Over the past couple of months I’ve met a lot of new people for the first time. We’ve talked about our jobs, what we do on the weekends, plans for the summer and things that get us excited. Just like when I’m asked where I’m from, the answer to the question “what do you do for a living?” never has a short answer.
You see, I’m what I like to call multi-passionate. My ‘real’ job is in digital marketing, but outside of that I’m a blogger who LOVES to talk about health, wellness and goal setting. I’m also an ambassador for various brands, a freelance writer and marketer, a health coach and a business owner. I love doing crafty Pinterest projects, traveling to hot and sunny destinations, and cooking amazing meals for myself and my friends. Who I’m speaking with determines which of these roles and interests I go into the most detail about, but regardless, on most occasions, it never fails that the person responds with something along the lines of “wow, you’re busy!”
They’re right – I am, but I’m starting to hate that word. Being into a whole bunch of things at once has always been my natural tendency, and when things start to get quiet, it’s inevitable that I’ll find new projects to take on. There’s no doubt that taking time to relax is something I would benefit from doing (and trust me, I’m working on it), but with that said, I also see this as a season of my life where exploring multiple avenues of work and play can only serve to help me get crystal clear on what I want my future to look like. Anyone else feel the same?
As many of you who read my goals for 2016 know, connection with people and doing work that matters are two of my big focuses for the year. Without self-imposed discipline on my time, it would be easy for me to work work work round the clock on blog/business related things when I’m not at my full-time gig. If you feel really passionate about something, something that causes you to lose track of time and that doesn’t really feel like work, you can probably identify with this.
With that in mind, and knowing that people connection is really important to me, I knew that I’d need to get really good at focusing on work that matters, and doing it in an efficient way so that there would still be playtime. This is definitely a practice and I’m nowhere near mastering it, but today I’ve got some productivity tips to share that I’m learning first-hand. I suspect that if you’re reading this you might also be the multi-passionate type yourself, and if so, I hope they help you too.
1. Set time limits for projects and treat them like hard deadlines
Have you ever started working on something that you think will take an hour, only to find that you take all day and you’re still not done? I used to run into this problem all the time, and it made me fall behind on other things I really wanted to work on. Because I felt behind, I pushed what felt like non-essentials (like relaxation and social time with friends) to the back burner while I continued to work. Eventually I decided it would be much more productive to set limits on how long I’d allow tasks to take so that they wouldn’t end up consuming my whole day. While estimation is not always totally accurate, I found this definitely helped me to feel a greater sense of urgency and work more efficiently. Speaking of urgency…
2. Consider what is most important and urgent
You may have seen the quadrants below in the past, and if you’ve ever read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, then it should definitely look familiar. Covey suggested this matrix as a way of helping people decide how to set priorities. Often there are tasks we feel like we need to do right away, but on the scale of urgency and importance, they turn out to be things that really shouldn’t take priority. I’ve filled in the boxes with examples that are relevant to me, and feel free to do the same for yourself:
According to the grid above, Covey suggests that:
- We try to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant 2 (high importance, low urgency) in order to maximize our chances in meeting our long-term goals.
- Things in Quadrant 1 (high urgency and importance) don’t offer us much of a choice because we have to act right away, and sometimes not spending enough time in Quadrant 2 means more tasks spill into Quadrant 1.
- Time spent in Quadrant 3 should be minimized (because it often involves responding to needs of others that seem immediate but could often have been better planned for)
- Quadrant 4 items should be kept to a minimum because they’re often time wasters that don’t add value to our lives.
Obviously there’s a time and place for doing activities that don’t have a particular purpose and are purely for enjoyment, and that’s my disclaimer for quadrant 4. However, that aside, I still find this method helpful for helping me to decide what needs to be done now and what can totally wait.
If a matrix is a little bit too formal for your liking, or if you can’t keep those urgency/importance scales straight in your head (sometimes I really have to think about what goes where!), the next tip might be more helpful…
3. Narrow your to-do’s down to a top 3
If you’re a blogger, have a business, or are otherwise multi-passionate, I think you’d agree that often it feels like there’s no end to the number of things you want to be doing to grow – whether that’s traffic, revenue, or just to grow your experience and skill level. You may have heard the saying that the more choices you have, the harder it is to make one. (Ever been to a buffet before???) This is totally the case for me sometimes because I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
The key is figuring out which of the things is going to have the biggest impact on helping you reach your goals, and go after those first. Of course, this has to be balanced with things that are also urgent and time-sensitive. Three things seems to be a good number for me to focus on daily, but you might find that deciding on a top 3 for the week works better for you.
4. Use Google Calendar and schedule everything
… or any other calendar that has reminders that pop up on your computer or phone. I know this doesn’t sound like the most flexible way to live life, and I don’t do it every single day. (I do like routine, but even for me, trying to do this every day would be living far more rigid than I would ever want to!) However, even if it’s just a couple of days out of the week where you know you really want to focus and get a lot done, I’ve found this method to be super helpful.
These days I try to get as much blog work finished as I can done on Saturdays in order to take Sundays (almost) completely off. I’ll make a plan the night before of exactly how I’m going to chunk my time (including breaks – be sure to schedule these too), setting limits for tasks just like I described in tip #1. When my phone beeps with the reminder that my next task is coming up, I wind off what I’m working on, sometimes take a quick break and move onto the next task.
5. Multitask when it makes sense
One of the great things about working out in the morning is that the time can also be used to mentally solve problems and come up with great ideas. I like to plan out little details of my day like what I’m going to wear, what I’m going to have for dinner, and errands I’m going to run on my way to or from work while I’m running in the morning. I’ll also think about things related to the blog, like what recipes I need to make on the weekend and what kind of tips I’m going to provide in posts like this one. People have their moments of brilliance at all times of day… mine just happens to be first thing in the morning when my heart is pumping and I’m sweating like crayyyy. If that’s not your best time to think through these types of things, try your commute to or from work.
Other multitasking opportunities: listening to self-development podcasts or audiobooks while cooking, driving, getting ready in the morning and cleaning the house. There are endless options to choose from and if you (like me) have difficulty finding time to read books, this might just be the answer!
6. Prep meals on the weekend
I can’t stress this one enough. If you aren’t physically preparing meals, at least make a loose plan for what you’ll eat throughout the week. This is one of those things that falls into my important but not urgent quadrant, but failure to do a bit of planning ahead pushes figuring out what to eat for dinner into the urgent quadrant, and if you happen to be hangry and standing in front of an empty fridge when that happens…. well that would suck, wouldn’t it?
Some good prep-ahead recipes that keep well in the fridge and/or make great leftovers:
- Shrimp + Quinoa Paella
- Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
- Rosemary Rainbow Carrot + Lentil Salad
- Summertime Quinoa + Greens Salad
- Tuna + Quinoa Tabbouleh
- Vegan Goji Kale Slaw
- Lemon Herb Salmon Cakes
- White Chicken Chili
- Pineapple Teriyaki Shrimp Stir Fry
- Chocolate Almond Butter Protein Bites
- Super Seedy Cranberry Cashew Bars
7. Try working somewhere without wifi
This won’t apply to all of you, but if the work you’re trying to get done requires that you write content like blog posts, edit photos, or do work that doesn’t absolutely need an internet connection, try working from a place that doesn’t have wifi. I’ll often use this approach when I need to write posts, and while I can’t immediately check facts or insert links, it helps me stay focused on a single task. I simply copy and paste into WordPress later on, inserting links and doing all the other bits that need to be done before hitting publish.
8. Do your least favourite tasks first
Have you ever heard the story about the teacher, the jar and the rocks? Here’s how it goes:
A teacher put a bunch of rocks into a large jar, and asked his students if it was full. They said yes. Then he put in a bunch of small stones, which filled in the gaps between the rocks. He asked the students if the jar was full now, and they said yes. Then he poured a bag of sand into the jar, which filled in all the gaps between the rocks and stones. He asked if the jar was full, and… you know the answer.
Linking it back to projects, if you get the ones that require big effort done first, you’ll probably be able to fill in the remaining time in your day with smaller projects and tiny tasks. You won’t have to worry about them later in the day when your willpower and brainpower feel like they’re falling fast. But if you do those tiny tasks and smaller projects first, before you know it the end of the day comes and your jar is already full of small stones and sand… and the big rocks don’t fit. See what I mean?
Alright, that’s enough for today. If you’ve got a moment, leave a comment on this post and let me know…
- Do you consider yourself multi-passionate?
- How do you introduce yourself when you meet somebody new?
- Any tips to add to my list?