A few days ago in the WiseWear “Nerd Lab”, one of our most recent employees asked me what tricks I use to stay productive on a daily basis. Working for the “right” startup can be incredibly liberating. Startups are not a 9-to-5 gig, and typically require more energy balance than time management skills. Some love the autonomy, while others may loathe it. Either way, you still gotta get the job done! Here’s a quick digest on tricks that I use to keep things fresh and fuel me onward and upward throughout the week.
Get out there and be active! Whether it be a quick walk, jog, run, bike ride, or trip to the gym, nothing makes me more productive than a good sweat. Studies show that exercising is proven to increase productivity, to enhance your mood, and even give you more energy throughout the day. So now you really never have an excuse to say “you don’t have enough time.”
Sharpen the saw. Take a 30 minute nap everyday. Yes. I try to nap everyday. By taking naps, I effectively break my work day into two full days. Click here for an excellent article that supports daily naps.
Energy management. Create a schedule for yourself. I have found that I am most productive at work between 8:00am and 11:30am. I try to work on the most important items during this time of the day. I also have found that I am exhausted almost every day between 12:30pm and 1:30pm, so this is when I typically nap. But don’t forget to switch things up every once in a while! Respond back to emails for the first 30 minutes of your day, make a checklist of tasks you know you’ll be able to complete, spend an hour learning more about your industry and current/upcoming trends, monitor social media for another half hour, etc. I personally enjoy writing everything down and crossing things out - it gives me peace of mind and a sense of satisfaction to know what all I accomplished.
Set attainable goals and deadlines for yourself. Set them by the day, week, or month - as often as you think you need to. Studies have shown that setting goals and making progress towards them directly correlate with improvement in well-being, satisfaction, and happiness. Measure your progress and take comfort knowing that you are getting things done! An awesome tool to track your progress is iDoneThis. It’s also neat to complete a monthly personal review with yourself. Assess your success and make sure you’re on the right track. Review your job description to see if your performance is up to par. Make a list of your proudest accomplishments you executed throughout the month.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! I can’t stress the importance of prioritizing; and I know it can be a difficult thing to do. Prioritize based on deadlines and rank your list of tasks/goals based on importance. Is your whole team relying on Task A? Is Task B due next week? Does Task C require lots of attention and focus?
Identify and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to recognize your sweet and weak spots for your own personal self awareness. Acknowledging them can help you create a better structure for yourself and pivot towards better habits. Example: if you’re not a morning person, make sure you have a solid couple of hours throughout the day or night to get things done (i.e. try to avoid making plans in the mid-day like happy hour because it’s likely that you won’t be very productive afterwards). If you lack creativity, push yourself to produce a couple of creative ideas every month. Find out what gets your creative juices flowing, and execute!
Find a “focus” space. Home might or might not be the best place to work from. Although I’m not opposed to the idea of working from bed, it might be a good idea to set up a small office space at home. Find a space where you can tune in without any distractions. I enjoy working from coffee shops, not only because espresso is only a few steps within my reach, but because it’s nice to get some background noise that’s not your TV. Seeing other people working on their laptops also gets me in a productive mood.
Mingle, network, be social! Working remotely means less social face-to-face interaction. This might be terrifying for some of us. But even if it’s not, try to make it a priority to meet with one of your coworkers on a biweekly basis or go to an industry mixer event. It’s important to keep your social skills sharpened and interact with other humans. Go to industry networking events, raise questions, prompt discussions, exchange ideas, meet with other thought leaders - these are all things that will fuel your old or newfound inspiration.
Make yourself and your work accountable. Because you aren’t chained to a cubicle for a straight 8-9 hours and because your boss isn’t breathing down your back, you still have to be 150% accountable for all of your work. When a person is accountable to someone else for doing what they said they would do, they get stuff done. Make no excuses.