How I stay Focused and Productive

I am often asked how do I stay so focused and productive. To be honest most of the time I wing it, like any other normal mummy. I do have different methods in which to keep myself focused and productive at work and at home. I do also love researching new methods to incorporate to make my life that little easier. Here is a list of 10 ways I stay focused and productive and hopefully some may also help yourself…please remember it is about finding your own way, all what I do may not work for everyone. But then this is also the fun of trying new methods.

Brain Dump

Emptying all the ideas and tasks out of my head means a clear space for concentrating and staying focused. Clearing your mind means you aren’t thinking of other tasks. Ways of doing this is just make a simple list, literally empty all the jobs you know need doing that are stored. Even if they seem minimal, leaving the tasks in your head means they take up valuable focus space. I personally do this digitally but will also sometimes produce a long paper list of a million tasks or thoughts I am trying to remember. This really does help and only takes a few minutes of your time. Try getting in the habit of doing this once a week. 

Productivity Methods

I seriously geek out on all things productivity and personal growth and am constantly researching and reading books on the subjects. I thrive from learning and it is one way I love to keep my brain active. There are a few different ways which can help you stay focused and boost productivity. I will be doing posts on all of these soon in more detail.

One method is the Pomodoro Technique which is where you work in short bursts of Pomodoros which is 25 minutes non-stop on your task. After this time is up, then have a 5 minute break away from the task in hand. Repeat this and after every four pomodoros take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. This may seem a strange way to stay productive, but the breaks away from the task give you breathing space to stay focused when retutrning to the original task. I tend to use this if doing blogging tasks or work at home.

Focus Timers

Focus timers are brilliant for stopping yourself use your phone, even though in a weird way you can use your phone to use them if using a focus timer app. I use an app called Forest for when I don’t want to be distracted with my phone. The more you leave your phone the more you can eventually build an arboretum. There have been many times I will think ‘oh, I will just check this’ and the reminder that if I carry on opening the phone my tree will die, and reminds me I am not meant to be distracted.

Another timer I use for when applying the Pomodoro Technique above is the Bear Focus Timer (BFT) which will count in Pomodoros. I love the graphics on this one. There are many other timer apps, but these are the ones I prefer.

If you would prefer to use a manual timer, then this still works. I use a cube timer for making myself stay alert and on time. Plus this is great for a time out for the kids. Being mindful of the time took for a task means you will be more focused on the task itself and this will eliminate procrastination.

Eliminate Notifications

This has made the hugest difference to keeping myself focused and staying off my phone. I have removed all notifications off most of my apps. My email and social media apps have no notifications, which means I just need to go in them to view. Rather than focusing on an important task and then you spot a notification has popped up that Sandra has uploaded a new photo of her lunch, straight away you have broken that focus. Plus most of us are guilty of the vortex of social media, just having an innocent scroll through can lead you on to a trail and then before you know it you lost valuable time deviating away from your work.

Not only eliminating notifications keeps you focused, this means those pesky red dots appear in the corner of your apps. This may just be me that hates them, but for those of you that are on the same wave length as me here… it is a game changer.

Background Noise

I personally prefer to work listening to music, I always have done and have varied playlists for certain tasks. You can make your own or search for focus playlists and there is a large number for you to listen too. It is finding a happy medium for what makes you more productive. One great playlist was mentioned by the lovely Alex Gladwin over at Bump To Baby, which was Fearless Motivation Instrumentals on Spotify. Honestly have a listen and see if you feel slightly pumped (you will).

Listening to your favourite playlist whether soft piano or drum and bass, also has the advantage to drown out background noise. For example I forgot my earphones when having a sneaky latte whilst blogging in Starbucks….obviously taking the standard blogger photo of my keyboard and coffee cup. I found myself listening to every conversation going, it was impossible to focus. 

I admire the people who can watch Netflix and work. I tried and failed. Finding the best way for you to stay focused and also be aware of time again. Yes you may have worked whilst watching the latest episode in a new series you are binging on, but could you have done that job quicker if you wasn’t watching a TV at the same time. Again this is a personal preference and do what works for you. Hey, you may even like total peace and quiet… in my house this simply is non existent.

Early or Late

This method means playing to your strengths. Back in my twenties I could stay up until the early hours and have a lie in to restore my sleep. Then came kids and my body clock changed. Gone are the days of watching the budget films on after midnight on a Saturday night on BBC One then waking to record the Top 40 on cassette. Instead up early enough to watch the promo loop on CBeebies, desperately waiting for it to start to have a sneaky snooze whilst the kids are engrossed on Teletubbies.

Now I am way more productive earlier in the morning and often wake early to get jobs done in peace and also to fit them in. For example on a working day, by the time we are home the last thing is you want to go on a screen and start typing your next blog post or scheduling tweets. So to fit in my blog/life admin I will get up early.

For me getting up early means, the earlier the better for any main tasks. These will get most of my focus energy as I am more alert. Rather than at 4pm where I am slightly flagging and needing caffeine. Use the time you feel most alert and awake to get your best work done. You will notice you are more focused in this time frame and then getting more jobs, even the ones that you have been putting off means you will feel more productive.

Plan Your Day

Planning your day will help you stay on plan as much as it can. There is always things to pop up and break your focus, but overall this works for me. I know planning and calendar blocking my day how many tasks I can do, rather than compiling a huge list and feeling overwhelmed which looses your focus. Also this helps you not procrastinate inbetween tasks and projects as you know what you have planned. Plus similar to the brain dump all of your other jobs are out of your head, which means you can focus solely on the current task.

Another tip is take 10 minutes at the end of your work day or session to plan the next day. One you will go to bed minus the thoughts of the next days plans as you have already planned your day. Plus you will feel much more refreshed in the morning and motivated to be productive, knowing you already have planned your day ahead.

Environment

Create a happy work space wether this is at work, in a coffee shop, at the kitchen table or if you have the room for a desk…. create a space where you feel comfortable. This is all about making your happy place, this will encourage you to work.

One of my favourite things to do to boost productivity vibes is to clear my workspace. With the highlighters neatly in a line and a fresh new notepad at the ready, I feel at my most productive. Those who follow myself, know I have a day job and am able to work from home during school holidays, plus doing my blogging as a side hustle means I am constantly on a device of some sort.

I started working from the sofa and bedroom but couldn’t get comfortable and then the husband is constantly watching TV so then I was distracted and could not focus. I have tried so may different little desk areas, one being an Ikea Kallax unit, but this was not comfortable for all day working from home. Then we tried a little desk in our built in cupboard in the bedroom. I loved this little space but without sounding like Goldilocks this was too little and is now a fabulous dressing table.

Then came the idea of a home office which you can see and read more here. I am so focused in my office and everything is perfect to stop distractions. Work wise for my day job I like to keep my desk clear and personalised with little touches from home, pictures of the kiddies and a fake plant… the normal really. But all of this makes me feel like I am in my own little space and again when not distracted by people I can focus and really get productive.

Break Everything Down

If you are like myself you can get overwhelmed with huge or many tasks. Again this is where brain dumping is fantastic. Clear your head and break everything down, make notes before hand and get your head round the task ahead. The key is to stay focused at this point as this is when procrastination can slip in. Having the feeling of being overwhelmed can mean you openly look for distractions and welcome them.

I always have had the issue of starting a project, even now in my mid 30’s I doubt myself and then start googling, similar to searching medical symptoms. You can go on a trail and again waste precious focused time. I have got better by making the note and having a brain dump before starting a project. If you can break each section down as once you start you should find the rest flows.

Also I have found do not doubt yourself, you can do it. Do not compare yourself to anyone else in anything you do. One this saves you precious time trawling through google. Also if you feel more confident you will feel more focused.

The big projects can be the ones that break any focus and productivity. These are the ones that you need to do at your most alert and use all of your focus superpowers to eliminate distractions as honestly once you complete a mammoth task or project you will be ready to tackle anything.

Another tip is for tasks wise, if you have a huge To Do List you again may feel overwhelmed. Similar to the Ivy Lee Method of choosing a number of tasks to complete as goals can eliminate this. I prefer to choose a power three tasks and these I will get done first when most focused and most alert.

 

Sleep

As mentioned in Early or Late, I get up early which most mornings is between 5-6am. One non-negotiable is the fact that you need sleep. Ideally you need to aim for 7-8 hours and I will plan this when planning my day. If I know I want to draft a blog post in the morning before everyone is up i will add this to my calendar. Then work out which time I need to aim to go to bed for. This is where my calendar blocking comes in handy, again I will do a post on this soon.

Getting enough sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Not getting enough sleep can impact your productivity, focus and more importantly your health. Again this depends on your day and personal circumstances but aim for a good sleep if you can and this will help you stay focused and alert.

I hope some of these come in handy and motivate you to try some of these methods. I would love to know if you do try them and also if you have any other methods you would like to share. Just remember there will be off days, there will be days nothing goes to plan but each day is a new day. Scrap the previous day and focus on the next one. This is not about achieving as near perfection as you can, but making a part of your life easier with some simple methods.

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Do you have days you plan to be productive and get that stuff done, but things get in the way or even worse procrastination kicks in? Well see my Top 3 Daily Habits that are tried and tested by myself and how I make the day a success….

Whatever your situation, whether you work or stay at home, a parent or child free, like cats or dogs….we all need moments in our day to be productive. This can be something simple as being a domestic goddess and having a long list of jobs from cleaning to washing, this is still being productive.

You don’t need to be working to be productive, you can be productive any moment of any day for any task. This could be a small list of a couple of tasks or a job you have been meaning to do every day for the past month but can’t get round to it, or in my case multiples of lists.

Being a working mummy with a demanding job to stay productive and super organised, I always search for new ways to help productivity shine out of me like sunbeams. I don’t just try to be productive at work, I try to incorporate this into my life in general. I have a home to maintain, children to look after and then there is running my blog and YouTube channel which any blogger will know how much work goes into this. Updating social media, scheduling posts, being a photographer plus many more. So you can see why productivity is needed in my life, otherwise the house would be empty of food, children would be running feral, and you would not be reading this post.

I have brought in over the past month daily habits which help me to be productive. These really have helped myself and hopefully may help you too. Keep reading for my Top 3 Daily Habits…

GET UP EARLY

Trust me, you will be surprised by this one. It totally works and days I do this, I am way more awake and the productivity is oozing out of me before I even get to work.

One sneaky tip for this one, if you struggle getting up early and tempted to hit that snooze button then you must try the ‘5 Second Rule’. I seen this by Mel Robbins, you count down like a rocket launch…. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and move. Get up out of bed and get moving. Doing this method stops your brain killing the idea of hitting the snooze button.

Another tip is plan the night what you want to achieve in the morning. Do you want to be productive and get that blog post done, have some extra work to catch up on or simply have breakfast in peace. This is the moment you can gain some spare time, which you would have not previously had.

I normally do this 2-3 times a week on workdays, I will get up at 5am instead of 7am and first I will make myself a cuppa. I like to plan my day and calendar blocking (more of this in a moment) and then do a task in piece, normally this is blog/vlog related. Can be anything from editing or editorial planning to scheduling posts.

I want to start doing this each work day and start incorporating some workout and fitness time too. . I always make sure I have 7 hours sleep and aim before I go to bed, the desired time to set my alarm. Again you can plan this using calendar blocking. This really does make a huge difference and for me, I don’t get huge amounts of time by myself, this helps me wake up and have a sanity couple of hours before the arguments of getting ready for school begins, I certainly am more calmer in this respect as previously been in a tranquil peaceful setting, plus feel super productive from planning my day and achieving a few tasks.

Daily Habits

CALENDAR BLOCKING

I have seen about calendar blocking a few times now and always admired the idea. Until recently, I hadn’t tried calendar blocking but the first day I tried this secret of productivity…..no lie, I got a huge amount done plus the benefit of being super organised.

I am currently reading ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ by Cyril Peupion, and calendar blocking is explained in detail from a work perspective. I have incorporated this throughout my day, literally from waking up to going to bed. Amy Landino states a good way to source spare time to be productive is to block as you go, then you can see when you could save time.

Currently I have found Google Calendars works better for me personally than Outlook which is what Cyril recommends, I use Google Calendars for personal and work. Everything is colour coded, not just to make a beautiful rainbow effect, but to separate and categorise each event and task. I may change this and keep work separate on Outlook, and my day in general on my Google Calendar.

My Calendar Categories I currently use are:

  • Make It Happen | This is for my everyday generic tasks
  • Work | Any work related tasks and reminders
  • Commuting | I lose 1.5 hours a working day commuting, imagine if commuting by train how much I could do in this time
  • Appointments | The kids social life is better than mine, so any appointments for any of us go under this section
  • Editorial | Anything SimplyStacey related, from posts to publish to editing
  • Family Time | Make time to spend with your loved ones
  • Me Time | Make time for yourself

Things happen during the day which will change your neatly planned day, this is ok. To be honest, this is the part that put me off. I have a need for a perfectly run routine and things like a spanner in the works puts me off the day. But with the beauty of calendar blocking is just move that stuff around. I have found doing my calendar easier to set out fully on the desktop version rather than the app.

The first day I set my calendar up, I got stuff don’t that I have been putting off. I put on my positive pants on, brought out my cube timer (I take this very seriously at all levels) and focused. Then before my timer even had the chance to alert me, by golly I had only done a task that previously I would have kept moving from one day to the next. This is a must to try if you want to set time to be productive, make sure you grab those moments where you do actually have the time, until you calendar block you just might now have known you had those precious moments.

daily habits

TAKE TIME OUT

This may seem a strange daily habit considering we are aiming to boost productivity. But this has made the biggest difference to my own sanity the past few months. From being unwell and feeling overwhelmed with tasks, at one stage I was feeling exhausted and felt I was like Stretch Armstrong (if yours a 90’s babe you will know what I am on about), I felt i was being pulled at all angles and also feeling extremely suffocated.

I am not one for putting myself first, I never have been. But recently I realised I need to look after myself, I was too busy looking after everyone else, trying to do everything at once. I was watching my favourite girl crush Amy Landino, as I usually do on a Sunday and Wednesday, when one of her videos was her skincare routine. As one of my goals is having the life Amy has, I thought OK, I have some skincare products gathering dust dotted around. I clipped my hair back and then came a new obsession….looking after myself. I now do a skincare routine every morning and evening, take the time to do a face mask and paint my nails.

The main point of this habit is not to make yourself look even more stunning, but we all know this helps you feel more confident in yourself which also can aid you being productive. This habit is to take time out from your busy day and make time for you This can be have a binge on the latest must see Netflix series, go for a walk or do some reading. What ever you makes you feel calm and de-stresses yourself and take time from your usual routine. This completely refreshes you and makes you feel ready to be productive and smash those goals you set yourself.

I have implemented many other daily habits which help me to be at my best, but this by far is currently my favourite Top 3 Daily Habits. Have you tried these habits, or are you planning to? 

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I have been blogging since 2015, yet still this has took me this long to find myself and to start achieving my goals regarding my blog. Read below for how I have got past The Blogging Blues

Blogging Blues Simply Stacey Blog

I am finally more confident to stand up and say…

I LOVE BLOGGING

I started blogging in 2015 and at first this was a blur of hashtags. There was so much to learn as a new blogger; setting up the blog, going self hosted, templates, blogging styles, hashtags, social media, branding, no follow links, alt tags to name a few. I was lucky as I can work my way round pretty easy anything technology based, plus with the help of good old Google and YouTube you can research help in an instant. I also have a Social Media Marketing Diploma and update the work website which helped when I first set up my blog.

As stated in previous posts I have changed names 3 times, mainly due to the learning curve from blogging. Finding my path I wish to take has been tricky… do I go Parenting, do I go Lifestyle. I have been both and now decided I am just going to do both. Why limit yourself to one genre. There is no rule book about what subject you should blog about. This is your space to say what you want to say or show.

Re branding before Christmas, which you can see more of here, has made a dramatic difference to my blog. Not just my blog name has changed, but also my layout, blog colours and more importantly my blogging routine. I have never had a routine and this has been the ultimate aid to helping my blog grow. Already 22 days into 2018, I am just under 50 views for beating my total views for the whole of 2017. For me, when I saw how much I have improved looking at my statistics, this gave me an almighty boost and made me see that I have got a passion for blogging.

I have always liked blogging, and at times it has seemed more of a chore. Since I made my blog my own by using my name, something has given me a drive to start really pushing myself to achieve set goals in where I want to take my blog. Now I have 100% got a passion for this and building up my YouTube channel. I got given a Blog Planner for Christmas, which I will be going in depth to show you in the next couple of weeks. This has helped tremendously, keeping this separate to my everyday planner means I can focus on my blog and channel solely.

I am sure most bloggers can relate to the blogging blues and most of us have thought about quitting at some point or having low morale.I nearly have closed my blog a couple of times and last year I got to the point that it was really getting me down being unable to fit this in, but last summer I gave myself a break. I say a break but I was only doing about 1 or 2 uploads a month at the time. This helped me take the time to decide I am going to try one last change and really take my blog seriously and that is when I decided to re brand. Blogging can produce such a love and hate relationship. From the moments you get writers block, to where you don’t seem to be growing any new followers. You notice other bloggers that have made themselves a large following and a success and feel you can’t live up to that level then start to doubt yourself.

The biggest advice I can give, is don’t compare yourself to others. Yes, you can research editing in videos, research writing styles. But be your own person, don’t feel you are not good enough and when you stop worrying and plan at your own pace. I am sure you will notice a difference, not only in views, but more importantly for how you feel.  I am still trying to implement this to my way of thinking but so far this has helped enormously. I do have the slight wobble thinking I am not good enough, but with support from the blog community and pushing myself, I am good enough. My personal battle is being a perfectionist, I over criticise myself and this is a personal hurdle to overcome. But I am getting there. For once I can actually feel proud of my blog and feel now is the time to push myself to regular uploads.

I am pleased my YouTube channel is slowly growing, and I am learning so much each video. My new lighting has made a complete difference to the quality of my videos. I will be shortly trying my first ‘Day In The Life’ vlog. But in the meantime, I am really enjoying building both this and my blog.

Also planning my routine further to include any home matters, such as cleaning, homework, cooking dinner etc. Plus then there is also mine and Estelle’s venture of The Blog Network, growing, which we have our first Twitter chat on Wednesday 31st January. Plus then you have the background work as a Blogger, scheduling social posts, photography, planning, joining twitter chats and threads etc. I am trying to improve my photography which I am happy with the results so far, to even take some self portraits of myself shows how much my confidence has grown. Part of this is from some great people from the blogging and vlogging community.

Another change I have implemented is, I have given myself set days for uploads. This has made me push myself and made me be organised. There is going to be times this will be impossible, like last week I was struck down with a nasty cold and then toothache and it threw all plans out. But if I can get ahead and plan, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue … I am hoping.

BLOG UPDATES : Every Monday and Thursday

YOUTUBE UPLOADS : Every Sunday and Wednesday

I know I am not the best writer out there, I never have been and never will be. I am not one for gargantuan words (yes I googled big words for ‘huge’). Yes I get excited over a new notepad of a fluffy cushion makes me do jazz hands, but I am also not ashamed of this and am not letting this stop me producing more posts and documenting on my channel. In a way I have started to think if people get to know the real you, your writing style, the way you produce uploads then they will warm to that person if they choose too. I am pleased to say this moment in time I have beaten the blogging blues and am thoroughly enjoying my journey. I hope this doesn’t wear off and change, but for now I am happy and content with how I have progressed, even if this has took me 3 years to find my blogging passion. I am in no way a blogging expert, but this is what I have found that has helped myself. I really hope this post helps boost yourself if you are suffering from the blogging blues.

Stacey

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