Overwhelmed? 9 simple productivity hacks that actually work (and they’re free!)

Overwhelmed office worker with sticky notes all over his face and body.

So, you’ve launched your business and have what feels like 1,378 tasks to do each week. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Here are some quick, free and easy productivity tips that really work.

Tip 1: Don’t multitask. Ever.

For a long time, multitaskers were seen as industrious and efficient. They really aren’t. All they are doing is losing focus, as with each new email or task coming in, they get more and more distracted.

Did you know that it takes your brain 23 minutes to focus again once you have been distracted? This certainly seems true for me.

What to do? Some tips below.

  • First thing in the morning (or even better, the day before!), make yourself a list of 3 tasks that will bring your business forward.
  • Complete one task before attempting the next one.

But how, I hear you ask? Check out tip 2 for that.

Tip 2: Use the Pomodoro technique.

Set yourself a timer for your tasks. You can either use your own watch, phone, or some handy YouTube videos to do this.

This is what the ‘Pomodoro’ technique is all about. (It’s called ‘Pomodoro’ [Italian for ‘tomato’] after its inventor’s red, tomato-shaped timer).

Essentially, you focus on ONE task for a set period of time (e.g. 25 minutes), and then take a 5-minute break. No cheating!

It really works. You may need to adjust the timing to suit your purposes. For example, you might need 40 minutes if you need some uninterrupted blog-writing time (I’m using the Pomodoro technique right now).

Important: before you start, close all open tabs on your desktop / laptop and put your mobile on silent.

Tip 3: Switch off your mobile.

You need to focus? Then switch off your mobile and email notifications completely. People can wait 25 minutes (or even 40 minutes).

If that’s impossible, then at least switch off any notification sounds and put your mobile a few metres away from you. No distractions, remember!

You can also use apps to block certain content, and/or to help you block out time for certain tasks. See a list of free productivity apps here.

Tip 4: Unsubscribe from all those newsletters you never read.

You’re wasting a lot of time sifting through emails that are actually no longer interesting to you. You may have signed up to a newsletter 5 years ago but never read it. Don’t just click ‘Delete’ – unsubscribe. (Don’t unsubscribe from mine, though. 😉)

Take one day a week to really focus on unsubscribing from any emails you no longer wish to receive. Your inbox and brain will thank you!

Tip 5: Learn productivity hacks to speed up your email checking (Gmail, Outlook, etc).

If you have a GSuite Business account, you will find these productivity hacks useful.

Outlook user? Try these productivity tips.

If you haven’t already, link to your website and terms and conditions in your email signature.

You may even want to add a quick ‘leave a review’ link to your email signature, so clients can immediately leave recommendations on your LinkedIn page.

Tip 6: Batch tasks.

Need to write a blog post? Don’t write just one. Schedule in a blog-writing day and write three or more. Your brain will be focused on blog writing and things will flow better.

Do you regularly post on your social media channels? (If not, you should!)

Yes? Then take one day to plan out your next couple of weeks’ posts and schedule them. You can use Hootsuite, Buffer, or your social media channels’ own scheduling options.

Not sure how to do this? Watch this space, as this will be a future blog post…

Tip 7: Listen to business podcasts while exercising, walking or cooking.

Find it hard to keep up to date with the latest marketing / business trends in your working day? You always have some extra time that you can tap into.

Make sure it’s an enjoyable podcast to listen to, so it doesn’t feel like hard work.

My favourite is Target Internet’s digital marketing podcast. Check it out!

Tip 8: Schedule in sufficient time to rest.

Nobody works well on little sleep and few breaks.

Make sure you schedule in time during the working day for:

  • a drink of water (hydration is very important for your brain!);
  • a quick, healthy snack;
  • 20 minutes downtime to read a book or interesting article (non-work related);
  • stretching / easy exercise; and/or
  • a 15-minute power nap.

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This will help if you’re suffering from insomnia.

Also, make sure not to look at any screens for at least one hour before going to bed.

Tip 9. Overwhelmed by all these tips? Just start with implementing ONE.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to do everything at once. Why not concentrate on one of the above tasks for one week, and then slowly build up a productivity habit?

Have fun with it and let me know on my social media channels how it goes. (Links in the contact form below.)

[Thanks also to @johnharrison_io, @The Flex Network, and @sathlondonshona for their productivity tips, some of which may be featured in a future blog post. Make sure to follow these guys for great advice around marketing, freelancing and copywriting.]


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Claudia Kozeny-Pelling

Claudia Kozeny-Pelling

Owner, Translate Digital Marketing

I especially love working with ethical, fairtrade and green small businesses.