As you may know, Claudia and I are expecting baby #2 in about one month, (Wow! That sounds soon!) and this momentous occasion got me thinking about a lot of things. Not the least of which is how I can make the most of my time before the baby arrives.
Reflecting on how I’ve been getting my best work done, I realized there are a handful of tips and strategies that I rely on pretty heavily. They’re not original to me, but I wanted to share what’s been working in hopes that it might help you.
Here they are:
Tip #1: Go somewhere inspiring and new
Rather than working in my home office, when I need to get something important done, I’ve found it works best when I go somewhere inspiring and new.
Not only are there fewer distractions because I don’t hear our 2 year old playing down the hall, my creativity and focus increase when I’m in an inspiring environment.
Lately, I’ve been going to this great, new coffee shop nearby, Philter Coffee, and I love it. (It’s actually where I’m writing this post from now!)
Tip #2: Determine your 3 MIT’s for the day
This is a tip I picked up from Leo Babauta’s book, The Power of Less. What I do is look over my list of tasks for the day and determine what my three “most important tasks” (MIT’s) are.
Leo says to consider which tasks will have the most impact over the long term when choosing your MIT’s and to ask yourself the following three questions:
1. Will this have an impact that will last beyond this week or this month?
2. How will this change my work, my business, my life?
3. How will this further a longterm goal of mine? How important is that goal?
Once I have my three MIT’s, I start with those and work on those one at a time until they’re completed. Not trying to multitask here has been huge.
Do I get more then three things done a day? Sure. I’ll often have a short list of smaller items that I batch together and do after my MIT’s are done.
Tip #3: Get rid of distractions
This is a productivity tip that I heard about over and over, but never did a great job with. I decided to take it more seriously, and I’ve been very happy with the results.
Here a couple things I’m doing:
1. Keep a clear desktop – This includes both my physical desktop and my computer desktop.
2. Get out of the house – This way, there are fewer distractions and all the other things I want to get down aren’t there for me to see (see tip #1).
3. Listen to music that gets me focused – I use Focus@Will which is a free app (there’s a web-based version too) that plays music which has been selected by neuroscientists to increase productivity.
Tip #4: Capture ideas right away
This has been a real game changer for me. I used to simply try to remember things in my head. And, you know what? A lot of times, it worked. But what I realized was it was really affecting me having a clear head.
Many times I’d find my mind racing with supposedly all the things I had to do and remember. Then I’d take a second to jot them down and realize there were only five things in my head but it felt like 25 because they kept bouncing around!
Now what I do is capture ideas, thoughts, things to remember as soon as I think of them, no matter how small. This is a tip I picked up from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.
The tools you use to capture things aren’t important, it just needs to work for you. For a while, I just used a legal pad. Now, I’ve switched to digital and love it.
These are a couple of my go-to tools:
1. SoundEver – This is an iPhone app that lets you quickly record directly into Evernote as a new note. I love using it for blog post ideas and when I want to record something in an audiobook I’m listening to while driving.
2. AnyList – This is another iPhone app that Claudia and I use for our shopping list. It’s a simple, clean list app that let’s you sync between users. If I’m stopping at the store on my way home, Claudia can add items to the list from home and it’ll be included in my list when I get to the store.
3. Calendar 5 – This is the calendar is use on my iPhone which syncs with my Google Calendar on my laptop. I list it here because it allows me to include date-specific tasks.
If I’m meeting with a client and want to remember to followup with them on something at our next appointment, I simply create a task with that date and it’ll show up right there in my calendar on that day.
Tip #5: Get organized
Over the past few months, I’ve taken the time to get more organize in both work and life in general. I’m pretty organized by nature, but I realized I didn’t have a good system in place for many things. I’d have some things over here, and others over there.
For getting organized, like with tip #4, capturing ideas right away, the tools you use aren’t important, as long as you have an effective, efficient system that works for you.
For me, the main tool I’m using here is Evernote, which I referred to in tip #4. Evernote is my digital filling cabinet. It’s where I store everything from my To-Do list, to ideas for an upcoming project, to photos of the menus I want to be able to easily reference.
If you aren’t familiar with Evernote, I highly encourage you to consider it. I resisted jumping into it for a while because I didn’t want to take the time to learn a new system.
However, the learning curve really wasn’t bad at all. And now that I’ve become familiar with it, I love it and wish I would have utilized it sooner.
Here are two resources I found really helpful on learning Evernote quickly:
Video intro to Evernote:
So, as baby #2’s birth draws nearer and nearer, these are five tips that have really help me make the most of my time.
What about you? What is your favorite tip of the five tips and what would you add to the list? I’m always looking for new ideas and ways of doing things.