Manage Your Day-to-Day: A Giveaway

Manage Your Day to DayBoosting my productivity is one of my biggest goals this year. I’m guessing you’re the same: some days you just want to slap yourself upside the head because you cannot get started. Or when you do get started, you work in fractured sittings and never get anything real done. At the end of the day, with your forehead in your palms, you throw on an old episode of Scrubs and promise yourself you’ll do better tomorrow.

A few weeks ago I shared some of my best productivity tips, but I know I still have a long way to go. One of the biggest changes I’m making is moving into a place of my own for the first time ever. No more flatmates to disturb me in the mornings — it’s going to be bliss. I get downright cranky if I can’t start my day how I want to, and I almost never can with other people taking up space in my precious tea-making room (AKA kitchen) and trying to talk to me and shit. Socialising in the morning. God, who does that?

So, I’m going to take full advantage of starting days in my own way, distraction free, and building a solid morning routine that helps me start my day right. One of the most helpful books I read last year was 99U’s Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It’s a collection of insanely useful essays on productivity. Here are some of my favourite extracts:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and email off.
— Mark McGuinness

As a writer, I work every single day, including weekends, holidays, and vacations. Usually I write for many hours during a day, though sometimes it might be a stint as short as fifteen minutes — and I never skip a day. I’ve found that this kind of frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality.
— Gretchen Rubin

The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.
— Seth Godin

Because I found it so useful, I want to share it with you guys, too. The whole book, I mean. Well, with one of you, anyway. That’s right! It’s giveaway time.

To win a copy of Manage Your Day-to-Day, just leave a comment on this blog post telling me two things: a) Your most successful productivity habit, and b) The one thing that always knocks your productivity off track.

I’ll pick a winner at random next Thursday and announce it right here. Well, not right here. But, you know, on next Thursday’s blog post. Zing!

This giveaway is now closed, but please feel free to leave your best productivity tips in the comments anyway. I’d love to hear ’em!

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    60 Comments

    1. My biggest productivity booster is my “work buddy,” who acts like a coach. I send her my weekly goals, and need to report in a week later on progress. Woe is me if I’ve fallen short. She doesn’t like excuses! My biggest time-waster? Other people showing up unexpectedly, especially when they need me to do something requiring immediate attention.

      1. Having an accountability partner can be SO useful! Awesome that you’ve found one who ACTUALLY holds you accountable :)

        1. Yes, I am very fortunate about that. I have a wonderful community of people surrounding me, and all of my needs are always met. Right now, I am so busy, that I would be feeling overwhelmed, but my friend keeps me on track very nicely, and has made wonderful suggestions for focusing and prioritizing. It’s made quite a difference in my productivity, and my energy level too, and having an “accountability partner” is something I recommend for everyone. I have my own personal coach!

    2. My biggest productivity booster is using a list app like Wunderlist. I find that if I write it all down, I am more likely to be motivated and to want to check it off the list. I also forget a ton of stuff to do, otherwise!

      Time waster would have to be social media. I start reading and get sucked in so easily. I’m trying to automate a lot of my posts now with Buffer, so I don’t even get caught by something when crafting a post.

      1. I’ve never used Wunderlist, but I am a big lover of lists so I may have to check it out! Not sure if I will ever get over being a pen and paper gal when it comes to to-do lists though. (Having said that, I do have master lists in Trello.)

        1. I don’t blame you. There is something about a pen and paper. The reason I like Wunderlist is that I have it everywhere. It’s on my phone, the web, they have desktop apps, etc. Useful for even groceries.

    3. My most successful productivity habit is making big, prominent lists. I have a big dry erase board in my office that I list projects on and their deadlines. Then, I begin each morning by circling the tasks that I need to accomplish that day. Nothing feels better than wiping tasks off that board.

      However, the one thing that will derail me every time is screwing up my sleep cycle. If I don’t get enough sleep, or I wake up too late, it is impossible for me to focus on what I need to be doing. I’ll then waste an entire morning putzing around on the internet and feel terrible about it.

    4. my biggest productivity booster are my children who give me the drive to go on and never quit,practice what you preach mom! The one thing that knocks off my productivity is spending to much time on the net.

      1. Hey Julie, that’s so awesome that your kids motivate you to do what needs doing! Sounds like you’re setting a great example for them :)

    5. My biggest productivity booster has been Google Calendar. I put different kinds of reminders to write on Calendar, and it syncs to all my devices, so I have no choice but to hear the buzz and do some work. My biggest time-waster is the Internet! I only try to look at Facebook and Twitter at night when I’m done for the day because if I don’t I’ll be on there for hours.

      1. I’d love to hear more about how you use Google Calendar to your advantage, Renayle! I use it for all my appointments and check it each week and note anything down on my daily to-do lists for the week so I don’t forget!

        1. Same here! I put appointments in Google Calendar and my physical planner, but if I forget to check that notebook during the day, I won’t do any work and sleep. Google calendar is my visual planner, since I have my laptop, phone, and iPad with me all the time and I see my to-do list right there. :)

    6. Biggest productivity booster: motivation. I can move mountains (not really, but you get my point) when I really want/need too. It doesn’t have be be a noble motivation – imminent deadline works just as well as doing something I am totally in love with. And browsing the web kills it everytime. Though I usually end up reading something worthwhile too :-)

      1. Being able to work on something just because you love it is a surprisingly difficult skill to master, I’ve found! Even though I love writing, sometimes it can be so hard to just sit my ass down and do it.

    7. My most successful productivity habit is absolutely waking up early (for me that’s 5/5:30a). I have a 7-month-old daughter that I’m home with while I work during the day, so it is super crucial to wake up a few hours before she does to get much of anything done.

      One thing that always knocks my productivity off track is social media. Sometimes replying to one tweet or pinning one pin leads to an entire 30 minutes of being sucked into reading and looking at everything else.

      1. WISH I could get up that early. Although having a 7 month old does make it sound kind of crucial! Congrats on the little one :)

      2. My daughter is 16 and I can tell you it never changes, haha. I still need to get up super early to get anything done! By the time you are finishing work, then cooking dinner, cleaning up – it’s late. The only time you get to set up the other stuff to be moving forward is either late at night or early in the morning before there are any other interruptions or demands. Absolutely agree re: the social media thing. Wish I didn’t need it actually.. major time waster!

    8. Without a doubt waking up at 8am every day and turning off my computer by 9pm (and then reading, journaling, painting, etc before bed) has been my most successful productivity habit. I think it’s also had the single greatest effect of my health as well. My stress is down, I don’t get food cravings as often, and I get more shit done.

      Feeling bored, sad, negative. Figuring out why the negative feelings creep in is an ongoing process, but the biggest impact on my productivity is my mood. Sometimes I just CAN’T. I think thats why lifestyle factors – like getting enough sleep – make such a huge impact for me. If I can prevent feeling too stressed out and depressed, I stay productive and happy.

      1. I LOVE THIS. Shutting your tech down by 9pm is SO helpful, but I almost never do it. Witness, exhibit A: It’s 9.17pm right now, and here I am.

        And you’re so right about the negative feelings. They can be hard to push through, although when I’m feeling down I’m always glad to have my business to throw myself into.

    9. My biggest productivity tip? Give up the morning coffee! Okay, I’m partially kidding. We NEED our coffee (or tea or whatever) in the morning. But…I no longer read the news online or check email or browse a magazine, etc. while having coffee. That just too much of a time waster. When you work at home, it’s darn easy to spend an hour and a half sipping on a pot of coffee before you glance at the clock and panic (!!) because you haven’t even started working yet.

      A guaranteed way for me to get off-track is to glance at my phone or email every time I get a message. I THINK I’m going to give a quick response, which is oh so productive, but invariably I end up in lengthy text conversations with friends about social stuff that really could wait.

      PS – I Love, love, love your site, voice, and those awesome pictures!

      1. You’re so right, Lauren! Haha, but yeah, I don’t think it’s the coffee that’s the problem — it’s the distracting things you do while you’re drinking it!

        So glad you’re enjoying the site! And yeah, the pics are awesome, aren’t they? (If I say so myself, haha. My brother took them. He’s so talented!)

    10. For writing, I find I do best when I break up research and the actual construction by a good bit. If I do my research in the AM and let it settle in, I can knock out my writing in a flash in the afternoon. Also, whenever I feel particularly lazy, I make myself write something. Even if it’s crap. Getting started is usually enough to keep me from procrastinating any further.

      My biggest time-waster is my internal nag. Sure, I KNOW I need to wash dishes, do laundry and make lunch. But not right this instant! She’s always trying to distract me with menial chores.

      1. Having a way to structure your work like this is so useful, MaryClark! Saves lots of fritzing around trying to make sense of things.

        And yeah, making yourself write something is a fantastic way to get yourself in the mood to work.

    11. Alright, I’ll play your game! My single most successful productivity habit is simply having a routine. It might seem like I’m cheating with that answer, but doing everything in the same obsessive order every day is the best way to keep me focused. As for what knocks me off track the most easily, that’s the bright and shiny internet. All of my concentration goes STRAIGHT out the window as I hop from tab to tab and learn lots of fascinating things that are of absolutely no help to me in getting work done! If I have a chance to hit Google or Twitter or–God forbid–Wikipedia, I am doomed.

      1. I am OBSESSED with trying to build a solid routine, John. Would love to hear more about the obsessive order you do things in!

    12. Nice!

      Booster: Using the Focus @ Will web app combined with a Pomodoro timer. Work for 25 min without sidetracking to Facebook or emails or reading blogs …

      Knocks me off track: Not sleeping well, which means I get up late, which has a knock-on effect to everything eles.

    13. Love your work. Thank you!

      Doing my writing/journaling first thing in the morning works best for me. It took me a while to admit it. To just start the day punching keys. Do not look at your mail/social media. That’s vital. Essentially, my day doesn’t start until that writing is done. Not sure it makes for great writing, but it gets my day moving in the right direction. Thanks to my niece for drilling this into me.

      Almost everything everyone else mentioned will ruin my day…lack of sleep, looking at ‘other’ work first, internet, etc. But I guess the biggest thing is when I get away from using my calendar. I find it’s so helpful if I put in the actual time something was done, not to just leave it at the time it was scheduled for. So every day is a little different and anything going off the rails shows up quickly….preventing major set backs.

      Edit: Oh, look at all this writing… did I mention I’m new to this? lol

      1. Love writing first thing in the morning! I need to do more of this :) And so glad you’re enjoying the site!

    14. A lot of thought went into this. I could list several (which my mother says means seven) time saving and production boosting strategies I use (sometimes successfully and may times not). But what puts my butt in the seat and my fingers on the keyboard are my dreams. What I want out of this life. My biggest time waster is fiction. I love reading and sometimes Mark Twain or CS Forrester or Mr. Dickens just call to me like a bunch of kids wanting me to come play in the snow when I still have homework. I make snow angels waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyy to many times.

      1. Reminding yourself why you’re doing this can be a GREAT motivator, can’t it? I can see how setting aside a few minutes each morning to visualise your ideal lifestyle could be super effective.

    15. What helps my productivity the most is keeping lists within Evernote. I have a running list of things that need to get done, and I’ve broken it out like so: 3 Most Important Tasks of the Day, followed by 5 other (secondary) things that need to get done, followed by a longer list of piddly little shit that’s neither urgent nor particularly important (a section I call “On Deck”). Going to that list first thing every day (and using it proactively, building my list the night before) helps me focus on the tasks that are most important. Even if I don’t get to those tasks first thing, they’re nagging at my brain and pulling me back so I cut out on the email-response and web surfing a lot quicker.

      What derails my productivity the most are actually two things: 1) meetings. I have a day job managing several clients and each client has two status meetings each week, and every project we do requires its own series of meetings too. My day quickly fills up with meeting after meeting and I’m lucky to find 30 minutes to an hour in between to actually focus on any one project. It’s so hard to squeeze in the time to actually focus on the bigger, strategic and creative thinking needed to do my job well. I end up working VERY late because of it, all too often. Which also contributes to 2) not getting enough sleep. I’m a night owl and my mind doesn’t really shut down before 11pm or midnight, yet my day job hours are very strict and I have to be there by 8:30 or there are monetary consequences (yes, really) regardless of how late I was in the office the night before. Those are my 2 biggest struggles with productivity!

      1. Mmm, Evernote. Love it! I don’t use it for lists, but I do a lot of my writing in there before it ever meets the public! And ugh, that sucks that you have to deal with endless meetings nonsense. Especially if it means you don’t get enough sleep! WORST. THING. EVER.

    16. My biggest productivity help is having something planned for the morning. When I’m going to get an earful for missing the gym, I’m not likely to skip. Then, I get home,shower, and feel like my brain and body are ready. My biggest weakness is the tv. If I turn it on early in the day, I get nothing useful done or not until the last minute which means less creative, more a pain in the ass. It’s also not how I want to feel throughout my day. It’s not just about being productive, it’s about enjoying that productivity, otherwise what’s the point?

    17. After waking from sleep, whether you realize it was good, mediocre or even bad, the show must go on. So before I’m ready to roll I assume the physical position while still in bed: stay on my back and schwing my pelvis up to the ceiling five to ten times. This creates a charge in my body and gets me up like a locomotive machine heading for productivity.

      Then of course, as all machines need maintenance, food becomes a necessity to keep me running. But, if I eat more than my honest helping handful, I’m headed for derailment, planning a rest stop. Do this enough times and the habit becomes second nature heading towards death by indulgence.

      1. Oh, that’s interesting, Ann! Sounds like a not-too-strenuous form of morning exercise I could get on board with!

    18. Productivity booster–five a.m. silence and coffee at the keyboard. It’s the only way I know to be a morning person.

      3 kids (and the occasional wife) knock my productivity off track whenever we’re all in the house together–love ’em to death, but man, if they find me at the computer, they assume surfing the web and my work is shot until they or I leave the house for a spell.

    19. My biggest productivity booster is writing my morning pages. Before I’m even half awake I’ve got the kettle going and am sitting down to write my three pages, clearing clutter out of my head and getting focused on my day. If I do this, I’m away to the races. My biggest productivity block is social media. If get up and turn on my computer first, you’ll find me hours later, on my umpteenth cup of tea, surfing Facebook or Twitter. And then my day is shot.

      I keep my morning pages journal under my computer monitor so it is always there as a reminder to choose it first. So you could say my biggest productivity booster is keeping my journal on the kitchen table! (not possible with flatmates – congrats on getting your own place! So, so much better…)

      1. Morning pages can be so helpful, can’t they? I do them too sometimes, but I always write mine on my computer (which I know you’re not supposed to do) because I just can’t stand writing longform by hand. Keeping your journal under your monitor is a great idea too – bet you never forget to do it!

    20. My biggest productivity booster is just this: exercise! I try and get up every day and use some of the time previously devoted to an extreme commute to work by doing about an hour’s walking. Usually I walk to a particular coffee shop (circa 45 minutes), have a coffee and breakfast and head back home the long way round. This clears my head so much it’s a wonder I ever managed without it.

      The biggest productivity drain for me is farting around with scheduling or (ironic laugh) productivity techniques. I trained in taxonomy and tend to get far more engrossed in setting up my work list than in actually getting through the bloody thing. I have to keep things simple or I disappear up my own fundament.

      1. Great idea, Lynn! I like to get my ‘proper’ exercise done in the afternoon after I’ve finished work, but going for a work in the morning sounds like an excellent plan.

    21. I’m not entirely sure whether or not it’s a good thing, but pressure seems to boost my productivity tenfold. Give me a deadline and I’ll procrastinate until seconds before something’s due (slight exaggeration, there…). But this method has gleaned comments such as “You write beautifully”. Quite possibly one of my proudest moments…

      As for knocking my creativity off track, the opposite is probably true. Too much time to sit and ponder about what I should write and I’ll spit out line after line of absolute drivel. Procrastination all the way! For me anyway. I don’t advise this method for everyone.

      1. Haha, I definitely get more work done faster when I have deadlines looming, but it’s so stressful and I hate doing it! I’m trying to become the sort of person who does things far in advance.

    22. My biggest productivity booster is public commitment. The other day, I got so frustrated with keeping up with my blog (I already skipped a week, I couldn’t possibly skip another!) that I tried to delete every trace of it from my website and my social media pages. I felt like crud, because I had made a commitment at the beginning of the year that I’d post every Monday. So I spent another hour putting them back up on my site and writing the best damned blog post I’ve ever written! All because I didn’t want to be publicly shamed.

      My biggest time waster would have to be perfectionism. I’m so scared of failing that I don’t even begin until the last possible second. I spend my time on my favorite forums putting off the work I should be doing so I won’t fail. Makes sense, right?! :P

      (And “yeah boobies!”)

      1. Don’t beat yourself up so much, Stephanie! Public commitment is a great motivator, but if you don’t manage to do something you say you’re going to do, just suck it up and make sure you do it right next time! AND STOP BEING SUCH A DAMN PERFECTIONIST. This is probably a huge part of your problem with the blog!

    23. My biggest productivity booster is the Cold Turkey desktop app (http://getcoldturkey.com/). It prevents you from going to certain websites that you know distract you. It’s free, but if you pay a one-time fee of $14.99, you can set it on a weekly schedule (among other perks). During working hours, I literally *cannot* go onto Facebook, Twitter, or the plethora of other sites that distract me during the day. If I find myself spending too much time on a site that isn’t work-related, I add it to the list! There is NO way around this app, either, which helps. Because if I knew I could get around it somehow, I totally would because I am the worst.

      Time waster would be my home. I get distracted and want to clean or redecorate it or some shit, and suddenly it’s 8:00pm and I have a beautiful apartment but no work done.

      1. I’ve used similar apps to that before, Victoria! They can be so helpful, although I’ve found that once I sit down and actually start working, everything just flows and I don’t even get tempted to check Facebook! Being able to customise it and set it on a weekly schedule sounds like an awesome idea though! I think another part of the reason I stopped using the apps was because I would just forget to set it up.

    24. Well like everyone I use lists.. but to be honest it doesn’t matter what app I have, the one that works the best is the ol pen and paper. I think it is a tactile thing.. I need to physically tick it off. Or I am just old.
      Time waster? Probably supermarket shopping. Serious. I stop in every other day and wander the shelves with all the time in the world even if I only needed milk. Why? Because it’s something I ‘have’ to do which I find relaxing and one of the only times I am alone and able to drift. Maybe it’s a shopping fix too without the guilt and I’m looking at food.

      1. Oh my god, Kristi, you sound just like me! I’m terrible for going to the supermarket all the time (I live right by a huge Tesco!). It’s a time waster AND I end up spending too much money, haha. And I want to give a big HELL YES to pen and paper to-do lists!

        1. I had to ask my friend from england what Tesco was like and she said its a kind of usual supermarket (so that makes it as sad as me.. haha) but she did say that you get super cheap beer though and tiny bottles of whisky so that makes it slighlty cooler! lol

          1. Haha, yeah, it’s just a regular old supermarket. That I happen to live across the road from :D

    25. I write my dreams because they are always strong and give me insight. Starts me writing. Almost everything deters me, exercise, house work, messaging on FB.

      1. Writing your dreams sounds like a fab way to start your day, Mar! Just writing about SOMETHING can get you in the right frame of mind to start your work, but writing your dreams sounds especially awesome.

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