Recently I’ve been trialling a few different things in an attempt to boost productivity and get the best out of each day. I’ve finally settled on a combination of things and formed somewhat of a routine around it, so I thought I’d share my process, the tools I use, why each thing is important and how it all contributes to self-improvement and productivity.
I thought I’d start with what I think is the most important thing, Journaling. I used to think it was stupid, time wasting and never really understood the value in it, until I actually tried it. Yeah I’ve sometimes strayed, but daily journaling is great. As Darius Foroux mentions in his post about keeping a journal, which I highly recommend reading if you’re unsure how to or need further convincing, every time you go onto a site about personal growth or self-improvement
“you will find at least one article that says: Why Keeping A Journal Will Change Your Life.”
Ok, that sounds pretty dramatic, but it will, you’ll become a better writer, you’ll value your time more and you’ll become more aware, it’s a great tool.
So what’s the big benefit of writing all my thoughts and feelings down?
Well, firstly, it’s a great stress reliever. If you’ve had a tough day, or even a great day, writing down what happened can quite quickly relieve stress and anxiety. It gives you an opportunity to approach the events that occurred in a safe environment, in your own time. It gives you the time to properly form your thoughts around what happened. It leads to great self-awareness and you’ll become a lot more emotionally intelligent through this.
Not only does it have great benefits in terms of mental health, but it’s a great tool to get the creative juices flowing. You become a better writer through it and sometimes you’ll find yourself coming up with random ideas that you write about, it gives your mind the chance and space to think creatively, which is great fun.
Journalling encourages you to build better habits and improves your communication skills, which in turn leads to a more productive day. Through building better habits and having a clearer idea of your goals and what you want to achieve, you begin approaching the task of reaching those goals in a more productive way. I’m not one for routine, in fact I hate it, but in terms of journalling, it creates a structure that works quite nicely. And we’re not all perfect, so it’s fine if you miss the odd entry, but its good to keep it up to date as much as possible.
In terms of tools, I use an app called Day One, it’s simple, easy to use and syncs across devices, which is great. If you’re more of a paper and pen sort of person, that’s absolutely fine, the only reason I prefer doing it digitally is because I can back everything up, but it’s up to you, make sure you use something that you’re comfortable with and enjoy.
I never used to like to-do lists, I found them naggy and hard to maintain, and I liked the flexibility of going with the flow. I wouldn’t say I used to be unproductive, but now I look back, I realise my time could’ve been so much more focused and efficient had I created a clear list. Obviously, sometimes requirements change and you need to ditch the list you made, but having one gives you structure for the day and makes sure you don’t miss anything important that you need to get done.
There’s lots of different ways to go about it, but as above, I’ll share my process. I use an app called Wunderlist, which is great because like DayOne, it syncs across all devices, it’s simple and easy to use and allows you to add due dates, multiple lists with different priorities.
This is what my Wunderlist looks like. I’ve got a personal one with high level goals, which contains an outline of what I’d like to achieve in 2017, odd bits of development work I’d like to get done, music ideas I want to try and random app ideas that come into my head. My other folders are for the companies I work with and again are broken down into sub-lists. Lastly, my current hobby projects, Searcher (working title) and Craft (working title) have their own list containing known bugs/issues as well as things I need to research and get done. All of these lists and sublists contain more detail on tasks that need to be done, it nicely separates out different projects and gives exposure to everything, equally.
Inbox is where the magic happens. Here I put anything of importance that needs action and anything that reoccurs on a daily basis. From the snapshot you can see, thankfully, there aren’t too many urgent issues at the moment. For time critical tasks, I use the star button, which basically just highlights it and sticks it right at the top of the list.
This is great in terms of productivity and organising your day. My first stop is obviously the inbox, once I’ve cleared or actioned what I can, I’ll make my way through the other lists to see what else I need to get on and work with. It helps structure your work flow and makes sure important tasks don’t get forgotten. It’s also super satisfying ticking them off, it even plays out a bell sound!
I picked this up while I was Makers Academy and when I first heard of it, I thought it’d be weird breaking up your work day into 25 minute slots, each called a Pomodoro. Don’t kick it though, try it. It boosts productivity so much.
The idea behind it is you work uninterrupted solely on one task, you don’t have to aim to finish it, but you should focus on it and give it your undivided attention for 25 minutes. Once the bell goes, you take a short 5 minute break away from work, get some water, have a stroll around the office, vape, smoke, eat whatever you want, but keep it strictly to 5 minutes. Then the next pomodoro will begin, this cycle repeats and after every 4 or 6 pomodoros you are allowed to take a longer, 20 or 30 minute break.
By breaking your day up into sections you are allowed to focus on tasks, you’ll find yourself becoming a lot more focused and you’ll feel a lot more productive. It’s a tough habit to build though, even if you’re enjoying work and ‘in-the-flow’, don’t miss a break. Your mind needs a rest and as hard as it may be, it pays so much in terms of increasing your productivity. Similar to checking tasks off your to-do-lists you’ll find satisfaction in hearing that ding, whether it correlates to a break or back to work, you’ll feel refreshed and motivated to push on.
In terms of specific tools, I use an app called literally Pomodoro Timer, but at the end of the day it’s just a glorified timer. If you type it into Google you’ll get a list of similar apps, some downloadable, some web-based. Use whatever you find easy.
I feel it’d be weird if I don’t at least shoot a mention out to Evernote, as this is a post all about boosting productivity. I won’t go into all of the awesome features this offers, because there are quite a few, but in terms of organisation and keeping everything centralised I highly recommend using it. There are tons of alternatives, I use Evernote just because I’ve always used it and never had a problem, you can tag things make multiple notebooks and it tags the location of where each note was taken, if that’s your thing.
Having an organised workflow and place to take notes, make plans and formulate ideas is important and the fact you can add tags makes organising a treat in Evernote. If you’re more organised, you’ll be more productive, you’ll know where to go to get something done and you’ll have a cleaner, more efficient workflow.
So that’s my workflow and advice for being productive. It’s not the easiest thing to do and it’s more about building, positive, lasting habits. You’ll notice the benefits almost immediately, but it’s important about building this into a habit and not a one week fad. Cheesy quote incoming, but time’s valuable and you want to make sure you’re being as productive as you can. It’ll help you achieve your goals and it’ll improve your overall self-awareness.
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