Besides systems, one of my favorite things to do is help people unlock their productivity secret-sauce to get massive shit done. I do this by helping them discover how they work best and honoring who they inherently are.
Trust me when I say this: you are enough exactly as you are.
Regardless of who you are, or how you work, or how Type B your personality is, productivity is possible for you!
(Okay, okay, you caught me there…I have systems for how I help people unlock their productivity secret-sauce and putting their productivity plan into action. What can I say? I have systems for everything in my business and so should you.)
Remember, everything in this blog post is catered specifically to me. So take what I’ve shown here and adapt it to fit you.
Unleash your productivity by finding out how YOU best work
The ingredients to MY productivity secret sauce
In order to give you an understanding as to why this type of productivity cycle works for me, I’m going to give you an insight into how I work best:
- I work best in short spurts — Admittedly, my attention span is getting shorter and shorter, so giving myself less time to do something allows me to go all in and focus.
- I enjoy instant gratification — This means I have to break big things down into small and doable pieces or I will procrastinate and feel overwhelmed.
- I don’t like to do things last-minute — Some people knock out a 10-page essay the night before it’s due. I would rather do a page or 2 a day and leave room for review and curveballs.
- I’m a Type A, diehard planner — I LOVE planning; I LOVE being organized. These aspects help me feel in control, which lowers my anxiety by a ton and giving me the mental whitespace and clarity to be massively productive.
- I enjoy structure, but it can’t be too rigid — I love planning, but if my plan is too set in stone, I get grumpy. I always know MORE after the start of the project when I’m in the middle of it and doing things than I do before I start. So, I need to make sure I have ways to pivot without screwing with the whole plan. Plus, rigidity hampers on my core value, freedom, so there’s that, too.
- I procrastinate by eating — When I see myself reaching for snacks not out of hunger, it’s time for me to analyze the situation and figure out why I’m procrastinating. Not enough information? Not enough motivation? Feeling like an imposter? Why am I avoiding doing the work?
- It takes me about 25-30 minutes to get in the “zone” — This means that once I get the 25-minute mark, I feel excited, focused, and just want to work. Things get done easier. I get really grumpy when I’m forced to pull away from my work shortly after I get into “the groove”. If I had 20 minutes in the past, I would try to squeeze as much work in and get frustrated. Now, if I had 20 minutes, I would either choose something that doesn’t require my full focus or not work at all.
Why a 90 Day Plan?
I’ve found that working in 90-day (3-month) increments works the best. Depending on what my goals are, I could be working on one giant project or multiple smaller ones. 90 days is that perfect balance of having just enough time to complete projects without losing motivation and feeling like things are dragging along.
My business moves so fast that sometimes, things I’ve planned out 6 months from now are completely irrelevant. So again, 3 months is that perfect block of time.
So, without further ado, let me pull back the curtain and show you my productivity routine and how it’s efficient as well.
Phase 1. The Goals
Duration: 1-2 days
I pretty much start my next quarter’s planning a few days before, because this whole process doesn’t take more than 90 minutes of my time. The following are questions (or variations of) I ask myself to nail down the 1-3 goals I would love to achieve at the end of 90 days:
- What do I want to get done in the next 90 days?
- What do I want to do in my business in the next 90 days that will either result in income or impact?
- How will I know without a shadow of a doubt that these goals have been met?
- Are these goals in line with my theme for this year? (I don’t set yearly goals but yearly themes instead…structured freedom FTW!)
Phase 2. The Plan
Duration: 1 hour
Now that I’ve got my goal(s) down, it’s time to start planning my projects! I do this with my 90 Day Project + Goal Planning worksheet that I’ve created for myself. It’s especially helpful when I feel like everything that I want to do is important and will move my business forward in meaningful ways. The worksheet helps me get really clear and make decisions for what I want to do.
The premise of this phase is to plan out exactly what I’m going to be working on for the next 3 months and when. Every month, there are approximately 4 weeks, which are further broken down into 2-week increments. I call these 2-week increments sprints.
Why do 2-week sprints?
I’ve found that for myself, 1 week is too short to get anything of substance/needle-moving done; if I give myself 3 weeks, I know I’m going to take 3 weeks to do it when I could have probably done it in 2. That’s not productive OR efficient. Thanks, Parkinson’s Law.
“Work expands to fill the time available.” Give something 3 months and it’ll take 3 months. Give something 2 weeks and I’ll figure out how to get it done in 2 weeks.
It doesn’t always work out perfectly, because some months have 5 weeks, so one of your projects will be given a 3-week timeline instead of 2.
In total, there are 6 sprints (aka 6 projects) in each 90-day block.
Don’t underestimate the power of focus and what you can get done in 2 weeks
What’s really awesome about these 2-week sprints is that I work on nothing else but the project I’ve dedicated the sprint to. Which means I’ve broken my goals down enough to know I can get it done in that time. Don’t underestimate how much you can get done in two weeks, especially if you’re doing only that project.
This absolutely eliminates shiny object syndrome and my minimizes my anxiety, because I know what I’m supposed to be working on…and that one thing only. And if I’m itching to work on something I’ve designated in Sprint 5, but I’m only on Sprint 1, I gently remind myself that there is a time for it. Multi-tasking will be the death of you, I promise; you’re not a computer.
I personally aim to do 5 sprints (with #6 being extra credit) because when you know you have 2 weeks to do something, you focus and you’re pretty damn motivated. And when you’re going for 10-11 weeks straight (not counting weekends and other days you need to take off), your brain gets pretty tired. And if you don’t rest, you’ll burn out quick. So #6 is here if I’m either feeling really inspired or need to work because I didn’t estimate the projects correctly.
I’ve got a lot more tips and best practices for sprinting in my 90 Day Planning Worksheet.
Phase 3. The Tech
Duration: 1 hour
Now that I’ve got all my sprints planned out and when they’re going to get done, I need to get my goals and projects onto a project management platform to keep track of my progress. I can’t stress how important it is to have good project management. It’s the art of being excellent at getting massive shit done.
My go-to platform for all things task and project management is Trello! It’s such a versatile platform that matches how my brain works. If you’re a sticky notes and whiteboard kind of person, you’re my people (I adore you already) and Trello is the visual representation of how you think, process, and organize!
Trello is not for everyone, not at all. There are SO many other awesome options out there. My best suggestion is to find the software you’ll stick to and consistently use.
My absolute favorite board for keeping my tasks, projects, and sprints organized is my Projects + Tasks Workflow board. It’s so good and has been instrumental in helping me stay productive (and generating revenue for my business) that I’d love to share it with you!
After I put down my sprints in my workflow board, I start creating tasks for what I need to do for the first 2 sprints. I don’t do all 5, because I’m giving myself space to wiggle in case I need to shift things. If I had planned for 5 sprints and ended up needing to shift the last 3, the time spent planning could have been better put to use for relaxing, going to a movie, playing with your kids, having sex, getting tied up, etc.
Phase 4. The Action
Duration: 10-12 weeks
For the next 10-12 weeks, I’m head down working and focusing on getting my project done in the two-week timeline.
Even if I have client meetings or digital coffee dates scheduled, I want to block it out in a way that allows me to focus on getting good time into my sprint first. So, I try to dedicate a solid 5-6 hours of uninterrupted time to dedicate to my sprints, broken up into chunks of smaller time.
It’s okay for things to shift. My sprint planning isn’t set in stone. I’ve totally underestimated and overestimated how long a project would take. So, if a project that was planned for 1 sprint ends up needing 2, 4 weeks of dedicated time, I shift my projects down and bump some into the next 90-day cycle. I’ve learned to give myself grace and not be so hard on myself over the years. It still happens, but it’s getting better.
The goal is to always break your projects down so that you can complete it in two weeks. That’s how I know if I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew.
My Favorite Productivity Techniques + Best Practices
If I’m feeling unmotivated or slept terribly the night before, I’ll do Pomodoro sessions. Pomodoro sessions are a way of working where for a set period of time—usually 25 minutes for me—I do nothing but work on that task. I close down all my browsers, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and try to get that task done in 25 minutes. After the 25 minutes is up, I rest for 5 minutes. And then I go again for 2-3 rounds.
Total transparency: I don’t wake up every day bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and giddy to work. Most days I do, but there are some times (or multiple days in a row) where I just have to get up, bite the bullet, and get shit done.
I’ve learned that fully completing a project before moving onto the next one is so much better than making a little bit of progress on all projects at the same time. When I’ve done that in the past, I can tell that my work is less cohesive, more sloppy, and took longer to complete. Like, rather than taking 2 weeks (or less to complete a project), it took me around 5 weeks because I was doing #alltheprojects
At the end of every week, I do a quick reflection. This gives me actionable data that I can implement in the next week and sprint. I’ll add it to my Projects + Tasks Workflow board!
Phase 5. The Rest + Reflection
Duration: 1 day-2 weeks
Depending on how I feel and how much progress I’ve made, I may take the last 2 weeks “off” to rest and reflect. Truth be told, I’m still doing things, but those things don’t require my full brain power. And if I wanted to take time off to do nothing, I could and not feel guilty about it (okay you caught me…I’m still trying not to feel guilty). Resting gives me the recharge I need to kick off the next 90 days worth of sprint well.
Burnout is real; I’ve been there. I remember what it feels like to resent and dread something I used to look forward to, and I don’t want to go there again.
Reflection is extremely important because it gives me awesome information and insight. I do a retrospective and journal into my Projects + Tasks Workflow:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What did I learn?
- What can I do differently next time?
That information right there is so helpful moving forward, especially if I’m doing the same sprint project again, like planning, creating, and scheduling 90 days worth of content marketing.
If I happen to need to do the last sprint, I’ll definitely only do 5 sprints the next round…maybe even 4 if I need. I’ve learned to listen to my being.
No matter what happens, you’re still enough.
I’ve learned to quiet that inner doubt while I do my sprint projects because frankly, there’s no space for me to think about these things (See, another case for 2-week sprints!) But, the biggest question always pops up:
“What if this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing?”
“What if I’m missing something?”
“What if I should be doing something else that would bring me more revenue and I just don’t know about it?”
And to that, I’ve come to embrace that at this moment, I’m meant to be doing exactly what I’m doing (thanks, Universe).
I’d rather take action and have it be “wrong” so that I can learn and pivot, then spend the rest of my days wondering “what if?”.