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My productivity secret weapon – mega productivity and the GTD system

How do I manage to run a graphic design business and an online store, and still have time to do volunteer work, run two blogs and have time for a social life? Introducing my secret weapon

Getting Things Done by David Allen

The GTD (Getting Things Done) System, is covered in a book by veteran coach and management consultant David Allens. His premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

getting-things-done-bookIn Getting Things Done, Allen shows how to:

  • Apply the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule
  • Reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations
  • Plan projects as well as get them unstuck
  • Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed
  • Feel fine about what you’re not doing

I’ve read this book twice and it has helped me immensely. It’s an integral part of how I stay productive while I’m self employed. For me, the best tip I got out of this book is to keep a to list and make sure everything is on it. I used to always seem to have ten different things on the go at once because I’d think of something while I was in the middle of something else, and then start doing it straight away because I was worried I’d forget to do it. Now, I keep a notebook next to me at all times, and as soon as I think of something I write it down.

Don’t like to read?

There is also a fantastic videos training program over at Skillshare that covers that principles in book in 15 easy video lessons (and you can watch them all in 90 minutes!) You can watch an introductory video about the program here:

An Online Skillshare Class by Tiago Forte

Personally I’ve read the book twice and I’ve watched the video series, and it’s been incredible how much it has improved my productivity. How you tried the program? Did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

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How to stay productive when you’re self employed

If you’re self employed or have your own business like I do, staying on track can be tough! Especially if you’re used to having a conventional job with a boss, or the fear of being fired motivating you to keep on track. But really, being self employed isn’t that much different. In a sense you still have a “boss” in the form of your clients, your family, and yourself. Not to mention an obligation to stay on track so you can keep earning money and maintaining the freedom and flexibility that comes with self employment!

I’ve been self employed for a couple of years now, and self discipline is still something that I struggle with, but here are my top tips for staying productive when you’re self employed:

1. Have a designated work area ONLY for work

20140801_162257It’s important to have a designed area just for doing work (and only work!) as it trains your brain to go into “work mode” when you enter the room, and it helps to avoid distractions . If you work from home, it also helps to keep some separation between your work and leisure time. If space is a problem, you might like to consider renting or bartering an office or desk.

2. Have a set morning ritual

This helps to keep you on track and trains your brain to go into “work mode” as well. It could be as simple as shower, breakfast, and at your desk by 9am. Other people who work from home physically leave their house in the morning so that they can simulate going to work. For me, getting showered and dressed in “work clothes” really helps to boost my productivity. I’d love to be able to work in my fluffy pink dressing gown, but I just can’t take myself seriously when I try!

3. Make a timetable and stick to it

Sticking to a timetable is challenging, but it’s a great way to keep yourself on track. Tailor-make a timetable that suits your lifestyle and your job so that you’re more likely to stick to it. For me, my work changes everyday, so on my timetable I allocate time for high priority, medium priority and low priority tasks, and I then grade everything on my to do list accordingly. I also have an hour break in the middle of the day so I can have lunch and take my dogs for a walk.

4. Development great time management skills

Developing great time management skills is a key factoring in maximising your productivity. I constantly have a notebook next to me with a running to do list on it, and I have both work and personal tasks on there because I find that keeping everything in the one place works best for me. I use a highlighter to colour code items by order of priority, and I cross things off as I finish them (which feels really, really good!). You can read more about my secret time management weapon here.

5. Embrace your freedom (sometimes)

I know that this contradicts my other points, but being self-employed gives you the freedom and flexibility to manage your own time, and there is nothing wrong with embracing that (s0metimes). So if you’re just not feeling productive, why not take the morning off and work in the evening to make up for it? If you want to spending the day working from the couch while you watch TV – go for it! Just don’t do this everyday because I can assure you, if you’re anything like me, your productivity will take a hit.

Personally I find that as long as I spend the majority of my time sticking to the above points, having the occasional “cheat” day is actually really beneficial because it reminds me of how lucky I am to have so much freedom, and makes me realise that it is worth all the self discipline that is required.

4. Develop a routine that suits your unique self

Don’t feel you have to be at your desk by 9am and schedule your timetable 9-5. If you’re more productive at night and you prefer to sleep in, there is nothing wrong with creating a routine that reflects this. Of course, if you have clients who work 9-5, you’re going to have to at least be available on phone and email during this time. The key is to create a routine that works for you, and allows for maximum productivity, and then stick to it!

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