We’re all given the same amount of hours in each day, and yet some people just seem to be able to get more done. Are they superhuman? Perhaps. But it’s more likely that they just have strategies in place that set them up for success.
Even before I started working for myself, I was under a ton of pressure to be incredibly productive. I was working a 9-5 management position while also building my own personal brand on social media, creating content for my blog, as well as taking on freelance marketing and photography work on the side. And unfortunately, I burnt out. Repeatedly. I was always tired. I was always sick. It wasn’t any fun.
Fast forward to today, and while I don’t have any more hours in the day and I’m still just as busy as ever, I feel as though I have reached a level of productivity that I am proud of, while not burning out. How do I do it? I have rules and strategies for myself. I also now have certain things in my life that are non-negotiable.
In partnership with Pranin Organic and their new Smoothie Boosters, I’m excited to be sharing 9 of my top tips for increasing productivity while avoiding burn-out.
This tip is one that took me quite a bit of time to get used to implementing, but it had to happen. You have to really step up and be your own executive assistant. Think about it – if your job was to ensure someone else’s productivity and sanity, what would you do? Without hesitation, you would guard their time, communicate the value of their time to others, limit their distractions, and ensure that what’s most important to them is what gets prioritized.
So start doing the same for yourself. People will understand. And if they don’t, you’re better off without them anyway because this shows a clear lack of respect for your boundaries, and therefore, you.
I hear you, “Okay great Caley, but how do I actually do this without feeling worse than I do after I eat 5 pieces of pizza?” (You know the feeling I’m talking about). Well, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Please adapt these to suit your situation and personality.
“Hey Sue! Thanks for reaching out. I’m really flattered that you thought of me for this opportunity! At this time I’m going to have to pass, but I’d be open to hearing about anything in the future that comes up.”
Unless it’s something you previously committed to, you don’t owe anyone an excuse or explanation, remember that. However, sometimes we do feel like providing a bit more background will help the other person to understand our side a bit more effectively.
“Hey Ben! Thanks for reaching out, nice to hear from you. Your new endeavour sounds really exciting! I’m flattered that you think I would be a great person to gather feedback from, however, at this time I am limiting my pro bono work in order to focus on my current priorities. I wish you the best with it and I’m sure we’ll be in touch again soon. Cheers!”
And lastly, if it’s a close friend, you might want to provide even more information so you don’t come across as cold, and also remain open and accommodating so you continue to nurture your relationship.
“Hey Jenna! Thanks so much for the invite, sounds like it’s going to be a great time! I wish I could be there but my schedule is really hectic between work and school right now so I need to be careful about overbooking myself so I have enough time to rest. AKA not burn out, haha. At the end of the month I’ll have more time and can’t wait to see you then, if you’re around. I’ll get in touch closer to then so we can get something solid planned. Thanks again and have a blast! Wish I could be there.”
If there is a certain situation you’d like help with crafting a response to, leave it in the comments section on this article and I’ll do my best to reply to you with a response. Saying no truly is a craft in itself, and it takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with it.
Release Tension, Set Intention
I stumbled across best-selling author and high-performance coach Brendon Burchard last year and read his book, High Performance Habits. In the book, he outlines six habits that were found to be consistently present among high performers. These high performers were only classified as such if they were high performers in ALL aspects of their lives. They were happy, productive, and not burnt-out or destroying their personal relationships in favour of their careers.
One of the tips he talks about in the book is releasing tension and setting intention. A good example of this is coming home from work for the day, and while sitting in your car before going inside, taking a moment to reflect on your day at work and then letting it go. You essentially become mindful that you are now done work, and you can leave work mentally now. The second part of this comes with setting intention for whatever situation you are about to walk into. So for example, if you are about to walk into the house where your spouse and children are, take a moment to think about who you want to be when you walk in that door, how you want to be perceived by them, and what you hope to accomplish. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to your spouse about what happened at work that day, but how you go about doing so will be different than if you were still charged up about it and in the same mindset as you were while you were at work.
I apply this principle to almost every situation in my life now. Before client meetings, I always let go of what happened right before it and set my intentions for the meeting, how I want the client to feel during and after the meeting, and what I want to get out of the meeting. Before I meet a friend to hang out, I let go of what happened before I meet them and I bring the focus onto my friend. I want my friend to feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
Releasing tension and setting intention alone can and will vastly change your life.
Batch AND Schedule Your Emails
Batching emails has been a trendy topic for a while now, and most of us know that being in our inboxes while trying to accomplish things that are not in our inboxes can be detrimental to productivity. However, another layer to this that I’ve personally added on to my routine is to schedule my emails.
What I mean by this is that instead of sending all of my replies to my emails in real-time, I often schedule emails to A) ensure that I don’t get replies immediately after I send them and therefore stay in my inbox all day and B) set expectations. Setting expectations is important. If you’re always replying to every email within 10 minutes of receiving it, what happens if you aren’t able to all of a sudden because, well, you realized that it’s killing your productivity? If a co-worker has an emergency, they can walk over to your desk. If your boss or client has a true emergency, they can call you.
If you’re using Gmail as your email provider, you can use the Chrome extension Boomerang to schedule emails.
Turn Off Your Phone Notifications
Checking our phones has become a compulsive urge for most of us. As it turns out, there’s actually a psychological reason behind this, and it all has to do with dopamine. When our phone goes off, we feel a rush of dopamine – which controls the pleasure circuits in our brain. You can read more about this phenomenon here.
While notifications and the anticipation of what awaits behind them might be exciting, these constant distractions are major productivity killers. Every time we get a notification, our brain chemistry changes.
So turn off your notifications.
I don’t get notifications for anything on my phone except for phone calls and texts from certain people. This means that when I need to be in the zone, I can stay there. If someone has a true emergency, they can call me.
Over the past year, doing this has allowed me to significantly increase my focus, and I’ve been able to stay in the moment and actually enjoy life.
If turning off all notifications feels impossible for you right now, start by turning off just a few to begin with.
This is pretty straight-forward. I do believe though that most people overcomplicate making lists. They put too many items on their list, and they don’t prioritize. I used to be a culprit of this, and what it resulted in was me not feeling accomplished enough because I wouldn’t complete every single thing in an impossible amount of time. Which killed my motivation and productivity. I would think to myself “Well, I only got 3 out of 7 items done so far and it’s already 3pm, so screw it.”, and then would become distracted by unproductive things.
So what do I do now that’s so different?
I make a list that is only for the current day, and on that list I only include THREE items.
I could have 193,840 things that should be done that day, but only allowing yourself to choose three forces you to prioritize. It’s important to note that the three things on your to-do list must be accomplishable in that day. So for example, you couldn’t write “create marketing plan for new product launch”, but you would write “define objectives and goals for marketing plan for new product launch”.
Allowing yourself to only include three, accomplishable items on your to-do list means you will more than likely actually complete all three items. And you will also likely finish them ahead of schedule AND feel so productive that you start to move onto another task you hadn’t expected to get to yet, or find yourself with time you can use to practice self-care and not feel guilty about doing so.
Limit In-Person Meetings
When you work for someone else or in a team, having in-person meetings can be highly effective. As long as they’re kept on track and on time. Before booking a meeting with co-workers, you should already have a very clear expectation of what you need to accomplish in the meeting, and it should be booked for no more time than is needed to accomplish it.
If you’re working for yourself, limiting in-person meetings becomes even more crucial. While face-to-face meetings are required for relationship building, you can still be conscious of who you meet with and how much time you spend with them.
For example, in my line of work, it’s quite common for new client enquiries to include a request to meet face-to-face in their initial email. I almost never agree to this. Here’s a scenario that could very well happen if I did:
I book a 30-minute meeting with the client to better understand their needs. I haven’t asked them anything else via email.
I travel 30 minutes to the meeting.
The meeting then goes over time by 30 minutes.
At the end of the meeting I find out they need the project done ASAP and their budget is very limited and they realistically can’t even afford to work with me. I tell them it seems that we are not a good fit to work together at this time.
I then travel back from the meeting for 30 minutes.
Two hours. I just wasted two freaking hours of my time.
Other things I could’ve done with those two hours:
– Caught up with a friend
– Put in a great workout
– Meal prepped for an entire week of lunches (not that I actually do this but I should)
– Gotten ahead on current client work
You get the idea.
So what do I actually do when these requests come in?
I reply to their email with the starting point for my fees for the services they are enquiring about, I ask about their ideal timelines and provide info on my typical turnaround time and/or onboarding process, and in the same email, I say “If this works with your budget and time expectations, let’s hop on a 15-30 minute call so I can learn more about you, your company, and your needs, and to provide you with an opportunity to ask me any questions you may have about working together. Does X day at X time work for you?”
From there, if the call goes well, I would either at that point meet the potential client in person, or if they’re eager and already know they want to work with me for sure, I would prepare a proposal for them and then request to go over it together in person.
Exercise at Least Three Times/Week
Exercising causes your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins reduce anxiety, improve your overall mood, and enhance self-esteem. All things crucial to increasing focus and productivity.
Furthermore, exercise releases stress, improves your memory, and also improves sleep.
I don’t really need to say more. But I will.
At the start of 2018, regular exercise finally became non-negotiable in my life and I’ve enjoyed all of the benefits listed above because of it.
I am only going to say this once. If you don’t have time to exercise and take care of yourself, it’s not worth it. You will burn out.
There is no glory in working 16 hours a day if you are sacrificing your health to do so.
Okay, this is much easier said than done. And I still am nowhere near where I want to be on this one yet as I have and have always had a MAJOR sweet tooth. However, I am pretty good at avoiding sugar during my “working hours”. If you’re reaching for sugary treats during the work day, you’re only asking for a major energy crash to happen shortly after, which can really throw you off. And if you have any amount of insulin resistance like I do, avoiding sugar during times you need to focus becomes absolutely crucial for your productivity.
Make Vitamins and Minerals a Priority
Vitamins and Minerals are considered essential nutrients for good reason. They perform HUNDREDS of functions within our bodies. While we do get vitamins and minerals from food, it’s extremely rare that any one of us is receiving a sufficient amount of everything we need from our diet alone. This is even more likely to be the case for those of us who are busy and always on the go. I know that I certainly don’t get everything I need from diet alone, so I turn to other ways to ensure I’m getting what I need so I can be a healthier version of myself. One who is less prone to sickness, has more energy, and is more resilient both physically and mentally.
To make getting everything I need super easy and quick, I use Pranin Organic Smoothie Boosters to get my vitamins and minerals while I’m on the go – usually when rushing to client meetings that I scheduled in for way too early. Whoops.
Each sachet has either 24 or 25 essential vitamins and minerals depending on which flavour you choose – Raw Cacao or Berry Banana, respectively. They’re made exclusively from plant-based whole foods and can be added to at least 500ml of your favourite smoothie, nut-milk, juice, or even just in water if you want to get those nutrients down the hatch fast. When my body is nourished I enjoy having more energy and fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.
I have also found that while adding the entire sachet is recommended to enjoy the full benefits, I typically add only one half of it to each smoothie and still feel a noticeable difference, thanks to the extra nutrition kick. If you do just use a half, It’s ideal to clip the top shut and store it in the fridge after opening to preserve the nutrient quality and potency, and the remaining sachet should be consumed within a few days of opening for the best quality.
Until September 21st, 2018, use Code caleydimmock at pranin.com to get 20% off of any purchase so you can try Pranin Organic Smoothie Boosters for yourself! (limited to one use per person)
*This article was sponsored by Pranin Organic. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Awesomeness ! Hey CJ thanks. 🙂