Productivity + Systems

How to stay disciplined and be productive every day

Hi I'm Sarah!
Design + marketing obsessed, dog mom, San Diego resident, and your new business BFF.
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You don't need to be glued to your computer 24/7 to get a ton of work done. Here are my best productivity tips and hacks to help you to stay focused and feel productive all day long.

Today we’re going to power-up your productivity because I know every solopreneur has a to-do list full of posts, projects, and programs they’re itching to launch. But sometimes 24 hours in a day just doesn’t feel like enough.

It’s one thing to load your to-do list with exciting projects and ideas, but another actually check off all those tasks without being glued to your computer 24/7.

Since I have a major thing for being productive and knocking out my task list, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my day and share how I consistently conquer my to-do list.

This is what my day generally looks like:

  • Wake up around 9 AM, walk the dog: I have a strict rule of not checking email before I’ve actually started work (aka no phones in bed). I prefer to avoid scrolling and instead start the day smelling the fresh California air and basking in the sunshine as I take Slayer (my pup) around the block.
  • Eat breakfast and check email: After a walk I make breakfast and a big mug of tea and park it on the couch to blast through my email. I respond, file away, delete and empty my inbox to avoid using it as a task list. (More on whipping your inbox into shape here)
  • Check off quick tasks: Next I knock out tasks that will take less than 20 minutes to avoid those small tasks becoming a distraction. Generally this involves responding to blog comments, updating spreadsheets, pinning on Pinterest, or answering questions in the Dare to Blog community.
  • Tackle the most important task first: Then I focus on the biggest task of the day – the one that will have actual consequences if it’s not finished. I know I’m most focused a couple of hours after I wake up (and the caffeine kicks in), so I make sure to take advantage.
  • Mid-day break: I generally stop at some point in the middle of the day to do something non-work related and feed myself. Twice a week that’s teaching aerial classes and twice a week I’ve got some awful reality TV to catch up on. Other days I might read, meet a friend for lunch, or take the dog for a long walk.
  • Tackle the second most important task: After a break to boost my energy I tackle another large task like writing a blog post or an email, or working on a product or launch.
  • Final email check: I jump into my inbox once more to make sure no one has last-minute requests and to keep my inbox from being an explosion in the morning.
  • Plan tasks for tomorrow: Lastly I put together my task list for tomorrow so I don’t have to decide what’s most important when I’m groggy in the morning. I like to wake up knowing exactly what direction my day is heading so I can focus from the start.

If I can stay focused and productive (and not in the middle of a launch) I work 4-6 hours/day.

I’m also in the aerial studio almost every day, which requires 100% focus and gets my endorphins going which has been helpful in generating the energy needed to stay focused the rest of the week.

Pssst! This post was written in 2015 – see what my schedule looks like in 2019

There are still days where I work like mad, switch tasks every minute, feel wildly busy, and at 5pm realize I skipped all the important tasks. But luckily I’ve created enough systems so those days are few and far between.

10 tips to stay focused and productive all week

1 ➜ Create systems + processes

Yes, you’ve got your trusty to-do list, but what’s the plan for accomplishing each task? Having systems for answering email, client intake, or writing blog posts cuts down on the time spent on each task. Knowing what steps are included and how long each step takes will make completing a task easier. You’ll end up running through the steps like muscle memory instead of starting from scratch every time.

2 ➜ Evaluate where you’re spending your time

If you end the day feeling like you’ve been working non-stop, but you’ve barely checked off anything on your to-do list, it’s time to start tracking your time. For 10-14 days, write down every single thing (personal + business) you do during your workday. Evaluate which tasks take more time than they should, could be completed by someone else, and where you tend to lose focus. Then make adjustments to avoid distractions and ditch tasks that aren’t adding value.

The Dare to Grow Planner will give you a massive productivity boost and includes a whole section for time tracking!

3 ➜ Set alarms

If you’ve got a packed schedule, then setting alarms for events and appointments is a superb way to maintain your focus. Anytime I have a coaching call, teach an aerial class, or need to be somewhere besides my desk, I set an alarm to go off 20 minutes before. This way I can focus on my work without repeatedly checking the time to make sure I’m not running late.

4 ➜ Realize the benefits of putting in the work

What do you get out of completing those tasks? Income, subscribers, traffic, connections, clients, good feelings? And what does all of that turn into? The ability to work while traveling, more time to spent with family, money to blow on shoes and clothes?

I know exactly why I make the time to write blog posts twice a week, send Monday emails, schedule social media posts, and make time for aerial classes. What benefits do you get out of the things you spend your time on?

5 ➜ Make adjustments if there are no benefits

Are you spending time on tasks that aren’t growing your business? If writing two blog posts a week, cranking out another ebook, or creating content on Instagram doesn’t benefit your business, then don’t do it anymore.

There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to work on something that feels like a pain especially if that thing is not generating traffic, clients, or subscribers. Not only will those tasks take longer and bring down the tone of your day, but it will show in your work. If your business is solely online, sub par blog posts or Instagram content will eventually slow down your business as well.

6 ➜ Create productivity rewards (aka bribe yourself)

If you procrastinate over a task that needs to be completed, make a deal with yourself. If you ______ (write this post, finish a client mock-up, host a webinar), then you can ______ (take a break for trashy TV, crack open a beer, read for an hour). Whatever it is that will light a fire under your ass, use it!

7 ➜ Have a weekly / monthly productivity plan

I am very attached to my calendars and with good reason! I currently have five Google calendars set up to coordinate personal stuff, business admin, coaching sessions, and my client design schedule.

It makes for pretty full calendar, but I’m never worried about a missed deadline or meeting – it’s all there. I check my calendar every morning and every night so I know exactly what I need to get done that day (and set those alarms on my phone).

I also use the Clear app for my daily task list and the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, so I can plan blog posts months in advance.

8 ➜ Allot specific times for specific things

I shared this with my email list yesterday (sign-up here if you want in on that), but it’s good enough to be repeated – for weekly tasks, schedule them at the same times and on the same days each week.

I learned this from my grandmother who vacuumed on Mondays, did laundry on Tuesdays, and dusted on Wednesday, etc. All chores had a place in her week and so they always got done. Taking a cue from her, I now write blog posts on Friday and emails on Thursday, which is why you always hear from me consistently!

9 ➜ Be realistic about how much work you can get done

To hone your productivity skills, it’s important to be aware of your limitations and give yourself enough time to finish everything. It takes me two hours to write a blog post, one week to finish a client design mockup, and I need an hour break after aerial class to get back to work.

Knowing this info helps to create a schedule you can stick too and is another good reason to track your time! This will tell you how long everything takes and where you need more space in your schedule so you’re no longer pushing deadlines back.

10 ➜ Hire help!

Last month I finally caved and hired a virtual assistant. She works 8-10 hours for me each week scheduling social media posts, answering customer service emails, editing my blog posts and emails, and checking off tasks that don’t require my personal touch.

A big benefit of this change was scheduling promotional social media posts. It was one of those tasks that almost always took more time than necessary. Now my assistant takes care of all those tasks which leaves me with more time and energy to focus on the big stuff.

Let me know which of these productivity tips will help your business most over on Instagram And grab your copy of the Dare to Grow 90-Day Biz + Content Planner to find more time and freedom in your schedule!

You don't need to be glued to your computer 24/7 to get a ton of work done. Here are my best productivity tips and hacks to help you to stay focused and feel productive all day long.

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