With 10 years in the industry, of which the latest 3 have been running my own business, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of things that have increased my productivity, motivation and also enabled me to disconnect whilst I am supposed to be relaxing.

Turn off device alerts

Chances are you’re at a desk most of the day, like me. So why have buzzes and boings going off? In fact I’ve gone a step further than this, I’ve permanently disabled vibrate and sounds from emails on my devices. If it’s urgent, people will phone and if it’s “out of hours” it doesn’t matter.

Go Analogue

I’ve spent countless hours working with different wireframing techniques, todo lists, sitemap tools and do you know what I end up doing? Sketching wireframes by hand, writing todo lists in a simple text file and using post-its stuck up on a wall or scattered on a table to work out the structure of a website.

Sketching wireframes by hand and using Post-its for site structure is absolutely ideal for client meetings as well. It gets everyone engaged, sometimes up on their feet and excited about what they can achieve as a team. Conclusions are generally quicker to come to as everyone is in the same room and there is no confusion as everyone hears the same story.

Read it later

One of my major time drains was keeping twitter open all day long and checking my stream almost constantly. Now I check it every one or two hours and then save all links to Readability app so I can consume all the information later that day, usually on the sofa rather than at the desk.

Don’t let emails sit there

I used to let all of my emails build up for a few hours, thinking that I’d respond to them all in one hit. This doesn’t work for me, sometimes I had maybe 20 or 30 emails that needed responses in a day, which I didn’t always get round to answering, before you know it there are 60, then 100. I have a strict policy for emails, if it’s an easy response I’ll reply as quickly as I can, usually within minutes. If the email requires me to go off and research something or provide a quote, I’ll respond with a quick “yep, got it” type email and blue flag it in Mac Mail. I’ve set up smart flags Blue = Follow up. Then over lunch and near the end of the day, I’ll archive off all responded emails.

Get in to the zone

When I struggle to get focused I do 1 of 3 things.

  1. Put on an episode of 24 or a film I’ve watched many times on Netflix
    Now this is an important point. Never put on anything you’ve never seen before, it must be something that cuts out distraction but doesn’t cause it. I’ve seen 24 three or four times now – so it keeps me in a focused frame of mind but doesn’t distract me.
  2. Put on my favourite album. I’ve got a number of artists that keep me focused and a smart playlist of five star rated tracks. When I start singing along, I’ll usually revert to 1 or 3 of my “get in to the zone” solutions.
  3. Put a podcast on, generally I can keep track of something like Happy Monday podcast and still manage to work. These are often, if not always, inspirational so really help to motivate me.

Do some exercise

Get up, move around, have a walk at lunch, do something. I have recently joined the gym and have found the days that I have done excercise have been my most focused and productive days.

Tell me yours

I’m always looking to pick up tips and learn, so I’d be keen to hear what you do to keep productive and motivated.