I like to avoid phrases like ‘productivity hack’ because it makes me want to vomit even more than watching that cow get its giant abscess popped on Gogglebox. That said, this is a post about being productive, staying motivated and feeling fabulous each and every Friday.
It isn’t about hacking your way to a 4 hour work week, I’ve no idea how you do that. It is about setting yourself up for a winning week – however you define it.
These are the tricks and tools that have helped me run my working week, feel purposeful, productive and avoid that pesky procrastination that likes to creep in.
How To Stay Focused, My Top 6 Tricks
1. Notifications are the Devil’s device
Get them switched off. Emails, messages and updates popping up at the corner of your screen are not conducive to focus. If you’re on a MAC hold down the option key and click the menu tab in the top right corner to tap them off.
2. Stop treating emails like they are life and death
Stop being a slave to your email. A 999 emergency does not arrive by email and achieving inbox zero is not your ultimate goal in life.
- Read your emails at the start of the day.
- Check for urgent emails only at the middle of the day, don’t be tempted to ready everything.
- Read new emails again at the end of the day to answer anything urgent or mark them ready for the morning.
In between that make sure your notifications are OFF and you’re not jumping out of your task every 5 minutes to check your emails. Every time you stop and switch focus to answer a client’s question or respond to that meme your friend just sent you, you lose focus and have to work even harder to get back into the task you were working on.
3. When you’re on social media, get social or get off it
Be aware of when you need to be on social media. If you’re putting out a post that encourages engagement (I hope you are) then block in some time to be available to interact immediately and boost the performance of your post. You can’t be checking social media all day, every day but you can be sensible so that when something big goes out you’re around to support it and engage.
4. Plan your diary around your personal preferences
Do you find it easier to focus in the morning, the afternoon or evening?
When are you most creative?
When do you like to get out of the office?
Take notice of when you feel the best and produce the best.
For me, I do any writing intensive work in the morning. I like a quiet start to get my head down. It’s now my sacred time. Any and all meetings are in the afternoon when I find it hard to concentrate on computer work but come alive in a social situation.
What’s your rhythm and how could you re-organise your diary to better suit your work style?
5. Food fuels your life and your business
Keep snacks handy. If you’re the type to get ‘hangry’ or distracted when you’re reaching mid morning or late afternoon then have something to hand to nibble on. There is nothing more frustrating than being deep into a task and having to stop and go out to get food because you’re stomach is screaming at you. It removes you completely from your productive zone and can make coming back to the task impossible.
Food and drink is essential to happy business building so don’t neglect this. If you’ve ever been around a hungry, dieting coworker you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing kills mood, energy or productivity more than a juice diet.
6. Stay inspired with a swipe file
When I was just a baby marketer and devouring the teachings of anyone who was anyone in the industry I kept coming across the term swipe file. It’s a folder created for the purpose of storing inspiration and ideas, things you love, so that when you need that perfect example or creative juice you can dive into your swipe file and get it. I LOVED the idea and 4 years later I have an epic swipe file full of examples of great design, marketing, copywriting and more. I now have it organised into sub categories so it’s super easy to get to the example I want.
Top tip – people update their websites all the time, it’s so annoying. Use a screen capture tool and grab a copy for your swipe file because that website you love might not be there next week.
20 Tools That Make Life And Business Easier
These tools cover everything from managing your accounts to creating your social media content.
A place manage everything on your ‘to-do’ list and get more done.
For the first year of business I created a Trello board every Sunday evening for the week ahead. I would have a list of tasks for each day of the week and so i’d know where my time was going. As things come up throughout the week I could add, remove, and move around the tasks as needed but it was impossible to ‘forget’ something important or prioritise the wrong tasks when they were all listed out so obviously. Here’s an example:
Now that I’m much better at managing my time I use Trello for keeping track of top priorities for each project I am working on. I have 4 or 5 lists at a time and only 2-3 tasks on each. As I take one off, I add the next priority on. It keeps things strategic and focused.
Free software for super simple customer or audience research
I LOVE this tool. I’ve used it for my business and with all my clients for quick, easy customer surveys or audience research. Get product or service feedback, find out more about your audience, send out an anonymous employee survey and more. This tool is intuitive to use, has visual and interactive options and it’s free.
Here’s an example of what it looks like in the editor when creating a survey.
This example is part of a brand survey I’ve used in the past with new clients. I like the ability to use everything from long text answers to multiple choice images. It makes it more fun for the recipient and therefore more likely to get completed.
For image creation, editing etc. Perfect if you don’t know your way around photoshop or design software but want to produce professional social media graphics and images. The simple to use templates ensure everything is the correct size and does exactly what you need.
Think Microsoft Word spell checker but for everything you write including emails and social media posts. Download this Google Chrome extension and let it take care of the rest. Perfect if you’re always in a rush and want to make sure your credibility is never questioned because of poor spelling and grammar! Here’s an example of it picking up the wrong use of you’re vs your. I love this tool 🙂
Free stock images that don’t look like cheap, cheesy stock images. There are plenty of other sites too. Just google free stock images.
For making notes and keeping track of things. I used this to log my client notes and timings before I found Toggl.
For collaborative work. This has been a life saver for me when working with clients. It makes sure we don’t have multiple versions of things flying around on email and best of all it tracks all the changes so you can’t lose your original either.
This has a small charge but I really like using it for distraction free writing. I’ll draft blog posts and social media posts here before moving the final version over. It’s less formal than opening a document in Word or Drive and I like the black background option.
Do you know exactly how many hours you spend each day, week or month on a particular project? Do you realise how much time you spend not working when you should be because you’re scrolling Facebook?
Toggl tracks your time so you can better manage what you do and when. It enables you to better calculate your prices, estimate project timelines and set boundaries. After two months with this tool I have become more organised, more disciplined and changed how I allocate my time to projects. Here is an example of what it looks like. Here I asked it to show me all the hours I had worked on a particular project over the last month.
For digital accountancy
Colour palettes for branding inspiration and more.
This gorgeous idea has helped me over the years pull together some stunning colour palettes for brands, ads and more. You can search by colour or collection. My favourite being the seasonal inspiration like this Autumn example.
Designers from around the world showcase their work giving you an endless supply of inspiration and ideas for your branding, brochure, website and more.
Email marketing examples for everything from newsletters to customer surveys and product research. If you’re stuck for ideas on design, copy or content then this is a great resource to get you started.
Find the most shared content online at the moment to see what’s popular, join the conversation or discover content to share for your audience.
For scheduling client meetings, Calendly allows people to see your availability and book slots with you saving you numerous back and forth emails about dates and times.
For online video meetings and group calls. Like Skype but better.
Have you ever needed to send something via email but it’s too big? Or is your webpage weighed down by huge images a photographer sent you? With Tinypng.com you can reduce your image size whilst maintaining quality so you can send them in an email or optimise page speeds.
If the file size is still too big for email then try WeTransfer.com for a safe and quick solution.
Social media scheduling across all the main social media platforms. A great tool if you want to create your content in advance and manage all your accounts in one place.
A Google Chrome extension to capture entire webpages. Perhaps you want to capture your entire website before you move to a new design or you’ve seen a great product page you want to use as inspiration for your future site. Whatever your reason this little tool quickly captures the entire page and saves it as an image or pdf.
A personalised feed of all the blogs and content you need to keep up to date with in your industry. You can see in my example I have a list of marketing blogs that I’m following and so rather than have to keep up to date with all of these individually – a time consuming task – I can just visit Feedly and see the latest posts from everyone in one place. Just type in a website URL, for example themarketingknot.com, and Feedly will find the blog and create the feed for you.
Do you have a trick or tool that you rely on to stay productive, motivated and win each week? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what amazing insight I’m missing out on.
Have a great week!