Build Your Personal Productivity System
Now that you’re well on your way in the freelance journey, we want to make sure you make the most of your time so you can enjoy the process and get where you need to go. On any trip, there’s so much to do and see, and it’s easy to get tired, stressed out, and overwhelmed.
As you build your freelance business, you may have many distractions like children, a job, social functions, or health challenges. So, in this chapter, we’ll build a personal productivity system designed just for you.
Before we get started, note these three important considerations:
- There is no “one-size-fits-all” productivity system. What works for one person will not necessarily work for the next!
- Your productivity system will evolve (and hopefully improve) over time!
- Your level of productivity will have a direct impact on the successful growth of your business!
Improved productivity will directly impact your business by allowing you to get more work done in less time, increase your average hourly rates, improve your ability to focus more on important tasks like marketing, and free up more personal time.
Parkinson’s Law is a concept that says, “work expands to fill the time allotted for completion.” It comes from Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek. If you’re only given a small amount of time for something, your effort will increase, and you’ll be more productive. So, it’s not always the number of hours you have in the day, but how you use the time. Keep this concept in mind as you build your productivity system.
What are Your Biggest Productivity Pitfalls?
As we begin, let’s explore five common areas where you may be experiencing productivity pitfalls. As you go through this list, determine what you’re struggling with and brainstorm how you can improve in those areas.
- Eating habits (too much junk food, too many carbs)
- Health issues
- Limited exercise or activity
- No consistent breaks
- Lack of consistent sleep
- No free time to do things you enjoy
- Inability to say NO to others
- Smartphone – never shuts off
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Online chat
- Random internet surfing
- Digital multitasking
- Streaming music (can be good or bad)
- Disorganized office
- Background noise
- Ongoing interruptions (family and friends)
- Fridge (food)
- Entertainment (Netflix)
- Household chores
- Lack of boundaries (consumed by urgent tasks)
- Too many tasks on the task list
- No goals
- No systems or clear plan
- Procrastination (on difficult projects)
- Boredom or lack of interest in the work
- Doing tasks when you feel like it instead of having a focused schedule
Create Your Personal Productivity Plan
As we begin, remember there is no one-size-fits-all productivity system. You can create a system that matches your personality, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses.
There are three steps to mapping out your personal productivity plan:
1. Create a “Productive” Environment
Go through this checklist and note items you could work on:
- Have a home base (your primary workspace)
- Good lighting
- Ergonomically sound chair
- Clean, organized workspace
- Add a touch of inspiration (pictures, plants)
- Ensure it is a quiet space
- Establish boundaries with others in your home
- Use soothing music (Noiz.io) or noise blockers (headset)
- Always have a full water glass on your desk
- Schedule time out at your favorite “work locations”
2. Determine Your Productivity Method
Once you have a good environment, you can choose a productivity method that works best for you. Here are seven top personal productivity methods. You may want to select one or blend two or three of them together.
Method #1: Big Rocks First
- Plan your week ahead, placing the BIG ROCKS first — your most important priorities or projects.
- Make a list of 4-6 “Big Rocks.”
- Place the “Rocks” in your weekly schedule. (Make an appointment for the Rock.)
- Place the “Big Rocks” closer to the beginning of the day, as early as possible.
- Leave space in your schedule for the pebbles (small busy tasks like email or social media).
- Evaluate your progress with the “Big Rocks” at the end of the week and celebrate your success.
Method #2: Time Blocking
- Create a schedule of daily tasks with specific blocks of time assigned to specific tasks.
- Break the time blocks into short intervals of less than 60-minute blocks.
- Time blocking forces you to be hyper focused in order to accomplish what you need to do in the allotted time.
- Use a digital clock or egg timer and stick to it.
- Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.
- A variation of time blocking is “Day-Theming,” where you dedicate a day to a certain activity. (e.g. Thursday evening is studying at Freelance University.)
Method #3: Kanban
- An extremely simple and easy-to-implement system split into three categories: To Do, Doing, and Done.
- Works well with sticky notes, a whiteboard, or an online project management tool like Trello or Asana.
- Great visual reminder of the project and tasks that need to get done.
Method #4: Getting Things Done
- Based on David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done
- Ideal system for dumping all your thoughts, to-dos, and tasks onto paper or into an online app.
- Helps you identify your priorities, organize your tasks into specific folders, and set due dates.
- Puts a plan in place for all your priorities and tasks in an organized fashion
- Lets you review the list of tasks at the end of each week
Method #5: Must Do, Should Do
- Must Do and Should Do is all about figuring out what’s critical today and what can wait.
- It’s effective in prioritizing your tasks.
- Write down your daily tasks and identify each task as Must or Should.
- MUST DO tasks are non-negotiable.
- SHOULD DO tasks are important, but not necessary to have done today.
Method #6: Pomodoro
- Decide on the task to be done, set the timer for 25 minutes, work on the task until the timer rings, and then take a short 5-minute break. Repeat that process four times, and then take a 15-30 minute break.
- Helps establish your focus by splitting your work into short bursts.
- Use an egg timer, digital timer, or a Pomodoro app like MarinaraTimer.com.
- Very effective in getting priority projects completed
- Works well with the “Time-Blocking” method
- Some find 25 minutes is not enough, so working for 50 minutes and taking a break for 10 minutes can be effective as well.
Method #7: Eisenhower
Prioritize your daily projects and tasks by dividing them into four quadrants:
- #1 Do (Important, Urgent)
- #2 Plan (Important, Not Urgent)
- #3 Delegate (Not Important, Urgent)
- #4 Eliminate (Not Important, Not Urgent)
3. Select Your Productivity Tools
These days, there are many tools you can use to maximize your productivity. Here are five key types of tools you’ll want to include in your freelance business:
Calendar (whiteboard, physical calendar, Google Calendar, Trello Calendar)
- Helps you visually create a clear schedule for the week
Time Tracker (HourStack.io, Toggl)
- Helps you keep close tabs on how you spend your time
Note Taker (physical journal, Google Docs, Evernote)
- Helps you organize your thoughts and ideas in one location
Task Manager (Trello, Asana, Google Tasks, a physical book from BestSelf.co)
- Organizes and tracks your daily priorities and tasks
Website or App Blocker (RescueTime, Freedom.to)
- Removes any digital distractions
Ten Productivity Practices to Live By!
Memorize these practices to help you when you start to feel overwhelmed or disorganized.
- Act on the important; don’t react to the urgent.
- Rule your technology; don’t let it rule you.
- Practice “batching” for regular weekly tasks (email, learning, social media).
- Establish a consistent routine and schedule. (For example, plan your next day for 15 minutes at night.)
- Take consistent breaks — never work for more than 60 minutes.
- Effectively manage your energy:
- Eat healthy.
- Sleep well.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy.
- Spend time with friends and family (or your pets).
- Prioritize those activities that will produce the best ROI for your business.
- Never be afraid to say “NO” in order to stay focused on what’s most important..
- Connect regularly with an accountability partner who can help you stay focused and on track.
- Always focus on ONE task at a time. Multitasking is a productivity killer.
Evaluate Your Progress
Here are three types of evaluation you can do to check your progress:
1. Evaluate Your System
- Is your current work environment enhancing your productivity? If not, then what changes need to be made?
- How effective is your current productivity method? What can be changed or improved?
- How effective are your current productivity tools? Any changes to make?
2. Evaluate Your Practices
- How are the ten productivity practices working for you?
- What areas are working well?
- What areas do you need to improve in?
3. Evaluate Your Results
- List your key weekly goals. (For example, read Brian Moran’s book, The 12 Week Year.)
- Identify the tasks required to complete the goals.
- Create a scorecard to evaluate the completion of priority tasks at the end of each week. For example, “I completed 6 out of 10 priority tasks for the week” (60% score).
- Your target should be an 85% completion rate in order to achieve your goals during the 12 weeks.
We’ve now arrived at the end of your 10-step Success Road Map, but the journey is just beginning! We hope this process has been a catalyst to you growing and building the business you’ve always wanted!
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