Habits and Systems for Productivity
Over the past year(ish), I've found the best ways to increase my productivity and efficiency, creating a happy lifestyle whilst having a good work-life balance. It is what works for me, and I'm hoping it can help you to create your own productive routine and working habits.
Before I start, I'll be honest. You won't find anything new or revolutionary here. There's nothing new about habits, discipline, lifestyle choices etc. I've read many books, done a lot of research and tested many ways to help me become productive.
If you haven't read his book Atomic Habits, you need to.
Tiny Habits - another must read.
But, as they say, you can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.
So, I am proud of myself for building these habits and changing my lifestyle, environment, and routine to help me get to where I want to be. I'm confident you can do the same for yourself.
I set goals for myself - who do I want to be, what lifestyle do I want to lead, what type of person I want to be, and when do I want this. So I needed to work out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I did this by writing down what I enjoy and enjoy doing.
I enjoy helping others
I enjoy being creative
I enjoy writing
I enjoy creating
I enjoy being mentally challenged
I enjoy being innovative
I then wrote down what working environment would make me happy:
One that would allow me to work on various tasks at a time
One that made me take risks
One that I wanted to work hard and progress in
One that would keep me stimulated
One where I could help others
One where I could control my hours and working days
One that would allow me to work where I wanted when I wanted
One that would keep me disciplined but allow me to have fun at the same time
One where like-minded and similar individuals surrounded me
One that allowed me to have a great work-life balance. Having time for friends, family, travel and myself.
Read here some of the benefits of a good work-life balance.
I then had to work out how to have this and earn money.
That's where I developed the idea for this community. I get to do all of the above whilst earning a living. Having a clear direction with what you want to do and how you want to live helps create habits and discipline. These habits and discipline are what increased my productivity and efficiency.
The best piece of advice I'll ever give you…
WRITE. DOWN. EVERYTHING. Pen to paper works best for me. I’m launching my productivity planner soon! I go as far as writing down everything I need to do/remember on paper.
Then, I upload it to my ClickUp.
Why paper? I'm easily distracted. If I write it on my notes app, it's so easy to get lost on TikTok.
I've even gone to write something in my notes, and as soon as I unlock my phone, I forget and end up on something else. There is scientific evidence stating you'll remember it for longer if you write it down and are more likely to do it. I then upload it to ClickUp as it's a quick go-to organised board to navigate when I'm working instead of flicking through all my notes.
Writing helps me to clarify what I need to do, what I want to do and get ideas down at the moment. So, now you understand you should write things down, I'll tell you what I write down to make myself productive.
I start at the end of the week. I will assess what I have done and write down what overall tasks need to be completed the following week. Then, every evening before I finish work, I write down the next day's tasks.
What I need to do.
What I could do.
And any extras as a bonus if I have time.
I score the tasks in priority order.
Naturally, everyday things pop up and get added to the list. We can't control everything.
Why don't I do this at the start of the day and week?
Because I find it SO much easier starting my day with my tasks set. If I have what I need to do in front of me, it's easier to jump in. Starting my day with the task of writing tasks doesn't set me off to a productive morning. It could take at least an hour to plan the week and that day, and by then, I'm tired [haha].So whether you choose this evening or the end of your workweek, try it out, and let me know if this way works for you. I also write down what meetings I have that day and any necessary notes.
Completing the tasks
Now, when I start work, I have my daily tasks set out; you must be wondering how I get through them all. Let me introduce you to my favourite method for productivity.
To put it simply, one Pomodoro is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Break it down into 4 sections. You complete one section of the Pomodoro (which is 25 minutes of focused work) and then take a 5-minute break (non-negotiable). After four sections, you take a more extended 15-20-minute break (again, non-negotiable). And that will give you one whole Pomodoro.
I watched a TikTok video once about a Doctor stating he used this exact method to get through his medical training. It works because it makes you hyper-focused for the time you are working by giving yourself regular small breaks. If you follow it this way, a completed Pomodoro method takes 2 hours 15 minutes (including the breaks). I aim to complete 3-4 per day.
I'll strategically have my lunch within my longer 20-minute breaks. It works well for young business owners as we're lucky to choose when our breaks are and when we take lunch.
It's great for students too. According to my priority task list, I will write down what I will achieve in each entire Pomodoro. Task amounts vary due to how long I know they will take.
If I don't manage to complete all the tasks set in an entire Pomodoro, it will come first in the next. If I complete the tasks early, I will take the first task from the next. I prioritise completing the entire Pomodoro. Trust me, if you try this for one day, you will be shocked at how much you get done. It avoids burnout due to taking regular breaks.
Side note - don't overwhelm yourself with tasks. If you feel you've accomplished a lot in the day, don't force yourself to carry on. We're a community of young founders, freelancers and creators on a mission to avoid burnout!
For many young business owners, our environment is our home, whether this is with our parents or in our own place. Making this environment a productive place is essential. It was only recently that I fully grasped the magnitude of the environment.
Tips for improving your environment. In the book Atomic Habits, I learnt that each room should have one function. The bedroom - a place to rest and sleep. The kitchen - a place to cook and eat.
The living room - a place to relax and be entertained. You get the idea. So, if you're trying to work in one of these rooms, you're allowing yourself to get distracted by the core function. You might be lucky to have a spare bedroom that you can convert into an office!
The reality is, at this age, you don't. So what can you do? You could corner a section off in one room to create a workspace. Without a view of the rest of the room. If you have that spare room, turn it into a functional office! Light, space, everything you need to ensure you work productively.
Or, you can work in free working spaces. (If you have healthy profits, feel free to rent some nearby office space).
Ensure your working space is not messy. A messy space = a messy mind.
Ensure your working space is free from distraction.
Ensure your working space is coloured appropriately. (For me a neutral tone room prevents external stimulation).
When you take breaks and take your lunch, MOVE. Remember, your workspace is to work.
When you finish work, leave your computer, laptop or iPad there. Taking it with you breaks the immersion of this workspace. I love working at home and working where I want, but I will always make sure to set up where I'm working to increase productivity. It's so important. I even go as far as having specific areas for certain tasks.
I like to be at a desk for content creation, admin, planning, calls etc.
I like to be in a comfy chair with my feet up when writing long-form content (like this blog).
These little changes make a huge impact.
Habits, in general, are a whole topic that deserves their own blog.
So, to be continued…
Time off is crucial to your productivity. Even with these habits, I still need to take time off.
I work better by being disciplined with my time, whereas many business owners are happy and comfortable working in small chunks every day. My goal is to work 3-4 days per week, only, one day. For now, I work 4-5 days. I'll work anywhere between 7-9 hours a day. I pretty much have the same start time and finish. Personally, it allows me to be the most productive. What works for you may be different. This community is all about helping you find your best work self and giving you the best guidance to support that.
Once I finish work, that is it. I shut my laptop and endeavour to switch off from work. I do not carry on that day. If I don't give myself my evenings, I become burnt out. It's not sustainable. It led to my burnout story. Doing this also gives me time to do errands, cook a healthy dinner, have time with my partner and most importantly, RELAX. I unwind and get to bed early, preparing me for a productive day. [I’m moody if I’m not in bed by 9PM on a worknight haha].
I have all weekend off. Unless I want to work on something for myself, I don't work. Again, I need this time, and it allows me to do the things I love outside of my businesses. I take holiday’s.
I take half day’s to do things with my friends or family. The bottom line is that I'm no stranger to time off. Being productive allows me to have this time off. If you tell yourself you'll work this weekend, the chances are you won't be as productive in the week. Food for thought, at least.
Setting myself up for a productive day
I'm naturally an early riser. If you're not, perhaps you could try this section out in the evening, or take a break at lunch, whenever suits you. I like to have morning ‘me time’, to set me up for productivity. I wake up around 6 (I don't set any alarms - if my body needs more sleep, and I don't wake up till 7/8, so be it, I listen to my body, and I'll start everything later). Anyways, the majority of the time, I'm awake around 6. I walk to the gym, work out, finish with some Yoga, and then get ready. I like my get-ready routine, I do my skincare and makeup to make myself feel good. Having this morning me time wakes me up and gets me ready for the day.
I don't like waking up and jumping straight into work. Doing things for myself helps me do the work for my businesses. Again, this may not work for you. The message here is: to find a routine, somewhere in your day, that helps increase your productivity. These are all different disciplines I have picked up over the past year that lead me to where I am today and feeling productive on most work days. I hope it helps you build your routine.
If you want to hear more of my daily narrative follow me on LinkedIn.
Hey, this is at the start of the journey. It would be cool if you would follow the social platforms and join the Facebook Group.
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