Want To Be Truly Productive? Slow Down First

by | Aug 4, 2017 | Blog, Lifestyle | 0 comments

As a freelancer, business owner or entrepreneur it’s challenging to stay highly productive and keep a healthy work-life balance at the same time. As a busy freelancer and wellness blogger, I know too well how it feels but I developed effective strategies. I’m telling you how to deal with long to-do lists, distractions, and stress to reach your best productivity and health level. Here are my best tips for you.

Can you relate to the following problems?

“I feel both overworked and like I’m not working hard enough.”

“Feeling pressured is good but I feel overwhelmed.”

“Afternoon slumps kills my productivity easily.”

I faced the same challenges. When I was working full time and on the weekends for the startup of my boyfriend, I was drowning in to-do lists and felt always overwhelmed. I had to come up with a better work-life balance to not risk a burnout and stay productive.

 

Learn from my mistakes

According to the Oxford Dictionaries “productive” is defined as “achieving a significant amount or result”. You agree easily, right? Who doesn’t want to achieve goals and many work results? However, as easy the definition and theory are as challenging is the reality and practice. Many people think that they will have the biggest results if they hustle. They’re pushing themselves and overwork just because they have very long to-do lists and they feel that taking any kind of break means only losing time.

That’s a mistaken belief.

A while ago I thought that too. I was working six to seven days a week barely taking breaks because I love what I do. I thought that working on my passion projects isn’t real work. The problem is that being online most of the time has its negative consequences. You get easily internet addicted. You maybe use your private Facebook sessions to network, but to set no limits is dangerous.

You not only start to lose energy and focus but sooner or later you get seriously overwhelmed and stressed which can lead to exhaustion, tiredness or a serious burnout. To put it briefly working without limits makes you sick and eventually kills your productivity.

So how exactly did I improve my productivity?

I simply slowed down and developed a new work strategy. Here are my top tips based on my own experiences for you:

I faced the same challenges. When I was working full time and on the weekends for the startup of my boyfriend, I was drowning in to-do lists and felt always overwhelmed. I had to come up with a better work-life balance to not risk a burnout and stay productive.

Develop healthy routines

Actually, I didn’t like routines some years ago when I was working as an editor for TV channels and a press agency. Routines made me bored and they stole my creativity. You ask, why I now recommend and love routines? For the simple reason that I’m now my own boss playing with my own rules, working for my very own success and not for a boss or company which values I’m not sharing.

Routines are pretty much underrated. They may seem old school to you but they help to establish habits and discipline. Sure, there are days when you feel too tired or you’re sick and you just can’t follow a work day routine. But that should barely happen if you slow down and follow healthy habits.

On an average working day, I follow these three routines

Morning routine

I set an alarm at 9 pm but often I wake up before that time. I slowly get used to the sunlight in my eyes, I stretch my body while laying in the bed and think of something positive. I ignore my phone completely to not get distracted and stressed with all the new messages. I make my bed, go to the bathroom and eat breakfast. Only then I start to turn on the WiFi of my smartphone if I feel like and if I’m alone without my partner or family. After the breakfast, I start to schedule my work day and set priorities. I will tell later how to do that.

Lunch routine

When it comes to lunch, I again ignore my phone completely to focus on the food and conversations at the table. Even if I eat alone I rather enjoy resting my eyes while looking out of the window. I give my brain the chance to relax completely. I’m a big fan of eating slowly to bring awareness to the taste and feel of the food.

Many people multitask but that’s not worth it. There are studies which show that multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance. The brain is not able to perform two tasks successfully at the same time. Eventually, you lose the ability to pay full attention.

After my lunch, I take around 20 minutes more to lie on the sofa. Sitting all day long is very unhealthy. Stretch your body as often as you can! I close my eyes and meditate a bit. Very slowly I get myself back in the mood to work online.

Evening routine

During the evening it is very important to slow down and de-stress. I try to finish my work at the same time every day so that I don’t eat too late dinner. I just don’t sleep well if I go to the bed with a full stomach.

I personally often end my days answering some private messages. That is how I slowly switch from work to private mode. I like to read a newspaper, and once in a while I watch TV to unwind. I try to not use screens in the evening, though every few days I scroll through Instagram or Pinterest to get inspired and relaxed.

Short before I go to bed I like to stretch my body again with the help of yoga. I usually turn off the phone WiFi. Only when I do a guided meditation I would use an app like Insight Timer.

Since I follow those routines I have a better focus and feel less stressed. But that’s not all I do to increase my productivity.

 

Here are my top tips for high-quality work results

1. Have a dedicated workplace

There are many people who can work everywhere, on the bed, in the kitchen or even at the beach. I personally like to have a workspace which has the only purpose of work and nothing else if possible. Be honest with yourself, can you really focus on important tasks in a café when you’re forced to listen to conversations at the table next to you?

I myself like co-working spaces where people come to work and network. At home, I choose a “corner” of the apartment which is calm and tidy. It gives my mind the possibility to focus better.

2. Create a schedule

To be truly productive you should not just work when you feel like. I use the time after breakfast to create my schedule for the day. Many friends tell me that they have difficulties in prioritizing tasks. I had the same problem! But I discovered a simple method which changed my life. It is the so-called Eisenhower Box. The principle helps you to make a difference between important and urgent tasks because it isn’t the same. Read here how it works.

Everybody has preferences when it comes to the most productive daytime. Some people prefer the mornings, others have more energy later in the day. When is your best work time? Use always this period to work on your most urgent and important tasks.

3. Set due dates

Once you set your priority tasks, set a due date. Mark a time during the day or a day in the future when you want to have the result. Use a calendar and have your goals always visible. Even when you don’t work with clients and “just” for your own blog, for example, set due dates as well. Discipline and commitment lead to success.

4. Set a timer

 

Don’t just start to work on your tasks until you get tired. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique which helps me to focus, avoid multitasking and get quick work results. The principle is based on 25-minutes sprints and 5-minute breaks. Read here how it works and why it’s a fantastic method to be more productive.

5. Don’t try to be perfect

 

Some years ago I tried to be perfect with pretty everything in my life. No surprise, it didn’t work out. It only stressed me and I didn’t make the progress I wanted. Perfectionism is dangerous. It not only steals time but it’s not even as important as you think. Since I prefer “progress over perfectionism” I accomplish much more tasks than before.

Sure. it depends on the kind of task. But most of the time perfectionism is not needed. If you follow routines and use a good time management, you will deliver quality results due to the fact that you work with a high focus.

6. Separate work from your private life

As a freelancer, business owner or entrepreneur you will always have duties and long to-do lists. And when you have fun working on it, it’s hard to stop, right? I know it too well. However, as I described in the beginning, I couldn’t stop and overworked which was leading to high stress and tiredness.

Don’t do the same mistake and protect your body and mind. We are not robots, we are human beings with energy limits. If you ignore tiredness and stress you risk a burnout sooner or later.

7. Do a regular digital detox

 

The human brain needs regular breaks from work to function healthy and well. This not only applies to one work day but also to a week. Don’t work seven days a week. I personally take off two days to fully recharge my batteries.

What helps most is to disconnect completely and enjoy offline life. A digital detox means to turn off or at least ignore any kind of devices like smartphone, tablet or laptop. Many people are addicted to the internet and they feel pressured by all the messages. But you deserve to rest, you need it!

I was writing a separate article about the importance of being offline and how to master a digital detox in 5 easy steps on my blog Wellness Nomads.

8. Say no

 

Saying no is one of the most important tasks you should learn. Being constantly online gives others the feeling that you’re available around the clock. Your friends or network contacts want to talk to you? Find a time which fits your schedule and doesn’t disturb your routines. If a message pops up, you don’t need to react immediately. Set certain times during the day to answer them. People will get used to it.

Another reason to answer messages at certain times is that you do it with a focus. Like I said, don’t multitask or you get bad and superficial results. By the way, if you’re able to say no and set limits, people will take you more seriously because that’s how professionals work.

9. Socialize

Working alone at home can be a blessing and curse. Studies show that talking to people online, for example through Skype or FaceTime, is not replacing a real life meeting. We’re more connected than ever but the feeling of loneliness is rising among young people.

Facebook and social media, in general, are pretty superficial regarding the style of communication, don’t you agree? We interact a lot on those platforms but do we feel truly and deeply satisfied in the end?

How do you feel after a cup of coffee with a friend in a café where you’re able to touch each other and look into each other’s eyes? Two positive effects come together in real life. First, you can hug, laugh loud and talk endlessly. Plus, you are offline, relaxing and enjoying many little precious moments which Facebook and Co. will never be able to give you.

Summary

– follow routines to create healthy habits

– set priorities (Eisenhower Box)

– create a schedule for the day

– set due dates

– set a timer (Pomodoro technique)

– focus on single tasks, don’t multitask

– let go of perfectionism

– separate work and private life

– do a regular digital detox

– learn to say no

– socialize in real life

Work is important, but without health and wellbeing, you will not accomplish much. It’s all about balance. If you make a slow and conscious living your first priority, you will see how your productivity grows and how the quality of your work results improves.

These were my favorite tips based on my personal experience. I’m sure you have other tips to be productive. Tell us how your work routine looks like. We’re curious to hear from you. Just leave a comment below!

Take care and life, Kathrin

Kathrin Hartrampf

Kathrin Hartrampf

Founder of Wellness Nomads

German blogger, digital nomad, wellness and adventure lover. A three-month long break in Asia transformed my mind. Since then I’m following my passion for health and wellness because I believe that it’s all about work-life balance.

Check out Wellness Nomads 

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