The New Year marks a clean slate. It’s prime time for planning and goal setting, and while you may plan and set goals with good intentions, you won’t be able to carry them out if you aren’t productive. So in this first Ellechat podcast episode of 2019, I’m sharing 7 of my best productivity tips to help you start this year off on the right foot and actually make progress toward your business goals.
Episode 17 Podcast
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Lauren Hooker: Hey there and welcome to Ellechat, a weekly dose of practical tips and strategies to help you create a stunning first impression online. I’m your host, Lauren Hooker, and in today’s episode I’m kicking off the New Year with 7 of my best productivity tips.
It’s January 1st, which means it’s prime time for setting goals and planning for the year ahead. But planning is only half the battle; taking action on them is the hard part. My hope is that these tips will make it easier by helping you maximize the time you do have to pour into your business and work more efficiently.
Let’s dive in!
Lauren Hooker: I’ve said this a lot in recent blog posts and in my last email to my list, but I love this time of year.
It’s a close second to the start of the school year.
Something about fresh starts and the hope that you’ll actually make progress on your goals this upcoming year is exciting.
It’s like a clean slate. There’s so much opportunity and promise, and my type-A, perfectionist nature looks forward to it each time December rolls around.
But I’ve learned through the years that I will quickly lose steam and fail to reach my January goals if I don’t plan and set systems in place for reaching them. And a lot of that boils down to being productive.
So in this first Ellechat of 2019, I’m sharing my best productivity tips and strategies to help you start this year off on the right foot and actually make progress toward your business goals.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to be sharing tips and how-to’s for getting your business in order throughout the entire month of January on the blog and in my weekly emails. I’m covering topics from how to setup and utilize Asana and Google Drive for your business to how to tackle your overflowing inbox and easy ideas for putting your business on autopilot.
I want to help you make 2019 your most productive year yet!
But before I dive into my best productivity tips and strategies in today’s episode, I want to remind you that the way people usually find podcasts is through iTunes reviews! So if you enjoy Ellechats and want other creative business owners to discover them too, will you take a moment to leave a review for the Ellechat Podcast? I would be so grateful.
Alright, let’s dive in.
1 | Outline your ideal work week
On top of being a new mom and wearing all the hats that come along with running an online business, I’m also a pastor’s wife.
My husband is an assistant pastor at a church plant in our small town, which means that our nights and weekends are often busy with church events and hosting people in our home.
It also means that I have to be especially mindful of how I’m scheduling my time.
These past couple years I’ve found it super helpful to outline my ideal work week.
On a single sheet of paper, I create 7 columns (one for each day of the week) and write the hours of the day on the left-hand side of the page. I list out the hours from 5:00am (when I wake up) to 10:00pm (when I crash for the night).
Then I go through and block off time for my morning routines, Elle & Company tasks, Eli’s nap times, church events, etc.
I’m a very visual person, so being able to puzzle piece and color code all of my roles and priorities is super helpful.
It also helps me figure out what I’m capable of taking on and what I might need to say no to.
Now, am I ever able to perfectly stick to this ideal schedule? No! I don’t think I’ve ever followed it to a T.
This outline just serves as a reference, but it helps me get right back on track when tasks and interruptions inevitably pop up during the week.
It sounds so simple (and it is), but it’s been the key to making the best use out of the limited hours in my day and accounting for all of the important roles and tasks I constantly juggle.
If you haven’t done an outline like this before, I have a printable workbook in the Elle & Company Library that not only walks you through outlining your ideal work week, but also has space for you to write out your daily routines and plan out each workday.
I also share a look at my current ideal work week outline in a new Elle & Company blog post that went live yesterday, along with my simplified approach to goal setting and planning for 2019.
So my first productivity tip is to outline your ideal work week and my second is to...
2 | Schedule uninterrupted work time
This may seem like a given.
But if you’re pursuing your business on the side while you work a full-time day job or you’re a work-from-home mom trying to squeeze in work time on the side, you know that uninterrupted work time is hard to come by.
Even if you’re pursuing your business full-time you might find it difficult to set work hours that aren’t interrupted by phone calls, texts, emails, or tasks around the house.
If you don’t purposefully set aside time and put measures in place to get work done, it will either never get done or you’ll cut into other time that you could be spending with your family (or sleeping).
When I came back to work after having my son this past year, I thought I could knock out work during nap times. Babies sleep a lot, right?
I quickly realized that nap times aren’t dependable. And even when Eli does take a longer nap, I can’t fully focus on my work with a baby monitor on my desk. I’m still having to listen out for him.
I finally asked a friend if she would be willing to keep him at our house for 3 mornings each week for 3.5 hours so I can escape to a coffee shop and get work done, and I wish I had done it sooner!
It’s amazing how much I’m able to do in 3.5 hours without any distractions or interruptions.
So if you haven’t already, map out some uninterrupted work time in your ideal work week and take the measures necessary to guard it.
X-out of tabs in your browser, turn your phone on silent, turn off phone notifications, turn on “do not disturb” mode on your computer, get a babysitter.
Do what you need to do to remove all of those distractions so you can buckle down and get work done.
3 | Batch like-tasks
Studies show that every time a task is interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.
So if you’re constantly switching between tasks, you’re drastically reducing your productivity.
Grouping like-tasks together, or “batching them,” allows you to stay focused and get more done, especially if you find yourself doing the same tasks on a regular basis.
So for example, you could sit down and try to crank out an entire blog post in one sitting.
You can switch between the tasks of outlining your post, writing it, editing it in a text editor like Google Docs, creating a graphic in Adobe Illustrator, setting it up in Squarespace or Wordpress, publishing it, and promoting it on all of your social media accounts.
And you can walk through all of those tasks again and again throughout the month to prepare for each post.
OR you can plan ahead and batch those tasks for several blog posts at a time.
You could outline all of the posts for the week or the month all at once in Google Docs.
You could create all the graphics for them at once in Adobe Illustrator.
You could set them all up and schedule them all at once in Squarespace.
And you could schedule out your social media posts to promote them in a scheduler like Buffer.
Again, another simple and straightforward tip, but it will save you so much time in the long run.
What tasks could you be batching both for your business and for your personal life this year?
Sometimes it makes it easier to think through those tasks after you tackle my fourth productivity tip, which is to...
4 | Create workflows
The more often you work through the same process, the more efficient you’ll become.
I was reminded of this when we moved into our house a month ago and put all of our utensils, plates, bowls, and all of the other items away in our kitchen.
Every time I went to make dinner for the first couple of weeks, it took way longer than usual to prepare because I kept opening the wrong drawer for the silverware, the cookie sheets, etc.
But the more and more I’m in the kitchen making meals, the quicker I’ve become and the more those processes have become second nature again.
The same is true in your business. Everything has a process, whether it’s your client work, blog post prep, promo graphics, or course prep.
And if you’re constantly switching things up, you’re wasting precious time (and money).
So if you haven’t already, consider mapping out your biggest workflows in an Asana or Trello board. Create a column for each one and create cards for each step of your process.
This makes them easy to refer back to later, but it also comes in handy if you have assistants or other people on your team (or hope to in the future). You can add subtasks on the back of the card, assign team members to the subtasks, link to documents or Google Docs, and utilize tags.
If there are any emails involved in the workflow, you might even consider adding a canned email response in a comment or in the description for the card so you can quickly copy, paste, and customize it in an email when you get to that step of the process.
Sometimes I even record myself working through a workflow (like creating a content upgrade in Convertkit) and attach it to a card in Asana for my assistant to refer back to until a workflow becomes second nature for her.
However you choose to go about it, I highly encourage you to at least write out your workflows and evaluate which steps you can get rid of, add, or change in order to work more efficiently and be more productive in the future.
5 | Plan for tomorrow, today
Did anyone else’s mom have them layout their clothes for school the night before?
My mom knew that weekday mornings were crazy trying to get everyone out the door, so she had me pick out my outfit - right down to my hair clips - the night before so I could wake up and get myself ready without a million questions or outfit changes.
It was such a small task, but it helped us all hit the ground running and have a smooth start to the day.
The same can be true for your business.
At the end of each day, I like to go ahead and think through what’s on the agenda for tomorrow.
I try to prepare for any upcoming meetings, write down my top 3 tasks, and clear off my desk so I can pick right up the next day.
Y’all, I know these productivity tips seem so simple and maybe even elementary, but I hope that’s encouraging to you.
Becoming more productive doesn’t mean having to make huge changes in your already crazy work week. Making small changes can make just as big of an impact.
So give it a try. At the end of each workday, take 5 minutes to prepare for your next workday. Your future self will be grateful (and a little more productive).
6 | Set a timer
Some of you might not struggle with setting aside uninterrupted time to get work done or planning for the next day.
Instead, you might be struggling to be productive because like me, you’re a perfectionist. You have trouble making progress on a task because you don’t even want to start on it if you don’t feel like you can do it well. Or you may actually make progress but struggle to call it quits on a project because it could always be better, so you work in circles for hours trying to make improvements.
Sound familiar? If so, consider setting a timer for tasks and force yourself to get them done within that time frame.
I’m doing it right now as I record this Ellechat episode.
I could easily record this for hours trying to get it perfect or I could accept that it’s going to be imperfect, hope that y’all give me a little grace, and move on.
Productivity doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly; it means getting it done well.
Alright, before I get to the last productivity tip, let’s do a quick recap.
Outline your ideal work week
Schedule uninterrupted work time
Plan for tomorrow, today
Set a timer
And number 7…
7 | Repurpose your content
How many times have you heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder?”
A lot of times you can increase your productivity, maximize your time, and work smarter by repurposing your content.
This could look like creating a how-to video for your blog, sending it off to a site like Rev.com to create a transcript for the content of your post (so it can be indexed by search engines), adding the video to YouTube, and sharing a short paragraph or two from the transcript in an email to your list with a link to the blog post to watch the video.
It could look like recording your screen as you digitize a logo or edit a photo and sharing it on social media.
Or it could look like pulling up an old blog post from your archives and highlighting the biggest points in an upcoming email to your list.
You don’t have to take more time to consistently pump out new content. Instead, tie your content together on all of your different marketing channels by repurposing it.
Get creative and consider how you can work smarter and cut back on time.
And there you have it! Seven simple ways that you can plan for your most productive year yet.
Again, none of them are revolutionary or even require you to make big changes (and I think that’s why they’ve been so effective for me). I hope they’re helpful for you, too.
If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy some of my other productivity posts on the Elle & Company blog.
Visit the show notes for links to past posts, subscribe to the Ellechat podcast, and be sure to sign up for my email list to stay up to date on all of the other organization and productivity posts throughout this month!
Here’s to your most productive year yet. Happy New Year!