If you’ve ever opened a beehive, you know why the saying ‘busy as a bee’ has lasted the test of time. Those buzzing little things quite literally don’t stop, won’t stop, can’t stop. Until they sting you of course, then the little buggers get karma and kick the bucket. RIP, stripey friend.
It turns out most people I speak to are also as busy as a bee. Sometimes even more so. The more I speak to people, the more it becomes apparent that everyone is busier than everyone else. We’re all suffering from a ‘busy’ epidemic.
Unfortunately, I can’t solve the bee’s problem, but I do have a few tips for perfecting a human’s productivity, alleviating the feeling of ‘busy’, and getting to the bottom of the seemingly never-ending task list. So, let’s start there.
‘DOING THINGS’ AND ‘BEING PRODUCTIVE’ HAVE TWO VERY DIFFERENT OUTCOMES
You are the most important asset to your business. Without you, the business won’t survive, simple as that. And without taking time to recharge your own batteries, you won’t be able to stay afloat. Instead, you’ll sink to the bottom of the proverbial ocean, weighed down with responsibilities, deadlines, demands, and all the other ‘busyness’ that has attached itself to you like a leech. This doesn’t mean you are slack or can’t handle the pressure — far from it! This means that you acknowledge your own importance, your need to recharge and that you are proactive in protecting your business. That whole ‘feeling guilty if you’re not constantly working’ thing can go and jump off a cliff, for all I care. It’s not sustainable, and it doesn’t actually amount to heightened productivity, because there is a difference between being productive, and merely doing ‘stuff’ all the flipping time.It doesn’t have to be an elaborate weekend away at a spa (but you know, if you’d like to go, feel free to invite me…). It can be as simple as giving yourself a day off work, catching up with some girlfriends or treating yourself to a binge Netflix session.You’ve heard all the advice about how to be more productive: stay focused, be motivated, exercise, floss twice a day, and eat your veggies. Sounds simple enough, but whoever wrote this has clearly not lived in the year 2017 — it’s a tall ask to juggle all of those things expertly! We’ve chimed in with our own thoughts on ways to stay productive when you’re overwhelmed and freaking out.Twice, in fact. You’re welcome.It’s all about giving that mindset of yours a bit of a kick in the backside, telling it to smarten up, giving it a few practical tips. Before you know it, ‘productive’ will become your middle name (and it has such a good ring to it, right?).
WRITE IT DOWN We’d be lying if we told you that successful people don’t get overwhelmed. The Queen runs a whole darn Empire, so in between waving out of Roll Royce windows, we imagine at times that can become a teeny bit overwhelming. Sometimes, she probably just wants to hang ten with her Corgis and knock back a couple of royal G&Ts. And kudos to her! I get it. Sometimes, we simply have too much going on, and so we throw up our hands and toss productivity out the front door. Simply taking a bit of time to sit back, breathing for the first time in a week, and reflecting on any and everything can often be the first step in curing unproductivity. Identify your purpose — why do you do what you do? You don’t have to be dreaming of stopping climate change or becoming the next Prime Minister, but as long as you have a purpose and pin it down, your actions will begin to align with this. Once you know your “why,” deciding on the “what” will be made that much easier and amazingly, less overwhelming. More often than not, the thoughts that are running laps around your brain are simply to-do lists that, if they are written down, don’t need to be bullying your brain. So step one: WRITE! Whether it be on the scrappy cafe napkin that accompanies your fourth Monday morning coffee or the latest notepad that has graced your excessive stationery collection, just write. Everything from your to-do’s (big and small), random thoughts, holiday plans, through to your chocolate craving that will inevitably be incorporated into tonight’s dessert menu, get them down. Once they are tangible and out of your brain-space, you’ll have more room to think clearly and creatively.
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS! This is both the best and scariest ritual for productivity. Goals are a super incentivising way to keep yourself head down, bum up. When setting your goals, simplicity is key! Be sure not to inundate yourself. It’s important to make sure your goals don’t become your humdrum to-do or wish lists that leave you scrolling pages and pages, but that they are real, obtainable and inspiring achievements. Write down three for the week ahead — they can be as marvellous or modest as you wish — but they will keep you pushing forward, no matter what that crazy pal called ‘Life’ decides to dump on you.
PRIORITISE To make your goals happen productively, prioritising is your first stop. If you’re anything like us, you may as well go to the Olympics for compiling to-do lists and win a Guinness World Record for consistently making the longest and most unachievable ones. First thing’s first, cut out anything you genuinely don’t need to do. There is always going to be something, so don’t be a stage-five clinger, it’s only a to-do list! Reserve the cling-powers for something more worthy. Next, be brutal and order your list from most urgent and important, to could-be-left-until-the-latest-possible-moment-with-no-repercussions — but don’t overload it. Limit your list to 3-5 things per day; the trick here is also learning that it is okay and actually healthy to say no, and on the flip side, to do what you want. We all have those days where we would rather sit under our covers binging on Netflix and three tubs of Ben & Jerry’s Choc Chip Cookie Dough Ice-cream, and so having a to-do list that is made up of tasks you don’t detest with every single cell in your body will make the likelihood of them being achieved ten times higher! By being smart and prioritising your priorities, you will avoid setting yourself up for failure from the outset.
ONE HIT WONDER People love to hate the statement that “women can multitask better than men”, but in reality, this is not actually something to be all that pumped about. It pays to instead give some (or a lot) of uninterrupted TLC to each of your individual tasks. If you reach the end of each of your days feeling brain-dead, as though you’ve run 6 back-to-back marathons and hiked Mount Everest more times than you’ve blinked, then I can safely say you have entered the multitasking club but this isn’t the kind of gold membership accompanied by complimentary spa weekends and dirty martinis you’re envisioning. In the multitasking club, you’ll receive unwanted wrinkles, bonus stress, less sleep, and an unhealthy level of caffeine consumption. Cool. Multitasking more often than not reduces your productivity and leaves you drained and (mostly) unhappy at the end of the day. So to ensure your productivity levels are at an all-time high, focus on a few tasks, not the scary big picture, and do them well. If you don’t, then it’s likely you will overcommit and spread yourself too thin, and that right there is the golden (or not so golden) ticket to destruction. Take it from us; trying to do everything leads to everything not getting done.
SAY SAYONARA TO DISTRACTIONS It’s safe to say that we are a world completely obsessed with distractions. We can’t seem to escape social media, our phones, or our computers, and when we do, somehow we become socially inept. But social skills aside, avoiding distractions for the sake of our productivity is no simple feat. It’s so easy to get caught up in your Facebook feed or in scrolling endlessly through meaningless 10-second cooking phenomenons on Instagram, but this becomes toxic for your productivity. To prevent your hand reaching slyly for your phone, turn off notifications or even lock that bad boy in another room. Trust us, it sure as heck won’t miss you, and your work will thank you a million times over (especially because you will have gotten a million times more done).
BETTER TO BE OVER THAN UNDER All the perfectionists, put your hands up! We get you! As a squad of perfectionists ourselves, we have the tendency to underestimate the amount of time a task will take, but at the same time, expect perfect results. Earth-calling! This is a bad and unachievable combo. It is pretty much you asking the universe to hand more stress your way, and it usually results in a one-way ticket to hair loss. On the flip side, if you can start to over-estimate your time (what a concept!) and give yourself a bit of a deadline buffer, then we can almost guarantee that your stress levels will plummet and as a result, productivity will shoot sky-high!
TREAT YO’SELF Finally, and possibly one of, if not the most important step to help in increasing productivity, is to have some ‘you’ time. Sounds counter-intuitive right?! But if you go without dedicating time to doing the things that you love, chaos will become your reality and you will crumble. By going to that yoga class, watching that movie or complementing your week with a cheeky afternoon vino-and-cheese indulgence, you are clearing your manic mind, creating space for later work and replenishing your fuel levels. Because we can’t reiterate enough, your business doesn’t exist without you and if you have no fuel, your business machine won’t run either.Let me reaffirm, the notion of productivity is not a once and done activity, it’s something that continues to knock at our door every day of our lives. Learning how to foster your own productivity is an artform that takes practice, perseverance and patience.
Our new ebook has a whole chapter dedicated to the art of productivity. If you’re feeling stuck or like you could do with a firm kick up the rear, then I highly recommend you get your mitts on that juicy bad boy. Its 40,000 words of advice, inspiration and practical know-how… pretty much an encyclopedia of everything I wished I’d known back when I was setting up my business.