My 7 Keys To Unicorn-Like Productivity
When it comes to work, I do a lot of things. I write daily and typically publish 5-8 posts a week at this blog. I record and produce weekly lifestyle videos. I record and produce a weekly podcast. I periodically am on the speaker/interview circuit in general or as it relates to Minimalist Parenting. I’m the creative director at Women Online, which involves designing and implementing (hopefully brilliant!) social media campaigns for amazing clients. I still have a substantial freelance editing/management client from my academic days. And though I shuttered my design business a few years ago, I still take on side work (pretty much exclusively when I want to help friends get things off the ground). It’s a lot. I love it, but it’s a lot.
People often ask me how I get so much done and honestly, most of the time I just wave my hands around and say “UNICORNS!” I typically just try to slay my to-do list and don’t dwell too much on the process. But these days I’ve been been working at full velocity and it’s made me think a lot about efficiency. And as part of an editorial series I’ve been working on with Workbar at Staples, I wanted to share how I get the unicorn productivity fleet from point A to point B.
A lot of people equate not sleeping to being massively productive but I don’t buy it. Sleep is important! If I get a short night of sleep I am a zombie the next day (the opposite of productive). I love sleep and in the 10 years since I have been building my little empire, I have prioritized it more and more and shoot for getting 8 hours a night. I also immediately implemented some of these 7 steps to better sleep because I am all for optimizing my sleep! Obviously, your ability to get more sleep improves as your kids get older; grab every extra minute you can!
It’s common for fitness to fall to the wayside when you’re busy, but exercise is an important counterpoint to the restorative side of sleep. Despite having a very full schedule -- perhaps because I have a very full schedule -- I need exercise to shake off the crazy and recalibrate. The key is figuring how to make it work for you. For example, I know that if I don’t exercise in the morning, it’s unlikely I will get to it. Right now I’m training for a half marathon so I’m on a schedule of exercising 5 days a week (4 days of running, 1 day of cross-training) with 2 rest days. I’ve built my running into my morning routine so that I get the run done after I walk Violet to school (walking = warmup!) and I do my cross-training at home early in the morning before the kids are up.
3. Keep a to-do list
I live by my Wunderlist to-do list. It’s a free to-do app you can use on your computer or phone and I break my tasks into different categories and round robin through the tasks all day long. If the list is huge I will flag the must-do-today items (just hit the star to the right) so I don’t lose track of critical items. My to-do list is set up to remind me to touch every project I’m working on daily, which makes my clients happy and keeps me feeling on top of things.
Related to my to-do list slaying, a few years ago I hired my first assistant and it was life changing. I’ve gone through some transitions recently and now have two assistants and it is MIND BLOWING. Delegation in itself is awesome, but I’ve learned that it’s also key to delegate in a way where the tasks directly align with the strengths of each of my team members. This approach makes for greater efficiency and also workplace happiness.
5. Skipping chores
I have shared about this idea both in video format and on Asha and my work-at-home productivity hacks episode but I do not do chores during my precious work hours. It’s tempting if you’re working at home, but SKIP THE CHORES. If you do the chores, NO ONE ELSE WILL!
6. IRL work time
The same week I toured the Brighton Workbar at Staples, I met with my Women Online team at the Union Square Workbar. We had scheduled a brainstorming hour but ended up working there all morning and early afternoon because it was so fun, powerful, and productive to work in the same space and bounce ideas quickly off one another (instead of sending yet another email). It was a great reminder of how much being in a co-working space can up your energy and productivity.
7. Work-free evenings
For the first 6 or so years of my freelance life, it was not uncommon for me to work through the evenings up to bedtime. This was horrible both for my marriage and my sleep (note #1 above). One of the best moves I ever made a few years ago was to make work-free evenings the rule, not the exception. Setting those boundaries has helped me become more efficient and avoid procrastination during the day because I know it’s not an option to say, “Oh, I’ll do that later this evening.” Not to mention that prioritizing Jon and the girls is a win for everyone!
If you’re in need of a cool external workspace I highly recommend you check out Workbar at Staples. Locations currently include Brighton, Danvers, and Norwood. Check out my earlier posts on 5 reasons why Workbar at Staples is brilliant and why you should try a co-working space if you can’t leave household chores behind if you need further inspiration.
Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Staples. All thoughts about unicorn-like productivity are, of course, my own.