From sailing to subject lines… these productivity tips will help you get more done. Read on!
There are few worse feelings than putting something important off.
For me (Dave), the one that crowns them all is the boat that sat in my grandmother’s driveway for two years.
I was gifted Kirshi – a 20 footer on a trailer – after her skipper (and my dear friend John) died, and his widow honoured me with its ownership.
All that the vessel needed was a bit of elbow grease and she’d be back on the water.
But life got in the way. And so she sat there – in dry dock, except for the rain.
Just like a few other things in my life.
Crew, not Captain
For most of my (Dave) working life I have been an employee, not an employer.
A soldier, and not an officer.
As I got older and more experienced, I climbed the career ladder, taking on editorial responsibilities in my journalism jobs and tackling bigger assignments.
But I was never responsible for steering the ship, sourcing its propulsion, or reading the weather up ahead.
All of that changed when Carmen and I founded Red Platypus in 2013 as a way to work for ourselves while we travelled the world.
Suddenly we were in charge of our destinies.
We hustled for work, made connections, chased invoices, and took control of the day-to-day running of our lives.
But then the waves got bigger.
Boats are safe in a port
When Carmen fell pregnant with our daughter, we moved back home to Perth.
We put a home together and settled in for an exciting new journey; she kept Red Platypus going with a core of clients and I went out to work back in journalism.
In a sense we were back in port, safe from any storms.
But that’s not what boats are for.
When I took possession of Kirshi, I promised myself that one day I’d get her back in the water.
One day soon.
We are the Captains now
Just like the travel bug, the itch to work for yourself never goes away.
When Carmen and I came back from an 18-month long trip around Australia pregnant again, the lure of safe, secure work was strong.
And though I enjoyed working for a fast-paced PR agency, I still wanted to do my own thing.
All this time the boat sat there in my gran’s driveway.
Work beats fear
This is a phrase we have written on a whiteboard above our desks.
When we decided at the end of 2020 to back ourselves and give Red Platypus a red hot go, it was a scary decision.
Nothing is certain.
But anything can be overcome with work.
And I’m pleased to say that Kirshi has now been towed to my front garden, and I’ve begun the long process of sorting her out.
We are the Captains now.
Setting the course for a long journey, knowing it will be hard, but going anyway.
The easiest option is to work for someone else
Of course, one of the hardest things about working for yourself is staying motivated. There’s no one checking whether you’re at your desk at 9am sharp, and you don’t have to hand in your work for review at the end of the day.
You are accountable for all your actions and YOU are in charge of how much you earn.
It can be daunting to take on this much responsibility. Which is why most people choose to work for someone else – it’s simply easier that way.
But if you do decide to walk to path less travelled, it can be deeply rewarding.
Our productivity tips
Over the years, we’ve come up with some simple productivity tips to stay on track to make sure we achieve as much as we can while working for ourselves. Below we share some of these productivity tips so that you can implement them.
Make yourself accountable
Every Monday morning, Dave and I have a meeting to discuss what we achieved the previous week and what we plan on achieving during the coming week.
By going over our achievements and what we still need to get done, we can hold each other accountable. It always helps to have someone to report to – even if you’re self-employed – so you can continue to stay on track.
If you’re a one-man/woman business, then consider getting a mentor, or having a call with another self-employed friend once a week so you can check in on each other and make sure you’re both staying on top of things.
Block out your calendar
Rather than simply writing a to-do list, go one step further and block out how much time you’re going to give each task. For example, from 9am-10am you might reply to emails, from 10am-11am you could work on a blog and so on.
As journalists, we’re big on deadlines and we find that blocking out time within our calendars gives us the opportunity to get more done in a shorter space of time.
If we know we only have one hour to focus on a task, then we can truly concentrate during that hour knowing we have limited time to work on it.
Do the hardest task first
It’s so easy to leave your hardest work to the end of the day. But here’s the thing – by putting off our most challenging tasks we are much more likely to see this procrastination eventuate into us not doing the job at all.
Instead, do the difficult things first. Research shows this is the most productive way to structure your day.
You’ll be surprised how much more you get done, and how relieved you’ll feel getting it out of the way first thing.
Give yourself one unrelated chore a day
When we work from home, it can be so easy to do all the chores we need to do during the time we’re meant to be working. (I – Carmen – am terrible at this!) It can be easy to do the washing, get out the vacuum, unpack the dishwasher… and then before you know it an hour has flown by and you still haven’t sat down at your desk.
Instead, limit yourself to ONE household chore during work hours, and that’s it. We also take it in turns to do the school run, as this eats into our work time significantly.
Don’t forget to set boundaries too – if your partner doesn’t work from home, remind them that during work hours you’re WORKING and won’t get to cooking dinner until after 5pm.
It’s easy for those who are unable to see what you do all day to think that you might be resting on your laurels, so make it clear that this isn’t the case.
Use the Pomodoro technique
When we really need to knuckle-down, we find the Pomodoro technique works a charm.
What is the Pomodoro technique? we hear you ask.
Set yourself a 25-minute timer and work your butt off during this time. (This amount of time is probably the maximum amount of time we can maintain complete focus in any one burst.)
When the timer goes off, give yourself a five-minute break. After four pomodoros (two hours) take a half an hour break.
You’ll be AMAZED how much you get done when you break up your time in this fashion.
What are your productivity tips?
And there you have it – some of our best productivity tips for staying on track.
The sails are up and we’re sailing out at sea now.
What are your favourite productivity tips? Please let us know as we’re always open to more ways to improve!