One of my biggest struggles over the years of running my business has been productivity and procrastination. Seriously, I have wasted a lot of time! So lately I decided to take matters into my hands and take control of my days. Here's are some of the apps and systems I'm using to help…
1) Time Tracking
There are a number of time tracking tools available online that'll show you how you spend your time. The specific software I use is called RescueTime* – there's a free version and a paid version. It categorises different activities as productive, neutral or distracting. For example, if I'm watching videos on YouTube or browsing Facebook, RescueTime knows I'm wasting time! If I'm using Microsoft Word or working on my blog (which I chose to set as productive), it will give me an increased productivity score.
To be honest, I'd been avoiding checking this much as I should because I was scared to see the results (every day you get a “productivity score”). However, I've decided to take control and use it to my advantage by staying on top of my productivity reports. I've also set a reminder every day on my phone to set RescueTime to “focused mode” – this is a paid feature, but it's so worth the money. It blocks out any websites labelled as “distraction”. I can't tell you how many times I've mindlessly gone to visit Facebook and then been blocked from doing it. It's a great help!
2) Tracking My Phone Usage
RescueTime helps prevent me from wasting time on my computer, but this doesn't stop me doing the same thing on my iPhone. So I decided to install a free tracking app called “Moment“. This tracks how long you use your phone for each day (it's quite scary!), and if you upgrade to the paid version, you can set a daily time limit after which you'll be reminded to get off the phone.
I've also decided to delete apps from my phone altogether that lead me down that distracted rabbit hole with things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Although I do use some of these for business, I try to access them deliberately from my computer when I choose to, rather than mindlessly from my phone when I'm lying in bed and get distracted by scrolling!
3) Setting Up My Browsers for Maximum Productivity
There are a few tweaks I've made to my browsers that have made a huge difference to both productivity and overwhelm. Firstly, I downloaded a Safari script that completely removes the Facebook news feed, but still lets me browse Facebook groups and pages as I need to for work. I cannot tell you what this has done for my productivity! I almost don't want to admit this, but scrolling on Facebook was becoming a completely mindless activity for me. As soon as I opened up my browser, I'd type the address in before I even noticed, and before I knew it I'd be scrolling for half an hour. Not anymore!
Next, I've started to be more mindful of my tabs now. I ask myself “do I really need to read this later?” Often the answer is no, and I just close the tab without guilt. If I do think I need to read it later, I'll save the links in an Evernote* note, where I group together multiple links on similar topics. That way, if I need it in future, I can just search Evernote for that subject. Trust me, it helps so much when your browser is clear!
4) Planning Ahead
This tip may not sound like a direct way to minimise distractions and stay focused, but it is probably the thing that has helped my productivity the most. By actually planning ahead – sometimes I might just do a week at a time, other times I plan further – it keeps me focused from the very beginning of the day. If I start the day without a plan for what I need to do, chances are I'll waste time figuring it out and put things off until tomorrow. With a solid plan, that's a lot harder to do.
When planning ahead, it helps to have a really robust calendar system in place. In the past, I've had calendars on Google, Basecamp and my iPhone (plus some events and birthdays on Facebook!). I have since pulled all my calendars together onto iCal, and I have separate calendars for various areas of my business:
- Payment dates of business expenses,
- Outsourcing dates and deadlines,
- General business tasks and goal check-in sessions,
- Recurring admin tasks (like tax returns),
- Email marketing,
- Launch dates,
- Personal dates and holidays.
I have been really strict with myself and now put everything into my calendar: I plan time off from my business way in advance, I block out days to batch work on a specific set of tasks (like bulk-writing blog posts or emails), and I can see at a glance what I have coming up at any given time.
Like I said, this has made the biggest change to my productivity, but it also probably takes the most “work” to set up in the first place. When you're winging it every day, it can be hard to carve out the time to plan ahead. But the more you do it, the more and more in advance you'll find yourself able to plan. Eventually, you'll be planning for things months in advance which helps you run your business with less stress. It also has the added bonus of showing you the bigger picture of what you're doing to generate income and growth!
5) Changing My Scenery
If all else fails, sometimes I find I just need a change of scenery! Sometimes it's something as simple as lighting a candle in the room or moving from my desk to work on the dining table or in a cafe. Other times I might leave my computer altogether and clear my head by going for a walk. The only problem with this is that I forget to try these simple things, so I have to make it more of a habit.Click here to sign up to my free library of biz-building worksheets, guides and tools
I'd love to hear from you… what do you do to minimise distractions? Any handy apps or habits? Let me know in the comments!
*Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.