Productivity Hacks During Periods of Business Interruption
Interruption levels are mega high and everything appears to be on semi-permanent ‘go-slow’.
It’s an interesting dilemma for those who are used to working from home – having other people around all the time, literally getting in the way of habits and routines we didn’t realise we had!
Seriously though, Lockdown in New Zealand has been mercifully brief compared to nations with more widespread COVID-19 infections, higher population density, and on the whole, much smaller dwellings.
Divorce lawyers in Wuhan were raking it in after their long lockdown (they were literally padlocked inside their apartments)!
If we take a look at what’s going on, it’s easier to understand and navigate,
The Impact of underlying anxiety shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s much more difficult to make good decisions in a fluid environment. Stress levels skyrocket. Thought process is interrupted even before the interruptions start.
Understanding the impact of anxiety on the body helps enormously. Sleep becomes less restful. Carb loaded comfort food appeals – increasing blood sugar levels – causing ups and downs in energy & focus which disrupts concentration. Breathing becomes shallower, resulting in muscle tension increase. Our bodies actually work against us when we remain in a state of stress for an extended period.
Vitamins & mineral supplements like magnesium, cherry bark extract, Vitamin B & Vitamin A are more helpful than usual at this time, as they really help with restorative sleep, cellular repair and brain function when there is ongoing low level stress.
Prioritising physical & mental health over anything else will put you in good stead.
My advice is to get yourself outside every two hours – even if it’s raining – find a spot where no one else will be around you, focus on a point in the horizon, lift one foot slightly off the ground (this engages your core muscles and forces you to stand upright) breathe in through your nose to a slow count to ten then out through your mouth to the same count – five on each foot.
This gets your diaphragm moving, allows your muscles to relax for 60 seconds, slows your mind and gives you respite from almost everything around you.
Try it. I promise you’ll enjoy this exercise and I guarantee it will boost your productivity.
While it is not impacting productivity directly (we’ll get to that), it will put you in a positive space and feel like you are in control.
Dump other people’s stress balls in the bin.
It’s very common for people to reach out to dump when they feel stressed. Dumping and being dumped on is all part of being a community. However, when we are all collectively anxious, we can have a situation arise where the stress balls start becoming negative in terms of energy drain.
I find this exercise really helps: Visualise the stress ball. Physically dump it in the bin – any bin is fine. Do a two handed throw (this actually helps you get some perspective on the dimension of the stress).
After dumping it, flick your hands at the wrists 10 times, then flick your fingers really hard 10 times – this is how we flick off someone else’s stress. Try it – you’ll find this also gives you a feeling of control.
“Top Three” Planning.
Task management is the foundation of productivity. Planning and prioritising boosts productivity in its own right.
Most of us try to take on too many tasks and drown in them.
If you are trying to home school three primary school children and also run a business that usually keeps you busy 5+ hours a day – forget it. You are going to need to decide which is the top priority.
I’m going to add to that my own observation that no kid ever failed to grow up and have a prosperous future because he or she had a term off primary school. If your business brings in the money that pays for food and shelter – let them play. Just managing them playing is a really big job!
So – pick your top three. Every day, you need to have three top priorities.
- The first top priority gets a 60% weighting on your available time and energy.
- Second priority gets a 30% ranking
- Third priority gets the remaining 10%.
No other tasks can push in. That’s how you run your day. Once those three are done and dusted, you can look a the rest of the list – or you can call it a day.
If you’re thinking ‘oh I have a ton more than three on my list every day’, read on. I have seven items on my top list today and about a hundred on my other collective lists – because I know my time will be interrupted, I’ve picked out my top three and I will feel good when I’ve done them all.
Important note: unless it’s their allocated time in your schedule, someone else’s top three do not rank more highly than your own.
In picking out your top three – make sure that these are the ones that will contribute the most to your present priorities – which for most of us is cashflow (present and immediate future).
Task Management Hacks
The headspace needs to be clear and the brain needs to be focused. We’ve acknowledged to ourselves that we are already on the backfoot – and while the suggestions above are not strictly about productivity, you’ll be surprised at the difference they will make to mindset. The brain rules the body and the mind and it can’t do that well when it’s frazzled.
Here is what I recommend for managing tasks
- Use checklists for the day with your top three on their own checklist and everything else on a secondary one. I use Trello Checklists – I love how they get a line through them when you’ve done the task, it’s very satisfying!
- Use checklists for the week as well as the day.
- Have a note pad (the app) open on your screen. Keep things that you’ll be coming back to regularly like links you may need to paste, colour codes etc.
- Use CRM apps and tags to automate communications that you need to send out regularly, like tracking numbers – it’s way more efficient than copying and pasting in gmail or outlook – and you have a record of when you sent it.
- Use a bubble book – that’s a blank A4 sized notebook. When an idea hits you, write it on the bubble book and circle it (hence the name bubble book). Incoming tasks can also be added to the bubble book, but I tend to bullet point those.
- Defrag/Refrag: at the end of each working day, the bubbles and bullet points get added to your master list of tasks and concepts (I use Trello for this also). This way you don’t lose any incoming ideas of tasks. Defrag/Refrag is when you select your top three for the FOLLOWING day and reshuffle your lists while the content is fresh in your head.
- Start each day with your Top Three already prepared and ready to go (in the Defrag/Refrag)
- Put your phone on Flight Mode when you are on your A priority. I put mine in another room generally until task A is complete.
- Set up a Square Squad to bounce ideas. The square squad is the names of the people from whom you are willing to take business advice. You can put as many names as you can fit onto the smallest PostIt note – the small square one. This will save you hours of filtering advice from people who don’t know you, your journey or your business particularly well. If they’re not on the Square Squad, bless and release.
Break tasks down.
Big tasks that really can’t be completed in one short interrupted day can be broken down into mini tasks – for example, SEO: If SEO is at the top of your list, allocate these tasks into your A level jobs through the week.
- Discover keywords & rank them
- Discover longtail keywords for the top five
- Decide which pages will be allocated to each primary and longtail keyword.
- Name image files in accordance with the keywords and file them ready for uploading.
- Work on the pages for ONE keyword at a time, with a checklist for title, subtitles, alt text, meta title, meta description, image titles for ALL images.
When we’re under additional pressure (and it’s impacting our productivity), sometimes we just need to restructure what we offer or how we do things – even if it’s temporary.
- Reduce your online offer for E-Comm, you can have a restricted number of easy to pack lines or value packs – box them ready to go as one of your B priorities. Having a tighter offer should save you heaps of packing time – and if you’re labeling only, it’ll be much faster to complete order packing.
- Relax your delivery timeframes. If people know you are packing and despatching on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, they will be fine with it.
- Freeze some meals. Seriously, or at least double batch and keep some in the fridge for lunch.
- Get takeouts for kids. Think of it as boosting the economy and having an outing all in one fell swoop. They’ll survive. Try to eat well yourself though to keep your body calm.
- Be kind to yourself – it’s really hard running a business, and it’s really hard having your usually quiet thinking space filled with disruption. Don’t sweat it.
- Exercise daily – even if it’s a walk around te block. You need the Vitamin D. Enjoy the fresher than it’s been for decades air.
- Decide which movie to watch later on – it’s really nice having a movie picked out ready for when you have time to sit and enjoy.
Housework, Homework & Admin
Once upon a time, before I had children (I think we had one under 2 year old), and we were both working full time in full-on jobs, I walked into the house after work to hear the stove beeping that dinner was cooked, heard the washing machine head into its final spin, the dishwasher had done its job and the microwave pinged.
It’s the only time I have ever pulled that off, but it was massively satisfying.
Schedule those darned machines so they are working for you and not the other way around.
If you’re like me, you head into the kitchen to find another big mess, then you notice the animal fluff & the general state of the floor… the piles of washing mounting up, while the washing machine & a few other devices are beeping at you and there’s another load of stress on your mind.
Schedule all of those things into the week – one or two each day as priority 5. Do your top 3, add another two tasks then do one Housework thing – or better yet, delegate it. Kids CAN fold washing & make beds (kind of). They just don’t.
Admin – yes, that’s your priority 4. List those admin jobs and sprinkle them through the week.
So – noise-canceling headphones are a great idea. I don’t have any of those, but I do play music on my headphones when there’s a bit going on around me – it’s just easier than asking people to be quiet. Just try really hard not to sing along.
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