5 Productivity Tools That Will Change Your Whole Game

Do you take a lunch break every day? And by lunch break, I mean sit down for 30-45 minutes and eat a meal.
 
If you would have asked me that a little over a year ago, I would have told you, my lunch break was the perfect time to get extra work done. Gross! I was overworking, super busy, and even though I was getting a lot done, I would never consider myself productive.  I was doing doing doing lots of things, but not prioritizing my actions to make sure I was focused on the things that really make an impact.
 
Fast forward to today and I am proud to say that I get significantly more accomplished in half the time (including an increase in revenue year over year while cutting my work week from 60+ to only 20 hours) and I take a real lunch break, every single day!
 
My secret? These five productivity tools:
 
Life Calendar: Create a calendar of your ideal week. Plug in your most important tasks and activities so you have dedicated time to get them done. (Click that link to access my calendar and make your own.)
 
At the beginning of each quarter I sit down and review my “ideal” weekly calendar. I schedule in the things that are most important to me and to my business development, personal things like, my yoga classes, life coaching sessions, and lunch breaks every day and professional things like financials review, content creation, networking, and specific time for email checking. I stick close to my calendar and schedule in everything else, including client meetings, around my essential tasks. If it doesn’t fit on a calendar on paper, it won’t fit in my real life.
 
Inbox Zero: Never let your inbox become your to do list. If you cannot reply to something right away, put it on your to do list and archive the message. If you are scared you will forget it, use Boomerang for gmail, so that you receive a reminder.
 
Email checking is a total time suck and something I used to do compulsively. I never deleted or archived an email and kept all types of outstanding “to-do” items in my inbox at all times. Needless to say, there was always something sitting in my inbox that needed attention and I could easily get distracted by that when I had much more important things to be doing. Now, my inbox is clean and my to-do list has a more accurate listing of the things I really need to do.
 
Brain Dump: Take out a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down everything in your head that you need to do. EVERYTHING. Then when it is all on paper, put those things in categories, like: work, family/household, shiny objects, and self-care and cross out all the filler things taking up brain space that you don’t really need to do.
 
I used to keep lots of lists in my head. Not only the things I needed to do in my business, but also things I need to do at home, ideas for projects, vacation, parties, and conversations that I need to have all swirling around 24-7. Now, when I start to feel the swirling, I do a brain dump. I write it all out and then pull out the things I really need to be worried about at this moment. Just knowing that the other stuff is documented makes me feel relieved that it has a home and will not be forgotten. And often times, there are things taking up brain space that really do not need my immediate attention.
 
Trello: Make your to-do list handy and organized anywhere you go. The Trello app allows for prioritizing, assigning due dates, and keeping all your tasks organized in groups like home, work, personal, etc.
 
Because I hate lots of papers everywhere, I don’t like to have those brain dump pages following me around. I use the Trello app on my phone to keep my to-do lists separated by category. I keep a parking lot of “shiny objects” or ideas for projects that are completely a distraction from my current work load. I try not to look at my work list while I am at home or my home list while I am at work.
 

Pomodoro: Use a kitchen timer to keep you focused and on task while working through all of those little tasks that you don’t want to do. Work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes, then repeat.  Make sure you turn off all distractions during your working time, meaning no Facebook or phone alerts.
 
Whether I like it or not, there are some days when I have a bunch of little tasky things that need to get done, things like replying to emails, updating billing information, filling in tracking sheets. You know what I am talking about. My way to power through the stuff I don’t really want to do, is to use the pomodoro technique. I set my timer for 25 minutes, work focused, take a 5 minute break, get up and stretch, and then hit that 25 minute timer again. I don’t do more than 3 sets, but it is amazing what I can accomplish when I am really really focused.

Shannon