How to Stay Motivated, Get Things Done & Meet Every Deadline
Does this sound familiar? It's a Sunday and you think - it's blog day. You write a list and plan to get loads done. By the end of the day, you feel like you've accomplished a lot. But when you look at your list, only a few things have been ticked off. How does that happen?
It's a real struggle. It happened to me a few weekends ago. But I know you want to get a lot done. You've got blog posts, series and a whole host of other things you want to create. And sometimes, we just need more than 24 hours in a day. I mean, writing your to-do list takes enough time in itself! But how do you actually get it all done? How do you accomplish everything on your list in a decent amount of time without burning yourself out - and also feeling like you want to throw your laptop out of the window?
Well since I'm known around my friends and family as being one of the most organised people ever – I know, gotta’ live up to that, right! - I thought today I could give you a glimpse into my everyday routine and share some tips for how I meet every deadline and actually get things done.
I've also put together a free planning worksheet for you, so you can stay on top of your blog content and get everything done on time.
So, this is what my day looks like, Monday to Friday...
- 6:30 - wake up, get ready, feed pets, eat breakfast, schedule tweets
Yep, 6:30 is my wake-up call and I'm not gonna’ lie, it's an early one. I get straight up - no snoozing, no emails, no social media, nothing. The only thing I do with my phone is put it on charge. That's definitely one of my secrets - having a stretch and getting up when my alarm goes off. Once I'm ready, I feed my kitty and two bunnies and give them morning cuddles while my porridge cooks. Then, I schedule tweets out for the day based on the blog post that has gone live over breakfast.
My morning routine is perfect. Having that structure means my day starts off in a really great way and that is key for being productive.
- 8:15 - check emails, start work!
I start work at 8:30 but just before, I check my emails and flag anything I need to get back to that's urgent. I’m lucky that it only takes me ten minutes to drive to work. Once that's done, I crack on with my tasks for the morning! Every day is different. Sometimes I could have a school to go out to, other times we could have to set up for an event, and other times I'll be in the office working on projects.
- 12:30 – lunch break
I get 40 minutes for my lunch. Now, a lot of people would probably say I’m silly for working on my lunch break. But those 40 minutes are crucial for me. I quickly check my Twitter lists to see what’s been going on during the morning and then based on my blog to-do list, I either finish writing a post, format a post or create images. It all depends on where I’m up to.
- 4:00 – 4:30 – head home, exercise, eat
When the work day is done I try to switch off completely. Once I’m home, it’s about me, my family and what I’ve got to do. Getting a good workout in is first on my list and I try to do one 4-5 times a week. After that, I get ready for the next day and me and my Mum, or Tom and I make tea together.
- 7:30 – knock out my blog to-do list
We’ve got a rule in our family that there are no phones or tech after 8:30/9pm so until then, I try to do as much work for my blog as I can. Usually, I work on my iPad from the sofa. But since I’ve just invested in a MacBook Pro (!!!) I think part of my bedroom might have to be turned into an office ;)
It does get tough and depending on how I’m progressing with my deadlines, I do give myself a couple of nights off. But other than that, my day consists of a lot of work so I need to stay productive all the time. Luckily, over the past few years, I’ve trained myself to be motivated and I’ve also got some great things in place that really keep my productivity levels high. Now, I’m never unmotivated – that only happens when I’m ill.
So if you struggle with being productive and tackling all the items on your to-do list, here is a list of things that I do during a week to tick off every single item and meet every deadline.
Create a system that works for you
Here’s something I’ve learnt about actually getting things done…
You won’t achieve what you want to achieve when you follow someone else’s processes.
The only way to figure out the best system for you is to try them out. Yes, a to-do list is great, but that’s just the start. That only lists the tasks – it doesn’t help you with how you’re actually going to get them done.
You’re a blogger – think about everything you’ve got to accomplish in one week. Images, social media updates, content, scheduling, curating content to share, emails. You need to figure out a system that helps you keep on track of all these things and get them done.
For me, I used to list them all on a sheet of paper. Now I have a different system. Here’s a little example of the system I use to keep up with publishing content on ABOH. You can download it just above!
I list every post I’ve got to get done for each day of the week. Then I have four extra columns – “photo, write, schedule & proof-read”. So once I’ve created the photo for a post, I tick that box. Once I’ve written the post, I tick that box. And so on until they’re all done.
You’ve got to break things down into manageable chunks. When you know the exact steps that are included, it makes the whole thing seem a lot easier to get done. Plus, the more you go through your system, the more it’ll become completely natural to you.
Don’t work for more than 45 minutes at a time
This is such a big part of actually getting things done. If you're stuck on the same task for ages, or just keep going from one thing to another without a break, you won't be able to cope.
In high school, I remember being taught that the human attention span is about 40-45 minutes – that’s probably even shorter now. But ever since I was 15 and revising for my GCSE’s, I’ve had the same method – work for 45 minutes and have a five-minute break. Nip to the loo, get a brew, top up your water - anything that means you're standing up and taking your eyes away from what you’re currently doing.
Get the most important task done first
The one that's got the most priority and can't wait is the task you need to get done first. For me, every Monday morning that's the Student Bulletin. All staff and students expect that to go out before 12pm every Monday and if it doesn't, they'll ask why. If you know you've got something pressing to do, get it done. You'll feel so much better about completing your other tasks that way. Plus, if you do this first thing in the morning when you’re all ready for the day, you’ll be at your most alert.
Write out everything on your list
This is something I learnt from my mum. For both my day job and blog, before I create that table you saw above, I write everything down on a list. And I mean everything. Everything I need to do that week, all my meetings, tasks – everything. And you leave it that way until the weekend. You don’t cross anything off as you’re doing it. That’s what your special system is for. But you need to see everything in front of you so you know what you’ve got to complete and you can prioritise, and that's where this master list comes in.
If you see something in an email, you won’t remember it. But if you write it down, it’ll sink in more. Then on a Sunday, go back to your master list, cross off everything you got done and write a new master list for the week. Smart, right? Plus when you see everything you’ve achieved, it’ll spur you on to try and accomplish even more.
Work quickly – and if a task is taking a while, come back to it
I swear by working quickly. When I feel like a certain task is taking me too long, I stop and go back to it. If you try and force yourself to complete a task and it’s just not working, don’t make yourself feel guilty about it. Usually, it means you need a break and you can come back to it with a fresh mind.
Give yourself a reward at the end of it
Or, you know, bribe yourself, whichever way you want to look at it! It sounds really silly, but I know at the end of my day job, I get a break by doing a good workout. And then once I’ve done work for my blog, I can make myself a huge cup of tea. They’re little things, but if you make a deal with yourself that you can do something you want to do after you’ve done your work, you’ll be more motivated to get it done.
Plan out every chunk of your day & see where you’ve got time for certain things
Ah, the daily plan. There is absolutely no point in planning out your tasks for the day when you don’t know how much time you’ve actually got to get those tasks done. Think realistically about how much work you can get done in one day. If you know you’re out for a whole evening during the week, don’t plan any work. Use the evenings when you’ve got nothing on to catch up. Think about how much time it takes you to work on certain things and plan your time that way. It really does help and means you’re not staying up until midnight trying to format that blog post for the next day.
Only do the work that you need to do
This is like a form of procrastination. So instead of getting your latest blog post ready to go live, I could easily go through all my posts and re-do my graphics. But is that the work I need to be doing right now? No. That’s not a priority. It’s all about learning to say no. If someone asks you for something, don’t just say yes because you think it’s going to be a great opportunity. Look at your schedule and try to visualise where you’re going to get things done. Don’t let your most important work fall by the wayside. Which leads us nicely onto…
What needs to be done right now? What’s urgent? This is how you know when you need to prioritise. The easiest example I can give you is in terms of your blog. So Monday’s post is going to take priority over Wednesday’s post, which is going to take priority over Friday’s post – that’s prioritising. Do what needs to be done and you’ll get it done.
Break it all down
Having tasks on your to-do list such as “work on essay” or “do blog post” are really vague. Where would you even know where to start with those? That’s why you break it down! Think about every single step that’s involved in getting from the beginning point of your essay to when you’re handing it in and write all the steps down. Then work your way through them. That way, you’re crossing off one thing on your list at a time and it makes it a hell of a lot easier to manage.
It’s like if you were an author. You wouldn’t just have “write next book” on your to-do list. You’d have things like “write first half of chapter four” and “write second half of chapter four”. Plus, it makes it seem like you’ve accomplished a lot more.
Don’t sacrifice sleep
This isn’t really a productivity tip, but it helps. Never sacrifice your sleep. Set your latest time that you can go to bed and keep to it. Don’t stay up past that, or else your productivity levels for the next day will be nowhere as high.
Make a new list for every day
If you just have one list for each day of the week, you’ll lose track. Use your master list and note down the things from there that you want to get done that day. If you always have a meeting on a Monday morning, write that down for every Monday. Or if you’ve always got a piece of work to hand in every Thursday afternoon, schedule that in. No day will be the same and your list shouldn’t be either.
I’ll be honest – this is my downfall. I set myself certain tasks to complete every day. So yesterday, my to-do list looked something like this:
- Format Student Bulletin
- Send out Student Bulletin
- Email list of destinations
- Schedule tweets & Facebook posts
- Get a list of agencies together
- Finish app doc
Now there are quite a few tasks on that list but I knew I’d get them all done that day. And if I didn’t, I’d just carry them over. But the problem with working in marketing, especially in education, is that people want you all the time. I’ll get emails and phone calls saying can you do this, can you do that? And it would be so easy for me to stop what I was doing and move onto another task. Sometimes I have to if it’s finding out specific information for a parent or responding to a long email query. But other than that, I don’t want to multi-task.
No matter what pressure you’re put under, stick to your list. If someone asks you to do something and it doesn’t need doing right now, put it to the bottom of your list and tackle it when you’re ready.
The best direction you can take to getting things done on your to-do list is to just get started. The sooner you start a task, the sooner you’ll finish it, right?
So what's your number one tip for staying productive and getting things done? What's the one thing you're going to take away from this post?