I’m asked ALL the time: “How in the world do you do everything, Tobi?”
And some days, I wonder how I’m going to get it all done, too. It’s especially hard in a creative field where you often switch back and forth from thinking with the right side of your brain as a designer or a consultant or a coach, to the more business-oriented, financial, left side needed as a company owner.
In fact, scientific studies have proven that you need time to make that switch from left brain to right brain to be your most effective and efficient. And there are even certain times of the day depending on your own internal clock or creative tendencies, that it’s best for you to do creative work vs analytical work. The bottom line is switching tasks over and over isn’t a great way for anyone to work. There is no such thing as multi-tasking, it’s actually task-switching and that’s an extremely ineffective way to get things done, that results in hours of lost time every day.
But not to worry, I have a few tricks that have really helped me boost my productivity so much in the last few years, and they include ideas to keep my brain on the right track, no matter which “side” I’m using. Try these out for yourself and see how much more you can get done in a day!
1. Keep TWO to-do lists.
Yes, I hear you. It’s hard enough to keep up with one, right? But hear me out. I have one long list with everything on it that I need to get done, categorized by project. I keep mine in the app Asana. Having this comprehensive list helps me avoid dropping the ball on anything that I need to do. I even have a section for future projects I want to accomplish so I don’t forget about them. But I definitely don’t look at this exhausting list everyday. My second list is just for things that have to be done TODAY – only 3-4 things each day that are a must. It can be really intimidating to have to look at a 15-page to-do list every single day – and really discouraging, too. You feel like you never get anything done that way. But being able to cross things off a list, and actually finish a list each day, now that keeps me feeling productive and motivated! Try making your daily lists on a Sunday for the week. You’ll feel organized and accomplished.
2. Block your time.
This was THE game changer for me. Instead of just taking on whatever hits my desk next, or allowing anyone and everyone to bring me yet another task or issue whenever they want, I block my time each day for both personal and professional tasks. This allows me to set aside blocks of hours that are exclusively and ONLY for design, for example. Or I have several hours blocked out just to work on my client outreach or financials. I have blocks of time for my consulting/coaching work. I have time blocked each week for “thinking time” and personal development. And I have time blocked for free time, family time, rest, vacations, manicures, the hair salon, lunch with friends. The understanding in my office – and the promise I keep to myself no matter what- is that I won’t take on anything else during that block other than what I’ve set it aside to accomplish. It really keeps me focused and boosts my productivity into the stratosphere! At any given time, I am scheduled out for weeks in advance if not longer, so it’s easy to see if I can say yes to an opportunity or if my calendar is full. It may sound constraining to you. I thought so too until I tried it and now that I’ve mastered this approach, it’s the ultimate freedom for me. Try this yourself – I promise you it will make you more productive than you’ve ever been.
3. Pick one goal at a time and schedule every part of it.
Yes, I learned this from my coach Brooke Castillo and it’s so effective. We can’t possibly be focused on 15 different things at once and be effective. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t be working on a few other tasks outside your main goal. But really focusing on making something happen is reserved for your 1 current goal. And that goes for just picking 1 thing, either personal and professional, not one in each area. So if you are launching a new business service, focus completely on it for 30, 90 or 120 days until it’s done. And block EVERY single “to do” item for that goal in your calendar block so you complete it. If you are trying to lose 20 pounds, make that your MAIN gig until it’s done and fit in all your work obligations around your meal planning, mindset work, and workouts—and make sure your meals (with specific details) are blocked on the calendar too. If you will start focusing on one thing at a time, you will be shocked at how much you get completed and at the level you desire. And I get that it’s really hard to say no to other things that come up. I am constantly fighting the urge to add in new goals or tasks. But until it’s their “turn” on the goal schedule, they don’t get started. And if something else must be done in that time frame, then it gets delegated to someone besides me. If you will take this planned approach to your goals, you will accomplish more of your dreams that you ever have in your life.
4. Turn off your phone.
You read that right – turn it off. If you’re over 30, I know you remember a time when you couldn’t be reached 24/7. And we all lived through not being tethered constantly to everyone and the world. In fact we were a lot less stressed. Yes, you can live without your phone for an hour or two. And because your phone isn’t just a phone anymore – it’s email, Facebook, Instagram, news, texts, weather, shopping, photos, Netflix, cute dog videos, etc., etc., etc. It is a MAJOR distraction that you must shut down while you are focused on your calendar blocks. The world will not end because you check out and focus on a project for an hour or two. Trust me. Your clients will survive if they have to wait until a block on your schedule is complete before you call them back. Even consider blocking the time you WILL be on social media and time for returning phone calls and emails, plus also time for relaxing and scrolling Facebook on your phone or watching Netflix. This will keep you from procrastinating your to do list with the mind-numbing power of your phone and the internet.
5. Stick to your systems and processes.
Remember those processes you defined for your business? The ones that you were going to follow to the letter (including your block scheduling) like processes for delegation, organizing, managing projects and your to do list? Well cutting corners and dropping steps are what get you into productivity trouble. The reason is because you usually end up having to take 15 more steps to fix problems you created when you didn’t follow your process. There was an important reason you set those systems up in the first place and it was likely to help you be more efficient. If you don’t have processes and systems – and these can be for anything including the client experience, for client outreach, for project management – then create them now! They really do act as a catalyst for a smooth and efficient workflow.
6. Take a break.
That one probably surprises you! But I think it is imperative that you are operating at your very best. The only time that I am my absolute most productive self is when I’m healthy, well rested, and raring to go! If you’re tired and stressed, you are never operating at peak productivity. Plan breaks into your calendar daily. Plan vacations or weekends away regularly. I need at least 2 major vacations and 2-3 mini ones a year to replenish from the pace I keep and the number of tasks I accomplish in a year. And plan at least one 5-7 day vacation a year, months ahead of time and block it on your calendar. If you wait until it’s time to take a vacation, you won’t. It never seems like a good time to get away. I plan most of my breaks a year in advance and just like everything else on my calendar, I stick to them.
Use these 6 tips to squeeze every single productive moment out of your day! Believe it or not, you won’t feel “busy” if you are planned. It takes discipline and commitment at first, but it also removes hours of stress, and will add free time back in your day. If you do the work to get these systems in place, you will quickly find it’s well worth it.
You’ve got this!