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Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

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Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

As someone who spends her days designing offices and organising office refits, I know what it’s like to feel like I’m losing control of my daily tasks. In an age where people in a range of industries are expected to manage multiple clients, crucial jobs and more menial tasks all at once, organisation is everything. This is especially true when you consider how much workplace stress has risen since the start of the recession.

While absence levels have fallen, 40% of employers recently reported an increase in stress around their workplace. This comes with its own set of problems, as employees go into work unwell and unproductive, and even at risk of serious heart problems.

While completely eliminating stress from your working day isn’t a luxury many people have, I’ve found there are plenty of ways you can streamline your day to day tasks to get yourself organised and start to lower your stress levels.

Delegation doesn’t equal laziness

I often find myself staring, horrified, at my intimidating to-do list. No matter how many tasks I manage to tick off others crop up to replace them almost immediately, meaning I’m constantly on the go and struggling to section off my time.

If this sounds familiar you may also have experienced the feeling that this is your work, so you alone should complete it and, if you’re as good at your job as you think, you shouldn’t be getting behind. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the best of us struggle to keep up with the fast paced world of modern work sometimes, so don’t be afraid to delegate certain tasks to others.

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Share the load with your team

If you’re a senior member of your team like me, I find that passing on simpler tasks to junior team members can eliminate a surprising amount of pressure. With me it’s Photoshop work, simple 2D plan work and product image searches, but niggling tasks in any industry are the ones that keep getting pushed aside until later, build up without you really noticing and then loom out of the gloom with a stressful vengeance, just when you think everything is done. Plus, I find they take the fun out of the working day, so saving the more complicated and creative tasks for yourself is an ideal way to inject more interest back into your work.

Share the load with freelancers

Now, I do understand that not everyone has the advantage of heading up or working as part of a team, but there are still ways you can delegate your menial tasks.

Upwork and Amazon Mechanical Turk are both great web platforms where you can submit jobs for their thousands of freelancers to complete on your behalf. These freelancers do obviously ask for payment, but the rates are wonderfully affordable and more than pay for themselves in the time they’ll free up in your busy schedule.

Lists are your best friend

If you work in a role where your tasks are constantly changing and adding up, keeping track of them is essential to organising your thoughts and not forgetting about certain jobs. I find the best way to do this is by making lists.

If, like me, you’re particularly forgetful, you’ll rely on to-do lists to keep track of your work and keep yourself focused throughout the day. You might also find that you’re losing your paper lists among the rest of the documents surrounding your workstation, which is why I thought I’d share my favourite little organisational app.

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Introducing Wunderlist

wunderlist

    Wunderlist is an online to-do list that is actually pretty ‘wunderful’. As well as simply entering your tasks, it gives you the opportunity to keep track of and organise your workload on a deeper level.

    You can set due dates on your tasks and set reminders to go off when you’re approaching a deadline, drag and drop tasks into order of urgency, add sub-notes within tasks, share your to-do lists with other team members or work mates, and even delegate tasks to them. There’s even a Wunderlist app for mobile and tablet so you can add tasks to your lists during meetings on the fly. Brilliant if you struggle to store action points in your mind!

    One of my favourite ways to organise my Wunderlist tasks is in lists created for each specific client or project. This way I don’t have to deal with the confusion of one long task list, or the intimidation that can stem from having a large number of differing tasks grouped together.

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    Manage your emails, don’t let them manage you

    omnifocus

      The first thing I do when I get into work is switch on my computer and check my emails. The bad news is that rather than having a few to reply to and a couple to action into Wunderlist tasks, I’m often faced with an amount in double figures all clamouring to be dealt with “ASAP!”

      While you might log into your emails meaning to simply check them before getting on with the bulk of your work, the reality is that emails can sap a lot of time if not managed correctly. However, whether you’re dealing with just a couple of demanding clients or a large number of clients all at once, there are things you can do to regain control of your inbox.

      Flag things that can wait

      Don’t feel obliged to act on every single email right away. Unless something is super urgent, I always flag emails that can be properly read or dealt with later on. I use this technique with important emails rather than urgent ones, because there is a distinction between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Identify what kind of issues and requests classify as urgent within your company and you’ll already have some of the formula in place to better manage your emails.

      Organise your mail with folders

      It isn’t just the sheer volume of emails that can eat into your working day, but the variety of places they come from. From your various clients and colleagues to additional email accounts you’re managing in the same client, they can all get lost among new correspondence from another before you know it.

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      Rather than trying to remember when you received each one and becoming increasingly more stressed when you can’t find it, create different folders to keep track of emails relating to everything from different clients to different tasks and projects – whatever takes priority in your industry.

      Become one of those people you can ‘never get hold of’

      I’m going to get a little controversial here and recommend that you process your emails in 20 – 40 minute bursts around 2 – 3 times per day, and keep your email client closed the rest of the time. I mean closed too, not just minimised.

      I spent the first week of trialling this in a state of panic, especially since I have a client who does the same thing and, as a result, is murder to try and reach! That said though, it’s now a regular part of my working day and I find that it gives me so much more freedom. Having your emails completely out of the picture for a while can be a huge weight off the mind, and gives you the freedom to just get on with your tasks without that email tab lurking in the corner of your eye!

      With so much stress mugging up the modern workplace that not even the most inspirational looking office design can fix, employees need to take their hindrances and intimidations into their own hands. It’s all about organisation and forward planning, and I hope that after working these processes into your working day you’ll start to feel as streamlined and stress free as possible. I know I certainly have!

      Do you have any tips of your own to add to my list? Leave them below; I’d love to try them out!

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      Last Updated on September 9, 2021

      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

      Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

      Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

      We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

      As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

      Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

      Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

      1. The One Thing Planner

      The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

      As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

      Get the planner here!

      2. The Full Life Planner

      The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

      With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

      Get the planner here!

      3. The Freedom Journal

      Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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      From their site:

      “The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

      Get the planner here!

      4. Full Focus Planner

      Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

      From the site:

      “Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

      This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

      Get the planner here!

      5. Passion Planner

      They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

      From the site:

      “An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

      They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

      They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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      Get the planner here!

      6. Desire Map Planners

      If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

      Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

      Get the planner here!

      7. Franklin Covey Planners

      The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

      From the site:

      “Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

      Get the planner here!

      8. Productivity Planner

      From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

      Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

      It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

      From the site:

      “Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

      Get the planner here!

      9. Self Journal

      Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

      Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

      Get the planner here!

      10. Google Calendar

      You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

      Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

      If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

      Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

      Get the planner here!

      Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

      Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

      The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

      Block #1: Desire

      Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

      Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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      A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

      Block #2: Strategy

      Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

      In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

      Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

      In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

      “What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

      This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

      Block #3: Focus

      With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

      Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

      Block #4: Rhythm

      The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

      Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

      Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

      The Bottom Line

      Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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      As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

      More Tools to Boost Your Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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