post by Stephanie Nelson
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about productivity – how to get “more time” out of your day…or how to fit more into your day. I had gotten into a really stressful rut of trying to do everything I needed to do just by flying by the seat of my pants with my to do list in hand. Now that I’m a little more organized about things, though, I’ve found I’m getting to do what I NEED to do as well as a good bit of what I WANT to do, without the feeling of “CRAP! I’ve got all this to do before I go to bed!” So here are a few of the hacks I’ve implemented to make my life less hectic:
- Schedule ALL phone time.
When I started to analyze my unscheduled phone calls, they fell into two categories – sales calls/telemarketers or clients with questions that I needed to look up the answer to and call back. Around the same time, I read about how you should treat your phone calls like face-to-face meetings. You don’t show up at Starbucks, hoping one of your vendors will be there with an answer to your questions. You set up a time to meet. So you should set up a time to talk on the phone, too. This change has been LIFE CHANGING for me. I do not answer my business line unless the call is scheduled. My clients all call or email with their questions or to request a meeting. We set a time to talk, so I know my deadline for getting the information together. We both can then show up prepared, and meetings/calls are taking SO MUCH LESS TIME!
- Turn off all non-essential alerts on all devices.
Being in social media, there are some alerts I can’t turn off. I need to know when someone comments on a client’s Facebook or Instagram post or leaves a Yelp review. However, I do not need to know the second that I receive an email or if a random restaurant whose app I downloaded is offering a special. I turn that stuff off, and let the little red circles by the app icon tell me there’s something to see the next time I look at my phone.
- Time block.
In some iterations of this, expert suggest you block off x hours for email and y hours for blog writing, etc. What works for me, though, is to block per client. I start every work day at 9am by checking email, usually for around 30 minutes. Then, I work for a couple hours on one client’s posts and work for the week. Each client – and I treat SBN Marketing as a client – gets their own couple hours per week, then there’s still a couple hours per day to handle the “extra” stuff – email questions, proposal writing, finance spreadsheets, and the like.
- Food prep.
Admittedly, I’m still not as good at this as I’d like to be. But my trainer suggested strongly that I REALLY needed to eat breakfast, even if it was just a smoothie. So I’ve started prepping my smoothies in Mason jars on Sundays, which means I just have to blend them in the mornings…which takes SO MUCH LESS TIME. (See where I’m going with this? Everything is taking SO MUCH LESS TIME!) And I’m feeling better. And my trainer is no longer fussing at me about breakfast. I’m working my way to prepping lunch and dinner, but let’s not get carried away, folks.
- Task prep.
Much like food prepping, this is about keeping yourself from scrambling during the week. I take a few minutes somewhere between Friday afternoon and Sunday night to take out my calendar, make my to do list, make any notes I need to remember about those to do items, and such for the upcoming week. Doing this keeps me from bumbling around when it comes time to do my tasks. I’m able to knock things out rather than trying to look up what silly holiday falls on that particular day or trying to find a good motivational quote to share for a client’s Monday Mantra post.
- Set deadlines for everything.
I’ve been in the marketing/advertising/PR world for almost 25 years. (Yes, it’s true. I started in high school.) In that time, I’ve never missed a deadline. So I’m not about to be about missing deadlines now. When I offer to do a proposal for a potential client, I tell them when they’ll get it so there’s a deadline set. When a client sends a photo for an Instagram post, I tell them when it’ll go up so there’s a deadline set. Otherwise, it’s too easy to put something on the to do list, look at it and think “that can wait until tomorrow”, and just keep putting it off and stressing yourself out about it.
- Keep essentials only at hand on the desk.
Clutter doesn’t help get things done. I keep my phone, my calendar, a note pad and pen, my coffee warmer, a coaster, and my computer and its accessories (keyboard, mouse, etc) on my desk. That’s it. That’s all I need to do my work. (If you’re a fan of The Jerk, I give you permission to launch into quoting the movie now.) No need to be sorting and shifting through a bunch of nonsense.
So what are some of your favorite productivity hacks? What keeps you on track with getting everything done without driving yourself batty? I’m always looking for new ideas and how to do things better!