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My Favorite Productivity Hacks

My favorite productivity hacks for producing five days' worth of work in three days at my part-time 9-5 job.

I shared last week that I gave notice at my job! I’m so excited.

I’m also thrilled to report that this week, I closed more sales for my business than I ever have. It was the single most profitable week I’ve had since launching my business more than six months ago. I’m on fire!

On to today’s soul-powered marketing tactics.

I’ve been working three days a week at my day job for the past two years. When we announced that I was leaving in a department meeting, my boss told everyone that I produced five days’ worth of work in three days.

I was really proud that she said that – because that’s actually been a goal of mine: Produce full-time value on a part-time schedule. It felt so good to hear that my goal had been met!

My co-worker asked me this week if I could share some of my productivity hacks with her. I wasn’t really sure I had that much to share, but once I started talking I couldn’t stop! I thought this would make a great blog post.

Let’s dive in.

Break down projects into tasks.

I got this gem, which sounds deceptively simple, from my girl Anna Kunnecke (check out her post Your To-Do List Might Be Broken. Mine Was.).

Let’s take an example. My co-worker – let’s call her Amy – said that she has trouble keeping track of large projects and figuring out what to do next.

I explained my strategy, which is to break down a large project into different phases, and then break down phases into super-specific micro-tasks.

For example, I’m project managing a proposal right now. It’s in response to an RFP (Request for Proposal) from a school district, so there’s a ton of moving pieces. There’s the proposal narrative, organizational and staff information, the budget, the appendix items we want to include, plus a slew of forms to fill out, and we have to register as a vendor in the state. Most of these pieces involve other people.

One of my tasks is to complete the section on references. I told Amy that when I first started doing these types of projects, I’d put “references” on my to-do list.

That’s a mistake.

Here are the steps involved in completing a section on references:

  • Brainstorm past clients we’ve worked with whose projects were similar to the ones we’re proposing
  • Email my boss to propose the clients I’ve come up with.
  • Get her feedback and go back and forth about who we should include.
  • Once we have a list of 3 clients, confirm with her who are the best contact people at these districts.
  • Coordinate outreach to these contact people to ask their permission to use them as a reference. (This usually involves a few different people in the organization, depending on who has the best relationship with that person.)
  • Gather contact information for these three people.
  • List the contacts and format correctly within the proposal narrative.

She was amazed when I listed all those steps. But that is seriously what it takes to get it done. Granted, the first time I did a proposal, I didn’t know that those were the steps – so I encouraged her to ask our boss when she’s unclear, because Amy has a tendency not to want to bother people and just to try to do things without asking for help.

The benefit of breaking down larger projects into small, doable tasks is that when I’ve planned well, I never feel confused or overwhelmed when I sit down to work. I know exactly what I have to do, and I can just do it.

Schedule each task on your calendar.

I use this tactic moreso with personal projects that don’t “have” to get done but that I want to get done. Recently, I wanted to clean out and organize our office. So I broke down the project into a dozen or so small tasks, and then I put each task in my day planner. (Yes, I still use an old-school day planner, in addition to using a digital calendar {Google} and a digital project management app {Asana}.)

And you know what? Shit actually got done. Instead of constantly thinking about how I should really clean out our filing cabinet and organize our office supplies and, for God’s sake, clean out my desk so that I could open the drawers and FIND things, I just trusted the fact that by the end of April, all those tasks would be done. Because all I had to do was follow my plan and, voila, the project was done.

I don’t do the same type of super-detailed daily planning for my day job, because I found that priorities shifted too quickly and other projects got prioritized, which meant I was spending a lot of time reworking my to-do list. So I keep a running list of tasks and projects, and I do a high-level plan for the week ahead, and then each day I plan out my tasks in the morning.

Do things even when I don’t feel like it.

This sounds basic but was revolutionary to me. I found that I was putting off a lot of tasks just because I didn’t feel like doing them.

My life coach, Brooke Castillo, called me on this. She would say, “The good news is that you don’t have to WANT to write a blog post. You just have to do it, because it’s on your list for the day.”

When I started actually doing things on my list even when I didn’t feel like it, I found that I got a HUGE energy boost when they were done.

Take breaks.

I’ve been working early and working late all week to finish some business projects in the hours outside of my normal 9-5. Plus, I’m doing a lot of project handoff and training my colleagues to take over tasks that I do regularly.

Still, it is CRUCIAL for me to take breaks.

I take a lunch break every day – usually a whole hour, but at least half an hour. I told Amy this and she was like, “Do you REALLY?!”

Yup. I really do. And I still produce five days of work in three days.

Taking a break resets my brain, and it means I come back in the afternoon focused. When I get too tired, I start going down rabbit holes. I’ll click a link in an email and read part of an article, then click over to something else, then get an email from somebody and have a really great idea for a new project we should try…

And then I can’t remember what I was originally working on or what I’m supposed to be producing.

Taking a break lets me refocus on the most important thing, and get that done.

Use Evernote

I’m not going into an in-depth explanation about the tools I use to organize this (though if that would interest you, comment below!), but I am obsessed with Evernote.

I was just daydreaming this morning about how I’m going to reorganize my Evernote now that my business is full-time. #dork #loveit

Okay, so Amy told me that she uses Evernote. We do a lot of marketing campaigns, and she has one note for “Campaigns” and she takes notes for every campaign she does in there.

ACK! I said. I told her that I have a NOTEBOOK called Campaigns, and I have about 12 different notes in there for each campaign I work on, plus marketing meetings, plus a note on cool marketing strategies I come across in blog posts, etc. Since you can search all of Evernote at any time, I don’t have to worry about segmenting my information.

 

So, let’s do a real-time check-in.

Today, I did 90 minutes of work on editing footnotes for my friend’s disseration. I had a half-hour client call, on which I sold a package, and I did followup for that (invoicing and send her information I’d promised). I wrote two landing pages, six emails for a client’s email sequence, and two blog posts (including this one). I went for a walk, took a 30-minute lunch break, did a load of laundry, and picked up a rental car for the weekend.

Just sayin’. This stuff works.

What are your favorite productivity hacks? Tell me in the comments!

 

May 25, 2018

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