smoothing out of processes as possible. This is true of a lot of VAs -- we’re the unicorns of the forest that live for things like scheduling, color coding, organizing, editorial calendars, and automation.
In last week’s blog post, Jess let us peek inside her workflow for processing and systems through her Process Map technique. (See post here if you missed it!) Writing down the things that are on your plate is key. Writing down steps of those processes is key to teach them to someone (like a VA) if you’re going to delegate.
What happens when you don’t have the time or money for a VA, but want to learn to think like one? Try these 6 simple tricks!
Turn off your notifications on your laptop and phone. Put your phone in another room if you can’t handle the distraction. (Silent mode on the iPhone is what I use for this.) We both know that if someone tweets you a cat GIF, you’re going to look at it. Instead of missing out on time where you could be getting work done, turn your phone off/face down. Don’t answer it.
Change up your routine and working environment. I find that I get more done when I am working from somewhere different every day. Sometimes I work at a co-working office. Sometimes, I work from coffee shops. Sometimes I work from my kitchen table. It’s important to know that environment affects you -- how will you hack it to work to your advantage?
Use a social media site blocker (unless you do social media work for a living) on your browser. My favorites are Self Control for Mac, and Cold Turkey for PC. If you have these enabled (for certain time periods you choose), you’ll be unable to access a custom list of websites. That means if you’re distracted by Etsy, add the URL to your program and it’ll block access to it until your timer runs out. Each time you go to the URL, it’ll show you an error saying that the page isn’t available. You can add whatever websites you waste time on, and there’s a pre-furnished list as well, with common websites, like social media and news organizations.
Take notes! There’s no use in searching for information you had once and forgot. Talk about redundant! When I’m on the phone with a client, or making plans with someone, I always -- always have the Notes app up either on my phone or on my MacBook. It’s an amazing habit to get into. This way, I have all of the information I need, laid out, and created in a central place where I can find it.
Break tasks down into baby steps. When you have a giant task on your plate (moving cross-country for example), make a list of the smaller things you need to do to get the bigger task accomplished. So, following the moving example, you’d write down things like finding a maid to clean the house, getting boxes, packing, and organizing a moving company. (PS - these are things a VA can do for you!) It’s so much easier to tackle one thing at a time than to focus on the huge giant task.
Use your calendar! The calendar is literally the backbone of my time. It keeps everything aligned, connected, structured, and working together. If something isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t get done. Color coding also helps, but if you’re new to actually putting things on your calendar, just focus on using it. Add your recurring tasks and items into it -- if you have to take your kids to ballet every Thursday afternoon, put it in your calendar. You’ll really easily see if you’re overbooked, double booked, or trying to be in two places at once.
Productivity is really important to handle when you’re working for yourself. It’s so easy to get distracted, unfocused, and inefficient. Hopefully these tips will help you to stay focused, on task, and effective at your work!