Whether you work at home or in a traditional office, sometimes it’s hard to have a productive day…
…It’s called Monday. Haha.
No, but in all seriousness, there are days even in the middle of the week where we feel like we can’t even. But we need to even. We must even.
These 12 work hacks will help you find your productivity and FOCUS!
So, what’s a workin’ gal to do when she’s gotta find her mojo?
Lucky for you, I’ve got you covered! Through a lot of trial and error when I was a newbie blogger (including days when focus felt downright IMPOSSIBLE), I eventually figured out what tools I needed to help me have a productive day, every day. Nowadays, as Busy Budgeter has grown into a small team, I’ve also figured out how to put a bunch of great productivity tips and tools in place to help my WHOLE TEAM have a productive day.
These are REAL tools we actually use (not just lofty advice and floofy philosophy). These are the tools my team uses to communicate, to organize and to get more work DONE. These productivity tools work for individuals and for groups, so use them everywhere.
Here’s the deal: I know what it’s like to attempt to blog when you’ve got a crying baby and a toddler (or two) running around. Being more productive feels impossible certain days. I ran an in-home daycare when I first started out and there were times when I thought I was NEVER going to get any work completed on my blog.
I also know it’s hard to focus at your day job when all you want is to stay at home with your kiddos. I’ve been there too. I know what it’s like when you’re striving to do awesome work, have a productive day then hurry home to your little one, but every task feels overwhelming. If you’ve ever wondered how to be more organized, how to master being more productive. or how to ramp up your focus, these are the productivity hacks you need.
You need EASY productivity ideas to trick your brain into focusing and being more productive. You need tools to help you get more accomplished. You need these work hacks to have a productive day…every day!
On certain days, it’s hard to get it all done. Use these productivity tips and tools to get more accomplished, so you can enjoy what really matters!
1. Eat the Frog
The term eat the frog comes from Mark Twain. He once said, “If the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.”
The way this applies to your workday? Tackle your hardest and most challenging task first. Do the worst task on your to do list. Pick the item you don’t want to do, but know you need to do. Get it crossed off first thing in the morning. Bam. Done.
For this plan to work, you need to keep a to do list. Simply jot down the items you need to achieve each day. Look over the list and prioritize. What’s your A-List? Your must-do items. What’s your B-List? Your want-to-do items. Your C-List? The items you could do, if you have time, but don’t necessarily need to do. And your D-List: the items you don’t want to do and probably don’t need to do either. Your frog is the A-List item you’re dreading: the item you NEED to do but don’t necessarily WANT to do. Do it and get it over with!
2. Life Planner
If you don't have anywhere to put your to do list, a life planner is an awesome tool for keeping all your work (and life) “stuff” together and organized. I am a life planner ADDICT! But it's easy for literally anyone to get started using one. The great news is that they're designed to help you be more productive. Plus, there are a ton out there to choose from, depending on what you’re hoping to do with your planner and the way you want to use it.
I’m partial to the Living Well Planner, because after years of searching for the perfect planner (and even making my own–you can make your own custom planner for less than $5 HERE), I find it does exactly I want it to do. It has EVERYTHING you guys, so it's worth the investment. It helps me set goals. It helps me keep track of my budget and finances like the Lauren Greutman planner. It helps me meal plan. It’s as beautiful as the Erin Condren planners, but more adaptable, because it doesn’t feature pre-printed dates. (Did I mention I love planners?)
A life planner is so valuable. I seriously think of mine as an extension of my brain. All of those bits and pieces of information I carry around and keep track of, I’m able to let go because I simply put it right in my planner. At a glance, I get an overview of my day, my week, my month and where I stand – and I can't have a productive day without that overview. I see the projects I need to work on and I know where all the aspects of my life fit in. I heart my planner!
3. 12 Week Year
Author Brian Moran wrote the book The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months. Most people and even businesses set annual goals. Annual goals are hard to measure. They’re often nebulous and lofty. What happens with an annual goal? You set the goal and put it off because you think you’ve got plenty of time. Then around May or so you think about it, then summer comes, then you hope to pick it back up in September, then the holidays, and the year’s up.
Annual goals are too broad. They aren’t focused. You measure a little chunk of progress over a huge range of time. What Moran proposes is a 12 Week Year instead. Create tactical goals over 12 weeks. Focus your plan, adjust each week and achieve your vision in a shorter, more direct amount of time.
In the world of blogging, this is particularly applicable. The atmosphere changes quickly in social media and blogging. For example, a simple change in the Pinterest algorithm may change your traffic drastically. Using the 12 Week Year approach allows you to roll with the punches. It allows you to create small goals, achieve and celebrate them along the way. Your focus is narrowed to simply tasks you need to do immediately.
4. Work Management System
When work comes in, how does it get accomplished? When a new client contacts you, a blog reader reaches out, or a company contacts your company with a partnership opportunity, how to you handle it? A work management system is how you handle the workflows for your blog or business.
If you're a blogger, think of your blog like a company. Your product is your posts. Your customers are your readers. How are you creating the product your customers want? How are you getting the product to them? How are you letting them know about your product?
Drawing out a simple workflow is an awesome exercise to help you envision the path of your work from start to finish. What steps do you need to take to get the work done? Who is responsible for each specific task in the process? How will the work get done? Try creating a visual workflow (literally draw it out!) to reveal areas of redundancy and spots where you could use more efficiency.
Now that you have to do lists and workflows…how the heck do you get all the work done?? Enter: Scrum. Scrum is an agile project management framework that can help you and your team get more stuff done, more quickly. (Bear with me here…) You begin by assigning a Product Owner (this is probably YOU: the person who's ultimately in charge and responsible for completing the work). The Product Owner takes a project and breaks it down into backlog, which is essentially a list of tasks, which are then prioritized.
Each week (or every few weeks), a batch of tasks is pulled from the backlog and placed into a “sprint.” Every task is assigned to a team member and the team member should have everything they need to complete their tasks within the sprint without having to wait on anyone else (ideally). This is all put up on a “dashboard” so every team member can see the team's real-time progress.
The team has a quick meeting each day (a Scrum) to see how everyone's doing on progress. Then everyone works through their tasks until the sprint is complete! If the sprint takes longer than expected or there are roadblocks along the way, the sprint is reviewed so that the next sprint will be better.
6. Project Management & Communication Software
There are tons of different software tools I use, from tracking my thoughts and ideas in the Notes app on my phone to using Trello to help with Scrum and workflow. I use Asana as a tool to assist with project management and plan our editorial calendar.
We use Slack for communication, which is a wonderful tool because it allows you to save conversations, share documents and pass information back and forth as needed. We use Weekdone for weekly and quarterly planning (strongly needed if you’re following the 12 Week Year). Weekdone integrates with Asana, so we're able to include our planning and goals to see exactly where each task stands.
Now do you need ALL of these tools? Probably not, but it’s good to get a handle on which tools are out there and available to you. You might find a few pieces of software (many for free) you can’t live without!
7. Time Blocking
Now it's time to get the work DONE! Time blocking is another super helpful productivity strategy. It allows you to block out your time in dedicated 15-30-minute chunks. During the allotted amount of time, you focus on ONE task. This means during that 30 minutes, you don’t check email, you don’t visit Facebook, you don’t get up to find a snack.
The reason time blocking works so well, is it helps you set aside time for planning and time to really have a productive day. It helps you prioritize your tasks. Time blocking helps you get work accomplished, but also see a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll never feel as though you’re endlessly spinning your wheels on a task. After the allotted block of time, you take a break, then you move on to the next task. If you need more time, you move it to another block.
If you’ve ever become bogged down with a project, or spent hours “brainstorming” or planning only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing, I want you to use time blocking. It’s a game-changer, a true gateway to being more productive on a daily basis! Use time blocking for all sorts of tasks too, not simply work. Use it to clean your house, work out, do your meal prep, or other need-to-achieve tasks.
8. Good to Great
Good to Great is an awesome book on leadership and company structure. Author Jim C. Collins describes the path good companies take to become great companies. In researching Good to Great, he used a group of researchers who studied best practices and commonalities among the most successful teams and businesses.
What did he find? Great companies are driven by passion, talent and what earns them money. They take a hard look at where they are, they understand shortcomings, but they’re hopeful. Successful companies believe they will do well.
Great companies focus on getting the right talent and then tailoring the job to what they’re awesome at. If you’re someone who’s great at the creative side of your blog but not-so-great at the technical aspects, don’t struggle and get hung up on roadblocks. Instead, find a tech expert to help you do what you need to complete. This book has so many helpful productivity tips; it’s a great resource.
Productivity Tools for Bloggers…
While the aforementioned management, organization and productivity tools are great for ensuring you have a productive day in ANY setting (including blogging), if you're ready to start a blog or take your blog to the next level, here are some awesome productivity tools and ideas specifically for bloggers!
9. Elite Blog Academy
For bloggers, there isn’t a single blogging tool I’ve found better for productivity, better for focus and better for achieving your blogging goals. Elite Blogging Academy (affectionately known as EBA by its students) is amazing.
EBA offers a foundational course on blogging, with step-by-step instruction. Elite Blog Academy walked me from having no idea how bloggers make money to making a full-time income from my blog within just 10 months.
The best part is, EBA has a well-organized process that didn’t overwhelm me. I call it “Do this, then come back to me.”, “Did you do it? Great! Now do this.” And it works… alarmingly well.
The biggest downside of EBA though is that they only open it for registration once a year for five days, which makes it almost impossible for anyone that isn’t on their waiting list to get access to the class. If you aren’t already… You can sign up for their waiting list here.
10. Batch Blogging
Batch blogging is a simple method for keeping your day productive and getting you caught up with your editorial calendar goals. In the simplest terms, batch blogging simply means doing a group of blog posts all at once.
If you’re a “blog as it comes” kind of blogger, you know how it goes. You sit down to write a post and all heck breaks loose. Someone needs attention NOW. You don’t feel inspired to write about a topic or you realize you need to do more research before you go forward. You get a sudden urge to vacuum your house, clean the bathroom, or make a sandwich. So, you put blogging off and it gets stressful. Your posts hang over your head, and you fall behind.
Batch blogging is a great method because you sit down and write a group of posts all at once. Writing several posts at once helps you find more momentum as you go. You’re in “writing mode” so it’s easy to crank it out. Focus your energy and really bust out a whole month’s worth of work and then schedule them and edit them when you find more time later.
For bloggers, nothing is more vital than your analytics and measurement tools. Newbies might find analytics a little intimidating, but they give you vital information like how many readers are visiting your blog, how long they’re staying, and what posts they stay on. When you learn how to view and read analytic data, it’s like a magic window of insight into your blog.
But WHO wants to deal with all that techy data stuff?? Not me!! (Seriously guys, I am not technical AT ALL.)
That's why I really like Sumo (which is free to try AND free for up to a certain number of monthly site visits, so it's perfect for newbie bloggers). Sumo is a set of analytics and growth tools that help you get a clear picture of your site traffic, as well as better connect with readers to get them to convert, so you can grow your email list. You can simply install it as a plugin in WordPress (if you use WordPress for your blog, which I also recommend). Sumo also offers cool tools like Heat Maps to show you where people are clicking and what they notice when they visit your site. In the world of complicated website analytics, it’s a must have.
12. Hiring Out…ASAP
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to outsource work quickly. If you can’t do graphic design, outsource it. If you struggle with programming and WordPress, get help. If SEO isn’t your bag, find an SEO guru to take your blog to the next level for you.
Hire out before you think you’re ready. When I started, I took every single dime I made and put it right back into my blog. I did this over and over again until my blog was making over $1000 a month. Before that point, I never took money from my blog (even though I could have used it).
Why? Because I knew if I wanted to hit my goals of making a living from my blog, I was going to need to use any help I could get. I knew I had to reinvest in my blog to grow and become profitable. It worked. I turned a profit much sooner than if I’d struggled and reached a stalemate on tasks like graphic design or programming. There were people who could do it much better than I. Yes, it costs money, but it also ended up making my blog more profitable, much faster.
There are so many wonderful, awesome productivity tools out there to help you have a productive day, every day! If you’re struggling to keep up with it all (I know it's a long list), I want you to pick one or two of these items and put it to use right away. Use these tips and tools to ramp up your productivity and get even more achieved.
You might be surprised at how much work you get done!