Curious about how to be more productive at work? Well, you have a lot of superpowers, but making more time is NOT one of them.
Today I want to share with you some of my go-to productivity hacks, both as a small business owner and a work-from-home mom!
Sprinkled in here are a few of the productivity tips that I’ve taught to more than 140 creatives inside my Art of Efficiency program, but I want to pull back the curtain and tell you what’s ACTUALLY working for me now as I try to get stuff done with a kid at home.
I never knew how productive I could be nor how decisive I could be.
Like I’ve said 100 times, moms, I salute you. I.had.no.idea.
The Small Business Administration here in the good ol’ US of A cites that there are about 28 million small businesses across the nation (note: some newer reports show closer to 30 million, source). Of those, 25 million of them cite that they have one employee.
No wonder we feel like we’re 24/7 working on our business: Statistics would say that most of us are the only one working for our businesses.
Since odds are high that you wear more than one hat in your business, I don’t want to waste another second of your time. Let’s hop in.
Catch the video and tips below, and while you’re at it, be sure to grab the FREE checklist download of 28 email templates you need in your creative business.
Productivity Habit No. 1: Timebox Yourself
If you’ve ever heard the idea of Parkinson’s Law before, the concept that your work will expand to fit the amount of time that you allow for it, this fulfills that.
Storytime: I recently got brand photography back from Abby Grace Photography, and was freggin’ PUMPED to install them. One night when my husband was at work, the baby was asleep, I whip out my laptop, poured a glass of wine, and I got ready to install some of those images.
Well, wouldn’t you know, two hours later, I’m STILL sitting there. No new images are really installed. I think I got maybe three up … because I’d gone down a completely different bunny trail.
I’m guessing you’re kind of like me, perhaps wired a little bit to let your creative imagination run wild when you finally get your hands on a task that you’ve been wanting to do.
If you’re like this, may I introduce you to timeboxing—boxing yourself in by the minutes. There are two tools that have helped me out with this.
- The first is this little square box I got for about 15 bucks on Amazon. It’s broken up into time increments, and all you do is look at the bottom, turn it on, and set a time, flip it over and let it sit on that time. And it will let you know when it’s done. Kind of a loud and annoying sound.
- The other tool that I like is an app for your phone called Focus Keeper. Basically, it runs on Pomodoro sprints of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. You can set it, and then once you get to the end of the 25 minutes, it puts on some beautiful ocean waves for you to relax to, shift gears, have a sip of water, and then it goes back into another sprint round. Super helpful.
Productivity Habit No. 2: Chug Water in the Morning
I drink a ton of coffee, carbonated water (heyooo La Croix), and I like a good glass of wine, as I mentioned. 😉 I have to remind myself to actually drink the good old-fashioned flat water. I’ve found it also fuels me from a productivity standpoint. You’ve heard this kind of thing before, but what can you actually DO to make sure you’re drinking water?
There are two ways I’ve made this a habit.
- I take a glass of water, fill it up at night, and put it on my nightstand, so in the morning after my alarm goes off and I get up, I just sit there in bed (don’t even hit the floor yet), and chug that glass of water. THEN I’m allowed to go on with my day.
- If I skip that? Before I pour my first cup of coffee, I first fill up my mug with water, chug that down real quick, and then I’m allowed to pour coffee in the mug.
Productivity Habit No. 3: The Drop and Give Me 20 Rule
I’ve been doing this since I moved into my new office space. Sometimes I just want to LEAVE MY DESK for kinda no reason … I want to get up, I want to go inside, see my baby, see my husband if he hasn’t left for work yet.
When I’m head down, working on a project and I feel like I can’t go anymore, I challenge myself to push it just a little bit further.
I self-talk bootcamp instructor-style, and I say, “Just drop and give me 20 more. 20 more minutes on this task.” You could do 10. You could do 15 more minutes. You’re the drill sergeant. 😉
This will help you push through that task, get a few more creative ideas out on paper, and THEN you’re done. Then you can walk away from it. If that sounds like something you’re going to try this week in your business, comment below or in the video and let me know so I can cheer you on!
Productivity Habit No. 4: Re-read Your Goals Every Morning
I do this as part of my rest-to-work windup routine. A lot of you know I love Powersheets (they really help me actually figure out how to be more productive and set goals!).
Fun fact. Ben Franklin, clearly a man who knew how to be more productive, did something similar to this. He kept a list of virtues, and at the end of every day, he would go through and check off the ones that he felt like he actually made some movement on.
Checking in with my goals every morning recharges my creative juices like crazy and turns on my productivity switch because I actually see what I’m working for.
Productivity Habit No. 5: Start an Idea Parking Lot
Shiny object syndrome, anyone?
Capturing your brilliant ideas is so important when it comes to how to be more productive.
My students inside The Art of Efficiency know that I call it a parking lot, but really, I’m just talking about some way for you to log and capture all of your brilliant ideas.
Mine? It’s just a list jotted down of anything I’ve thought of on a blank piece of paper inside my Powersheets each month. If I am on a call or working on a client project and I get that great idea, “What if I [fill in the blank with anything here] … ” then I pick up my pen and I jot that down on this list, and I move on from it.
Simply knowing that it lives somewhere that I can look at later helps me a LOT. I know I could use a fancy-pants digital tool for this, but what has actually helped me figure out how to be more productive is just a piece of paper.
Productivity Habit No. 6: Hack Exercise
I’m not going to tell you the usual list of work out in the morning, exercise propaganda. You’ve heard it all before.
Instead, I’ll be honest: I was a card-carrying member of the 6 a.m. workout club for years. It started back when I worked in corporate marketing, and then I did it pretty much up until … I got pregnant. Now, I have a hard time getting up too early if Tal hasn’t slept well at night, I just want a little bit more sleep, or if we’re going to go on a walk or do a workout together, like a mommy-and-me workout, at the end of the day.
But I miss that productive, blood-pumping feeling that a good morning workout can bring into your workday.
I got this idea from The Miracle Morning book: Even just 60 seconds of jumping jacks can do the trick. Maybe you want to hold a plank for 60 seconds or do a yoga inversion up against the wall.
Nope, I don’t really know the science on this. I’m just telling you what has actually worked for me, and sometimes a couple of dozen jumping jacks do the trick.
Productivity Habit No. 7: Create a System for Keeping Notes
Create a system for keeping your notes. Become an OBSESSIVE note organizer. Especially for my readers out there, begin capturing the main ideas of any books or articles that you read somewhere that is not your brain.
Your memory is not perfect.
I’m planning on doing a full video on how I read and how I take notes for the books that I’m reading here in a few weeks on my YouTube channel. If that’s something that you’re interested in or have a few questions on, comment below and I’ll try to work on those for the video.
Regardless of if you consider yourself a reader or not, go ahead and start creating a great system to house your notes and your learnings.
Bonus Habit: Build a Digital Company Guidebook
Both the last habit and this one come from the idea that any time that you’re spending looking for something that you need so killing your productivity. So? Clean up things and put them all in one spot. Even when it was just me working for my business, I had a company guidebook. It’s a board on Trello that included links to logos and brand imagery, hex codes, a link to my brand messaging style guide, mission statement, core values, my bio, everything like that. It was all in one place on this one Trello board. It still is in my business!
Here’s a video where you can learn how to create one of these for your own business if you don’t have one yet. So helpful when it comes to how to be more productive.
Now that you know how to be more productive overall in your creative small business, what about keeping your inbox at bay so you can get back to your work? I have a free checklist of 28 email templates that you need as a creative.
Grab it here!