Time Management and Increasing Productivity

increasing productivityThe image to the right totally cracks me up as I used to be really bad at writing things on my hand to remember them.

Unfortunately I am also a complete germophobe, and wash my hands incessantly - so that never worked out very well for me. :P

When it comes to increasing productivity, time management, and keeping up with tasks to move our business forward... we each have to find the thing that works best for us. And whatever that is, may not work all the time.

Which is something I've discovered recently while trying to use my usual methods, outside my usual mindset, and getting incredibly frustrated...

I'm generally a serious multi-tasker, knock my to-do list out VERY early in the day, and get more done before 10am than most people do in an entire day. That just hasn't been the case lately, for a number of reasons.

It's the end of the school year for my teen daughter, so of course my schedule and routine is changing. I always have a more flexible routine in the summer months, but it's a bit of a transition.

Add in that I really just haven't been myself lately, which I mentioned briefly in my birthday post, and I'm finding Time Management and Productivity a bit more difficult than usual... Well, a lot more difficult actually. :P

When It's Not Working - Fix It! My Solution...


I'm not one to STAY frustrated. When I realize something is not working for me, whether it's not working at all or just not working right now, I find a solution.

And fast! ;-)

Given that I was feeling unfocused, scattered and stressed I decided to try a fresh approach.

First, I accepted the shift in routine and decided to just roll with it - instead of letting it be such a transition like it usually is (I can be very routine, even if not very "scheduled", and maybe a bit OCD -lol).

I know from experience it's best to work when you're motivated, write when you have creative inspiration, eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired. The lack of "schedule" can be a good thing, and even fun!

I also know from personal experience, that for me personally, a "sense of accomplishment" is what fuels me. That's the one thing that always brings back the focus and motivation.

I also know that a cluttered desk and a mess of multiple half-crossed-out-scribbled-on task lists just adds to my stress when I'm already feeling unfocused and/or overwhelmed.

So while up (extremely) late one night earlier this week, I took all of those task lists and copied the tasks into Evernote. And then I added a task at the top: "prioritize this task list". :)

From there, I started working strategically and methodically through the tasks. One at a time. Turning off my usual multiple screens & devices and alerts (ie turning off my multi-tasking mode) and staying focused on the task at hand until completed. And I broke them down into simple, easy tasks too.

As I completed each tasks, I moved it to a DONE list. This of course fed into my much-needed "sense of accomplishment", and by the end of the week... I was nothing short of amazed at what all I achieved, even while not at my best.

I chose this alternate method, when my usual routine was just out of whack, because the key is in consistency. Or in consistently moving forward.

You can't pull those crazy hyper-productive days all the time. Those are great phases, but you can't maintain them indefinitely. So when you're not in that "invincible super-human entrepreneur" mode, the best thing you can do is... anything. As long as you're doing something that takes you closer to your goals - no matter how small a task that is.

Those small, simple tasks can really add up by the end of the week. :D

Also see A Day in the Life of Lynn Terry for my Time Log Exercise.

What Are Your Favorite Time Management & Productivity Tips?

Like I said earlier, no one thing works for everyone. We're all different, and some methods work well for one person and not at all for another.

I would love to hear which Time Management strategies work best for you, and what you've implemented along the way to increase your productivity!

Best,

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»

Discussion

  1. I don't work from home but between my full time job, my blog and moderating on a large webmaster forum, i mult-task daily and sometimes want to pull my hair out.

    At my full time job, people wonder why I produce the most revenue (I'm in IT industry) for our department each day and it's because I multi-task and gotten good at it over the year's. I try to use every single minute of my dad to be doing something and not sit on the computer surfing the internet or using Facebook at work. I got a system in place on what I do and when to do it.

    At home it's hard for me to think straight because I am moderating on a large webmaster forum, trying to stay current with the latest things going on in the SEO, marketing and affiliate marketing world to provide the latest info on the forum and also have a blog to maintain and add fresh content during the week. I have way to many sticky notes on my desk at home. Once i couldn't find a bill on my desk to pay it because I have to many papers on my desk. Seem's i can handle multi-tasking at work fine but at home I'm not organized enough or not drinking enough coffee. Good post Lynn. I'm going to the Phillies baseball game in a few hours to relax with the family before multi-tasking all night.

    • Hope you enjoyed the game, Derek! ;-)

      Multi-tasking usually works out *beautifully* for me. When I'm in a productive state. Otherwise, I have to force the focus. And either way is fine, as long as I'm always moving forward - whether it be in my personal life or with my career goals. :)

      And on another "note", you really should try Evernote. I gave up ALL my paper notes for it (finally!) and couldn't be happier - or more organized! The biggest benefit is that you can have it on any and every device (mobile, tablet, laptop, mac, pc, you name it) and it syncs between them all. So you're never without your notes at your fingertips!

  2. Mel Onsager says:

    "I know from experience it’s best to work when you’re motivated, write when you have creative inspiration, eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired. The lack of “schedule” can be a good thing, and even fun!"

    While I believe this to be true, it can be difficult to put into action, especially if you are just starting out and have a J.O.B. to pay the bills. Sometimes it is hard to get motivated or inspired after working all day, or if you do get inspired to write the next "viral thing", you have to put it aside to accommodate your real world schedule.
    Just my two cents.

    • That's true. But my point was that it's hard to sleep when you can't, silly to eat when you're not hungry (just because "it's time"), and almost impossible to write or do creative work when your brain isn't engaged.

      One thing my son and I both tried (him while he was still in school, but starting things up from home) was to get up an hour earlier and do it in the morning. It was much more productive for both of us, than trying to get that hour or so in at the end of the day - when you're tired or your mind is ready to turn off for the day. You just have to find what works best for YOU. :)

  3. Lynn,

    as you hinted to your article, multi-tasking is overrated. I've found that when I'm multitasking, it usually takes me twice as long to get something done as it should have taken.

    That's why to-do lists are so powerful. You can work from one thing to the next. I believe that the heart of every productive process is a to do list.

    The bigger and more visible I make my to do list, the more productive I am. Couple that with using "Leechblock" to block out facebook and a time clock to help focus my time, I find I am the most productive.

    And BTW, I have young kids and summer always throws my schedule off. This year we are going to try hard to create a systematic schedule for our family so we stay on track. (good luck, right)

    • Yes, good luck on that, David. ;-)

      Multi-tasking usually works out very nicely for me - but only when I'm in those hyper productive phases, as I mentioned. The key is to wind it up, or wind it down, to suit YOU - at any given time...

  4. Marge Burkell says:

    Thanks, as always for a great article Lynn!

    I have always loved making a list just so I could cross off each item, whether it be a errands list (I also number the places I have to stop so I stay focused & organized, a grocery list or items I need to accomplish during the day/week.

    I have started using an app called Cozi (Cozi.com)that is available on the Internet and has apps for all mobile devices. I can make lists and then check off each item as I get them done. The best thing is that all my lists sync between all my iDevices and PC so I can always see exactly where I stand during the day/week/month or year!

    • I'll have to check that out. I am currently using Evernote, which I LOVE, but that one does sound interesting. Do you have a review on it? If not, would you be interested in writing one to publish here at ClickNewz as a guest post? :D

      • Marge Burkell says:

        Lynn, I don't use Cozi as an alternative to Evernote. That would actually be Springpad. They all have their unique attributes and I use different apps for specific tasks. I wish there was one go-to app but that never seems to happen, try as I might.

        I have not written a full review on Cozi and yes, I would be interested in writing a guest-post about it for your site if you are interested.

        • Great! I look forward to it. :D

          • Marge Burkell says:

            Thanks for your prompt reply.
            I didn't expect you to be working tonight; it's your birthday weekend!

            I will put the Cozi review into my schedule right now.

            I am however looking for your guest-blogging guidelines but cannot locate them although I swear I've seen them before.

            I just never like to assume anything, better to know what you want before I start rather than after. After all I always knew exactly what my editor wanted and this, as I see it, is no different.

            Unless I hear differently I will plan to submit the review in WordPress style html format, complete with pics, if that works for you. Just let me know what you prefer.

            Marge

          • I'm just piddling around, enjoying a quiet evening - and a local live music event from the back deck with my danes and my laptop. ;-)

            You can send it to my email as a text file attachment, just copy & paste the html code in as plain text - along with any images you want to use (unless coded into html & already hosted). The only other requirement is that it be unique content and I have exclusive reprint rights. :)

  5. MicroSourcing says:

    Pacing yourself is a good way of increasing productivity. Trying to get too many things done in a day can actually cause you to accomplish less. Distributing work evenly in a way that massive tasks are more manageable can make you more productive.

    • I agree. And during this "slower" phase, I've really been micro-tasking too. Breaking it down into very simple tasks, which keeps me from getting overwhelmed and feeds into that much needed sense of accomplishment. ;-)

  6. Lynn, I totally hear you! All I need is a to do list or I simply forget what I wanted to do ;-) So yes, looking at what I finally accomplished in a day definitely makes me happy :D
    Hope you feel GREAT again

  7. Lynn, I agree that multitasking is the pits! Men are even worse at it than women. One thing I've done to increase my productivity is set up email filters so that virtually no emails go straight to my inbox anymore. That way if I am busy answering coaching emails, for example, I'm not tempted to look at my inbox when another new message comes it, because I already know what category of messages it is.

    • That's true...

      Interesting on the email. I am so "out of sight, out of mind" that if I do that... I forget to check the folders/labels LOL. It really is all about finding what works best for each of us individually. ;-)

  8. Hey there Lyn! You're just like me. Am a multi-tasker too! Well having a type A personality really makes me crank up always when it comes to doing things simultaneously. I don't even know the "one step at a time" as I always wanted to finish everything right here and right now. But that doesn't help me, just yesterday, I list up my schedule and promise myself to follow my time schedule.

    • I get completely overwhelmed if I try to rush things, or tackle huge projects as one task. Even when I'm in hyper-productive multi-tasking mode... I work through it one step/task at a time, very strategically. I'm oh so prone to overwhelm. :P

  9. I have definitely learnt that it is not all about do, do, do!!
    Like you said Lynn you can be in that super-productive mode for a short while, but I just know that is not sustainable.
    And trust me, I experienced first hand a couple of years ago, a massive physical, mental and emotional burnout, and I am only just recovering now. The effects of stress on our systems are just not worth it.

    I have learnt that it is so important to have a business that fits around your life, not a life that fits around your business. Talked about a lot in the 4 hour work week by Tim Ferriss if anyone read that. Well worth a read!!!

    I go with the flow of how I am feeling and don't stick to strict time schedules. However, saying that I definitely need some structure to my day/week in terms of what I am trying to accomplish. I just make it manageable.
    The big thing for me is having someone to be accountable to, and just starting out on your forum Lynn has been really helpful for that.

    There is definitely no one answer here, really what feels right for you.

    • I'm glad to hear that, Lisa. :D

      There is definitely a balance to strike between flexibility and schedule. I do NOT want to micro manage my day OR my life - yet I still want to get priority tasks done consistently. So yes, all about balance...

  10. Evernote was on my task list for today but I did not get to it. I thought about it this weekend and I have *got* to make that transition- my head is always swirling around with thoughts about my blog.

    I understand what you mean about working when you feel inspired. I get such an accomplishment when I hit "publish" and know it came from the heart & is good.

    Ps- happy birthday! I'm signing up for that webinar even though I have to work tomorrow.

  11. I also do multi tasking but sometime nothing has done and i feel stress
    and pressured to finish all my work at the same time.
    Having a time management is really important.

    • Time management really is important. I start my day by doing my Priority Tasks *first*. Getting those out of the way from the start makes a huge difference in how the rest of my day plays out. :)

  12. Evernote has been permanently installed on my computers for ages simply because it's such a great research tool.

    Checklists of common or recurring tasks is part of my "productivity suite" - if something needs to be done multiple times then then having a checklist will cut down on the time needed and you won't forget some of the steps (or do them in the "wrong" order so you might have to waste time by going back and fixing your "mistake")

    • Very smart. And of course it leads into the fact that we should all have an Operations Manual which includes those common tasks and checklists...

  13. I think it is important to realize that we are human and not machines. We work hard at our online business and sometimes we just need to chill and take a break. Once our batteries are recharged we can go full steam ahead once again. I like to do lists and when those tasks are complete you can add them to a daily did sheet. This way you can see exactly what you have accomplished for that day.

    • I agree 100% - breaks are definitely necessary. And I take lots. :D I mentioned above that I start my day by getting my Priority Tasks for that day done FIRST. I try to limit it to three on any given day. If I decide to take the rest of the day off - I'm set. ;-)

  14. Victoria Murphy says:

    Great share Lynn!
    I'm in the same situation before, and I admit I'm addicted to multi-tasking. Being so busy makes you forget about yourself- who you were, and I even fail to do the things I've enjoyed doing before (some kinda poetic stuff) since I'm too much preoccupied on finishing tasks all at once. It left me exhausted and stressed.

    Reading your post gives me another inspiration. I might try that Evernote stuff! :)

  15. I have wrote about this as well, and I am so very happy to see the "no multitasking" suggestion. I agree with you, that really can destroy productivity, especially if multi-tasking means checking social media streams, answering emails on and off etc. What I like to do is dedicate morning and late evening to email tasks, apart from emergencies. Keeping a log is good too 'cause you really can see what you're doing day by day, and what you're leaving behind. And sometimes you receive bad surprises, I know I do.

  16. I couldn't agree with you more. i love doing my online work early in the morning where everyone is still asleep and late at night after bedtime :)

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