There are certain people we look at and say, “How are they doing all this?” Unless there’s some glitch in the matrix, we all only get 24 hours each day, right?
Some people have become productivity masters, learning how to take advantage of every minute in every day. Take successful startup CEOs for example. These people wear many hats: business strategist, salesperson, marketer, office manager, you name it. How does one person become such a productive CEO and get so much done day to day?
They’ve all learned tricks or productivity hacks along the way, cutting out time-wasting clutter and focusing on what matters. As a startup CEO yourself (because that’s really what freelancers are), try these top hacks.
1. Pomodoro Technique for Time Management
For many freelancers, time management is a major struggle, but the Pomodoro Technique could be your solution. It’s simple: work for 25 minutes, then take five minutes of break time, then repeat.
It’s easier to stay focused for a shorter period of time. That 25-minute work session is more daunting than thinking, “I have seven hours of work ahead.” After all, you can do anything for 25 minutes, right?
2. Simple To-Do Lists
Ah, good old task lists. It’s a simple concept that can make or break your productivity.
Create to do lists to plan your action items each day for short-term and long-term projects. Set deadlines for each task. That way, you can see all the day’s goals at a glance.
The right task tracker can be perfect for project management too. You can easily break up large projects into smaller action items, establish timelines for each so you’re ahead of deadlines, and track each deliverable’s progress with tags.
3. Recurring Tasks
Speaking of action items, there are certain things you must do at regular intervals. You might review your financials every two weeks, write a blog every week, post on social media once per day, and so on.
With repeated similar tasks like these, set up recurring tasks in your online to-do list. This way, you can keep up with ongoing campaigns or projects without accidentally forgetting them.
4. Well-Planned Morning Routines
Brains don’t always listen to alarm clocks. Sometimes the day’s first hour is wasted because my brain isn’t in “work mode” yet.
Successful CEOs fix this problem with thorough, strategic morning routines. Have a set time to wake up each work day, then a list of specifically-ordered tasks. It might include exercise, showering and getting ready, eating breakfast, reading the news, or other habits.
Your brain gets used to that sequence of events. Each morning, it recognizes this routine and knows it’s time to start the day. When work time hits, you can hit the ground running.
5. Time Blocking
Ever have an important task take twice as long as expected because you keep getting pulled into other tasks, projects, emails, or meetings? That’s what time blocking is for.
Time blocking is the practice of setting appointment-like times in your schedule for each of that day’s tasks. Set aside time for checking emails, completing a particular part of your next project, holding a specific meeting, and so on. Time trackers make this easy.
For example, I’ll block 8:00 to 9:30 to write one article. Then I check emails from 9:30 to 9:45 before hitting a second article from 9:45 to 11. It all depends on the day ahead. Regardless, I set aside dedicated meeting free days or times so I can focus on project work.
6. Distraction Controls
We all get distracted from time to time, and each of us has our own repeat offender. Social media is a common one, with the average person spending 2.5 hours a day on various platforms. Imagine what you could do with that much time!
Start paying attention to how much time you spend on various time-wasters, then find ways you can cut them out. For instance, put your phone on “do not disturb” mode or put it in another room.
7. Exercise Breaks
Let’s be real: freelancers often work more than your typical 9-5. It’s more than our job, it’s our passion project. For many (myself included), fitting in workout time isn’t easy.
You can get more exercise while making each day more productive with short exercise breaks during the day. Once per hour, for example, do five minutes of interval training. It improves your blood flow while serving as a natural energy booster. I always focus better after those quick bursts.
8. Customized Schedules
No one knows who decided on a 9:00 to 5:00 work schedule because no one will admit to it. Sure, that works for some, but not everyone is most productive at the same times.
Startup CEOs take advantage of their freedom to choose their schedules. So should you. Find out whether you’re more productive early in the morning, during late afternoon, in the wee hours of the morning, or whatever. Design each day around your natural rhythm.
Finding Your Own Hacks
All the ideas above are different strategies, but different techniques for different people. The best productivity hack is whichever one gets your mind working and the work flowing. It’s a matter of trial and error and finding your stride.