There are only 24 hours in a day, and we are all trying to make the best of those. But between our professional tasks and the constraints of our private life, we may often find ourselves overwhelmed or unable to finish our tasks. In this article, we will go over a few tricks that will help you boost your productivity and get more things done.
Set up SMART goals
Setting a vision and planning the necessary actions to reach it should be the driving forces behind all your endeavours.
In order to set up goals and match them with a timeframe, you need to be honest about what you are able to accomplish. It is very important to be realistic. For example, if you want to add a specialisation to your translation services, it may take a few weeks/months of study and practice to be really proficient. On the other hand, you may not be able to add another language pair as quickly.
Have you received negative feedback that has impacted the way you see your services? Do you find some tasks more difficult than others? Do you feel you are not proficient as you should be with a piece of software that you need? Do you see the same concerns repeated in your daily journaling sessions? Those pain points that need to be sorted are a great way to set up a system of things that need to be improved.
On the other hand, also try to enhance your positive traits. Are you so proficient in a specific task that you feel you can teach it to other professionals? What about creating that course that you have always dreamed about?
Don’t stifle your creativity
When you are setting goals, it is very important that you maintain a certain degree of flexibility, particularly in the long term. It does not mean in any way that you should abandon a task before having finished it, but you may want to revisit your timeframe or integrate new tasks into your plan.
The important thing is to learn how to recognise opportunities that will make your business grow and grab them without hesitation.
In 1990, Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham published a study after numerous years of research in the psychology of goal setting. A Theory of goal setting and task performance explains that in order to motivate yourself, your goals should be challenging enough so that you feel rewarded when you reach them. All in all, they outlined five characteristics that will make your goal-setting effective.
They state that your goals should be clear and challenging, that you should be committed, that you should listen to feedback, and that the tasks should be complex.
For an analysis of the SMART goals method according to the Locke-Latham metrics, read this article on Mind Tools.
The SMART goals template
Time-block using Parkinson’s law
Now that you have set some goals for the next month or the next quarter, you have to implement every single step in a consistent manner.
Work on your momentum and do not break your concentration when you are working on a task.
Once more, this requires an honest analysis of your negative habits. Are you watching Youtube videos while you work or constantly checking your social media feed? Try an extension like Block Site in order to make those sites unavailable for a while. The browser icon on your toolbar is really tempting and you can’t help but click on it? Use the Focus mode on Office Word to work on full screen while you write that article?
Personally, using a variation of the Pomodoro method has helped me become more productive, as I was not taking breaks before. This is a very common mistake that can actually torpedo your productivity.
Apply Pareto’s principle
Not all actions are of equal importance and you should not spend more time than necessary on the least impactful ones.
According to the Pareto’s principle, 80% of your results are caused by only 20% of your actions. Choose wisely what to focus on and you will see a significant improvement in your performance.
A boosted calendar-block
Another law that you have to be aware of is Parkinson’s Law. It states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
In layman’s terms, it means that if you decide that a task should require 10 hours, you will do it in 10 hours. But more often than not, you could just as well do it in 7 or 5.
Though I agree with this assertion in principle, I still think that we should be cautious with this law, particularly if your work is creative, meticulous or collaborative.
I usually integrate it into my calendar to set the minimum number of hours that I need to work on something in order to make things happen. Having said that, if my creativity takes over and I need to spend more time on a task, I don’t hesitate to take extra time for it.
For example, I had planned for this blog post to be around 700 words in length, with the first draft written in an hour… but everything turned out to be double.
For me, calendar-blocking using a hard stop is wonderful when I need to do some unpleasant or repetitive maintenance tasks, like decluttering my files, scheduling my social media or cleaning the house.
For more food for thought, check out this video by The Art of Improvement.
Get into habit-stacking
Whatever you do, stay consistent. It’s the only in which you can see significant improvements in the long run, even if you are applying the 1% rule and will need time to see the incremental results.
Maintain a to-do list and a routine
Now that you have a set of goals to reach and an approximate timeframe, you will need to create a list of tasks. Here are some ideas:
- A Trello board
- A productivity app like Asana or Todoist
- A paper diary or notebook
- Your journal in which you reaffirm your three main goals for the day every morning
- An Excel spreadsheet
- Your Google calendar (which can be integrated with other apps and services)
- And of course, Notion!
Try to keep a routine and set up a specific number of hours a week to work on your goals.
Batch your tasks
From maintenance on your blog to cooking your meals, task batching is the way to go if you want to save time in the long run. It also does wonders for your concentration, as it can be very difficult to get to work again after you have been interrupted by a mail notification.
Setting up specific hours in the day to check your emails or log on your social media will prevent you from wasting precious time. For example, I create all my visuals for Instagram in one go on the first Sunday of every month. It usually takes me around 2 hours to create the pictures on Canva and write the captions… and then I’m free for the rest of the month. The same goes for Tailwind. I schedule my posts every Wednesday and Sunday and don’t think about it for the rest of the week.
In order to be effective, batch your tasks according to their categories or the tools that you need. Here are some examples of tasks that you can easily batch:
- Administrative work
- Writing your blog, social media captions and newsletter
- Creating visuals
- Checking and sending mails
- Social media scheduling
Now you can integrate those tasks in your weekly calendar, bearing in mind that some of these tasks require to happen in a specific order.
Eliminate the excess
If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I am slowly becoming a minimalist.
I believe that even though you should always challenge yourself while you acquire new skills and more knowledge, you should always choose the path of least resistance… or strive to create it.
A lot of the advice that I have shared in this blog serves one goal: to streamline your processes and make your life flow more easily. Slowly identifying what can be eliminated will allow you to concentrate on your goals to the fullest without having to spread yourself thin or waste your energy.
In the same vein, now that you are in full control of your processes, think about delegating and outsourcing. Hire a VA for those repetitive tasks that do not require your decision-making or your input.
I hope that this long article was useful and that you will reflect on those actions you can take in order to boost your productivity as a freelancer or small business owner. Of course, that advice also applies to your private life or your recreational activities!
Do you have tricks that you use to boost your productivity? Let me know in the comment section below.