10 Productivity approaches to explore to get the work done and make time for life.
You Ain’t Gotta Go To Work, Work, Work, Work
But, as the song goes, you gotta put in the work. I love the idea of work, intellectually. It’s really interesting. We all have to do it. We (almost) all assign a lot of value in our lives to our “work product” or how we contribute to the world. Some of us “go to work” to feed our families. Some of us go to work because we’re driven to make a difference. Most of us, are striving to a little bit of both. We have crazy busy lives AND a lot of stuff (hopefully) that fills our cup outside of work. But, most weeks it feels like there is WAY (LIKE WAY) too much to get done and many of us find ourselves sitting there on Friday frustrated that our efforts fell short of our ambitions.
How In The World Do We Get It All Done?
Good. Me too. I know my purpose. I know why I work. It’s to provide for my family, make the world a better place and move us all forward. I’m working towards a goal of being financially independent, of having the ability to do what I want, when I want and with people that have meaning to me. But, man…some weeks just feel like I’m riding in a literally dumpster as it careens down the hill on fire. Does this sounds like you? If so, this question is for you. How can we do both? Do big, meaningful work AND live a rich full lives outside of work; filled with friends, family, community.
Ever Heard of Parkinson’s Law?
It’s this theory penned by a humorist named Cyril Northcote Parkinson, which essentially says “Hey dummy. There’s a reason that you get to the end of your day/week/month feeling like a failure. The work will just expand to fill up your life if you don’t have a system in place.” Parkinson’s Law was first used to explain why bureacracies get bigger, But, it’s also super helpful as a way of thinking about loads of different types of work, including PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY.
So, if you find yourself on the struggle bus, In part, you have this asshole’s theory to thank for it. But, you also need to take a hard look in the mirror and realize that it’s on you too and not some dude from the 50’s.
Ready To Make Some Productivity Changes?
You and me both friend. A few months ago, I started a journey to casually investigate some of the things that others are doing to get more productivity out of their weeks AND I started experimenting with some of these same approaches myself.
So, let’s commit to some things.
- We can and will take control of our work weeks.
- We WILL prioritize our lives outside of work more
- We SHALL commit to understanding the difference between busy work and meaningful work.
- We are committed and open to loving/respecting ourselves enough to figure out what works best for us.
- And yes….we will be open to trying new shit. That chid mind is the only way to embrace these new approaches (because some will be hard).
10 Approaches to Productivity That Might Save Your Week
Okay! With the above commitments in hand, here are some solid approaches that you can use in our company, with. your team and in your personal life to end more weeks better than you started them. I’ve learned some productivity lessons the hard way from being self-employed and a business owner for nearly 20 years.
- Really Understand Your Week: David Baker of Punctuation.com said it best. “There are three kinds of days in your week. “Get Shit Off Your Plate” days, “Create High Value” days and “Live in Context” Days. Know that each of these will need regular attention, but know which ones help you create the kind of momentum you need. 🙄
- Set Reasonable Expectations/Goals: Just trust me on this one. There is mental and emotional momentum you generate when you finish things. And the opposite occurs when you end the week with a massive to do list still intact. Remember, part of this game is getting good at work so you don’t take it home and into your personal time (which is vitally important). 🎯
- Prioritize “Crucial” Stuff: Remember those “Create High Value” days? Know what’s important to get done and what’s not and make the priorities just that. In our shop, we call them “crucial results”. Simply put, they are the things that fall into one of two categories: Getting them done either generates big results and momentum (ex: “If we can ship this proposal, we’ll be in the running for that major account.”) OR prevents bad things from happening (ex: “If I don’t get this product launched by Wednesday, we’re going to miss the big announcement date.”). 💥
- Time Block or Else: Listen. If you’re not protecting creative time, strategic time or deep work time, then that’s on you. Some stuff just simply requires you to unplug and stay laser focused. I practice time blocking regularly for important stuff, but I also time block banks of “nothing on the calendar” time to batch the things that roll into my view that I do need to deal with just not in the moment. Here’s a great article on time blocking for you from our friends at todoist. ⏲️
- Try Monk Mode: Have trouble with focus? Try to be like a monk. Monk mode is a period of enhanced focus, discipline, and productivity where you eliminate as many distractions as you can and commit yourself to completing a goal. It’s good for task management, but it’s an even better life practice that can be applied to lots of things. But, you have to create the right environment. I enjoyed this productivity read from Jeroen V on Medium. It helped me better understand what monk mode is and how it’s an approach to life (and not just a productivity hack). 🧘🏼
- Eliminate Distractions: Need to do some deep work or some focused work? Why the hell do you bring all the distractions of modern day work and life with you? That’s simply cray cray. Turn off the phone (or at least put it in do not disturb). Put do not disturb setting on you laptop. Find a distraction free place to get that work done (remember those workspaces? Way better than your home office or a coffee shop for deep work). Silence the chimes, pushes, pings, etc. Every time you pause to look, read, listen etc you throw yourself off your game and get nothing done. 🦗
- Explore The Pomodoro Technique: If you are looking for a smart way to bang out a bunch of smaller tasks within a timeframe and normally have a lot of open ended tasks that could take forever if you let them, try the Pomodoro Technique. It’s an approach where you break tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks with dedicated short timeframes. Think of it like a “mini-sprint” with breaks. Here’s a good read on how to implement this. Promodor = Productivity 🏃🏾♀️
- Take Breaks: Yes. Take breaks. Pomodoro says so. 😊 Take a 10 minute break for every hour of focused work you put in. Change your scenery when you find yourself being unfocused or stuck (walk anyone?). Breaks also serve up a bonus…build in an automatic water bottle chugging 30-second session into your break to make sure you stay hydrated all day. For me, every time I use the bathroom, I take a 30-second pit stop at the water fountain. Non-negotiable. #HydrateorDie
- Wrangle Your Meetings: Listen. I’m collaborative. I love meetings with others. I think they are super valuable for creativity/innovation. At the same time, I know people who literally don’t ever get out of their chairs b/c they are in an endless stream of meetings (that’s not right or healthy). If meetings make your list of “things that I think get in the way of me doing great work”, then do something about it. Can you cut a meeting time in half with a more focused agenda? Are there meetings that aren’t 100% critical that you be there for? Delete. Can you restructure how your team meets overall to tap into some extra “productivity” time? I bet you can. It is 100% worth examining.. Here’s a good resource on the topic (with some sobering stats). 🛑
- Reward Yourself: When you accomplish something big, reward yourself in some small way. Maybe share a win with colleagues (we have a #winning channel in our work cooperative for people to do just that). Treat yourself to a bevvy or that break I was talking about before is a proper reward for productivity. 🎁
- BONUS (We just couldn’t resist)!
Delegate (Responsibly): In our design firm, Period Three, we used to get these awful referrals from one of our “partners”. They’d send over work to us that they had already passed on. It wasn’t a good client or a good fit for them and those referrals ended up (surprise surprise) being trash for us too. Don’t be them. If you’re going to delegate tasks (and you 100%, absolutely have to to get anything done), be a responsible delegator. This could be a whole other blog post, but here are some quick tips. 🏎️
- Don’t be a “drive-by delegator”: Deliver clearly communicated tasks, with specific deadlines and understood expectations for success. Don’t just “drive by” and drop some shit on a team member.
- Delegate Strategically: If there are things on your plate that you’re not good at? Give them to people who are? Don’t just hand out trash to someone else. Leverage your teams skills to get more done together.
- Delegate For The Right Reasons: Don’t give someone something because you don’t want to do it. Put on your big boy/girl pants and do the hard stuff too.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this list…you have now “invested” 15 minutes of your precious time into bettering yourself and your work week. Now….go put one or more of these ideas into practice to start generating an ROI.
Want Some More Productivity Convo?
Looking for a little more? Check out this great episode on the Communal podcast where Greg and Gene dig into how we structure our weeks to avoid going insane. It’s a really good (and candid) conversation.
About The Author:
Greg Hilton is the cofounder and managing partner for SOCO, SOCO is a thriving platform and community focused on supporting creators, indie workers and entrepreneurs just like you. He’s an avid outdoorsman, creator and storyteller. He’s also been self-employed and a business owner for nearly two decades and has worked with hundreds of solos, creators and entrepreneurs to help them lead better and more meaningful lives.
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