Productivity is one of those concepts that we all know is important, and yet can feel unattainable on a consistent basis. As freelancers, entrepreneurs, or those that dictate our own schedule, what’s to keep us from spiraling down a rabbit hole, only to emerge 6 hours later with a to-do list even longer then we started with?
One way to boost productivity is to treat it as an experiment. Try out a few different techniques with the goal of observing how you best work. As an individual, you will have a different way of working than the woman next to you. The sooner you know what working style best serves you, the easier it will be to create your schedule and make more time for the other aspects of your life that fill you up.
Developed by software engineers, sprinting is a great technique for when you have a full plate or various projects going on at one time. It’s as much a mindset as it is an active practice. You begin your work session by identifying the most time-sensitive and/or impactful task you have to complete. You write them down on a post-it or in a notebook that you will be able to see clearly as a reminder. If it’s a larger scale project, focus on one piece of it that you can accomplish that day. It is helpful to break up a tasks into a maximum of 3 hour chunks (you can’t be sprinting forever!)
What follows next is the commitment to complete that first sprint, and only that task, without moving on until it’s complete. It’s discipline and determination as you focus on where you are headed. Put your phone on airplane mode, don your sound-proof headphones, create as minimal distraction as possible.
This part is important: Once you complete the task, take a moment to reward yourself. This can include a walk, 10 minutes of watching a comedic skit on the internet, calling a friend, making a special cup of tea, whatever would make you feel rewarded for your efforts. It is important to not dive right into the next task without giving yourself the well deserved accreditation. Through a small reward system, you routinely fill yourself back up before heading into the next sprint. It is a marathon, after all.
Batching is another productivity technique that organizes either hours of the day or whole days into buckets. 8am-12pm might be your creative chunk, where brainstorming, writing, content ideation takes place. You could also assign this to a specific day, meaning that on Mondays you schedule whatever will support you and your creativity and keep your focus there. If batching whole days, Tuesdays might be when you schedule your meetings or calls.
Batching is ideal if you are working for yourself or with a small team that can agree to honor each other’s batch times, or work within the same batched framework. Batching can be helpful for those of us who struggle with organization or feel subject to overwhelm. Color-coding your calendar to reflect your batch times creates the visual architecture within which you will work as well as clearly communicates your schedule to your team. When you set your week up in advance through the batching technique, you lay out a structure that will ultimately give you more space and reduce the stress of figuring out what to focus on when.
Be sure to make some of your batches about your well-being, meaning you reserve time to connect with friends or loved ones, exercise, and enjoy activities that fill you up.
One reason coworking can be so beneficial is that it offers natural accountability partners. Whether or not you are working on similar projects or not, sharing space with someone who is working propels you into focus mode (pets do not count). Accountability is one of the major struggles freelancers/entrepreneurs have, especially when working from home.
Quick fix? Choose someone to to whom you can hold yourself accountable, and that you can support in holding accountable. If you are not sharing space, make it a practice to send each other a daily email or text with the tasks you will complete that day. As is true with the batching and sprint techniques, be sure to relay how you will reward yourself once you complete said tasks. As accountability partners, you can check in with one another at the end of each day to reflect what was completed as well as what remains unfinished.