Recently, the team over at Kabbage reached out to me and asked me share my five essentials for productivity. Kabbage is a small business loans provider and has a great blog featuring business tips for small business owners. The Kabbage team asked me what helps me stay focused and engaged… and, more than that, what tools do I use to boost my productivity?
Anybody who knows me knows that I’m kind of a mess. To peek into the inner workings of my brain is to see insanity at play. So it should come as no surprise to any of y’all that I had my tips and tricks to being a somewhat-functional and productive human at the ready.
Notepad: Design Darling
Pen: Le Pen
Glitter Case: Juicy Couture, old
1. Pumpkin Spice Lattes
I am addicted to these drinks of sugary goodness. They’re my weakness. Whenever I’m having a bad day, a slow day, an inspiration-less day, or even just need a pick-me-up (in any way that phrase can be construed), I hop over to Starbucks and order a Skinny Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I don’t know if it’s the high dosage of sugar or the high voltage of caffeine, but, whenever I have a PSL, my brain instantly starts churning and popping out new ideas (or, at the very least, I finally somewhat focus on the task at hand).
2. To-Do Lists & Calendars
I have something embarrassing to admit: I often write already-accomplished tasks on my To-Do Lists just for the satisfaction of being able to check items off that much faster.
At any given time, I have at least three To-Do Lists in progress: one for my personal life that lists mundane items like “Go grocery shopping”, “Do laundry”, “Work out”, and “Buy a gift and card for [insert friend’s name here]”; one for work that reminds me of whom I need to contact and whatever data I have yet to enter; and one for this blog that tells me what has yet to be done before publishing each post – be it “Write ‘My Five Essentials for Productivity'”, “Photograph for ‘My Five Essentials for Productivity'”, or even “Post ‘My Five Essentials for Productivity'”.
Similarly, my life is totally compartmentalized into calendars. In addition to my standard work calendar, I have six calendars relating to my personal life: one for travel information and details about flights and hotel stays; one pertaining to plans with friends or friends’ birthdays and one focused on plans with family, my family members’ birthdays, and any family members’ travel plans of which I should be aware; one for events and parties (like the opera or a friend’s birthday party); one for everything relating to health (that’s where scheduling the aforementioned workout comes into play); and – finally – one listed as the all-encompassing “personal” – this calendar is basically the receptacle for dates, grocery shopping, private meetings, etc. Oh… and I have a calendar for the blog as well! I plan out every post at least one week ahead of time, and mark them on the calendar fittingly.
I always have a notepad or some scratch paper with me. I have a full-time job, am attempting to lead / leading the life of a moderately-sociable twenty-something, and I have a blog I try to update daily (travel is the exception to that rule), so I really never know when I’m going to get a spare second to write a post… or even when inspiration for a post might find me. I might be in Starbucks getting my Skinny PSL, I might be in front of my TV, I might even be out for dinner with a friend and know that if I don’t jot down this idea right away then it will disappear into the ether.
Furthermore, I firmly believe that anything worth blogging about is worth taking the time to hand write, check, and re-check, so I do that for the vast majority of my posts. I know that must seem like a ridiculous waste of time to many of you, but I believe there’s something special (or traditional… or just old-fashioned) about sitting down and writing ideas out – or even entire posts – with a pencil and paper… and a giant eraser.
During the work week, my days usually start by around 6AM. I get up early so I can workout before work and make sure my posts go live at the right time. I get off work typically in the late afternoon or early evening, and from then it’s a constant stream of dinners and drinks with friends in Dallas, catching up via phone calls with friends and family far away, and writing… pretty much nonstop until 10PM or so. One of my favorite ways to unwind, clear my head, de-stress, and get inspired after being so go-go-go all day is to watch TV. I can [and often will] do that for hours.
Some of my favorite shows are Scandal, Game of Thrones (I seriously can’t wait for it to come back in the spring!), Outlander, The Mindy Project (a recent addition to my rotation), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, House of Cards, and The Newsroom. And that’s not even a quarter of the shows I watch. Don’t worry, I never watch them live. I used to keep track of all of them on my calendar but then my calendar started getting a little embarrassing (and not to mention cluttered)… instead, I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBOGO – now I use those services to watch my various shows every week.
5. Friends & Family
My best tool for productivity is also my favorite source for inspiration: my friends and family. I really lean on them a lot. At least twice a week, I’ll call up my friends and ask them for their input on various things I’m writing or even volley ideas for posts with them.
When I’m working on a new recipe (aka going through the trial-and-error phase of making the new recipe), I like to have a friend over to entertain me as I cook and then sample the dish so I get a second opinion before I put the recipe on my blog. My friends and family (ahem: my sister) will frequently send me links recipes on Pinterest that they think I should attempt to make, and I’ll send several of them links to recipes and ask the most pertinent question I can think of: does this look good or disgusting? Similarly, I always try to get a second opinion on my fashion choices before photographing… especially since I was known as a kid for wearing mismatched socks and for starting the thumbhole-in-sweaters trend – the latter of the two being one of my greatest successes in life. Not to mention my friends who do the photographing for me (more fashion posts will be coming soon… I promise!).
So now I ask you: what are your five essentials for productivity? Please share your five in the comments below!