I’ve been there.
Knowing I have about a million things to do, but not entirely sure how to make it all work. Also knowing that my already limited time is about to be put to the test because my to-do list continues to grow and grow with no end in sight.
Do you know where I’m coming from?
If you can relate to any of this, then read on – I’ve got some exciting news to share!
You can totally do this: have a full schedule and actually get stuff done.
There, I said it. And I meant it, too. Also, it bears repeating:
I believe the key to being productive with any thing (project, goal, deadline, etc.) while also balancing a full load of other obligations is to have a system in place that works for you. Now don’t get me wrong- taking breaks and resting is extremely important in being your most productive and effective self.
These ideas are not meant to be a replacement for much-needed downtime.
When you’re already pressed for time, it can be easy to become overwhelmed at your perceived lack of time. The good news is that we can still find the time
Here’s a few tips to get you started:
I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t think about lunch time as a time to work, right? That time is normally pretty sacred in that it’s used to take a break from work and to give ourselves some time to not have to think as hard.
I get it. But hear me out.
If time is really of the essence in getting your “thing” done, why not take some of this free time that’s built into your day to contribute some sweat equity to the thing that you love?
Set a designated work space
You probably have a room at your job that’s already designated for mealtimes, parties, breaks, and general non-working fraternizing. Does this area work for your #EpicWORKTIME?
If you are going to work in a space that’s already public to you and your other coworkers, will you be able to focus and get the work done? If not, you may want to rethink your plan and figure out another space that would be more suitable.
If you have an office, can you spend part of your lunch time working away on your passion project (as long as this falls in line with your company policies)? Are there any other less populated areas that you would be allowed some quiet time? Can you steal away to your car for a little while?
Have an agenda
Having a plan to get things done is key here. You don’t want to head off to lunch and your temporary work space only to waste precious time trying to figure out what you’re going to do. Try to get as much of the preliminary planning out of the way beforehand so that when it’s time to work, you will automatically fall into the agenda you’ve already set for yourself.
…as much as possible, of course! Your company campus is not your own space and much of what happens there is outside of your control. Even if you are able to find a quiet, private space to work on your passion project (see #2), sometimes the most well thought out plans can be thwarted.
But think about the things you can control. Like your music selection. One of my favorite things to do to block outside distractions (but still have some background sound) while I write is put in my headphones, turn the volume up, and tune out to focus in on what I’m doing.
Certain types of music, however, are way too distracting for me to be able to concentrate. I love hip hop, R&B, and pop music but absolutely must steer clear from it while I’m trying to write. Actually, anything with lyrics or spoken word is a no-no for me.
So film scores or classical music it is for me!
On the flip side, if I’m designing something or working on something that doesn’t take the same type of brain power as writing does, bring on that Hamilton cast album!
The point is know yourself. You know your quirks and hangups, so honor them and do what’s best for you.
Prepare your work materials
Gather all the documents and tools you’ll need to focus on during this abbreviated work session. When you’re organized, it much easier to jump right in and work more quickly and efficiently.
Focus on only one thing
Many of us don’t have extended lunch breaks- 30 minutes to an hour is the standard. Even in a regular working situation, it’s usually not the best idea to hop from one thing to the next. Doing that could kill your productivity!
Instead, commit to working on only one thing. I would even go so far as to say only commit to one portion or step of one thing. For instance, if you’re drafting a blog post and Step 1 of your process is to outline it, commit to doing just that. This way, when you’re ready to go to Step 2 and flesh out some of the initial ideas you’ve had, you won’t be starting with a blank page and you will have already taken care of a crucial step.
You might also have some other outstanding items that need to be taken care of like outlining your next Periscope or Instagram Live script, emailing 2 people to confirm their appearance on your next podcast episode, or updating your portfolio site About Page.
Set an alarm
Setting an alarm allows you to clear your mind so that you can focus on the work at hand and automate that part of your brain that will want to wander to “What time do I have to wrap up again?”
By taking care of this preliminary step, you’re able to stay on track.
Don’t forget to eat!
You are on lunch, after all. Set some time to actually eat (and enjoy) your food.
I’ve found that preparing a filling, but low-effort lunch allowed me to refuel my body but still have time to work on the project that I brought to work on.
You might be thinking that you need a longer lunch break (one hour or longer) in order to put these tips into play; that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve successfully tried this method while taking a 30 minute lunch – in fact, this post was outlined while on a lunch break!
So now that you have some productivity ideas to get you going, it’s time to put them to action. Think about an outstanding project you have. Think about the micro-tasks that you can put into motion that take little effort or time investments but have impactful results.
Are you struggling to make time for it? Do you think you would struggle less if you had a workable plan in place to get each smaller task accomplished so that you could get the project itself completed?
Let me know in the comments (or tweet me at @VerveHC!) and let me know what your plans are.