The 4 Productivity Hacks that Transformed My Business

4 Productivity Hacks Being busy has become a badge of honour. Being sleep deprived, the norm.

Back in early 2009, this was me, often leaving the house before it was light and not returning until after any normal person’s bedtime.

It was also the year that I decided things had to change. My daughter was 3 and I barely saw her, my husband – same problem and I could see life slipping by too quickly.

A big motivation for me to move from employee to business owner was the ability to set my own hours, manage my work load and hopefully be a lot less “busy” while still making an income.

What I found out right away, and you may have experienced this with your blog as well, is that you end up working twice as much because there’s always one more thing to do. One more post, one more social media account to check, one more post to read. It never ends and it’s all right at your finger tips.

The myth of breezy entrepreneurship and blogging, working from a beach chair was definitely not my reality, nor did it seem to be for the vast majority of women I was speaking with.

Then, 2 years ago, my family and I experienced one of those massive, jarring, life experiences that changed everything. One of those moments when you have to evaluate everything and figure out what the hell you’re going to do now. How will you move forward?

You see, our main family income, my husband’s, was all of a sudden in question. I know many of you have experienced this over the last number of years and although our situation wasn’t recession related, it’s terrifying nonetheless.

Up until that point, my business and blog had been a great supplementary income and a wonderful creative outlet. But all of a sudden, it needed to be something more. The thought of returning to a 9 to 5 job made me feel physically ill so I was pretty sure my gut was telling me to make this business thing work – and work on a bigger scale so I could support the family if things didn’t turn out well.

Feel free to ask any of my friends, but one of my most annoying qualities is looking on the bright side of life, always. There isn’t a doom and gloom bone in my body.

So I jumped in with both feet and really started to focus on creating the best possible client experience I could, took on more work and started working full time. What became incredibly obvious right away was that me earning a full time income meant working more than full time hours. And that meant there was a little girl and a husband who would only get to see a closed office door instead of a mom and a wife.

Not cool. Especially since this was the issue that I was trying to fix in the first place!

So what’s a girl to do? For me, it meant figuring out how to be productive and build my business without constantly having to add more work time to my day. It meant attending every hockey game, gymnastics class and date night without a thought to “what else do I have to do right now” because there would be nothing else I needed to do.

These last 2 years have brought us a lot of hard moments and they aren’t over yet, but it’s also helped me learn these 4 productivity strategies that are responsible for taking me from being just busy to actually productive and maybe more importantly – to a full time income on my part time hours.

4 Productivity Hacks that Transformed My Business, My Blog… and My Life

1. Start with your why.

Introducing new habits into your life usually sucks and doesn’t last too long. Every time I tried to lose weight, workout more or create a house cleaning routine can speak to that.

If you know the why, you can endure almost any how (I can’t remember who’s quote this is, but it’s so true!)

For me, it’s these guys.

They are the most powerful and profound, yet simple WHY I’ve ever had. Being more productive means that I’m around more physically and mentally for them.

What’s your why? Why do you want to become more productive? What’s the big payoff to actually improving this area of your life?

2. If it takes 2 minutes, do it now.

This wonderful little nugget is from Getting Things Done (great book btw) and the book does say this one tip can transform your life. And you know, they weren’t kidding.

It turns out that most of the things I needed to get done in a day were these tiny 2 minute tasks. Shooting off any email, throwing in a load of laundry, filing those papers, making that phone call.

When examining how often I would put off these tiny tasks until another time, it’s no wonder I felt overwhelmed and didn’t accomplish a lot.  My to do list was a mile long!

In one hour, there are 30 opportunities to cross off 2 minute tasks! Just think what crossing off 30 to do list items would feel like? Frickin’ brilliant, I assure you ;)

How do you start doing this yourself? It’s simple. You make the choice.

Next time to encounter a chore, task, email, to do item, ask yourself, “Will this take 2 minutes?” If the answer is yes, do it right then. If it’s longer than 2 minutes, schedule a time to do it later (but actually write it down on your calendar.)

3. Reduce demands on your attention (aka do one thing at a time).

When you look at how we live nowadays, it’s like our lives have been set up to encounter as many possible distractions and interruptions possible. And don’t get me started on multi-tasking, geez, it’s not pretty when I try to do 2 things at once.

Multitasking is the art of distracting yourself from two things you’d rather not be doing by doing them simultaneously.

Phones, computers and every electronic device has some sort of mechanism for getting our attention and the vast majority of these notifications have nothing to do with us getting more done.

One of my biggest multi-tasking issues was open browser overload. How many tabs do you have open right now? I used to average about 30 over 2 monitors, ya, cuz that’s rational, I guess I thought I would absorb more information that way!

If you’re one of those people, like I was, that had pop up notifications on their phone, computer, etc. or try to do multiple things as once, I challenge you to shut them down to the bare minimum and see how much you can accomplish in 1 hour of solid, focused, on task work.

A secondary benefit to this one change also means that time away from technology is more peaceful and refreshing since you aren’t always getting pulled back into it. Then when you do return, you have more to give and are totally recharged.

4. Schedule work time, not just due dates.

Most of our calendars are filled with due dates, appointments and projects. What we usually fail at is scheduling time to complete all the projects and items we’ve filled our calendar with.

Here’s a real like example for you, and one the Blog School student’s know well.

Say you wanted to publish a post on your blog 3 times a week. You may have this formally scheduled in your calendar or maybe it’s just an informal goal that’s not written down. Knowing you want to publish Monday, Wednesday, Friday is great but when will you actually write those posts? Or are you going to be scrambling every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night to get something written before you go to bed?

Is your best work coming from these frantic posts?

Instead, figure out how long it takes you to write a post – 1, 2 maybe even 3 hours and schedule writing time each day or weekly – whatever fits your schedule. The trick is to actually schedule the time in your calendar as an appointment and stick to it (remember to your WHY to keep motivated.)

I’ve created a morning routine where I write from 6:15-7:15 every morning but I also know some people who like to bang out 3 posts on a Sunday and spend the rest of the week on other things. The idea is to find your sweet spot and stick with it.

You may realize through this exercise that you need 10 hours of writing time to publish 5 posts a week but you only have 5 spare hours in which to schedule writing time. That happens to a lot of us but at least you can see that your goals don’t fit reality right now and you can adjust by changing your publishing goal, writing shorter posts or removing another commitment somewhere.

This really simply idea can be summed up as this:  you can’t make a commitment to yourself or anyone else that requires your time if you don’t actually having that time to do it.

Reading that, I know you may be thinking, duh! you can’t do something if you don’t have time! But if you feel the least bit over scheduled in your own life, I bet this is an issue.

So how do you fix over-scheduing? Well, the first step is to always add working time to your calendar whenever you add a task that requires it.

  • Have a blog post to publish on Friday, schedule the amount of time you need in the days or weeks prior to write it.
  • Have a flyer to design for your kids Christmas play? Before saying yes, make sure there’s a chunk of time available in your calendar to design it – rather than just saying yes and jamming it into your stuffed schedule (and resenting the task!)

(This strategy also helped my issue of saying “yes” to other people when I really didn’t have the time!)

Conclusion

In this ultra busy time of the year, what could increased productivity do for you? Maybe actually help you enjoy those family and friends? Cross off a few blogging to do’s that might take you to the next level?

You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish with some simple, old fashioned focus.

I’d love to hear:

What one technique has really helped you move to a more focused and productive person? (I’ll be taking notes, I love learning from you guys!)

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Comments

  1. says

    Two words; batch jobbing (okay maybe the second isn’t a real word…)

    I find that I get a lot more accomplished when I do a bunch of the same things at once.

    For example, part of my online business is virtual personal training. I used to have clients’ new program dates all over my calendar. I switched to a biweekly schedule and set aside two days a month to create new programs for them. Once you get into the groove with a specific task, you can make progress really quickly!

    • Rita Barry says

      What about job batching ;) I love this! Streamlining stuff we do all the time to make it easier and a no brainer is brilliant.

      Do you find the service/product is better as well because you can really concentrate on it for these sessions and then free yourself up for the rest of the month? Letting the creativity regenerate a bit?

  2. says

    Very relevant post Rita, especially this time of year!

    I can’t tell you how many people have asked me since I left my full time job and started focusing mostly on the blog, “Don’t you just love having all this free time?”

    Haha, free time. I now work about 4 times harder than I did before!

    You’re so right about there always being one more thing to do.

    For me, I make lists, compulsively! They’re everywhere. I prioritize the most important tasks first and cross them off as I go. I also try to multitask when it makes sense. My new trick is to do my social media stuff while I walk my dog in the afternoon.

    I’ll be incorporating this 2 minute trick in too now.

    Thanks and wishing you a peaceful and productive holiday :)

  3. Gilbert says

    Thank you, Rita!
    This is very timely for me. There is a couple of these that really resonate with me. I am reading “Getting Things Done” right now and have already made some significant changes to how I approach my everyday actions.

    Take care and have a great holiday season!

    • Rita Barry says

      Hey Gilbert,

      I’m really glad there was some helpful nuggets in there for you. Great book, isn’t it? A bit dry here and there, but ya can’t always make productivity a page turner ;)

  4. says

    Great post, Rita! I’m going to add the “2 minute” trick to my day. I’m sure it will make a huge difference. Like Tamara, I “batch” things to help with productivity. I don’t have clients, but as a blogger with another full-time job, making time for consistent posting is a challenge. “Batching” for me is primarily photography and photo editing. I take hundreds of photos a month. Then, I’ll download them and sort them into file folders for specific future posts. Then, at another time, I’ll open a specific file folder and cull through the photos, deleting ones I’ll never use. Another time, I’ll edit all of the photos for a blog post at once. Sometimes, I’ll edit photos for multiple posts on the same day. Finally, when I’m ready to write the post, the photos are ready to go and nothing impedes my writing! Some days I just don’t feel like writing, so instead, I’ll work on the photos. Finding time for social networking is a huge challenge for me and I need to “get better” at that! In the end, the secret is that I love what I do. If you love what you do, then finding the time happens. Thanks, again, for another awesome and motivational post! You rock!

    • Rita Barry says

      Hey Carole, Thanks so much for the kind comment, I appreciate that :) I need to take a lesson in the photos, I shall not divulge the amount of gigabytes on my hard drive of unprocessed pictures!

      Have you tried just concentrating on one social network where most of your audience hangs out? If you get traction and build up a really active following in one network it can be really helpful to building followings elsewhere, later on. Plus with just one you can do 10-15 minutes a day and really make a difference.

  5. says

    I actually attended a GTD seminar at work and found it unbelievably useful. The best tip I remembered is the “brain dump” (or something like that). If you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to get done and you have multiple post-it notes everywhere (like me), take a few minutes and write down everything you need to get done as it comes to mind. Everything from “get milk on the way home” to “re-design blog”! Once everything is written down you instantly feel lighter, less burdened, and you can sort through your list and make categories.

    I do love this post though – very timely for me too :)

    • Rita Barry says

      Thanks Kristy, well I guess we can cross off blog design ;) I was like that too before GTD. I had all those to dos that I never wrote down circling in my head all the time driving me a little more crazy than usual. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my mental stillness in the last number of years because of that brain dumping :)

  6. says

    I see that my Aunt Carole and blogging partner has already left a comment, but I have to say that this post is a huge eye opener for me. I have taken a few months off from actually writting for our blog because I just couldn’t commit the time to be able to create meaningful content. I felt as you were talking to me with the mention of scrambling every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday just to have a post for Monday, Wednesday and Friday…all while feeling guilty for not giving my attetion to my kids and husband. Thank you for these helpful time management tips, I always need advice when it comes to this topic! Merry Christmas!

    • Rita Barry says

      Hey Tiffany, I’m so glad it was helpful. These switches have helped me so much with that exact issue. It’s all a lot more FUN now! Who knew? Happy New Year to you too.

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