Bloggie Wednesday: How I Increased My Productivity Tenfold

How I Increased My Productivity Tenfold

I was reading Rebecca’s (from the blog From Roses – one of my favourite blogs to read) blog post yesterday on the highs and lows of working from home and I agreed with every single point, especially the part where people seem to think we have nothing to do all day. Ahh … I have so much to say about that but let’s leave that rant for another day, shall we? Suffice to say, even though I’m not physically in a separate office with people, it doesn’t mean I’m twiddling my thumbs all day. In fact, many a time, I don’t have enough hours of the day!

Anyway, that’s another kettle of fish. Working from home, learning to manage one’s time and schedule is imperative. Trust me, it can be really easy to sleep in, play with the dog, take long breakfasts, go on social media, reply a few emails and bam! It’s already 5pm. I have to create a schedule for myself daily and weekly so I don’t fall into the easy rut of procrastination (which I easily do).

For the years that I’ve been working from home, I finally came up with a system that worked for me only just a few months ago. Was all that previous time wasted? Not really but my time could have been better managed to boost productivity. This time, I’ve got it down to a T and I’m really loving it.

How I Increased My Productivity Tenfold: Swallow A Frog

Credit: The Blondissima

1. Swallow my frog of the day first thing in the morning

If you know you have to swallow a frog, swallow it first thing in the morning. If there are two frogs, swallow the big one first.
– Mark Twain

If you’ve not heard the saying “swallowing a frog” before, well, there you go, said by the one and only Mr Mark Twain. By “swallowing a frog”, it means that you do that big thing you have to do first before tackling your other jobs, even if it’s an unpleasant one. Once you’ve swallowed your frog of the day, the rest of the day would be easy in comparison. This is a great way to take control of your day. Get the most unpleasant thing out of the way first and then you’ll be able to tackle the rest of your day easily. I’ve had a lot of frogs to swallow but once that’s done, I heaved a sigh of relief and then moved on to my next task without worry.

Erin Condren Life Planner

2. Prepare next day’s to-do list the night before

I’m a big lists person. I need my lists and I need them with me constantly. It shits me when Tim writes his so-called to-do lists in random pieces of paper, forget that he’s written them and then throws them away. Next he’d be asking me “Er, what was it that I needed to do again?

I like to know what I need to do the next day so it’s important for me to write my to-do list down the night before. This way, I won’t be scrambling the next morning wondering what the heck it was that I needed to do for the day. I note down the most important thing I have to do first thing in the morning and the not so important ones after that. That most important thing would be my frog of the day.

Erin Condren Life Planner

2. My Erin Condren Life Planner is a life saver

When I first heard of the Erin Condren life planner, I didn’t care much for it at all. I used to use Filofaxes, Kikki K diaries and other form of planners for years but I hardly stuck to them past the mid-year mark. However, when blogger after blogger, YouTuber after YouTuber began raving about the Life Planners, it made me curious enough to see what the fuss was all about. I thought long and hard on whether I needed a Life Planner because it’s not cheap. Including postage and other accessories, it came up to well over $100 for just one planner. Curiosity won me over; I bit the bullet and got one that started in March. It’s now mid-June and while it has only been 3 months, I’m completely hooked.

I use the planner for planning the blog and my life. Monthly views were used to plan blog content and the daily views to plan my to-do lists for the day. I love how the daily planner is divided into Morning, Day and Night. I added a box next to each item in my to-do making it a form of checklist. The feeling of checking off each item with all items checked off by the end of the day is exhilirating. I prefer having my to-do list on my planner than pieces of paper or my phone because I get to physically check them off and also to be able to refer to what I’ve done in future. Now that we have Janey (our dog, in case you’re wondering), it’s even more important to have the important things I need to do for her recorded.

This isn’t meant to be a review on the Erin Condren Life Planner but suffice to say, it’s become a major part of my life that has made me incredibly productive. It even went to Japan with me! I’m looking forward to next year’s. I hear it’s going to be even better than the ones before.

I still use Google Calendar for my appointments and Google Keep for reminders. The Life Planner does everything else.

No social media

Credit: BartPhoto

3. Social media blackout

I used to be hooked on social media, so much so that an hour can go by on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest without so much as tackling anything on my to-do list. I would check Twitter every 30 minutes, Facebook and the rest every hour. It was at the beginning of the year that I decided that I cannot do that anymore because they drain so much of my time. Once I’ve planned and scheduled content to be tweeted and posted on Facebook in the morning, I switch them all off until lunch. I check them again during my lunch break and then switch them off until it’s time to take Janey out for her evening walk. I only keep the Twitter Notifications tab on my browser to see if there’s a number on the tab. If there is, there’s a tweet directed to me and I’ll reply it. If not, then I don’t look at the page at all.

These days, I only check Twitter every 4-5 hours, Facebook and Instagram only once a day. I just have to tell that Fear of Missing Out feeling to piss off. Hello productivity!

Ipad Coffee

Credit: Bananafish

4. Leave the house

Believe it or not, the times I’m most productive is when I’m out of the house. If I don’t have any particular appointments for the day, I’ll go to my favourite cafe, bring my iPad along with me and my fingers would be typing so furiously, the table would sometimes shake. I wrote my Media Kit ebook at Coffee Bean in 1.5 hours. 😛 I have another one on the way and most of the content was written at cafes. I get a lot more inspiration and motivation to write when I’m out people-watching. I make sure to leave the house at least twice during the weekdays or else I’ll go stir crazy in the house!

Janey The Sleeping Assistant

5. Having Janey helped tremendously

When I first brought Janey home, I’ve had concerns from other people (won’t tell you who they are in case they’re reading this) that she would take up so much of my time till I cannot get anything done. Au contraire mon amie! I was mostly at my home office 90% of my day before she came along. My eyes would be glued to the computer all day and sometimes I’d even forget to take a break. Now that I have Janey, I’d take hourly breaks, check in on her, give her belly rubs and even spend my afternoons in the living room writing or photo editing on the iPad. I get a lot more work done with her as my assistant (as in she assists by sleeping at my feet). 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on how I managed my time and schedule. My productivity has increased tenfold (no kidding!) and I’m using my time so much better now. I get a lot more done during the weekdays leaving my weekends free and easy to catch up with friends, go on dates with Tim, play with Janey and so on.

How do you keep your productivity up? Do you use planners too? Do share your tips with us too!

Bloggie Wednesdays is a series of articles just on blogging. They contain tips, how-tos, discussions about anything and everything you need to know about blogging and how we can be better bloggers. If you have any suggestions, tips and tricks about blogging you would like to share with us, or if you have any questions you would like me to address, please let us know in the comments.

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23 comments… add one
  1. Emily

    Thanks for sharing, Tine. Procrastination is my biggest enemy and with the constant stream of social media, it’s definitely a struggle sometimes to get things done.

    I know you said to tackle the big things first in the morning but do you find that sometimes inspiration is just not there, or you’re having a ‘blah’ day and the task is 10x harder than usual? Do you find a way to try and get around that and do it anyway or end up rescheduling your day/week?

    1. Tine

      I totally know what you mean Emily and goodness knows I’ve had a lot of those days. When I have one of those ‘blah’ days and the task is much harder than usual, if it’s not urgent, I’ll reschedule the task for the next day, provided it’s the frog I have the swallow the next day. This means that that’s the first thing I have to get done before anything else. If it’s urgent, then I’ll have to push through, dig deep and get to it. I usually go out to the garden for a quick break, gather my thoughts and then come back to the task at hand.

  2. Carole

    Love this post, Tine. Thanks for sharing… I’ve now switch off all social media notifications on my phone! My question is: when working from home, how to do mix office work with housework? How do you find a balance? I find it a constant struggle for some reason…

    1. Tine

      Gah, the damn housework! For things like vacuuming, cleaning, etc, I leave that to the afternoon for only just 30 mins. I have to get them done during that time. I call it my mid-afternoon break but it’s not really a break. It’s a good way for me to step away from the computer and do mundane tasks like housework to “relax” my eyes. The only problem I have is laundry. I don’t have a dryer so when the weather is good, I have to get laundry done even during my usual working hours. Sigh.

  3. Sarah

    Hi Tine! I think these tips are super handy. Social media is the killer for me; I’m going to follow your advice on that! 🙂
    Sarah recently posted..Melbourne Mini Haul (aka Sarah can’t stop shopping!?!)My Profile

    1. Tine

      Thanks Sarah! I didn’t add this into the blog post but if possible, turn off all push notifications on the phone as well. Social media can be a huge time-waster so it’s best to only access it every few hours (unless your work is predominantly social media of course, then that’s a different kettle of fish). I’m just checking my Twitter feed now and the last time I checked it was 10 hours ago. 😛

  4. Christine

    This was a great post; I work from home and I am *always* on the look-out for ways to better my time-management and am always curious to know how others do it too. I particularly need to work on #1 and eat that frog for breakfast, and #3, no more excuses I am somehow always marketing when I start scrolling social media! The one trick I do embrace and what works best for me–#4–I get an incredible amount done when alone with my laptop at a cafe. When going the toilet involves saving your table seat, asking someone to mind your laptop, or packing up all your stuff, you tend to keep your butt in the seat! 🙂

    1. Tine

      Hehehe good one Christine! Me too, I’m always curious as to how people working from home manage their time and schedule. I think when I’m out, even with other distractions, I just need to get work done on the iPad or else it would be time wasted. Plus I look like a *ahem* writer when I’m writing at, say, Starbucks or something. Hee hee!

  5. Nikky

    Thanks so much for these amazing tips! I don’t work from home but on the days that I am at home with the kids are a killer and are full of to do lists. I’m like you. If I don’t have a list I jump from one thing to another and in the end nothing gets really done. I love the Erin Condren planner. Might need to put one on my christmas wishlist

    1. Tine

      Thanks Nikky. I didn’t think I’d like the Erin Condren planner all that much. It sure is expensive at first glance. But now, it’s worth every cent for how much time it has saved me. Apparently if you sign up for their mailing list, you get a discount off your first purchase or something.

  6. Beth and Beauty

    Yes, I have to use “TO DO” list or I seem to get nothing done! I also love the feeling of being able to put a check mark by something on that list after it is done! I am still trying to find the right balance between my blog, social media and my home life. Sometimes it is hard but I am slowly learning!!! Thanks for the tips!
    Beth and Beauty recently posted..Ipsy Glam Bag June 2014 Reveal *Beth and Beauty*My Profile

    1. Tine

      My pleasure, Beth! Oh I know right? How awesome does it feel to either put a CHECK next to that To Do item or better yet, cross it right off? Ahhh! 🙂

  7. Victoria

    Love this post and I really enjoyed reading it. So insightful and interesting 🙂

    1. Tine

      Thanks Victoria. So glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  8. Beauty Box

    Ooo I’m so inspired by this post. I work from home too and am always looking for ways to be more productive. I love the way you draw a little check box so you can tick it off when the item is done. That’s a small thing but gives so much satisfaction. I love ticking things off my to-do list! I will check out the Life Planner but $100 is a huge investment for a “notebook”… But I can see the idea of the monthly and daily pages working in tandem and giving you a good overview of long and short term goals. I’ll have to bookmark this post!
    Beauty Box recently posted..Sephora Haul In NYCMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Aww glad you enjoyed the post lovely. Go Google “bullet journal”; it’s more complicated than what I do but it’s all around physically ticking off checkboxes as well. To be honest, it frustrates me greatly that the EC Life Planner is so expensive. The planner itself is okay; it’s about a tenner more expensive than Kikki K planners but because I do like how colourful and useful it is, I’m okay with the price. But that damn international shipping fees really, REALLY annoy me. I don’t understand why they can’t just use USPS to send out parcels internationally but opted for couriers instead. It’s highly unnecessary. Give international customers that option to want to pay more for, that’s fine. But the base shipping options should be USPS. It costs more than Australian postage and you know how bloody expensive Australian postage is. Grr!

  9. xin

    tine you are really inspirational i must say. since i don’t work from home, so i only work on tasks based on assignment/BAU now. but i used to work from home during my first job, and oh boy, it was tough for time management even though i ‘seemed’ to be free on most day ><
    xin recently posted..Friday Fun: Do you apply lipstick in the car?My Profile

    1. Tine

      Aww thanks Xin! When I was working in an office, I had to follow some sort of schedule so now that I work from home, it’s best to stick to one too. The temptations of TV, Internet and the bed are strong so if I don’t organise myself properly, nothing will be done. I’ll spend most of my time playing with Janey, although that’s not a bad thing now, is it? 😛

      1. xin

        fuhhh highly efficient now indeed 😛
        btw the planner is so pretty i might end up ‘collecting’ it instead of using it
        xin recently posted..Friday Fun: Do you apply lipstick in the car?My Profile

        1. Tine

          Not highly efficient lah. I stumble quite often. 😛 I was worried I’ll end up wasting the planner but so far so good! I have many Moleskines and Kikki K planners that I ended up collecting. Sigh.

  10. Mel

    So Tine, do you still love the Erin Condren planner? I’m looking at getting one for 2016 and would love to know if you’re loving it now as much as you were when you wrote this article!
    Mel recently posted..October Favourites! 2015My Profile

    1. Tine

      To be honest, as a planner, I don’t use it as much anymore as I’ve fallen in love with the Midori Traveler’s notebooks. BUT, I still ordered the 2016 ECLP and I actually love sticking stickers on it. Y’know, creative outlet and all. 😛 The ECLPs are fun planners despite what naysayers think. It’s not something you’ll bring with you to a boardroom meeting but for your own personal use, why the hell not? 😛 Just a note of caution though: Erin Condren takes AGES to send anything that has to do with metallic covers. I made the mistake of ordering a metallic interchangeable cover, and my order took 2 months to arrive, only because of ONE cover. Had I not ordered it, it would have arrived in a month or maybe even less. And the sad part was, the metallic cover I ordered didn’t even look as good as the other two regular covers I ordered. Sigh.

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