Got lots of ideas but having trouble getting things done? Feeling creative but find it hard to sit in front of the computer and actually work? You’re not alone. I’m just like that too. Over the (many) years I picked up a few tricks that helped me dramatically improve my productivity. Sharing them here today, in the hope that they will help increase your productivity too. While the first four are very effective, it’s the fifth that has truly changed my life.
1. Shut the world out and get comfortable
Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about when she wrote A Room Of Her Own. Man or woman, we all need our private little corner where we can work.
If at all possible, literally shut the door and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it. Leave your phone out of your office room too. I know it’s hard but trust me, it’s doable.
If you’re addicted to Facebook or Twitter, log out to make it more difficult to “just take a quick look” while you work. If that doesn’t help, use a software that blocks Facebook for a set period of time.
Make sure that you’re comfortable and the temperature is right for you. Turn on the heat or the air-conditioning as may be necessary. Have a bottle of water on your desk and drink regularly. Staying well-hydrated can actually help you focus and increase your productivity.
2. Outsource boring tasks
I bet that when faced with a task that you find interesting, nothing can stop you. Maybe it’s coding a new app, designing on Photoshop, setting up a new social media campaign or tweaking your server. To each his own.
Also, most things are usually fun when they’re fresh and challenging. Once they become routine, they become boring. And let me guess, boring means you come to a halt, doesn’t it?
See if and how you can outsource the boring stuff. Don’t have the budget for outsourcing yet? That’s ok. You can still increase your productivity: Simply come up with a strategy that includes more of what you find interesting and less of the boring stuff.
For example, maybe you hate doing social media but love tweaking pages for SEO? You should either outsource your social media campaigns, or come up with a strategy for your blog that involves less social media and more SEO. At least until you get to the point where you can outsource.
3. Schedule breaks
Breaks are important, both for your body and your soul. The problem is that once you sit down and finally manage to focus on your work, you may forget to take breaks. Alternatively, your break is on your mind so much, you keep checking the clock and can’t focus on writing.
Let someone – or something – else watch over the clock. I’m using a little piece of software called WorkRave. For me, five minute long breaks every 50 minutes work well. You can program it to your own prefered schedule.
Stretch during your breaks. The older we get, the more important stretching becomes, but really, at any age, if you’re trying to work on the computer for several hours a day, do your back a huge favor and stretch properly once an hour. Your body will thank you.
4. Use a task list app
I would not be able to manage any of my work without my ToodleDo. At the beginning of each month, or actually a few days before that, I go over my content plans and create tasks for each one. I enter other tasks as they pop up, when I take up new projects.
Toodledo is a powerful tool. You can schedule recurring tasks, put them into folders, design goals (and see how close you are to completing them) and more. I use the free version and it’s good enough for me (I did pay a few bucks for the phone app, so I have everything synced on my phone as well). It doesn’t really matter which software you use – just use something to keep yourself on track and increase your productivity.
Ready for my fifth tip? I hope it won’t upset you too much.
5. Consider getting a diagnosis and medication
Yes, I’m talking about ADD/ADHD.
Earlier on, when I mentioned that it’s probably easier for you to focus on things that interest you, where you nodding your head? Some people think there’s no way they can have ADHD because they can really focus well on things that interest them. The kind of “not getting up from your desk for 10 hours and forgetting to eat and drink” focus? Guess what? That’s classic ADHD.
How about when I talked about creativity? Are you creative yet having trouble with translating those awesome ideas into actual work? Is that especially true with long-term projects? Do you find that it’s easy to put in tons of work in the first few days or a project but then you can’t. Just can’t. Hitting that wall again and again.
I honestly suspect that most bloggers suffer from some form of ADD or ADHD. Five years ago, I got my own official diagnosis. That was a couple of years after both my sons got theirs.
If any of the things I just mentioned ring a bell do yourself a huge favor and get tested for ADHD.
Don’t just go ask a friend for Ritalin pills. It does not work like that. You have to be properly diagnosed and then have a doctor help you find the exact drug and the right dosage that works for you.
Finding the right medication can be challenging. Many people just pop in a Ritalin pill they got from a friend, feel awful with the side effects and vow to never try the meds again. That’s because they went about it the wrong way. Maybe adderall would be better for them, or maybe they need a different dosage. Or maybe you don’t really have ADHD, and maybe there’s something wrong with you physically that should be treated (that’s why a blood panel is needed before confirming an ADHD diagnosis).
Your doctor also needs to monitor your ongoing health when you’re taking stimulants. As with every other medication, they can have adverse effects. Not to mention, these are prescription drugs, so it’s illegal to just “borrow” them from your friends.
Get yourself tested and properly treated. Trust me, if you do have ADHD and if you find the right meds that work for you, nothing can increase your productivity more than that.
My own productivity skyrocketed thanks to these
And yes, the last one was certainly the most effective. The ADHD diagnosis – at the age of 40 – wasn’t easy to deal with, emotionally. However, it really made everything fall into place. It helped me realize why some techniques were working so well for me and why others were failing.
When I finally found the medication that worked for me (not easy!) things changed quite drastically. I can get so much more work done in a day when I take my pill. You know how you sometimes wish you had more hours in the day? If you’re ADHD, then the right medication can do just that for you!
I hope my fifth tip won’t upset you too much. There’s a lot of misconceptions and prejudice against using pharmaceuticals to increase your productivity. If you happen to be someone who can benefit from that – and not everyone is – then hopefully this post has at least made you consider the option.
As always, leave a comment and let me know what you think! Any tips or tricks you can share about how you increase your productivity? I’d love to hear them!