A phrase I often hear is “where do you get the time?” and this is exactly what I want to delve into with this blog post. In the past year I have managed to become ACA exam qualified, create Jag’s Journey and write/post weekly blogs since, release a finance tracker, release a BOOK, help many students with ACA queries or others with Laser and Invisalign and much more. This is all alongside being recognised as a high-performer at work, going to the gym five days a week and whilst maintaining key relationships in my life and socialising. This is where I will stop blowing my own trumpet and give you the secret behind how to be productive 24/7.
Disclaimer: I am of course not productive 24/7 unless having Invisalign technically counts; even when I am doing nothing, my teeth are still moving. All lame jokes aside, I do try to make the most out of each day and below is what works for me.
What Does it Mean to be Productive?
According to vocabulary.com, to be productive it means “you do a lot – you create or produce large amounts of something“. In all honestly, I think we all essentially knew that already. In theory, you can still procrastinate and take time to relax as long as on the whole, you do a lot.
From a young age I believe I have always done a lot. I would always do extra curricular activities, have part time jobs, go out or do other things to keep myself busy. This constant level of being busy has probably led me to be how I am today.
I am going to get straight into it as I feel I have a lot of different points to make around “the secret” behind how to be productive. It will not just be one thing; there are several points I will make around how to be productive that do all tie in together. What I am going to tell you will sound quite obvious once you read it. I will provide examples too to help you really see where I am coming from.
As stated above, you can still procrastinate, take time to relax AND be productive. For me, this would not work without planning. I really do make the most of putting things down in my calendar. I always write things down too so I do not miss anything.
Here are some key examples of where I plan in advance:
- Blog outlines – I usually plan my blogs titles, weeks or sometimes months in advance, see below. This allows me to write these blogs whenever I get time and fit writing around my schedule. Although recently with the book I have been writing week-to-week which is not ideal.
- My meals – This does even go as far as planning out my meals and meal prepping for the days ahead, even if it is just making chicken and veg. Luckily, I can happily eat the same meals over and over. This really saves time and makes it less stressful having to think about what to eat each day. It also allows me to eat pretty well.
- Revision schedule – For the ACA I would write out exactly what questions I would need to practice on which days to ensure I could get through all of the questions before my exam. You can see how I did this here in 2).
Hopefully the above examples will be somewhat relatable to your own life and commitments. Honestly, I cannot stress enough how important planning is to stay on track. I would like to mention here though that if your plans are too optimistic, you may fall behind and this can be very counterproductive. However, if you plan for catch up days, you should not go wrong.
Be Productive with your Timing
Timing is key. We all only get 24 hours in a day but we can each choose how we spend our time. Sleep is something that I will never compromise on as I really cannot function well without a solid 7-9 hours of sleep. If we take this out, this leaves 16 hours (8 hour sleep average) to be productive. Monday to Friday I work 9 until at least 17:30 each day. This means in reality, I only have 7.5 hours left in the day including to gym, which does actually sound like a fair bit of time.
In actual fact, a lot of time I will have 8.5 hours as my lunchbreak is mostly used wisely to do things other than watching TV/sitting on my phone. I will usually have the odd dentist appointment or other appointments during my lunch break. You will be surprised at how much time this takes. I will even continue to write blogs during this time or meal prep. I really do try to make the most of the time I do have available.
With COVID-19 and home working, circumstances have been very different. Where I would usually go on holiday and travel during my annual leave, I have used the time to be productive. During my annual leave is when I have chosen to revise for exams, create/sell my finance tracker and write/publish my book. I have definitely made the time socially for my family and friends too though but in many instances of house visits, I have taken my laptop with me to get things done.
Embed a Solid Routine
Without having a solid routine, I honestly become a huge mess unless on holiday of course. Routine is really where all this planning and being productive with timing ties together. I personally think that having a routine drives discipline and helps you to stay focused and committed.
For example, I go to the gym five days a week (recently six but the odd weeks it has perhaps been four). I have managed to do this since starting the gym in 2015 and the main instances I would not adhere to this is when on holiday or during my laser eye surgery recovery. During lockdown I would do home workouts at my DIY home gym. If I have a busy day or socials on, I will go to the gym in the morning before work to free up the evening. Planning my workout makes this much easier when training in the morning too.
Without discipline and a strong routine in place, this would definitely be a lot less achievable. However, I find it extremely difficult to not do something once it is embedded in my routine and I do not feel good in myself either. I would rather go to the gym and have a bad workout than not go at all.
Having a routine makes me know what is important to me and what I need to do. It is just as important to brush my teeth as it is to keep up with these habits I have introduced. According to Healthline, it takes an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. If you really want to stick at something, start today.
As I have committed to posting blogs every Thursday, I have made sure to do so. I have even managed to post blogs during my very difficult laser eye surgery recovery, on my boyfriend’s birthday and the struggle of a day after my own. This routine has therefore made it easier to stick to what I have planned and to get things done.
What I find also helps to be productive is setting goals. The blog outlines photographed above are goals that I have set for myself but a better example I can give you is with my book…
I knew I wanted to publish the book in summer, to help new joiners who were to start their ACA graduate schemes in September. This meant I had to ensure to plan and be productive with my timings to make sure this would get done on time. It meant there would be some evenings and weekends spent working on this in June and July as well as using my annual leave at the end of June and in August. It would have been very easy to delay this but given the goal and deadline I set for myself, I managed to do it! The support of my family definitely helped.
With all of the above, what is extremely important is to avoid burnout. I do not think it is possible to be productive 24/7 and I honestly would not want to be either. It is very important to get downtime and to really avoid burning out. You do need to listen to your body when it tells you to take it easy and learning how to say no helps with this. However, recently I have started to realise I am not as good at this as I thought.
A trick that really helps me which may sound unproductive is actually to blog/respond to messages/keep up with website maintenance/SEO in front of the TV or in bed. This way it does not feel like work as this is not what I would want. I am also much more present and less likely to burnout when I am mentally prepared. Planning ahead helps with this. Last minute plans, not so much!
The key to avoiding burnout is to prioritise. It is hard to do everything but if things are important to you, you will be able to make time for these. There is plenty more than I want to do but have not been able to just yet. For example, I should really get on YouTube as there is an enormous audience where I could really push my blogs. However, this would take a lot of time including actually getting ready to look presentable and editing videos. In order to allow myself to do this, I may have to consider spending less time writing back to others by monetising advice and/or reduce my blogs to fortnightly postings.
In summary, “the secret” behind how to be productive 24/7 is actually a combination of factors. It all stems down to planning, making use of timing, embedding a strong routine, setting goals and avoiding burnout. Honestly, I am not perfect at any of these but I do try to do as much as I can. Recently I have felt overwhelmed with everything going on but having a strong support system around me and learning how to say no has helped.
What I have outlined is not the ‘right’ way to be productive but it is what works for me. I hope there is something useful you can take away from this article and you can find what works for you. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join me on my journey!