September 10, 2012 | life

How to be More Productive

There are times in life where everything just goes a bit ‘blah’. We get stuck in the same old routine and it’s almost like we hit cruise control. We see the same people on the same bus at the same time, we know the order of the guy we see every day in Starbucks (mocha-choca-voulez-vous-couchez-avec-moi-ce-soir-latte) and we’re tired, so very tired. I reached a point recently where I noticed I was just letting things happen around me. I’d become disengaged and this spilled over into every aspect of life. I just felt unproductive. I had to make a change. I decided I needed to address how to be more productive and generally, just how to feel good again. So here’s what I did:

Switch it up

It can be easy to just let the day get away from you – this is especially so if you’re freelance. For me, I know it’s important for me to set myself some structure. It just so happens that this feeling of needing change coincided with a fresh training cycle (as I started training for the upcoming Amsterdam Half Marathon). I decided to wake up at 5:45am every day and be out the door by 6am for my training runs. Through the week, my runs aren’t usually longer than 45 minutes. I get home, stretch, spend half an hour reading, shower, dress and get ready for my working day.

Make Lists

I love a list. I will make a list at the start of each day of what absolutely has to be done, in order of importance. Crossing them off once they’re completed makes me feel a) smug and b) far less overwhelmed. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to looking at my workload as one giant beast and freaking out, thinking there’s no way I can get it all done. But lists (and yes I know list-making is a simple and fairly obvious piece of advice) helps to break it down into bite size chunks. And if I don’t get through it all, well shucks, there’s always tomorrow.

Build in down time

Making a little time for you and your sanity is pretty gosh darned important people. For me, that’s what the start of my day is all about. Sure, I know getting up at 5:45am is crazy to some people, but those early morning runs help clear my head. It’s just me and my city, my footsteps, my heartbeat and I get quality thinking time in. I schedule half an hour to read when I get home because, being that I work online, I can clean forget to pick up a book and let a great author take me to another place every now and then. I know it seems like I’m saying to replace one schedule with another here, but for me, the structure is important.

Allow spontaneity

The great thing about all that structure, is that you’ll be so productive, you won’t feel guilty for going off script every once in a while. How many times have you turned down a dinner invitation because you’ve got too much work on? Without a set structure to my day, without the list making and what have you, I’m just a flailing mess, panicking about how I’ll get everything done in time and feeling guilty if I’m not doing anything. With the structure, even if something on my list doesn’t get done that day, I know it’ll be top of the list tomorrow, so treating myself to a coffee with friends or a cinema outing or whatever isn’t so bad. And allowing yourself the delight of doing something off script is so important, so things don’t become stale once again and you find yourself back at square one, where productivity had gone out the window in the first place.

So there you have it – very simple tips but I’ve found they work for me.

Do you have any tips you’d add? How are you more productive? Let me know in the comments.

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Constantly having something to look forward to is so important to me. Through the week I work, well LOADS. So although I may not have “fun” stuff happening all the time, knowing something is coming up that I’m really excited about spurs me on to get the work done. I like to ask other people the same question “What are you most looking forward to?” you get some great answers. x


I’m so with you on the list front – it really helps me focus, even if it’s just small things that I do before I get around to tackling the big ones. Breaking important/large tasks down into several bits also helps. I’m training for a half marathon too (Bristol, three weeks to go, eek!) and have been setting my alarm half an hour earlier to get up and go for a run. I’ve even started doing it on rest days, to check emails or update my blog – it feels so rewarding to do that little bit extra.


Rather a timely post for me to read as I seem to have a million things going on at once (also including the Bristol Half in less than 3 weeks!). I would add that once you’ve made a list (lists are great!) then where possible, try not to do more than one thing at a time….I sometimes find myself staring at my list not knowing what to do first and panicking and I feel much better just to pick something and get going on it.

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