I spend a lot of time working with writers, and one of the first questions I’m always asked is, “How do I find the time to get everything done?”
If you’re working a day job (or if you’re spending all of your hours writing), it can seem impossible to fit in all of the other tasks that are frequently required of creatives or entrepreneurs. Social media, marketing, administrative tasks, reading + research— it can get overwhelming as the laundry list grows longer and longer.
So how do you stay on top of everything? (Because, let’s be honest, even my lazy soul has goals, and I know I’ve gotta work to get there.) Here are my top productivity hacks for anyone who is looking to make the most of their time.
Learn to plan (better).
Easier said than done, right? While it might seem counterintuitive to take time away from your to-do list to structure your day, the rewards are almost instantaneous.
Once I started planning out my days and projects in detail, I discovered that they were more manageable than ever before.
Take a step beyond the ordinary to-do list and try sketching out things like when you want to accomplish a task, how long it will take, and what you will need to finish it. You can use an app like Trello or Evernote to plan out the details and stay on task, or — if you prefer pen and paper — try using the Bullet Journal method to increase your productivity.
Give yourself a set amount of time per task. It doesn’t have to be accurate but even setting a false deadline can help motivate you.
Remember Parkinson’s Law:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
If you give yourself several hours (or days) to complete a task, more often than not, it will take that long to complete. However, if you challenge yourself to spend an hour on it — giving it 100% of your focus — you might surprise yourself!
Once I started using the timebox method (similar to the Pomodoro Technique), the amount of time required to complete tasks plummeted. I’m now finishing more in one day than I used to complete in a week.
Take a break.
Sometimes productivity isn’t “there” and that’s okay. Know when to push through it and when to refuel.
If you absolutely aren’t accomplishing anything, try switching to a different task that is easier to complete. The sense of accomplishment is infectious — sometimes I’ll step away from my computer to do something as minor as the dishes before coming back to a task.
Got writer’s block? Try using one of these methods to overcome it.
You can even timebox relaxation time to make sure it doesn’t spill over. If you need a break, take one. Don’t, however, let guilt or a sense of obligation ruin it for you. Give yourself a set amount of time to relax and let your brain breathe without stressing about what needs to be done, then get back to it. (Because taking a break can actually make you *more* productive, and that’s science.)
Make small changes.
You’d be surprised how much one small change can impact your productivity. For me, I started incorporating one or two of these changes into my life at a time — versus a total overhaul of my habits — because I knew it would be more likely to stick.
Need more time to get stuff done? Stop watching hour-long TV shows while eating dinner and switch to 20-minute sitcoms. Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier each morning. Cook extra food for dinner so you don’t have to spend time cooking lunch the next day. Switch up your exercise plan to 20 minutes of HIIT interval training instead of running for an hour.
These productivity hacks add up. Personally, I had to say goodbye to longer shows + movies on Netflix. It was difficult at first, but the time saved added up. I still got the mental break when I needed it, but I knew not to overindulge.
Spend time on your passion, practice daily, and strengthen your productivity muscles. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
REMEMBER: If you want something, you’ll work for it. Athletes aren’t made into Olympians overnight — they have to practice and make sacrifices to become the best. This is a lesson than we all need to learn if we want to smash our goals.