How to be more efficient: The Travel Hack’s guide to getting sh*t done
So you’re looking for tips on how to be more efficient? As someone who was once the least efficient person in the world but has managed to turn it around, I’m here to help and share some of my top efficiency tips!
If there’s one thing every wants more of, it’s time.
How often do you hear people saying they’re ‘so busy’ or ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’ or they ‘could do with an 8-day week’ to get everything done?
I say things like this all the time and no matter how much time I have to do something, I always want a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer in bed, another hour to work on a blog post, just another day on holiday, just 10 more minutes to get ready.
But sometimes it’s not about having more time, it’s about learning to be more efficient with your time and finding ways to get more done with the limited time you have.
Before I had kids I was the least efficient person in the world. Looking back, I have no idea how I got anything done! The simplest task would take me all day and it just seemed to take me forever to do anything.
I used to struggle to get out the front door at 8am but now I somehow manage to do a load of washing, empty the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, get myself dressed and get two little boys fed and dressed and out the door before 8am. I also used to spend 50+ hours a week working on my blog and now I spend about 10 hours a week on blog work and, guess what, I get almost as much done as I did before. What was I doing for those extra 40 hours!?
I run an e-course for bloggers who want to turn their blog into a profitable business. It’s called The Blogger Course (imaginative, I know!) and whenever I speak to the bloggers who have enrolled on the course they always tell me their main problem is not having enough time. There’s a lot of work involved in blogging and doing it alongside a full time job is time consuming but there are ways to be more efficient so you do slowly start to tick everything off your to-do list.
These tips can all apply to blogging but they apply to anything you’re doing and want to be more efficient at.
I’m sorry to start with something so dull and obvious (I hate lists like this that have super obvious actions!) but, seriously, this can really help if you’re trying to be more efficient.
When I try to do a million things in a day I end up doing barely anything. I get overwhelmed and try to multitask so I’ll do a little bit of everything but will never actually finish anything. You end up with 10 incomplete jobs and finish the day feeling like a failure because you haven’t really achieved anything.
But if I just try to do one thing, I’ll get it done so much faster because I won’t get distracted or keep flitting between tasks. Just sit down and do it and don’t do anything else until you’re finished. And if you finish faster than you’d expected then it’s a bonus and you can either reward yourself with some time off or crack on with tomorrow’s task.
This is also a good tip because it helps you know when to stop. I don’t know about you but my to-do list is never ending and I feel like I could work none-stop for approximately 45 years and still not get to the bottom. But setting myself achievable tasks means I know when to do stop and don’t feel guilty about it.
Write a list
I can’t do anything without a to-do list so I start each day by writing my list. I put everything on it – even the little jobs like replying to a certain email or a mundane household chore – so I don’t get distracted and so I feel like I’ve achieved something at the end of the day as I look through all those items I’ve ticked off.
Side note: Does anyone else get so easily distracted by everything? I can be going out to the garage to put a load of washing on and see my bike hidden at the back so I decide to dig it out and clean it up and then I find an old tent I’ve been meaning to sell so I put it up in the garden to take some photos before I put it on eBay and then have a picnic in the tent with the kids and…wtf…six hours have passed and I still haven’t put the washing on!
Something that really helps me to be more efficient and whizz through my to-do list with no distractions is to allocate a set amount of time to each task.
I write my list and then set the time I want to finish next to it. Like this:
- Reply to all of yesterday’s emails – 9am
- Write blog post – 11am
- Take photos for product review – 12pm
- Lunch + walk dog – 1pm
- Do food shop – 3pm
This really helps me stay on track and I often find myself racing my list to get things done faster. I love it when I beat my list!
Do things in batches
I do almost everything in big batches as I find it’s a much more productive way to get things done and I apply this to everything. I don’t just cook a lasagne, I’ll cook 3 lasagnes and freeze two – because it doesn’t take much longer to make three anyway. I apply this to everything, whether it’s writing blog posts, editing photos, replying to emails or even doing the washing.
Figure out when you work best
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Or maybe you work best in the afternoon? Or maybe, you’re best working for 90 minutes at a time and then giving yourself a 90 minute break?
Figure out when you work best and try to schedule your day around that.
This was a massive game changer for me and when I finally accepted that I’m a night owl everything got so much easier.
I’m useless in the morning but I’m usually up early with the kids so I use this time to do the easy household chores I can do while I’m still half asleep. I actually love that my kids force me to get up early because it’s such a nice feeling I’ve done half the things on my to-do list before most people have even left the house!
I find it much easier to concentrate in the evening and I can be more efficient with my time – sometimes it really seems to take me 12 hours to wake up! My blog work day often begins at 6pm and I’ll happily work through until midnight. I can get more done in this 6 hours than I would if I tried to work every morning for a whole week. I don’t beat myself up about not working in the morning (even though my kids go to nursery 2 mornings a week!) and I just try to enjoy my mornings without worrying too much about that to-do list.
Stop checking your emails
When I joked above about not knowing what I did what that extra 40 hours of work time a week, I do know really. I spent about 50% of that time checking emails.
Emails are such a time suck and I sometimes do fall into the trap of constantly refreshing and looking out for new emails. It’s a tough one because you want to reply to emails quickly and keep your inbox clear but it usually just distracts you from what you’re meant to be doing and interrupts your workflow.
If you have the kind of job where you need to be contactable all day, set yourself limits for when you’ll be checking your emails. Maybe check them on the hour, every hour and give yourself 5 minutes to scan through them?
I try to reply to my emails in the evenings. This is partly because if I reply in the morning, the other person will then reply quickly and I fall into the trap of just replying to emails all day.
Set up calls
If the old email trap sounds familiar, why not set up calls to quickly discuss issues. I often find that a chain of 10 emails can often be switched for a 5 minute phone conversation.
I know millennials hate phone calls but it honestly makes life so much faster!
Turn the wifi off
If you’re working on something that doesn’t require internet then turn your wifi off. Yes, turn it off at the plug and enjoy a few hours of distraction-free time because, believe it or not, you can be more efficient without the internet!
I’m kind of lucky (or really unlucky depending which way you look at it!) in that I don’t get mobile or phone signal at home, so when I turn the wifi off I’m completely uncontactable.
I’ll often do this if I’m at home with the boys but keep getting distracted by emails or if I really need to get a blog post written but Instagram notifications keep pulling me away. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re phone isn’t beeping at you all the time!
Allocate time for admin
I try to use Mondays as admin days. I’ll do all the little jobs I need to do like go to the shops or the bank (because I sometimes STILL get paid by cheque – come on people it’s 2018!) or tidying the house, meal prep, paying bills, chasing payments and generally organising my life. This means that when I properly start work on Tuesday I can just dive right in there and get it done.
It can feel like a waste of a day to spend the whole day doing those annoying little jobs but I actually find I’m way more productive if I get it all done on one day so I’m totally organised and prepared when I properly begin work.
Set yourself goals
It can be hard to know how to best allocate your time without having a goal at the end of it. Whether you’re setting yourself weekly goals, monthly goals or yearly goals – any goals can be a huge motivation booster and will keep you on track.
I often find myself getting distracted by little side projects that can take up a lot of time but ultimately don’t get me achieve that big goal! And come on, who doesn’t love having a goal they’re working towards!
This sounds like a business term but it can apply to your home life too.
If you feel like a lot of your time is being spent on something that could easily be outsourced then do it – this is another game changer!
Whether you employ a virtual assistant or get an accountant to manage your finances, virtually everything can be outsourced these days. There are so many freelancers these days who can pick up the little jobs you’re struggling with – whether it’s photography, writing, admin, research or editing (or a billion other jobs in different sectors that I don’t understand).
But it’s not just business things that can be outsourced. Get a gardener or a cleaner if you feel like your time would be better spent doing something else. If a cleaner charges £10 an hour but you charge £30 an hour then you’re better off spending your time working and paying someone else to do your cleaning!
It can also be little things too. Like I mentioned above, I like to work in the evenings so I don’t have a lot of time to cook and make those delicious, fresh, organic, healthy, balanced meals every perfect mum is meant to cook for their families! And Sam is a terrible cook (and likes to add a block of cheese to virtually every meal he makes) so it’s best to not leave the food to Sam in our family. So I buy these fancy freezer meals from our local farm shop and they’re delicious. It means I don’t need to cook but our family still get those nice meals together. They’re more expensive but spending an extra £25 a week on food is worth it if it means I can work most evenings.
Have a time detox
If you do a food detox, you cut out lots of foods so you realise you don’t need them and you appreciate them more when you do have them. You could also do a spending detox for the same reason. It makes you much more aware and helps you see how little you can live on. But the same can apply to time.
Stick with me here…
If you’re used to doing something in 3 hours, try and do it in 1 hour and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll surprise yourself and get it done in 1!
If you’d have asked me a few years ago if it was possible to get my work done in 10 hours a week I would have laughed and thought you were joking. But here I am, 4 years later and my blog is bigger and more profitable than ever before and I spend less time working on it than ever before.
Don’t always follow the rules
And just to play devils advocate I’m going to add this one in. You don’t always need to follow the rules, because someone else’s rules might not work for you.
I’d read a million and one people say you need a dedicated office space to get any work done. And now I have a lovely office space that’s gorgeous…but I don’t usually work in there. I use my office for storage and planning, but I do my work anywhere but my office. I work on the sofa or at the kitchen table. Sometimes I work in the garden or at the gym or even in bed. I seem to work well everywhere except in my office! So make your own rules and figure out what works for you.
There you have it, my tips to be more efficient. Do you have any other suggestions for ways to be more efficient and make the most of your time?