Do you ever have that feeling that no matter how hard you work to cram everything in, you’re always running out of time? That ticking clock in the back of your mind is your worst enemy when it comes to getting shit done and can demotivate us in seconds. How often have you felt psyched up for the day, then you’ve seen your mounting to-do list, saw time ticking away from you and just figured “I don’t even know where to start so I’m gonna sit down, have a cup of tea and a biscuit.” We’ve all been there but it’s so easy when you’re travelling full time or working flat out to let the basic life admin slide. By life admin, I’m talking about all those basic things like cooking, cleaning, washing – all the things that make your house feel like a home you want to return to at the end of the day, the things that make you feel like you’re looking after yourself. These are so much more important than you think because looking after yourself is the first step – forget to do this and your motivation for achieving anything else will quickly drip away.For those who are working flat out but feel they are so overwhelmed with their workload that they lose any drive to get things done – this is the perfect time to change your outlook. I remember when I used to let work get on top of me – I’ll fully admit I still do at times because I’ll always be a workaholic who can’t say no to working more hours. But the difference is I’m able to recognise when life is getting on top of me and I make sure I take a step back and give myself the time to recuperate and relax before I tackle my to-do list, that way I know when I do sit down to work, I’m doing the best job I can possibly do. Because if you ask me, if you don’t give a job 100+% there is pretty much no point doing it at all. So this post is about sharpening your focus and making sure that the time you spend working is super productive so that you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Here are my top tips for boosting productivity:
- Figure out your time schedule and how much time you want to dedicate to working/living – figuring out what work/life balance you want to achieve is important because then it is your decision and you’re not just going along with what is expected of you. It’s okay to set your own boundaries and to refuse extra work if you don’t feel like you can cope.
- Make a list and prioritise according to your life plan, no-one else’s. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we “should” be doing instead of what we actually want to be doing. Your boss’ priorities might involve you working 60 hour weeks for no extra pay and no rewards, but if that’s not in your life plan then why should you? Likewise, your partner’s life plan might involve you sacrificing your passions to spend all your free time with them, but again, that’s just not fair and you might not want to do that.
- Work through your list item by item – don’t try and tackle several things at once, you’ll still get them done but you’ll only have worked half as hard on them so the quality of your work will suffer. Better to use all your focus on one thing at a time and then you will maintain a good standard of work and get the satisfaction of ticking them off your list one by one.
- Get the boring shit done quickly and then reap the benefits. My favourite time to clean/cook/wash is always either when I’ve just got back from work at 2am or as soon as I wake up – the feeling of finishing and being able to get on with my day or to sleep peacefully is the best. Plus then I’m super motivated to get on with the rest of the day.
- Plan in getaways when you’ve been working too much and feel like the walls are closing in, getting out into nature can heal all stresses and anxiety. I recently went away camping for the weekend with friends to a national park and it did us all the world of good to get away. I came back feeling fresh and ready to take on the world.
- Look after yourself – drink water, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep – you’re useless otherwise. This is easily forgotten but should always be your number one priority. I often am working too hard to bother taking a break and forget to drink enough water in the heat – it leaves me feeling ill and burnt out. If you don’t look after yourself, no-one else will do it for you and you only have one body, so take care of it.
- When you have to work, create the perfect environment in the office or at home. Think about your workspace and don’t just work from bed, find a desk or table with a open windows for fresh air, good light and a comfortable seat. Good motivation includes picking a great Spotify playlist – I’ve just discovered the Focus ones which are great for working to – and great snacks as a reward for making progress.
- When you’re lacking focus, exercise. Go for a run or do a HIIT class, it will clear your mind and release stress ready for when you start work again. This is one of my favourite ways to start the day after cleaning and cooking, an exercise class is a great way to give yourself energy and refresh before hitting your to-do list.
- Be honest with yourself about what is achievable and if you’ve been given an unrealistic workload don’t be afraid to delegate or say no – recognising your limits is good management of yourself and others.
- Have a hobby – when you’re relaxing and having time off from work, it’s good for you to have a passion to escape into. It’s so easy to get caught in that cycle of going out, getting drunk and being hungover on your days off. Reading, writing, painting or creating something – creative passions ignite a whole different side of our brain and give us a real release. Why else do you think I’ve kept this blog going for so long?
- Take time completely alone – it can be hard when so many people are demanding a share of your precious time. You’re surrounded by people all day long and outside of work your friends and family need you, but what about what you need? It’s important to take time alone to grow and develop as a person.
And most importantly? Don’t see failure as this big dark cloud hanging over your head all the time. It’s okay if you can’t do everything – we are not machines and we should never feel like failures for not being able to squeeze everything in. I should never feel like I have to apologise for being a 26-year-old who travels solo full time, works 45 hours a week at one job, works as a freelance journalist and travel blogger, who manages to keep her apartment clean, tidy, cook great meals from scratch but sometimes doesn’t manage to FaceTime her friends and family at home as much because of the time difference. Yes I’m failing big time in that respect at the moment and it makes me feel very guilty when I don’t know what is happening in all my loved ones lives because we are on other sides of the planet. But I’m working my ass off over here and getting shit done, and they understand that. Sometimes we go through phases where we have to sacrifice something in order to achieve other great things, and that’s okay. That’s not failure.
What are your top tips for being your most productive self? Do you ever feel like you’re failing because of the sacrifices you have to make?