…basically a list of how I make lists
Recently I’ve really found my productivity groove. The hours and hours of ‘cats and dogs being BFFs‘ video browsing has been cut down from four hour slots to just a handful a day, my mid-afternoon daydreams fantasising about taking naps have become just a once a week occurrence and when I reach Friday evening I’ve usually ticked off a solid 95% of my to-do list, instead of aborting it mid-week. There are a couple of factors that have contributed to my new-found burst of energy, which I mention in this blog post here, but I think it comes down to having more focus and politely declining things that my head replies ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that‘ in response to. It’s also a classic case of chomping down on veggies instead of five bowls of Coco Pops a day (BOO!) and being consistent with actually lugging my arse off my new blue velvet chair to move (I. Can’t. Stop. Stroking. It.). You’ve heard that one before and I’m eye-rolling at myself as I type it, but it’s annoyingly true.
Seeing as I’m back in a place where I actually plan my day – there were a few shaky list-free months prior to this, let me tell you – I thought I’d share the processes I use to nail down my goals and to-dos for the year, month, week and day…
THE BIGGER PICTURE
There’s something that’s both equally terrifying and tremendously optimistic when it comes to setting goals for the year ahead. Being the plan-obsessed Virgo that I am, I bloody love it and practically pant with excitement at the thought of New Years resolutions, so I’m never one to pass up an opportunity to pinpoint some areas to tackle in the year ahead. Heck – I even made a video about it. There’s a blog post too! Have a read of this to see my tips of how to make resolutions that are realistic and you might even be able to stick to come December.
Now being way past the halfway point of 2017, you might just want to hold off till January to set some long-term plans. But if you missed that boat at the beginning of the year, there’s no harm in sitting down and thinking about where you’d like to be personally, financially and career-wise when the 31st December rolls around. Write them down and either pin them up somewhere you can see them daily, or pop ’em on a page in your notepad that you turn past frequently. That way you can’t get away from them and they’re easy to find when it comes to planning your month ahead…
MONTH TO MONTH
I tend to plan in a way that’s more focused on week-to-week, but when the first of the month rolls around it’s nice to be able to look in your calendar and see what the next four weeks are shaping up like. After being a slave to my paper diary for so long, I’m now the biggest lover of iCal. Unfortunately you no longer have the ‘Oh yes, I’ll have to check my diary when I get home to see if I can squeeze that in‘ excuse, but it does make changes, updates and extra information so much easier to add. Depending on which display you use, it’s also a better way of getting a snapshot of the month.
I’m a creature who loves home because I love nothing more than curling up under a blanket, sticking on a re-run of Friends and making puppy eyes at Mark until he finally relents on our Domino’s VS. Pizza Hut debate that we have every weekend (I’m obviously the one who fights the corner for Domino’s). I also love it because it’s where I’m at my most focused and most productive, and I just feel good whenever I’m chipping away at work and the dreaded inbox *shudders*. If I look at my calendar and the first few weeks of the month are heavy on trips, weekends away and London days; then I’ll try and block out the second half of the month as ‘Brighton time’ where I’m based at home and crack on with my to-do lists (and Domino’s consumption). #Balance, and all that.
WEEK TO WEEK
I used to plan daily; writing these lists that were as long as one full-page, detailing every single, little thing that I had to get done each day, with tasks broken down into 15 different steps and a shedload of boxes to tick off. Although it meant that I spent a large proportion of the day ticking which is always fun, it also meant that my day looked overwhelming from the get go, and if I didn’t complete my to-do list it looked as though I still had another 26 different things to do before I’d actually get to the end of it. I felt stressed and shite.
However, I have found a new system that works for me and for the past four weeks I’ve stuck to it, managed to tick off all but one or two tasks by the end of the week and I feel satisfied when I shut my laptop at the end of the week. Here’s the secret. I’ve made it… realistic. On a Friday before I shut up shop, I take a look at how my diary is shaping up for the week ahead. I take into account any travelling I’m doing, gym or pilates sessions I’ve got booked in, when I plan to vlog and any social stuff I’ve got on. Then I write out a plan from Monday to Friday that fits around whatever else I’ve got on. I’ve learnt that on a day where we’re shooting pictures, there’s not much else I can get done aside from emails because the prep and editing afterwards swallow up my time. If I want to go to the co-working space then I’m best off writing blog posts because for editing YouTube videos I need stone-cold silence. So not only am I realistic about what work I can get done where and in what time slots, I set myself just four to six tasks a day. My whole week fits onto one page! It’s been pretty life-changing and although there’s less ticking that happens, I actually tick off everything in the allotted time (mostly!).
DAY TO DAY
Because I set my agenda weekly, there’s not much switching around day to day. I have my tasks to complete and I think about how best to go about getting them done. Usually I’ll try and tick off the quick ones first to break the back of them, or if I’m feeling all badass from some podcast listening (have a read of some of my favourite career-related ones below), I’ll go for the hardest/longest/’one that makes me groan when I look at it’ tickbox first. As a general rule though I’ll try and write blog posts and edit videos during times of the day when I’m least likely to be disturbed and do shorter, more errand-based tasks when the phone is ringing and the postman is at the door and I’m naked about to jump in the shower. I also find that keeping my phone on silent and turned facing down helps minimise distractions and I keep my mail app closed on my laptop to halt the constant pings. Only opening it when I have 20 minutes on the clock to reply, to save emails hanging around in my inbox for days.
CAREER PODCASTS I LOVE
Being Boss – I literally discovered this last Friday and have since listened to about 10 episodes as I’ve cleaned, tidied and pottered around the house. The hosts, Emily and Kathleen, call this a podcast for creative entrepreneurs and they cover everything from how they’ve created functional and inspiring home offices to the importance of ‘White Space’ and how they fiercely protect their weekends to keep them work-free. A great one to listen to if you need some idea juice.
The Lively Show – I’ve loved Jess’ podcast for years and it’s still one that I listen to whenever I feel like I need to get my brain in order. Her show covers a vast amount of topics, but I love her Q&A episodes where she talks about her travels and her experience of basically pressing the reset button on her life. Her guided mediations are also a great tool for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Her podcast is basically like a big ol’, comforting hug.
Let’s Discuss – Created by Monica of The Elgin Avenue and Ella of Coco’s Tea Party, I love the range of topics they talk about in their episodes and often find myself nodding along in agreement. It’s one of my favourites, because with them both being bloggers we’re all kind of in the same boat in a lot of different situations. I found their episode on productivity and procrastination to be particularly insightful and kick-ass when it came to motivation.
How I Built This – This is one of the few podcasts that Mark and I both enjoy equally, so we often crack this one out when we’re on long car journeys together. This is an NPR created podcast and basically gets in amazing guests who’ve had ridiculous levels of success with their business ideas and asks them how they started their brands. I’d recommend a listen to the airbnb episode, which actually started as people staying on air beds in the founder’s front room. MAD.
Photos by Lauren Shipley