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My Top Productivity Tips


 

1. Own your mornings


I have a separate blog post on how to own your mornings and make the most out of the beginning of the new day. It's vital to start your day right to be able to tackle everything your day brings. Start your day grateful; your house organised, your challenges laid in front of you. But, most importantly is to start with YOU. Look after yourself, do what you like doing. More on this topic here in my Blog.


2. Insert your "big rocks"


Not sure about you, but I always have an extensive list of To-Dos. I usually prepare my list of tasks for the upcoming week the Friday afternoon or Sunday. Monday morning is not suitable for me :)

From this long (week) list, I take items that I need to complete that day. Then, I block 2-3 hours in my calendar for focus time, depending on the task's completion length. I call these "big rocks", as these tasks are my main priority.

Habitually I use the MoSCoW technique, a commonly used strategy I've learned during my Project management studies. MoSCoW stands for four different categories of initiatives: must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will not have. This technique helps you decide what you must and should accomplish that day and what you can leave for tomorrow. When you have completed tasks that are "must" or "should", then you can see if you have any time left for could haves.'


3. Prioritise and do it correctly


How do you prioritise? It took me a long time to learn myself and still sometimes not perfect. However, when it comes to prioritising, I can relate to Mike Tyson's words very much. When a reporter asked him whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan, he answered, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

So I always have a solid plan with a prioritisation list until I get a "more important", or more "urgent" task to complete.

A few years ago, I was recommended to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

I've learned a solid strategy from this excellent book where he suggests: all tasks should be categorised (and then prioritised) according to importance and urgency:


Urgent and important: These tasks should be done first

Important but not urgent: Block off time on your calendar to get this done without interruption

Urgent but unimportant: Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.

Neither urgent nor important: Remove from your to-do list

Once everything is written down, prioritisation typically happens according to each task's importance, urgency, length, and reward.


4. Manage your meetings


Sometimes I ask myself what on Earth am I doing on this meeting? Why am I even invited? What is my role here? They could have sent this information in an email.

Instead, I started to be more conscious with my time and decline meetings I didn't see the point of attending. Managing your time is your responsibility. If you are not sure about the reason for the session, it's perfectly okay to ask:

- What is the purpose of the meeting

- What is the desired outcome

- What is your role/input in that meeting (in case you need to prep)

- What is the agenda of the meeting

- Action points and deadline

5. Use the Pomodoro technique


Pomodoro is beneficial for creating your focus time. I love it as I know when is my time to focus and get work done, but I also know I'll have a break when I can stand up and go for brisk fresh air or get a drink. If you don't understand what Pomodoro is, here you are:


"Get a to-do list and a timer. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings. When your session ends, mark off one Pomodoro and record what you completed. Then enjoy a five-minute break. After four Pomodoros, take a longer, more refreshing 15-30 minute break."


6. Eliminate distractions


Kill your distractions. You have your phone next to you, and picking it up as soon as a notification beeps won't take you far to get anything done.

I always have my phone on silent mode, no matter what. I'm not particularly eager to beep sound every now on. Especially some people love to text every

single

word

in

different

line

😅😂

I have calls redirected to my watch, which means I get notified if someone calls me. Otherwise, nothing can disturb my focus time.

I usually put my phone in Flight mode, so literally, nothing can come through. But, of course, it depends on your role and position, so do what suits you the best.

I also don't have any social media apps on my phone anymore, only WhatsApp, which helps me connect with my friends. So I removed Facebook, Messenger, LinkedIn and Instagram from my mobile phone.

I allow myself for few minutes a day to scroll through; sometimes, I take longer "Social media detox" for a week or two, which is also very beneficial. In the end, I don't miss anything important :)


7. Mind the gap


I mentioned this before; I do not believe in multitasking. I don't think you can focus entirely on two different things. However, I have some exceptions regarding doing two things simultaneously while I can focus on both activities. These are activities don't require my full attention. Sometimes, I feel a gap where I can easily tackle a task while I do something else. In addition, some activities are more accessible since I work from home full time and probably will have to adjust them when I go into the office.

Usually, our "All Hands Call" means time for my nails. I don't have time or patience to sit for hours in a nail salon, and due to Covid, I avoid these places altogether.

During "All Hands Call", I have my headset on, and I can shape or colour my nail; as I know, I am in a "listen-only mode" and this is the perfect time to puff up my nails. However, if you start reading emails or scroll on social media, your focus will shift from the content presented; thus, you won't listen.


The other significant activity I do during meetings where I am in a "listen-only mode" is a light exercise.


For example, I cycle with my exercise bike for an hour or walk on my treadmill (I insert this under my stand up desk). I have a strict goal to complete 10 000 steps each day, so if I am far from achieving this, I jump on a treadmill.


When I have a call with friends or family, I usually do the ironing or cooking. There are absolutely no rules to sit down and stare at the camera when you speak. They can see you; you can see them, you can have fun conversations, and your clothes are getting sleek, your food is getting cooked while connecting with loved ones!

While I go for my daily walk outside, I usually listen to podcasts or audible. This routine also applied when I travelled 1,5 hours to London a few years back. I also love some motivational videos from YouTube.


8. Your comfort


Why does comfort matter in regards to productivity? I am sure you know how much time (and money) you can save when you don't have health issues caused by too much sitting/standing etc.?

I know how frustrated I can get when my back hurts, I have tailbone pain, or my wrist doesn't want to move with the pace I'd like to write.


You can do a lot for your comfort, and this should be your #1 priority!


Make sure whatever you do, you sit or stand in a comfortable position. Please mind, just because it's relaxing at the moment does not mean it will benefit you long term. When you sit, you use less energy than you do when you stand or move. In addition, research has linked sitting for long periods with several health concerns.

I have a separate blog on my workstation set-up ergonomically and what products I use to make work more comfortable, which also suit my needs.


9. Importance of break times


I guess it's not a surprise, but we are all human beings. Our body and mind need to rest. You'll be much more productive if you let yourself switch off. Implement regular 5-10 minutes break times to stand up, walk, stretch, or get a drink. I could get some water from upstairs also (thought about having a mini fridge in my office - bad bad bad idea!) I push myself to walk downstairs and get water from the kitchen. I like to organise my lunch break at the same time as my husband as then we can eat together, chat or go outside for a walk or bike ride.

Walking also proved to help reduce stress, and you'll be more productive and feel better upon your return.

Experts say it's recommended to take a more extended break once or twice a year and go somewhere you have never been. Even if you can't afford to fly abroad, try to find a nice place locally you could enjoy. Somewhere away from the typical day to day activities, change your environment and do something different - your hobby, for instance.


10. Habit tracker


Habit tracking can be a tricky one if you are not a visual person nor someone super organised. Trust me! I omit tracking them also; no one is flawless.

However, this method helped me stay on track and persist in the habits I implemented into my daily routine. I wrote down what I need to complete daily or weekly. For example, taking my vitamins, exercise, meditate, go outside for a fresh-air walk, drink 3 litres of water or make my gratitude list. Many apps are available for this exercise, or write them up and tick the box when completed. It gives considerable satisfaction also! I use my whiteboard for this exercise, and it's always in front of me during the day, so there is no way I forget doing them.


11. Do similar tasks in batches


I do my best to categorise similar tasks under one umbrella and complete them at the same time. However, it also works much better to collaborate with your partner or other family members and do them together—you not just save time but add more value.

For example, I collect everything I need to do in the city and go once a week and sort out everything then and there. For example, I start with returning items at the post office/DHL or FedEx depot, hand in/collect dry cleaning, attend appointments, finishing off my tour with shopping.


I also have a no-meeting day at work which is great for not getting ready. 😆 I mean, not making any extra effort on looking good, makeup or nice clothes. But on the days I do, I usually schedule all my meetings and speak with friends or family in the evening as I know I look somewhat presentable.

I have a laundry day once a week, and I wash, tumble dry and fold everything together. I usually do hand-wash this day also and ironing. Then, we'll have one big pile of clothes on the bed, which we'll both put away at the end of the day before jumping into bed.


Batching similar activities saves some time and effort from your busy schedule.



12. Delegate


Suppose you live in a busy schedule where you are trying to tackle house chores, full-time work, healthy meal prep for the entire family, studying part-time, you have a hobby or family members with whom you'd like to spend more time?


Consider delegating some of your tasks to someone else.


I've learned this tip from my favourite YouTuber, Ali Abdaal, in this fantastic productivity video of his. First, I've asked myself, what is the dollar value of my time, how much is my hourly rate? Then, if I do not enjoy doing a task, or someone else is more qualified in that field or could do that job for less than my hourly rate, I consider delegating it to focus on more important things that give me the most value.

- It's like, I love the smell of a clean, organised house, but I don't have time nor energy to scrub and vacuum every day, so we hired a cleaning lady who comes every week.

- I love nicely designed work, but I am crap with graphic design, so I hire excellent professionals on Fiverr for these kinds of jobs. Especially now, many people got unemployed during the pandemic, and this is a great option to help them financially and allow me to have more focus time.

- Since COVID-19 restrictions, I instead do my grocery shopping online. It's much easier and comfortable for me to type into the search what I need, and I don't have to wander around with a heavy trolley if they've moved the honey from Nutella into the baking area 😆 I prefer buying fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, and flowers from the market, supporting our local farmers, and for plastic reduction. For anything else, I organise a biweekly supermarket home delivery for a day before I do my meal prep.


Hope you find this blog useful and you've learned something new ☺️



Disclaimer: All images & content © 2021 Heidi Kalmar


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