Despite all the apps, programs and devices and AI tech we now have, we still have a finite amount of time — we’ll never be able to create more hours in a day. Australian entrepreneur, parent and author of ‘Six Figures in School Hours: How to run a successful business and be a good parent’, Kate Toon, knows this all too well.
“That’s why productivity matters to humans,” she says. “I’ve found that when it comes to it, it’s not one big change that makes the difference, but a gazillion tiny shifts in habits and discipline. Also, I’ve learned that squeezing as much useful juice from your day is the only way to fend off the overwhelm and burnout.”
Ahead, Toon shares her productivity tips to help workers of all kinds, not just entrepreneurs, squeeze the most juice out of every day.
Consider Time as an Investment
“Another great way to reframe your attitude toward time is to think less about ‘spending’ it and more about ‘investing’ it,” says Toon. “Spending feels frivolous like you’re splashing your time about with no thought for the consequences. Investing feels more solid like you’re laying down the foundations for the future.”
“For a long time, I had a Post-it Note on my screen that said: ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ I can’t tell you the number of times this caught my eye before I fell into a pit of social media time-wasting, and it pulled me back from the brink.”
Adopt a ‘Me, Myself and I’ Approach
“In business and work, we wear many hats and occasionally a beret,” says Toon. “And again, rather than fight this, I like to embrace it. So, I’ll wear my Project Manager hat about one day a week.”
“On that day, usually Friday, I review my priorities, plan out my week, update my tasks in Asana and tidy up my ‘to-do list’ in Slack. Then, when I start work on Monday, delirious and disorientated from the weekend, I don’t have to stop and think, ‘What should I be doing today?’ ‘Last Week Me’ already decided. And ‘Tomorrow Me’ is going to be unhappy if I don’t crack on.
“I also find writing a to-do list at the end of each day helps me get started with purpose the next morning, but more on to-do lists later.”
Split Your Day Into Light and Shade
“It’s important to consider your energy levels and not pack every day with a million tough tasks,” says Toon. “Give yourself some quick, easy wins.”
“My job involves a lot of performance-style tasks: podcast interviews, coaching calls, Q&As, Facebook Lives and group coaching Zoom masterclasses. These are high-energy, brain-pumping and draining, so I try not to have too many in a given day.
“I also split my day into ‘deep work’ and ‘light work’. Light work might be engaging on socials. Deep work would be writing an article like this.”
Don’t Try Multi-Tasking
“I firmly believe the idea that anyone can multi-task is a big fat lie,” says Toon. “While it may seem like we’re being super productive when we’re second-screening with 87 tabs open, listening to a podcast while walking on a treadmill under our standing desk, we’re likely not doing a great job of anything.
“I like to handle projects one at a time, working through each task as thoroughly as possible until I can do no more. I’ve found that finishing one thing before I start another is the secret to my success.
“So many people have fingers in so many pies that they are left, well, fingerless. My recommendation: put all your fingers and possibly a toe into ONE pie. Enjoy it. Finish it. Then, bring on the next pie.”
Determine If You’re a ‘Hoot Hoot’ or a ‘Quack’
“Working to your own rhythm is vital. I’m an early duck, always have been. I cannot do a damn thing after 3pm and the thought of being a night owl brings me out in a rash. I generally tackle the hardest task of the day first up when I’m on a coffee high with a belly full of comfort porridge.
“I save my social media and spreadsheets for the post-lunch slump when using only half my brain is just enough. Forcing yourself to be an early creature when you don’t warm up before 6pm ain’t going to work in the long term.”
Calculate Your Billable Time
“Sure, you may have 38 hours of working time a week, or you may have three, but how much of it do you spend actually ‘doing’ anything worth doing?” says Toon. “Whether you’re working in the office or from the sofa, it’s all too easy to waste the day away and feel like a failure.”
“In my advertising agency days, we worked to a billable time percentage of 80%, accounting for every hour in our timesheet. Ugh. Tools like Toggl will help you track your time and watch the faffing add up.”