Three pointers that have helped me to work smarter so far in 2018
From unforeseen WiFi outages (only just gotten over that one), to foreseen kitchen renovations, to spending time with the other musketeers and actually being present, to trying my absolute hardest not to let my productivity levels determine my success… it’s turning out to be a go-with-the-flow type of year so far.
Despite it feeling like a bit of an alien concept In the beginning, I am now getting used to to it. And I have to say, I kind of love it.
Not only that but I and more importantly, my business, have survived.
Newsflash: You don’t need to be a #Hustling #GoalGetter #GirlBoss to feel successful and fulfilled.
E N T H U S I A S M . . . O R H A S H T A G W I Z A R D R Y ?
For the last two years I’ve been guilty of jumping on those hashtags and peppering them into my mindset and Instagram feed as much as possible. I admit, they did help me to push myself to achieve and they did bring some good results… although I suspect that was my enthusiasm as opposed to some form of hashtag wizardry.
But they also left me tied in knots, exhausted, unsure of where my priorities lay and usually, left wanting within the great void of comparison.
They minute I decided to slow things down a little, including my mindset, the go-with-the-flow concept began to flourish.
And this in turn has allowed me some headspace to think about attempting to work smarter instead of harder.
Instead of chaining myself to the desk and forcing a productive mindset that is simply not there, I’m (slowly) learning to read my own cues and act accordingly. Get up, walk away, do something else (this usually involves walking the dog), and come back to it later.
And this doesn’t just apply to the “work” kind of work either. Even daily routines, mundane chores and the ongoing stream of domestic organisation required of family life feels a little more structured, efficient and dare I say, less stressful when done with intention.
As well as simplifying, 2018 is also turning out to be the year of smarter in every way possible. Working smarter leads to more free time, more self-care time, more time to dream and be inspired. All of which I feel are necessary if we want to keep doing our best work.
As a kind of check-in, I thought I’d share with you the three main ways in which I’m attempting to spend my time more purposefully. I hope you find them to be useful too!
Separate & Batch tasks
If you’d been able to take a look at my calendar in 2017 or worse still, been a fly on the wall Chez Online Stylist, you’d have quickly noticed that I was most certainly NOT batching as many tasks as I could have been. Headless chicken much?
I was certainly attempting to streamline my work at home routines but like learning any new skill, I think it takes time and refinement.
The separation of the work and home bit I’ve now mastered – it was just the avoidance of distractions within each that I needed to work on.
The idea behind batching tasks is to basically do like-minded tasks in the same span of time. And stay focused! Here was where I struggled and I soon began to correlate my own ability to become distracted with lack of rest and down time – more on that one one later.
T I R E D B R A I N = D I S T R A C T E D B R A I N
For work, if my focus for the day was writing, email and social media were supposed to be out of bounds. Which was fine whilst it was all going well. But the minute my brain would start to fog (from lack of a break), I would find myself checking emails or scrolling through Instagram.
It took me until recently to realise that the sudden ability to do anything but focus on the writing came from a lack of a break to refresh my mindset – tired brain = distracted brain. Problem solved in point three below!
For the non-work stuff (i.e. that other important thing called The Rest Of Life), I’ve also learned to make the most of my time in a few simple ways.
All the daily household stuff gets tackled between 7:30 and 8:30. Then I’ll allow another half hour for the domestic at desk stuff – online food shop, arranging H’s social schedule (she needs a P.A.!) and the myriad of other things that spring up and fall under this category.
But no (repeat after me – ABSOLUTELY NO) checking in with emails or social media until domestic desk half-hour is done! Distraction has lead to forgotten birthdays, missed vet appointments and a distinct lack of things in the fridge for dinner that night!
If my day involves going out to a work meeting or catching up with a friend, this means I can be out of the house, wearing real clothes with the added bonus of make up and even half-decent hair! Hooray for all these things!
So if I need to get a couple of outfit shots for Instagram or stock up on some beach/coffee/lunch pics for my feed, this is a good time to try and fit those in. Usually this involves a mirror shot or roping in a willing friend – I’m not sure I’m ready to ask passers by for their assistance with a quick street style shoot!
Adjust your schedule to accommodate you
Whether I’m a morning person or not is still up for debate – I’m beginning to think that I am in spring and summer… and maybe early autumn too. But as for winter… you can forget it!
Whilst it’s true that our culture is increasingly built around success being equated with early risers, I think you sometimes just need to adjust and adapt what works for you and when. Hhmmm… sounds like that going with the flow thing again…
We all have different personalities and therefore time frames that work best for us. And there’s the key – tuning into what works best for you and when. That bird can catch that worm… even when it’s dark out.
Maybe you turn into a productive unicorn after 10 p.m. but are useless before noon. If your life allows it, stay up to all hours of the night and sleep in. The worm will be waiting.
Perhaps you’re that Rise & Shine person who wants to (and is able) to delve straight into work and get shizzle done. In that case, don’t stress about a morning routine too much, and instead, dive right in after that worm, leaving the other stuff for later.
The bottom line? Use your optimal times to your advantage and work during your most productive hours. Test it out to see which pockets of time work best for you and don’t be afraid to change it up with the seasons.
Having a family, being in a relationship or living with someone will obviously dictate to a certain degree what you can do when, but as time moves on and you learn to flex and change with life, there’s always some wiggle room to be had when it comes to honing in on your productivity windows.
And that’s quite enough with the worms and unicorns!
Take breaks, even when you “don’t have time”
2017 was a year of very few breaks. There were times when time off felt non-existent. 2018 has been exactly the opposite so far. Want to hazard a guess at which feels better?
Though the very thought of taking breaks when your to-do list is hanging off the desk and walking out the door might make you squirm at first, it is 100% crucial. Our brains and bodies need rest to reset – this is a fact not a trend… or a hashtag! *Looks for rest-related hashtags*.
Just like our beloved phones get hot and overworked when we’ve been on them for hours (or so I’ve heard…☺️), our minds are the same. Case in point above where I talked about the distraction level setting in when I get brain fog.
In order to get our best work done, we have to let our systems rest.
I’ve found that working for about three hours straight and then taking a true break is my happy medium. Maybe I’ll walk the dog, maybe I’ll have tea with a book, maybe I’ll power nap for ten minutes – it often depends on the kind of work I’m doing at the time. But what’s needed is the break that I’m forcing my mind to have.
I always work better when I incorporate rest time. Now if you’ll excuse me… I need to get this tattooed on my forehead!
Writing out a check-in post such as this feels like a good way to reflect on the changes I want to make… not just this year but more for life. Blogging is the new journalling!
over to you!
I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts or tips to share on the notion of working smarter and if it is something you’re aiming for, what do you hope to achieve more of with the time that you gain?