Let’s face it. As an independent without an assistant or project manager, it’s often hard to maintain your productivity. Besides the usual distractions of a chirping inbox or the siren’s call of social media, there’s the added layer of often trying to work from home – where there’s always something else vying for your attention. To remain at peak productivity, we’ve compiled a list of nine ways to maintain performance that you can adopt today.
1. Practice Good Nutrition
No, really. There are few things as distracting as an empty belly. Set a good foundation by giving your body and your brain what they need – nourishment. It’s hard to be productive when everything around you turns into a giant turkey leg like one of those old cartoons. And there’s science to back this up – Inc. magazine even published a piece about it.
2. Block Time for Task Management
Block time throughout the day for certain tasks. This will allow you to focus and minimize distractions because you know that everything has its own time slot. Have a M/W/F schedule and a Tu/Th schedule with flexibility built in for meetings and the unexpected. One consultant told us he has settled into a routine of 1 hour of e-mail to start the day, two 30-minute social media sessions (AM and PM), and another hour of dreaded administrative work like invoices and expense reports. With that, he was able to knock out three critical tasks and still leave himself five hours of time to do actual creative work.
3. Create a Productive Workspace
You don’t have to go full-on OCD and have your workspace look like an Ikea showroom, (because messy workspaces may not actually be so bad) but give yourself a good work environment. Have a system for organizing paperwork, keeping separate home and work piles, or at the very least having somewhere comfortable to get stuff done.
4. Prioritize Tasks Through Lists
With multiple demands on my time, and tasks that number in the dozens, having a list always helps. And as an independent, you don’t have a project manager or assistant to corral you. Today, you can do it with Wunderlist, which syncs between all devices, allows you to prioritize tasks, keeps multiple lists for home and work, and even enables you to share to-dos lists with family and colleagues. There’s also just something satisfying about checking something off and hearing that little “ding!”
5. Use Technology Where You Need It
If you can’t bear to put your phone down, you can actually use it to boost your productivity, as well. You may not have administrative staff, but you’ve got powerful devices. From DropBox and 1Password to 30/30 and OmniFocus, there are a number of apps on every platform to help you get organized, manage your time, or just share and collaborate more efficiently.
6. Turn on Airplane Mode
It’s hard to maintain a rhythm when your devices are beeping and buzzing every 20 seconds. As Lifehacker put it, Notifications are Evil. Shut it all down besides the task in front of you. If you’re blocking time, you’ve had plenty of time for clearing your inbox or getting your social media fix.
7. Create Privacy
As an independent, it’s tough to avoid the unexpected office visit, but if you have a door that can close, close it. If that doesn’t work, consider investing in a “do not disturb” sign (or just take one from the next hotel you stay at).
8. Take Breaks When You Need Them
We all get stuck. But at some point, you need to drop it and get to the next task. It’s kinda like when you stare at a word for so long that it doesn’t even look like a word anymore. At that point, you’re no longer being productive, so move on. Whether it’s striving for perfection or dealing with writer’s block, sometimes it’s easier to shift gears for a little bit and come back later. If you don’t have another task lined up, take a quick walk, or just get up and have a glass of water before jumping back in.
9. Create Good Habits
None of that means anything without the ability to stick to your “recipe.” You’ve just got to remind yourself that it’s all worth it, and you’re getting more done. Make these practices a habit.
So, mix it all up, add seasoning to your liking, and enjoy the taste of time better spent. Got any productivity hacks for independents that you’d like to share? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter!
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