I love reading about how other people structure their work day and what kinds of things help them with their productivity. So I thought I’d share my tips for how I get work done, since I’ve got some great tips from other people.
Structuring my work week
When I first started working for myself, it was all about getting the work done regardless of how or when or what consequences it wrought. Now, 3 years on and I’ve learned to structure my work week around what works best for me. Shout out to the lovely Lauren June for this valuable tip.
This is my non-project work day, which means I don’t do any design or development work on my client projects. This is the day I set aside to work on my business.
The most important thing I do is plan out my work week in terms of project work. I can’t believe I never used to do this. It basically meant that everyday I was juggling what I had to do and trying to reprioritise every day what I should be working on.
I go through my emails, check my client communications on all projects and plan the work according to where each project is at. This can take me a couple of hours sometimes, but it’s worth it to know clearly in my head what I’m working on each day in advance.
The other key thing I do on Mondays is attend to my content marketing. I log into my project management app, go directly to my Content Marketing List and scan the list looking for the best and most appropriate content that I think I’ll be able to write and post for the week. I will spend a few hours actually writing and preparing the content and then I’ll schedule it to post during the week. Admittedly I’m still not great on this aspect of my business, but I’m working on it!
Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Fridays
These are the days I do all my project work and are choc full of design and development work on my client’s websites.
Thursday is money day! It’s the day I do my invoicing and accounting.
This is a new addition to my schedule after spending some time this year working on my money mindset. (I highly recommend the fabulous book by Bari Tessler, ‘The Art Of Money’.) I am trying to change my mindset about money from something that is a drag to manage and difficult to earn, to embracing it as something I enjoy looking after and seeing it as the reward for all the hard work I put in each day. Now I literally block out a section in my calendar called ‘Monday Date’!
Noise Cancelling Ear Phones
Ever since laying out the cash for some top of the line Bose noise cancelling ear buds a couple of years ago, I can say I aim to never be without a pair! These ear buds save my sanity in so many ways on a daily basis.
When I’m needing to get out into the world and away from my desk, these babies let me work from any of my local cafes. They cancel out the background noise and let me get my work down and still feel like I’m part of the community.
When I’m struggling to concentrate at home, I put these on and tune into some thunderstorm or rain sounds and I’m able to focus intently on work for a few hours without any distractions.
As a bonus, I wear them when I’m cooking dinner or cleaning the house and want to listen to the latest Dollop podcast episode or any of my other fave podcasts. (ok, so the cleaning the house part doesn’t actually happen that often!)
I have a Macbook, but I’ve never liked typing on a laptop as I find the flat keyboard annoying to use. Plus I like to have a bigger screen. So I invested in a large monitor to hook up to my Macbook Pro so that I can do my project work on a bigger screen. This is great, because more often than not when I’m designing I’ll have a few browser and app windows open that I constantly refer to for reference while I’m designing on the main window. This has made my work life much easier.
A3 & A4 Notepad
I’m a scribbler. I need to be able to sketch things out or even just note down a few words that relate to what I’m working on and I like to work things out on paper, even if I don’t end up keeping that piece of paper – it’s a way of letting my mind take some time to marinate and go over some brainstorming options. Consequently I always have an A3 and an A4 blank paper sketchbook close at hand on my desk. I tend to sketch all my layouts on paper first and I love the freedom to be messy on the paper.
Most days, I’ll have my oil burner going. I have quite a few oils and each day I’ll pick an oil depending on what I need that day. Lavender, for when I’m feeling a bit stressed, basil and rosemary for when I need to concentrate or any of my beautiful oil blends. Shout out to Cath at Totally Scentual for some gorgeous blends that I use every day.
I am soo not a green thumb in the garden, but for some reason, through trial and error I’ve managed to keep quite a few luscious green plants growing in my office space. It helps that my office has two large windows, so there is lots of natural light. I actually put an instagram post up a while back about my lovely Frieda who is ever climbing to the ceiling. My plants give me good vibes throughout the day.
Apps To Get Work Done
No productivity blog post would be complete without a list of your favourite apps for work, so here are mine.
Clickup for Project Management
I frikking love this app. Admittedly it is so flexible and so powerful and can be used in so many different ways that it has a big learning curve. I used it for probably 6 months before I really got everything set up the way I wanted it.
I basically use Clickup to set up and manage all my projects, so I know what stage each project is at and what I need to do next next.
I also use it to hold all my content marketing ideas, my business admin and keep a whole bunch of business documentation on there.
I also use it to collaborate with clients on their projects, so they know what they need to do each step of the way.
I love playing with apps and so I’ve loved setting up the automations, and time tracking widgets and different views and ways documents can be linked to projects. It is so much fun to play with. Oh yea, and it keeps me organized! 😆
iCal for Scheduling
I tried various different ways to schedule my workload, but in the end, I found using the good ‘ol native Mac iCal, was the best for me. Each Monday when I do my scheduling, I block out sections of time in my calendar for each project. I have recurring time slots such as ‘PD Time’ when I’m allowed to spend an hour each day if I have time, on trialling and playing with new ways to code a module or see how a new plugin works.
I even use the notes fields to write in an overview of what I’m doing for that time slot.
Tick Tick for non-work Tasks
If you’re like me, you’ll be working away and suddenly something non-work related pops into your head and if you don’t write it down immediately, you know you’re going to forget it. Like, “shit, I’ve got to drop in to that shop and pick up my son’s birthday present tomorrow” or “Did I remember to edit my Hello Fresh order for next week?”.
When these thoughts strike, I have a simple list app open in the corner of my screen and I just quickly add in any of this stuff so that I don’t forget and can attend to it later. It stops me from getting distracted from work, by worrying about it. There’s a bunch of these types of apps you can use, but I use Tick Tick.
Red Hot Timer for procrastination
Sometimes I know I’m deliberately avoiding a task because I just don’t want to do it. Regardless of whether it’s a work task or not, if this happens, I just go up to my menu bar and pull down the red hot timer clock icon to the desired time and I can see the time start ticking up or ticking down – you can set it to either. This helps me by saying, “Ok, I’m just going to do 20 minutes on this task, that’s all. After that you can move on to something else”. It helps me by knowing that there is only a finite amount of time that I HAVE to spend on the dreaded task. Then when the timer goes off, I’m running out the door like Bart Simpson, but at least I’ve done my task.
I also use it when I know I’m spending too long on a task. I’ll say to myself, “Right, you’re only going to spend 20 more minutes on this task and then you HAVE to move on”. This keeps me in check and reminds me I actually have other work I need to do!
Inbox Smart Folders
This has been such a game changer for me. I have 4 email addresses and many of them have subscriptions to various newsletters and businesses. And scrolling through these hundreds of emails looking for important client emails was getting to be a nightmare.
So I set up smart folders in my inbox. I use the native Mail email app on my Macbook.
A smart folder is a folder with a set of rules that you make so only particular emails that you want, go into it. I have a smart folder set up for each of my clients and I set the rules so that only emails that relate to that particular client go into their smart folder. This will include emails from them of course, but also any addresses that relate to their project like a photographer I’m using or any emails from Clickup in relation to their project.
Now, all I have to do is glance at left sidebar in my Mail app and I can immediately see if there are any new emails from each client. So much easier!
So there you go. That’s how I get shit done each day. If I could only keep 3 of these productivity methods – which would be a tough choice, it would have to be:
- Weekly calendar scheduling
- Noise canceling ear buds
- Clickup project management app.
I hope these tips and methods have helped you take charge of your productivity and get shit done!