Being productive can be a challenge, especially as a blogger where the internet is constantly calling our attention. Today we're kicking off a new bi-weekly series on blogger productivity full of tips, strategies and tools to help you up your ability to get things done more efficiently and with more focus, leaving you more time to spend on life!
It's that time of year — it feels like a fresh start with endless possibilities, new goals, plans and renewed enthusiasm!
And then comes the inevitable crash where you wonder to yourself, "Self, how am I going to make this all happen?"
A few hours later you realize you've been surfing Facebook for the last two hours and, in my case, you've watched 16 funny dog videos (probably multiple times each because ... well ... they're funny!).
Mindless enjoyment? Perhaps. Productive? Probably not.
Oh, and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes on time management and office organization? That's not productive either. Even though you might think you can justify it by saying you were "researching productivity" so you can become more productive. Trust us ... we've tried that. Maybe more than once. It probably won't work. (Ironic, given that we're writing an article on how to be more productive and we'd like you to read it!).
So let's get down to business. How do you turn goals, plans and ideas into action? How do you get more done in a day? How do you balance work with life, especially when you work from home?
This is the first in a bi-weekly series on Blogger Productivity. But before you can get productive, you have to know how you work.
One of the first things we tend to do when trying to ramp up our productivity is ask friends what works for them. This can be helpful to get ideas, but ultimately it all has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Humans are like snowflakes — no two are alike. And that means we all have quirks and oddities that affect how we work. What works for your friend may not work for you.
Track Your Time
Start paying attention to what trips you up or distracts you. A great way to do this is to actually track your time. For a week or two, or even a month, track how you spend your day. Tracking time can be as easy as using a pen and paper, a spreadsheet or an app (here are eight you can check out). Find out where your time goes — you might be surprised.
Watch Your Mood
Our moods affect our productivity in more ways than we think. Feeling tired, angry, sad …they're all obvious productivity killers.
But what about more subtle feelings? Like resistance to certain tasks? Or a general feeling of anxiety or agitation or stress?
You may have tasks you think you're very excited about and yet you keep finding reasons to avoid them. It's important to ask yourself why and be honest with yourself. You may have to dig deep and you may not want to admit the reason you're avoiding starting that big project. It could be fear of failure, or overwhelm at how big the project is, or not knowing where to start.
General anxiety or agitation could be other things. For me, a cluttered workspace makes me feel very agitated, anxious and even claustrophobic, and my productivity drops dramatically. Not having a to-do list makes me feel very lost and unproductive; my brain just won't focus without one.
Start paying attention to those small things that may not be so obvious. Once you identify them, take steps to overcome them. Break down big projects into small tasks, use to-do lists, create spreadsheets, tidy up the mess … once you know the root causes, finding a solution will be much easier.
Bigger emotional blocks are harder to deal with. Perfectionism, fear of failure, creative block or burnout: those are all much bigger issues than the scope of this article, but they can't be ignored. If you're struggling with any of them, seek some help because you won't be able to move forward until you do! (We'll be talking about each of those in future articles.)
A Few Common Distractions And How To Manage Them
Problem: You're easily distracted by social media or the internet.
Solution: Try a timed blocking solution like Focus (paid) or Cold Turkey (free) or check out this article with 10 apps for blocking internet distractions. Or check out the very simple Pomodoro Technique to help with your focus.
Problem: Clutter drives you crazy.
Solution: Do a quick tidy at the end of every day. Clutter is one of my subtle productivity killers so now I even move things out of my office in the morning and put them back when I'm done for the day. (I did this for three weeks with an empty printer box I wasn't ready to get rid of yet. At 8 am I'd put it in my bedroom. At 5 pm I'd move it back to my office — for THREE WEEKS!) I keep hanging wall folders for receipts and bookkeeping stuff, or contracts or things I need to keep close by but don't want to clutter up my actual workspace. I also have the luxury of having space for two desks in my office and I stole Austin Kleon's idea of a digital desk and an analog desk which has been a huge help for managing clutter.
Problem: Too much noise or not enough noise.
Solution: Some people need ambient noise, some need silence. And that can change depending on the task. Find a good pair of headphones — either ones that cancel out all noise, or ones that let you listen to music of your choice — and use them at the appropriate time. You can also try working in a cafe if you need a little noise or the feeling of being around people.
Problem: Email. How much time do you waste on email? Probably way too much.
Solution: Email doesn't have to be answered 24/7. Set aside blocks to manage your inbox. It can be for an hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon. Add or subtract blocks as needed. Also, know when it's better to pick up the phone and have a five-minute conversation instead of a 10-email chain that takes hours.
Problem: Energy fluctuations.
Solution: We all have different ebbs and flows that our bodies follow. When you track your time, you'll probably see quickly where your energy dips or soars and when your "golden hours" are (the 2 to 4 hours each day where your body is most productive and most able to focus). Guard those golden hours ferociously and use them to get things done. Avoid meetings, phone calls and any other interruptions. If you work from home and have children, those are the hours you might want to make sure you have childcare, even if only for a few days a week. Don't fight your body if you can help it; work with it and your productivity will skyrocket!
There are so many ways to increase your blogging productivity. Over the next few months we'll be looking at different ways that you can get more done: tips, tools and ideas. Some will work for you and some won't. But if you start examining how you work and what slows you down and what gets you moving, you'll be able to make the most of the tips that are right for you!
- 5 Tips To Ensure a Healthy Body and a Healthy Biz
- 5 Signs You May Be On the Verge of Blogger Burnout
- Decide What's Important: 3 Tips For Improving Blogger Productivity
Melissa Hartfiel is a co-founder of FBC and is the site's Managing Editor. She's a graphic designer who writes, doodles, photographs and eats chocolate and drinks tea. She blogs about food, photography and creativity at her own blog, Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.