I don’t know about you, but as a freelance writer productivity is everything. Working from home can get distracting. I have to be rigid with my time management; it’s not like I have the luxury of taking hours to complete a single article. So I’m always on the lookout for quick and painless ways to be more productive during the day. Do you ever feel like you’re not getting anything done, or that you could do with an extra hour during the day?
Then these tips are for you. Follow them all, follow one or two, and I can almost guarantee you that your productivity levels will surge through the roof. You’ll feel a lot more energetic, less frazzled, and better equipped to tackle the day.
Use 90-Minute Windows and an Online Timer
First thing’s first. You need to stop thinking about your day as an eight-hour long day, or two huge chunks of day separated by lunch. Instead, split your day into a few 90-minute windows. Aim to get one main task done within that hour and a half. It sounds so simple, but I promise you, it works. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you begin crossing things off from your ‘to do’ list.
If you struggle to focus on one thing at a time or you’re afraid you won’t be able to stick to a set window, use an online timer. Give this easy and fun online timer a try.
Turn off the Radio
It’s fun humming along to the songs on the radio, or listening to the DJs chat about the latest premier league football or what’s happening on American Idol, but it can be distracting. Especially if you’re trying to concentrate. But working in deathly silence isn’t my cup of tea either. I’ve started turning off the radio and listening to background music without vocals on YouTube. There are so many amazing videos to choose from. Just type in “focus music” or “background music” into the search tab and a whole list will pop up. I find that the relaxing or calm ones make me feel sleepy (they’re more for meditation I think), so I prefer listening to something a little more upbeat and energetic. Here’s what I’m listening to right now…
Block Notification Distractions
Don’t be fooled into thinking that checking your e-mails every five minutes is going to help you “stay on top of things.” Not only is it time consuming but it’s also really counter productive. I used to do that. Now I check e-mails first thing in the morning, over lunch, and about an hour before the end of the day. I can’t believe the difference it’s made to the way I work. I figure, if someone needs me urgently, they can always phone or Skype me. Make sure to set your instant messenger on “busy” when you’re in the middle of a task that needs your full attention. I was also one of those people who had Facebook and Twitter tabs open all the time. If you follow a lot of groups or threads this can be the worst kind of distraction with all those notifications going on. I stopped doing that this year and now I check in three times a day as well. If you run a business or promote your work via these social media streams, try scheduling your posts and tweets in blocks ahead of time.
HootSuite is a great social media management tool that can help you do this.
Grab a Coffee
Seriously, your work isn’t going to triple if you leave your desk for five minutes to go grab a cup of coffee or stretch your legs. Getting away from your desk every one and a half
hours to two hours has been shown to boost productivity levels. A good way to make sure you do this is to drink a glass of water every hour. That way you keep yourself hydrated and force yourself to get up to go to the bathroom regularly throughout the day. Better yet, make your favourite tea or coffee, grab a book or magazine, and sit outside for a few minutes. Fresh air does wonders for your brain. You’ll be amazed at how quickly a headache disappears and how much more refreshed you feel getting back to work.
Munch and Move Your Body
Exercise has been shown to reduce stress, increase energy levels and boost happiness. You don’t have to hit the gym every morning or run a mile to get in some sort of workout during your day. If you’re pinched for time, split your workout into three 10-minute mini sessions. Take a walk during your lunch hour. If you’re really pressed for time, you can squeeze in a few quick lunchtime workouts at your desk, do some easy workout moves while you’re cooking, and even get moving in front of the TV!
To stay focused and avoid those annoying blood sugar slumps, snack on high-energy foods. Forget about the vending machine and pack your favourite fruits, nuts, yoghurts, raw vegetables, cheese and crackers to munch on during the day.