It slips through our fingers every single day and there is never, never enough of it. Especially when you’re running your own business, there are always a million and one things to do. There are urgent tasks, and then those less urgent things you know you really should get round to doing that end up on your to-do list for weeks, months or years. Procrastination is part of human nature, but that doesn’t mean we can’t kick the habit and learn how to be more productive and manage our time more effectively. All we need is a little helping hand a few fool-proof strategies up our sleeves.
A vital part of being productive is finding a style of to-do list that works for you, personally. The traditional pen and paper might be your best friend, or you might found one of the many apps out there to be a perfect fit for the way your mind works. Apps like Trello, Asana, Evernote and Slack all have legions of faithful users, and it’s worth trying out a few and seeing what suits you best.
After you’ve figured out the kind of to-do list that works best, you need to decide on the kind of organiser that suits you best. If you have a pen and paper to-do list, you might work best with a traditional diary, just make sure it’s small enough that you can take it with you everywhere, but large enough that you have space to note down all your daily activities. There’s also the traditional calendar which you can hang up to see what you’ve got going on at a glance, great if you want to keep track of the whole family’s activities in one place. Then there are virtual calendars, great because you can have them on your desktop, laptop and mobile and they’ll update automatically and send you reminders, and if an email comes in suggesting a plan they’ll add it to your calendar, no effort required on your part. Again, it’s a matter of experimenting and finding the way of doing things that works best for you.
Once you have your to-do list, it feels great crossing stuff off it. But if all of the tasks that you put on it are big, meaty ones that you’d rather not face, that to-do list is never going to get any shorter. Putting small things on your to-do list, like emailing a certain person, or even things as basic as doing the washing up or putting a load of clothes in the wash mean that you can tick something off your list. Once you’ve put a nice line through something, you’ll feel more capable of tackling some of the other stuff on the list.
Have you heard of the Pomodoro? It’s becoming incredibly popular as a way of working efficiently and actually getting stuff done without procrastinating. The technique is choosing a single task and working exclusively on said task for 25 minutes. During that time, there should be no other tabs open on your screen and your phone should be on aeroplane mode. After 25 minutes, you can take a 5-minute break to get yourself a cup of tea or stretch, then get back to it. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in 25 minutes if you put your mind to it. There are loads of apps out there for timing your Pomodoros to make it extra easy.
As mentioned in the last point, having your phone on aeroplane mode can be a huge help. If your phone is constantly buzzing or pinging then you have to make a superhuman effort not to check it. If you can, try turning your phone off completely for a whole morning or afternoon. If you need to be on call for any little ones in your life, at least turn off your wifi and mobile data.
So you’ve got your Pomodoro timer ticking away and your phone on aeroplane mode, now make sure the rest of your environment is conducive to focusing. Your workspace needs to be quiet and tranquil, and ideally not cluttered. I often find that listening to calming classical music is really helpful. I sometimes take myself off to work in the local library for some guaranteed focused work-time.
Rather than sitting down to a task and thinking it will take the number of pomodoros it takes, set yourself a limit. If you tell yourself you only have three hours to do something, no more, then you’ll be driven to get it done, when you’d normally faff around and take your time.
Think about everything you need to get done, and identify the most important task, then start with that! That means your day is off to a flying start and you’ve already succeeded, so even if you achieve nothing else that day, you’re still laughing! P.S Marketing should feature on your M.I.T list
It might seem obvious, but one of the best ways of getting more done is actually by doing less. It’s great to throw yourself into things, but don’t get snowed under by saying yes to every person and opportunity that comes your way. Only say yes to the things you really care about and know you can do well!
When we’re busy, sleep is generally the first thing that we start sacrificing, which couldn’t be more counterproductive. The majority of people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be firing on all cylinders. If you’re not getting that, you’re not operating to your full potential during the day, which means you end up achieving less!
If you find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time on social media, try making a note of every time you go to check your Facebook or Instagram over the course of just one day. I reckon you’ll be unpleasantly surprised and being aware of it will drive you to make an effort to minimise it. Are there any Netflix bingers? Try making an iron-clad rule that you can only watch one or two episodes of your favourite series per night.
Does your to-do list cover a whole sheet of A4? Or even more? It can seem pretty overwhelming, but spending time being overwhelmed won’t get your tasks done any quicker! Focus on each task individually, and take it one step at a time. You’ll get there!
There’s no way you can be productive when you’re feeling rundown. As instructors (especially the fitness instructors amongst us) we generally do plenty of physical activity on a daily basis, but it’s easy to let the nutrition side of things slip. Eating right will give you more energy, meaning you’re able to be more productive, so don’t sacrifice your diet when you’re busy.
I’m definitely not advocating working all weekend, but a little bit of weekend work doesn’t go amiss in helping you to keep on top of things and not feel like you’ve been hit by a tonne of bricks on Monday mornings. As an instructor, you might work weekends anyway, but doing an hour or two of admin on a Saturday morning on top of your classes is something to think about. My husband and I have a planning date for an hour each Sunday, where we each go through the classes we’re teaching that week, the marketing and admin that needs to be completed, plus all of our family commitments. It’s so much easier when your week is planned out in advance, knowing that you have allocated time for everything that needs to be completed.
When you’re queuing up for something, on the bus, or doing anything which involves you waiting patiently or staring into space, make the most of that time by finding ways to keep yourself occupied. Whether it’s bringing along your laptop and working on your copy (if you’re seated, obviously!) or plugging into a business-related podcast, keep your brain whirring and you’ll feel like you’ve been far more productive.
These are just 15 of the many productivity hacks you can use to make your 24 hours spread a little further and get things done. If you have any time management or productivity tips for Instructors, why not head over to our Instructor-only Facebook group and share them? You can also leave a comment to share which of these tips you are going to try.