When you're trying to cram a million and one things into your day, productivity and efficiency are key. Here are 6 productivity hacks so simple you might not have thought about them yet.
These are great ideas whether you're a creative entrepreneur working several hours in an office, in a stressful full-time job or a busy mum who works from home.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. It might feel like you are only shaving off seconds here and minutes here, but over time they all add up!
But first - here are my top 3 productivity rules.
1. Your smartphone is your best friend.
Get small jobs done here and there when you are out and about. There are countless productivity apps to help you get jobs done in half the time and cut distractions.
2. Even saving seconds adds up.
Some things might only take seconds to do at the time, but in the grand scheme of things adds up to hours over a whole month.
3. Concentrate on one task at a time and take regular breaks.
There is some debate over the perfect length of time to concentrate on something for. This research shows that 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break leads to high performance, whereas others swear by the Pomodoro technique, where you concentrate on one task for 25 minutes then have a 5-minute break. Check this out for suggestions for apps to help you do this.
And finally, a really important one from Kimberley Ann Jimenez, an awesome digital marketing guru.
'Focus is your most important tool. Use it.'
Focus is the key to productivity in my life, if I know exactly what I need to do, I can action it so much faster.
So, without much further ado, here are 7 productivity hacks to make the most of those seconds and minutes which add up throughout the day:
1. PLAN PLAN PLAN
Can you tell I like planning?
I think there is some sense in the saying that too much planning can make you less productive, but if done right, having a good plan for your day will make sure you cover off all the important things. This is especially relevant if you have chunks of time that will be interrupted, whether that's meetings you have to go to, kids to pick up from school or a baby to feed!
My planning tool of choice is Trello, and I have shown a screenshot below. I would highly recommend it and have a video coming out next week so look out for that, but I have also given a few extra suggestions below depending on whether you prefer analogue or digital.
If you prefer an analogue method, then I know several people who love planners or swear by bullet journaling. Here is a great video on bullet journaling to get you started.
2. Bookmark everything.
Ok, not everything, because then you won't use it. But everything that you use frequently. If you use it more than twice or three times a week, add it to your bookmarks bar. This might sound so basic, but so many people don't use it. Even if it only saves you seconds, it all adds up, and it means you can close some of those tabs you have open!
The colour organisation is optional, but it's not just to look pretty, it also makes it easier to find the icon you are looking for as our brains are wired to respond to colour - think traffic lights, stop signs and bumble bees!
Don't just link to the homepage of the website, bookmark the page you use the most once you've logged in. Here is what mine looks like using Chrome:
The best way to work out what you need on there is to see what shows up most in your history or what's making up those millions of tabs you have open (that are slowing down your computer.)
If you use Chrome here is how to take out the words and make it just an icon: you just have to go to bookmarks manager, right click on the icon you want to change, select edit and delete the text. You can then drag the icons where you want them to go.
Don't forget you can also bookmark web pages on your phone, so add them to your home screen and in your web browser. You can even sync them with your computer, using iCloud. Check out a tutorial here.
3. Voice Memos
You're walking back from dropping the kids off at school or taking the dog out for a morning stroll. An idea for a new product or a blog post strikes. Instead of stopping to note it down on your phone, ask Siri to open (or just navigate to) your Voice Memos app, it will already be installed on an iPhone, or there are other apps you can use for both iPhone and android.
Start recording your thoughts, whether a whole blog post or just a new product idea and how it would work. If you're self-conscious that people will look at you funny if you're holding the phone straight in front of you, then hold it up to your ear as if you're on the telephone!
When you get a moment you can type up your notes, or relisten to your ideas. I often record a large part of my blog posts on the way back from dropping the older one at nursery while the younger one sleeps in the sling or buggy. It's a great use of that dead time.
4. Plan and automate your social media
There are several ways you can do this with social media management tools, and although I think it's great to leave room to allow for spontaneity, scheduling definitely takes off some of the pressure and can be a huge time saver. I still have to try out several platforms to find the perfect one for me, but for now, I've given a quick breakdown of some of the main tools out there.
Instagram App - link up your Facebook page and your Twitter feed, and Flickr and Swarm if you have them. If you want to link up Twitter it is best to use Zapier or IFFFT (see below) to enable you to post a full photo to your Twitter feed instead of just a link. If you are posting to Facebook from Instagram and using hashtags, then make sure you either go back into the Instagram app and add the hashtags after OR go into Facebook and delete them from the post. A study by BuzzSumo showed that posts with hashtags on Facebook get less interaction than those without.
Buffer - In their own words, Buffer is a new and smarter way to share what you want to share on Social Media. You can schedule posts ahead of time, set up routines to copy and repeat, and is a favourite for many small businesses. There is also loads you can do with the free version. Connect
Connect - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Google+ and more.
Dlvr.It - less well known but great for blogs, it can pull posts from your RSS feed, you can set up and leave it, but not as many customisation options as other platforms.
Connect - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Google+ and more.
Later.com - Instagram only, but super easy to plan and use, a grid format is available which lends itself to the visual nature of Instagram. It can't post to the app as it's against their terms of service, so you need to still publish it yourself in a few clicks, but this is the case with any of the others.
Connect - Instagram
Hootsuite - an all-encompassing social media manager, not only does this help you manage your social platforms but it also allows you to monitor keywords, manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Ping.fm and WordPress profiles, schedule messages, and measure your success.
Connect - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Google+, Flickr, FourSpace, Stumbleupon, Reddit + much more!
Sprout Social - similar to buffer and other tools, but with a brilliant analysis of performance and an easy to contact customer service team. Starting prices from $99 so definitely one for bigger businesses.
Connect - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Google+
Tweetdeck - just Twitter as the name suggests, this platform allows you to queue multiple tweets, find users to follow through certain hashtags, set up multiple newsfeeds and see it all easier in one window. Perfect for those looking to up their Twitter game.
Connect - Twitter
Meet Edgar - endorsed by digital marketer Neil Patel this one has all the features of other social media schedulers but goes beyond in that it is also able to analyse how your posts performed and reuse the most popular content. This one does come at a monthly cost though.
Connect - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest
Tailwind - a Pinterest only tool, you can: discover content, schedule posts, monitor conversations, amplify your reach, and analyse the results. This is a really popular one and they also give a free trial.
Connect - Pinterest
Boardbooster - another Pinterest tool. Not as sleek as Tailwind, but this one excels at post to shared boards and reusing content. You can schedule pins, streamline group board contribution, host top quality group boards and see what is and isn't working.
Connect - Pinterest
Not scheduling tools but worth a mention to help automate and link up apps and social platforms, these two are definitely worth checking out.
Zapier - Not just social media, but great for linking them up. This one connects your apps and automates your workflows.
IFFFT - very similar to Zapier, this one helps you do more with the services you love. Connect Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Fitbit, Slack, Skype, and hundreds more.
5. Check your notification settings
Don't worry, that doesn't really say 10,000! Notifications can be a huge distraction though, so sorting them out can really help save you time. Not only does it save time because you won't be checking your apps as much, but when we are interrupted, a research study from the University of California Irvine shows that it takes 23 minutes on average to refocus on a task once we have lost our focus!
OK, we all love a good Facebook group (or 35) and there is a huge amount of value in them, but they can also be a massive distraction. Choose two or three groups which you want to be an active part of and leave the notifications on for those. For everything else, choose to see only the highlights, or turn them off.
If the groups you've turned off are important still and you want to remember to check in with them, then make a note of that on your to-do list or your planning tool. You are much better off allocating yourself 30 minutes to check in with your Facebook groups than checking and being notified constantly throughout the day. I use an add-on for Trello to remind me every day to check in with certain Facebook groups.
You can also use the Facebook groups app which is brilliant because it means you can turn off all the notifications on your personal Facebook and choose which groups you want notifications from.
A great way to manage comments on Facebook is to break them into three categories
A. You've commented and need to see what everyone else says, for example, that hilarious story from your friend OR a question in a group that you need answering.
Action - nothing, leave notifications on, obvs.
B. You've commented and now you don't need to know who else posts, for example, a birthday post
Action - turn those notifications off, they're just distracting you
C. You've commented and you don't need to see who posts BUT you need to action it later, for example, a blog post comments thread in a group.
Action - Turn notifications off but add a reminder to your phone, write it on your to-do list, or add to your online management system. Tick it off once you've completed.
Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms
Some alerts are not distracting to some but will be to others. Instagram doesn't distract me so I leave it on, but Linkedin and Twitter I find distracting. I do schedule time to check in though so that I keep up with comments and messages, but I try not to constantly check throughout the day.
How often have you heard your email ping in, checked it and it's ANOTHER spam email? Or maybe it's not spam, it's just a standard email newsletter you have signed up, which you want to see, but not right now? Well, let me introduce you to Unroll Me.
You can swipe to choose which emails you want to block, receive it as normal, or collate into one email a day. It's brilliant, go try it out!
6. Create a workflow checklist
OK, it might sound simple but if you have several actions which you have to complete in order to finish a task then writing out the order or designing a cheat sheet and posting it up where you can see it, or adding it to your dashboard, can save you lots of time. You don't even have to think about what comes next because it's right there on your wall. Perhaps it's the process of making one of your products and packaging it, or how you organise your work for the day. It may be very simple of more complicated.
It could be very simple or more complicated. Perhaps it is simply written on a piece of paper, it could be beautifully designed and printed or it could be within your digital organising tool. Whichever way you choose, make it easy for you to glance at and know exactly what you need to do next.
I created one for a blog post, so let me know in the comments if you would be interested in having that as a download.
So these are my top simple tips, I hope you found them useful! Do you have any extras to add? Let us know in the comments below.