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Productivity Hacks for the Organizationally-Challenged

Exhausted woman

For My Hard-to-Focus Brethren


Sometimes, your brain just wants a lazy day – and that’s ok. But once it becomes the norm, there’s a problem. For the truly disorganized, it can become even more of a challenge to be productive at work. There are constant distractions, overwhelming goals, and daily stress. But, it is possible to thrive – you just have to adjust.

Chunk out your day

It’s good to have big goals. But for the organizationally-challenged, sometimes even weekly goals are too much. So, chunk out your time in smaller increments: go day by day, hour by hour.

Some people find a lot of use in day planners like Grant Cardone’s 10X planner since it allows you to get granular (think 3-hour chunks). There’s also a journaling section where you can write down your goals for the day, what your successes were, etc.

I haven’t used his planner so I honestly can’t help there. I do, however, use Outlook’s calendar – and it does the job for me. I have it synced to my phone too, so I get reminders on my laptop and phone. It’s harder to ignore.

I’ve also taken it to heart in my personal life. I have alarms on my phone to remind me to water the plants, clean my pug’s face (I wish I was joking), pay rent, etc. Sure, they get annoying, but they get the job done – which is more than I could say if I had to remember everything on my to-do list without any help.

Screenshot of phone alarms

Told you I wasn't joking.

Get yourself a task management tool

Personally, I’m a huge fan of MeisterTask. I can create tasks, write notes, add checklists, set deadlines, assign tasks to my boss for approval, and move tasks across the board as I progress into different steps.

My productivity has shot up since creating my project board. I know exactly what I have to do, I know exactly which stage it’s in, and if I’m waiting on someone else for something, I know when I pushed them last so I don’t become too annoying. It’s a game-changer, friends.

Here’s a screenshot from my Content Board - click to enlarge:

Screenshot of MeisterTask

You can see that I follow a very linear step-by-step process, so Kanban boards (MeisterTask’s format is called Kanban – read up on it here) works well for what I do. My Not Started column is where I plop all my article ideas until I start working on them. In my Published! column, you can see articles I’ve posted. You don’t have to keep that stuff around, of course, you can archive completed tasks – but I keep them around so the rest of the marketing team can see what’s been published already (totally doesn’t trigger my OCD. Not one bit.) just in case they need inspiration for social posts and whatnot.

Best part of all? For what I need, it’s absolutely free. And I like it so much that if I was in a position where I needed a paid subscription, I would happily pay for it.

Kanban isn’t the only thing out there. If it doesn’t work for you, there’s a good chance that a different type of task management will work better, so feel free to explore other services. Just know how much it can help you stay organized – and organization is half the battle.

Work somewhere else

Man working at laptopIt’s a good thing remote work is becoming more and more normalized, because I can’t tell you how much more productive I am when I work remote. I’m not alone on this, and yes, this is verified by study after study after study (you can read more about that in my article Remote Work is now a Must for Most Employees).

The uptick in productivity is pretty easy to understand: no coworkers to chitchat with, no distractions, no noise disturbances, no surprise meetings, and no one walking up to your desk with non-urgent matters. You can just plug in and go – which is great for people who have trouble organizing their thoughts once distractions come barging in.

I currently work from home one day per week (hurray Thursday!) and if I could work from home permanently, I would. It’s such a drastic difference. If someone sends me a message over chat, I can see if it’s urgent or if it can wait until I finish what I’m doing, thus keeping me in a state of flow and cranking out work.

If you don’t have the option to work remotely, that’s a bummer – but you might still be able to use this tip in other ways. For example, some companies I visited had ‘dark rooms’ with the lights turned off, white noise machines, and a few empty desks that people could go work in for a change of scenery (and some peace and quiet). Barring that, could you book a small conference room to get away for a couple hours? Is there a couch you could bring your laptop to and sprawl out on for a bit? Can you go to Starbucks for a bit and use their sweet, sweet free WiFi?

In any case, finding a different space to work in – even if just for a few hours – can be the change of pace you need to get those creative juices flowing.

Take frequent breaks

There’s this thing called the Pomodoro Technique that advocates working for 25 minutes (yes, timed) and then taking a 5 minute break. The work chunk has to be spent uninterrupted, and the break should be something non-work related, like a tiny walk around the office, a coffee refill, or breathing/meditating. There’s more to it, but that’s the gist.

This method is supposed to help keep you motivated – because it’s only 25 minutes, right? Everyone can work for 25 minutes. And, it encourages you to take more breaks, which is proven to help with productivity and creativity.

I haven’t personally tested this method out since what I do already works for me, but I got in the habit long ago of taking frequent breaks, so I can confirm that aspect works.

Know your limits. Then, crush them.

We’re all told to know our limits, right? Because it’s good to know where we can improve. So, do it: improve.

Find the methods that work for you. Employ technology. Organize. Then, crush those limits down.


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