As a freelance, or small business, especially in the world of web development, the amount of work done in a day/week is deeply linked to your productivity. It’s easy to say: just do it! but it’s often hard to get started.
I’ve tried so many tools supposed to increase my productivity that I could make a love/hate list of every single service or notebook available out there. But for the past year, I’ve limited my tool set to Remember the milk when I’m out, and the excellent emergent task planner as a paper pen tool, which I always have with me.
When I need to make sure that I spend enough time on a daunting task, I use a kitchen timer for a fake Pormodoro style.
I didn’t want to make a review of my tools, but here we go I couldn’t avoid it…
Take your time to be productive. Really?
I know it sounds crazy, but whatever the tools, methodologies, trends you use, now or in the future, there are 3 very important steps that you can’t avoid taking.
And unfortunately many people do, usually the kind of people that would inflict you with the Hoo, just do it! kind of answer when you talk about ways of improving your day to day task management.
Step1: Take your time to plan and review
This one is so important!
Every Sunday, I take 30 minutes to plan my week in terms of objectives, appointments, meetings and tasks.
You also need to take some time every month to plan the ‘big picture’. There is a chance that your final (almost inconceivable) objective can be broken into small chunks of work that you can over several months.
I also take my time to review what I’ve done the past week, what I’ve missed, what I need to follow up. It makes your day to day work real!
On a daily basis, first thing in the morning, take your time to plan your day. That way you start your day with a fresh mind. The good news is that it actually takes less than 5 minutes to select the tasks from your to-do list / calendar.
On a daily basis as well, as a last thing in the afternoon, take your time for a mini review, tidy your desk and make a list of the remaining things for the following day. Again, this only takes 5 minutes.
Planning is the key to success, but also key to a healthy life. You’ll feel less stressed if you know what tomorrow is made of.
Reviewing is the key to motivation. By doing weekly and monthly reviews you’ll acknowledge what needs to be done next and you’ll be proud of what you achieved.
Step 2: Take your time to breathe
Sounds zen hu! But actually it’s the second step to your success.
Before starting the Pomodoro timer, or before clicking start on the Pivotal Tracker or Trello card, just take your time, breath!
The end of the world is planned for the end of 2012 anyway 🙂
Take your time to close all the non necessary tabs in your browser, stop your notifications, just keep what’s needed to be 10% focused on the next task.
Now that it’s done, take a deep breath in and pause for 30 seconds. Think about the way you’re going to tackle this task. How do you want to start, what do you want to achieve, visualise all this.
Now you’re ready, press the start button and do stuff!
I know it sounds super cheesy, but it really works! It puts your mind in the right direction and prevents you from losing focus too quickly.
Step3: Take time for yourself
You can’t spend your day jumping from one task to another, or even work on the same task for 8 hours. This is ridiculous and counter-productive!
So take some time for yourself today.
- Take your time to exercise, it will sharpen your mind and help you to get in the zone more quickly.
- Take your time to enjoy social networks, RSS … and stop using them as an procrastination tool.
- Take your time to drink this glass of water sitting on your desk.
- Take your time to enjoy your lunch.
- Take your time to enjoy the fact that you’ve achieved a lot today.
- Take your time to enjoy your small step, they will lead to your big picture.
I know most of these ideas sound really cheesy, a copy-paste from a bad American self-help book, but the fact is that they work.
They worked for me, for us as a team, and for many other people.
So, did I gave you the urge to try?