I humbly submit some of my productivity tips. I don’t normally feel “busy,” even though I have a number of irons in the fire, so to speak. I’ve just established a routine over the years that works for me, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how I’ve been able to be more productive.
1. Have a routine
I think the most important thing is just to develop a daily routine. I started my current routine about 11 years ago when I began grad school. I was working full time and doing a master’s program via distance education. Each school term was about 10 weeks long and required me to read a number of books and write a lot of papers. My daughter was also a baby at that point. So, I had to figure out a way to make it all work. This continued later when I went to seminary, which was also a distance program through Concordia Seminary St. Louis (I graduated from the Specific Ministry Pastor – SMP – program).
What I’ve found works for me is to work on things on my laptop in the morning while I’m eating breakfast. I also bring my laptop to lunch to work during that time as well. In the evenings when I’m watching TV I’m also working on various tasks. My laptop is therefore nearly always with me. At times when it’s not, I have mobile apps on my phone which help me remain productive (e.g. Hootsuite, Twitter, Shopify, Apple Pages). This may sound like I’m working all the time, but see #2 below.
2. Have a lot of different types of tasks in the funnel
I don’t always feel very creative, so it’s hard to write new material when I feel that way. Conversely, there are other times when I have some idea in my head that I want to write down as soon as possible. There are also always emails to answer, websites to edit, marketing information to send or create, and various tasks which don’t require a whole lot of concentration. So, it’s good to have this type of variety in the work “funnel.” Then, depending on how I feel I can pick and choose different types of tasks to work on.
For example, during breakfast I’m tired and the logistics of trying to eat and drink coffee make it difficult to type well. But, I can answer emails or schedule social media posts. I’ve also found that it’s a good time for me to edit drafts of writings I’ve already created. At lunch, I can eat quickly and then have some quiet time to write, edit, or read. In the evenings, I find that I am able to work on blog posts as well as book manuscripts. Each task, for me, tends to have its corresponding time of day when I’m best able to deal with it.
3. Make good use of down time
Related to the first two points is the ability to make efficient use of time. I hardly ever watch TV without doing something else. I rarely go out with other people for lunch, except with my wife and occasionally with good friends. I have a list of things I want to accomplish each day and try my best to find time in the “gaps” of the day to accomplish them all.
4. Have the proper equipment
For my type of work, it’s important that I have a decent laptop and internet connectivity. So, I have a small 12 inch MacBook that fits in the glove compartment of my truck, so I can take it with me easily. My older iPhone works just fine for Internet tethering. This basically gives me the ability to do anything I need to do anywhere I am. I like the MacBook because I’m able to configure four virtual screens on it and then place applications on their own dedicated screens. This way, rather than minimize apps all the time, I can just quickly swap screens. At this very moment, I have Mac Mail and Safari on the first screen, then Pages (with my sermon text for next week) and Chrome (to get to certain websites which don’t play well with Safari) on the second screen, then Microsoft Word (with a book manuscript) and iTunes on the third screen, and finally Microsoft Excel and some photo editing software on the last screen.
A similar principal applies for other types of work; i.e. have the right tools for the job.
5. Write things down
I’m notorious for not remembering things in the short term. If my wife starts to tell me what to buy at the store, I ask her to write it down. We now use the Apple Reminders app to store our grocery list, since it syncs across all our devices; we can both add stuff to the list and whoever goes to the store first therefore has the up-to-date list.
With regards to writing, I have a few different ways I make lists of ideas or tasks. On my MacBook, I have a simple Pages document called “Ideas_List” in which I keep track of various ideas for books and related things. On my phone, I use the built-in Notes app to keep a running list of things I need to do. I know some people swear by Evernote. I have it and have used it a little bit, but haven’t managed to get into it. I do have a physical journal from this company which has been helpful for me to stay on track with overall goals for a number of weeks as well as daily goals.
6. Don’t be afraid to delegate or outsource
In addition, I use Shutterstock for professional stock photos and now that my daughter is getting into photography I’ve been enlisting her help (she wants to start providing stock photos for license on Shutterstock).
So, it’s helpful to have others fill in the areas I’m either not good at, am inefficient at, or don’t have the time for.
7. Take time to rest and exercise
It may sound like I’m always working, but I also take time to spend with my family, go on hikes, go running, play video games, and – sometimes – just watch TV without doing anything else. Personally, I also need at least 7 hours of sleep at night to feel my best. It’s not that I’m cutting down on these types of activities. It’s simply that by making better use of the “gaps” throughout the day (TV time, breakfast, lunch, and evenings) I’m able to make more time for these other things.