What Are the Challenges When It Comes to Being Productive?
Coaches help people to get more out of their lives – but for many coaches, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for every task and appointment on the never-ending to-do list.
Only a small percentage of your daily tasks are related to what actually makes you money (the coaching, of course), while the rest of the business scrabbles around in the background.
With notes and appointments scattered around your office, a million emails that need to be answered, social media comments and DMs, admin, and accounting…
Where do you start? How do you prioritise? What gets the attention?
Without productivity, we run the risk of becoming frazzled and overwhelmed, stressed and anxious about forgetting an appointment or missing an important call, and feel like we are drowning despite working every available minute of the day.
This can lead to procrastination – and then when everything feels insurmountable, we burn out.
We cannot make more hours in the day. But we can create improvements to the way we work that will help us achieve more in less time, even when we have competing priorities.
All we need to do is make some small changes and become a bit more organised.
Productivity Tips for Coaches
Write It Down
Get used to writing things down. If everything you need to know about your deadlines, tasks, appointments and meetings are all in one place, you won’t have to worry about missing something.
Whether you are an analogue soul and prefer the trusty pen and paper, or technology wins and you choose a task management system, write it all down.
Getting the to-do out of your head will give you space to think about other things, and keeping everything together makes it easier to physically see what you need to complete.
A diary might be perfect for this, but there are several software and online programs that can help you organise your work life, such as Trello and Todoist.
Plan the Day Before
Every night, before you switch off for the day, plan what you need to complete the next day. Look at any set-in-stone appointments that you cannot miss.
Do you need to take anything for them? Are you making a presentation or going for coffee?
Ensure you know what time they are happening and plan your travel time to get there.
Next, highlight three tasks that must be done tomorrow. These might be complete projects or steps towards completing a project.
Check that to-do list. Can you work on something tomorrow? Are there any items on there that you don’t need to do at all? This might be a task that actually is not that important or something that you can hand over to someone else.
In your plan, think about mindful downtime. If you have a long train ride, can you get some work done? This might be a good time to switch off from work completely and listen to an audiobook instead.
Plan some breaks from your desk, including a lunch break, so that you are engaged away from work.
Work When It Is Best for You
Part of the planning process means understanding when you are most productive yourself.
Do you work best first thing? Plan your tougher tasks then. If you work better later in the evening, allow yourself more time in bed in the morning so that you can get adequate rest to be able to stay up later at night.
Forcing yourself to work when you are distracted, tired or just generally inefficient is a sure-fire way to not get things done.
If you work when you are most effective, you can have your cake and eat it, according to Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek.
Outsource and Delegate
There will be tasks on your to-do list that you don’t need to do.
It is difficult to accept that you can ask for help, especially when in coaching you are your business, but you don’t have to do everything yourself.
Get an accountant or a bookkeeper to sort out your taxes. Hire a Virtual Assistant to manage your emails.
Delegate the tasks that you do not need to do, and you will automatically free yourself up for work that needs to be done.
Outsourcing could be the best productivity hack on this list, especially if you use it for the tasks that you either do not enjoy or find difficult to do.
Choose the Right Habits
Habits are hard to break and developing better habits can be just as difficult.
Listicles like these can provide some excellent ideas, but this does not mean that every idea will work for every coach.
You know yourself best, so choose what works for you.
A great example of this is the old ‘productivity tip’ that has been chucked around freely for what seems like years – that the best way to be insanely productive is to start the day as early as possible.
Entrepreneurs were clamouring to claim the earliest, most ridiculous wake-up times – 6 a.m., 5.30 a.m., 4 a.m. – followed by the perfect morning routine of meditation, exercise, breakfast…
If you didn’t get up before the birds, how could you be productive?
Of course, for some people, this really worked. But for many of us, the snooze button would be the only response to a 4 a.m. alarm.
Not all tips work for all people.
Time Management Techniques and Technologies
Do Not Multitask
Multitasking does not improve productivity; instead, you halfheartedly attempt several things and either don’t finish any of them or do not give them the attention they need.
What you want to do is establish focus.
For some people, this means batching similar tasks together so that you are not constantly dipping in and out of doing the same thing.
If you receive emails throughout the day, decide on a particular time to read them, deal with them and reply where needed.
Time tracking might seem onerous, but it could help you, in the long run, to see where you are losing time and focus.
Apps like Toggl are simple to use, and if you can see that you fall into the Instagram scrolling trap once you have responded to a comment on one of your pictures, then you can create a plan to prevent that from happening.
Focusing exclusively on one task will get the best results, but you might find it useful to employ a technique like Pomodoro so that you can maintain the deep focus necessary.
This technique times the focused work for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. You can put more than one complete Pomodoro together for tasks that need more time.
Big tasks can always seem more overwhelming, but breaking them down into bite-size pieces can make them easier to conquer. One Pomodoro could be focused on a single step that brings you closer to your completed goal.
As part of your planning, set aside time to deal with distractions.
Mute notifications from emails and social media and set aside a specific time to deal with emails, respond to DMs and get back to people who have tried to call you when you are in the zone.
Distractions kill productivity.
Do Your Hardest Task First
Mark Twain famously said, ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day’.
While it might be trite, in reality, it is also true – especially when it comes to productivity and forming good habits.
That task you are dreading? Do it first and get it out of the way – and the rest of the day will seem so much easier.
If you don’t attack the big scary thing first, it will linger in the corner and make you procrastinate on all your other tasks.
Take Mindful Breaks
You are more productive when you take a break.
The temptation to push through and get everything done before you leave the desk is a hard habit to get rid of, but you will perform better when you take a break.
Breaks don’t have to be the same every day. Take a walk around the office or the block. Have something delicious to eat or drink. Listen to some music and have a dance. Call a friend for a non-work-related catch-up.
Once you have had a break, you can return to the task feeling refreshed and ready for action.
Know WHY You Are Doing the Task
It is easier to be focused on what you need to do when you know what the reason is for doing it.
It might be that your invoices need to be added to your accounting software so that you can get paid.
The reasoning behind the task can help give you the energy you need to get it done.
You cannot be productive on an empty stomach. Eating well is not just important for your physical health, it also means that you will have the energy to be productive.
Eating healthy food regularly will help you focus. A nutritious breakfast is the first step – you need more than a strong coffee to work on that to-do list.
Lunch is also important. Taking a lunch break will give you time away from the desk, so you might as well take a full break and eat something delicious, too.
Make Time for Exercise
Exercise should be part of your daily plan.
It doesn’t have to be an hour in a gym every day – it can be as simple as taking a walk or dancing in the kitchen to your favourite songs.
Healthy habits like exercise make you more productive. You can even exercise at your desk!
Celebrate Your Achievements
Serial list-makers know the ecstatic feeling that can come from ticking off an item on the to-do list.
Being able to celebrate what you have finished will help energise you to be more productive tomorrow.
Celebrating achievements doesn’t have to be fanfare every time you complete something, but when you have eaten that frog and done something memorable, then you deserve a treat.
Being more productive means taking some time in your schedule to plan, and work on finding the habits and tips that work best for you.
What tips work best for your own productivity?
Nikki Dale is a full time writer who enjoys learning everything she can about new subjects. During her education, she was always the strange student who enjoyed writing essays and arguing black was white; and with a degree in criminology and extensive experience in a wide range of roles, from the police to healthcare, sales to education, she is always ready for the next challenge. As a mother of two, she loves being able to offer her children her time when she is not in front of the laptop learning and writing.