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How Productive Are You?

How Productive Are You?

To be productive in this fast paced land of notifications and distractions isn’t easy, even for those of us who like to write about it sometimes. I can often be found in a heap at my desk thinking I may as well give up work for the day because there have been so many distractions and interruptions.

There are many productiveness killers, especially when you work from home, and I like to break them down into these categories:

Interruptions

  • The telephone (whether business or personal), it can interrupt you at anytime during the day and whatever you’re working on at the time will have to be put to one side.
  • The doorbell, family/friends, the postman, cold callers, people spreading the word of the Lord… it happens, although not so much for me now I have moved to rural France.
  • Lunchtime, I put this as an interruption because for me I would happily go on working through the whole day without stopping for lunch if I could, but I need to eat. The same applies to tea/coffee breaks.

Distractions

  • Email notifications, if you have these set-up they can take you off task by dragging you over to your email to respond.
  • Social media notifications, the same applies here, they distract you from what you’re supposed to be working on.
  • Dogs, they need walking… and although they get me away from my desk twice a day for a walk, it’s a distraction that somedays I could do without.
  • The radio (if you have it on while you’re working), I tend to have the radio on during the day, music I can work quite well too but when there’s a lot of speaking it distracts me quite a bit.

Well-being

  • If you’re feeling under the weather it’s going to cause you to be less productive, I know that some days I feel like I’d rather be laying on the sofa with a good book or watching a film.
  • Stress, this is a big killer of productiveness, if you’re stressed you’re not going to achieve anything.
  • Not getting enough fresh air, if you’re stuck at your desk for up to 12 hours a day it’s not doing anything for your health or your productivity.

Clutter

  • An untidy office is going to create a messy mind, if you have paperwork everywhere, can never find anything, then you’re not going to be working efficiently.
  • If you work from home then having a messy home the other side of your office is probably going to cause you some stress – it does me!
  • No filing system on your computer is just as bad as having a messy office, it causes inefficiency.

Can you think of any other categories?

I had originally planned to give you some of my favourite iPhone apps for this article, but it’s turned out to be a much more in-depth post, so I’m still going to give you some apps to check out after my relevant tips.

How to deal with interruptions…

  1. You could ignore the telephone and put voicemail on when you are busy working on a project, I think it’s perfectly acceptable not to answer every single telephone call, you don’t answer emails instantly (well most people don’t).
  2. You may like to install CCTV at your front door so you can see who is calling and then choose to ignore them or not… that’s a bit of a joke, but seriously, if you’re working on something, ignore the door too, or just check out the window first to check it’s not anything urgent.
  3. Lunch is difficult to miss, and you shouldn’t skip it, you probably could do with the break anyway, so why not take half an hour to do something else even if it’s just to hang the washing outside.

How to deal with disruptions…

  1. Any notification can be turned off, so if you’re working on something, turn it off. I find that this is great for productiveness, I can work for much longer if I don’t see the emails appearing in my inbox and all the social media stuff appearing on my computer and iPhone.
  2. Give the dogs something to chew on which will keep them entertained while you’re working, or if it’s walk time, then take them out.
  3. I have found that when there’s lots of speaking on the radio and it’s distracting me from my work (usually if I’m writing something I need to concentrate on) I mute it (in fact I have just done that so I can get this post finished). Mute is a handy tool, use it more!

How to improve your well-being…

  1. If you’re not feeling 100% then take a break, if you have deadlines then prioritise these and then set a time where you can take a break. If you set aside some time to relax you’ll get on with your work more efficiently as you’ll be looking forward to relaxing.
  2. Stress over a long period of time can really inhibit your working day, so you need to stop and look at what is causing the stress. Money worries? Workload? Personal problems? Try to write down what is causing your stress and find ways of dealing with it, the stress won’t go away overnight but just by acknowledging the problems on paper will commit you to taking the first steps.
  3. Take a break – You must get outside in the fresh air everyday, I used to be really bad at this. I used to sit at my desk all day, and then I got a dog, I now have two dogs! They force me to get outside at least twice a day and I feel much better for it. Sometimes having to take the dogs for a walk isn’t good for getting things done, but once you’re in a routine it does get better. Even if you go out for a 5 minute walk around the block at lunchtime, it will give you enough energy to get the rest of your work done.

Here are some apps that I feel help with well-being. I have used a few of these apps, Insight Timer is great at night and I have a great iPhone app called BetterMe which has some breathing exercises for various situations, anger, irritation, worry, sadness etc… I’ve also heard HeadSpace and Calm are also great apps for well-being.

How to deal with clutter…

  1. This is such an easy thing to achieve but I am my own worse enemy sometimes. Just spend 10 minutes each morning or evening tidying your office, making sure things have been filed away, clearing your desk. Before I worked from home I used to be great at this, things have slipped a bit now, but I think that’s because I know it’s only me that has to look at the mess. But it only takes 10 minutes… 
  2. Housework causes me stress, I hate it… I have managed to get it under some kind of control. Having pets with a lot of hair is the worst thing ever. I think you have to accept it, you’re going to spend the rest of your life clearing and cleaning. The best thing you can do is the same as with your office, spend 10-15 minutes each day (maybe at lunchtime) having a tidy up. If you do this each day, even if things are not spotless at least you’ll be less stressed. If like me you can afford a cleaner once a week, then even better… it has taken me 7 years of freelance working to put cleaner at the top of my priorities, and it’s so worth it!
  3. With the amount of things you can download onto your computer these days it soon ends up being very cluttered. If you start as you mean to go on, again this won’t be a long job. Every week check through your files and make sure they are in the relevant folders so you can easily find them again. Many people believe that it’s not necessary now because you can easily run a search of your whole computer, but what if you can’t remember what you named it? Better to have specific folders for specific files.

Here are my favourite apps which help me control my clutter and save time:

Hazel watches whatever folders you tell it to, automatically organizing your files according to the rules you create. Have Hazel move files around based on name, date, type, what site it came from and much more. Automatically sort your movies or file your bills. Keep your files off the desktop and put them where they belong.

Toby is a great add-on for Google Chrome, it’s like a filing system for all your websites, you can easily find all the important sites you use time after time without keeping all the tabs open and slowing down your computer.

TextExpander is a massive time saver, you can create snippets and templates which appear at a touch of a button or two. This saves so much time when writing emails, and anywhere else you need template text quickly.

LastPass keeps all my logins safe and secure, not only that it also keeps my client logins safe and secure too… I can also login to accounts with a click of the mouse.

What are your top productivity tips? I love to find out what other people do to increase their efficiency while working so please add your tips in the comments. I hope some of my advice is helpful, and look forward to hearing about yours.

For more of my favourite tools and apps, you can listen to my podcast or join my Facebook group.

My Favourite Tools & Apps in 2014 [Podcast]

My Favourite Tools & Apps in 2014 [Podcast]

I took part in a Podcast with one of my clients last week, it had been in the pipeline for a while, so really pleased that we managed to get it done before the New Year. It’s all about the tools and apps we’ve been using in 2014. As you know from my blog, I love testing out new tools so this podcast was right up my street. I got to talk about my top 3 apps/tools/resources I’d been using for the last year, some golden oldies and a new resource I hope you’ll all check out.

You can listen to the Podcast here: Our Favourite Apps and Tools of 2014 – Podcast – it’s just less than 20 minutes long, so a great thing to do while having your morning coffee!

 

My Top 5 Productivity Tools Revealed

In my role as a virtual assistant, I’m constantly looking for ways to boost productivity – both for myself and for my clients. And while productivity is hugely influenced by psychological factors, such as mindset, mood and motivation to name but a few, there is also a plethora of tools available to help us be the most productive versions of ourselves.

But using tools to boost productivity isn’t new and it’s certainly not revolutionary. After all, we’ve been using tools to make our lives easier and increase our efficiency since the Stone Age. Therefore, it stands to reason that the ubiquity of the internet would lead to the development of countless productivity tools.

On a day-to-day basis I use loads of different tools and applications to help me with my work. Everything from Skype for communicating with clients to Evernote for capturing all of my thoughts and sharing ideas. However, whilst these two applications are extremely useful, they didn’t make my top 5 productivity-boosting tools list.

Let’s see what did…

Asana

Without Asana, my days would be an absolute nightmare. Sure there are numerous other applications out there that help manage workloads, but I’ve found Asana to be the best. Their slogan says it all, “Teamwork without email” and that’s exactly my experience with it.

I use Asana for keeping track of every piece of work that I do for my clients. Every outstanding task is created and a due date entered. The way everything is managed is just perfect as the tasks are all grouped by client and you can see a general overview of your schedule with the calendar feature.

I’m able to create separate workspaces for everyone I collaborate with, like my writers, virtual assistants, eBook formatters and graphic designers. Asana even gives me the ability to chat with them and see real-time task updates.

Get Started in Asana from Asana on Vimeo.

Dropbox

I honestly can’t imagine what my working life would be like nowadays without Dropbox. I use it for absolutely everything in terms of file management and sharing. And the fact that it synchronises silently in the background means I am never stuck without my files wherever I am.

The beauty of Dropbox is that it not only provides a cloud storage solution for everyday people like you and I but it also allows files to be shared effortlessly. For example, if I have a new brief for one of my writers I simply drop it into the relevant Dropbox folder on my computer and it takes care of the rest. The files are sync’d in the background and ultimately end up on my writer’s computer.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is my one stop shop for everything social media related and my life would be a whole lot more complicated without it.

Basically, Hootsuite allows you to manage all your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn (and many more) activity in one centralised interface. Perhaps its most useful feature is the ability to schedule messages and updates. You can rack up a significant amount of updates and let Hootsuite do the rest.

Moreover, there are analytical tools to let you see which of your campaigns are working and there’s even a clock that tells you how much time you’re saving by using Hootsuite – priceless!

Feedly

Find yourself regularly checking the major social networks for updates that are relevant to you and your clients? Most of us do but a lot of time can be wasted trawling through page after page of irrelevant content.

Feedly, however, allows me to check all of my regular sources of news in one centralised application. I can configure all of the sources I want to glean information from in one place and peruse a simplified version of all of them.

If any of you are still waking up each morning and checking a variety of online sources for updates then you are wasting both time and energy. Simply add your favourite news sources to Feedly and let it do the rest – you’ll be glad you did!

If This Then That

Okay, so the name sounds bizarre and the URL even stranger but If This Then That is one of my biggest time savers.

It’s difficult to explain but anyone who’s familiar using it will understand the benefits and the name really does say it all: If This Then That.

The basic premise is that you can configure IFTTT to handle numerous scenarios for you automatically and trigger certain actions. For example, your social media channels, like Facebook and LinkedIn, can have triggers associated to them. When something happens on one of these channels that satisfies your configured trigger criteria something else happens.

It all sounds very confusing, but once you get used to it you will realise its true value. For example, you can configure IFTTT to automatically create a status message on Facebook every time you are tagged in someone else’s status.

That’s a very simple example but the possibilities are almost endless. Check it out for yourself to see its full potential.

So that’s my top 5 tools for boosting productivity. I’d love to hear if you’ve got any others that you use and the reasons why you use them.