How To Get More Done in a Day (and Not Burn Out)

My BEST Productivity Hacks (How to Get More Done)

I get asked a lot, “how do you get so much done?” It’s funny when people ask me this question because I really don’t think I get that much done. Doesn’t everyone just get to it and plough through?

When I think about it, it is true, I am really efficient with my life. I’m raising two teenagers who are in competitive sports. I have a husband and with whom I spend time with. I’m running my business, have volunteer activities and am the President of my Toronto Speakers Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. I’ve also written some books and have grown my business from nothing over the last five years. I’ve acknowledged, I get stuff done.

So I thought really thought about it. What do I do to get as much as I can done in a day? 

At first, it was hard to figure out. And then I hit a period of overwhelm. And I mean overwhelm. I wasn’t sleeping. I found it harder to focus. I was more emotional.

And low and behold, I was less productive. 

So here’s what I learned to get my productivity back (and yes, I have written about this before so you too can expect to cycle through phases of being more and less productive). The irony, when you’re overwhelmed, that’s when you need to be productive the most and yet it’s when you’re the least. 

Before I jump in though, I just want to first acknowledge, it’s not your fault. I strongly suspect you’re trying to manage a lot and probably beating yourself up, you’re not doing enough. This doesn’t help. And fixating on the distractions, roadblocks, and setbacks doesn’t help either; that “victim” story is just too easy to buy into (which justifies inaction versus propels us forward). And one more thing: not every strategy that works for me or someone else will work for you, so pick and choose based on trial and error. 

Here are some of my productivity hacks:

  1. Know What your “Chunk” of Productivity Is

I recently listened to a podcast episode by my speaker coach, Jane Atkinson as she interviewed Allie Plieter about getting your book written using the chunky method; in a nutshell, some people work best in large chunks of time, in their office, free from distractions. Others work best in short bursts, away from the office, and stay productive with doing other things in between productive time. Neither are right or wrong, just know what your preference is. Have a listen to Jane’s podcast with Allie (and for those writing a book you may wish to pick up Allie’s book); and understand what your strength is and don’t force yourself into a method that doesn’t work for you.

  1. Block Time

Now that you know if you need shorter or longer chunks of time, you need to block your time. And hold it as sacred time. I know it may sound counterintuitive to take time away from work to get more done, but haven’t you found that a day working from home is more productive than in the office? That batch canning jam or pickles or tomato sauce yields great quantities than while you’re also making dinner? You can get that report out on time if you silence your phone and turn off your email for a bit? 

  1. Batch Work

When you have many of the same type of products to produce, and you can get yourself in the zone, focused and prepared in advance, you can produce significantly more than “fitting it in”. The VLOGs I deliver to you every week I batch film with my videographer Stacey every two to three months. We get upwards of 25 recorded. My assistant looks at my calendar two months before the next batch is due, books it into our schedules, and I take the day before to prepare. Once they are filmed, we batch transcribe and I batch edit the transcripts. Then my assistant batch uploads and schedules them to my website, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I truly have no idea how I would be able to consistently deliver weekly content to you if I didn’t batch film them. Not to mention the stress it would put on my team if we were always doing it last minute.

  1. Rejoice in Your Downtime…And Keep Producing

It’s tempting when you have downtime – whether it’s a whole season, a week or just a few hours – but keep going. Don’t turn on Netflix or scroll Facebook or browse your favorite store online. The downtime is not “off” time, it’s the gift of time. For example, I wrote my book Flip Side of Failing: How to Recognize and Leverage Greatness In Work and Life in the month of July last year. I had no speeches or training booked, and all my coaching clients kindly agreed to only having meetings on Tuesdays.  Now granted, we had done all the research, organization, and outlining of the book before July. Given I am a “large chunk” writer, my prep work included writing from 8am to 5pm daily from which I got 67,000 words written and one fantastic book (she says unhumbly). Believe me, it would have been sooooo tempting to do other things, especially when you hit that painful point about ⅔ in when you are riddled with doubt and you’re wondering if you’re writing anything worth reading. But I pushed through it because I told myself, “you only have this month or else your book will sit for another year”. It was very motivating (don’t we all love a good deadline?) BTW, for more on that process, and why other methods didn’t work, feel free to listen to Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s podcast interview with me about it.

  1. Honour Your Productive Hours

Have you ever said to someone “I’m a morning person” (or the opposite, you are not a morning person?) What is your most productive time? What do you do in that time? Your most important work, or do you fritter away your focus on less important and attention-demanding tasks (emails, organizing your day, shuffling papers). Know what your natural cycle is and tip #2 of blocking time coincides with this tip. Block time when you are most productive. If how your work is structured doesn’t fit with how you’re currently running your work hours or your business hours, see if you can negotiate this.  If you don’t have control over your hours figure out if you could shift some time or find somewhere in your week where you can have productivity hours even if it can’t be every day. One of my coaching clients is doing this very thing by shifting to a particular evening (even if it’s just one day a week). She gets so much more done, nobody else is in the office so she gets uninterrupted time. Now over to you. What works best for you? Where your energy is, what kind of environment you need to be able to keep your energy up, stay focused and productive?

  1. Eliminate Distractions

I know you’ve heard this before but how many of us do this – eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone, turn off your email, shut off your notifications on Facebook desktop. When you batch your work, work uninterrupted. In fact, if you’re really struggling with this, here’s a hack for you. Set your phone on silent, don’t answer it and set your phone alarm to ring after 45 minutes. Work uninterrupted for 45 minutes and then when that your timer goes off, stop what you’re doing, go back to your email or answer Facebook or return a phone call or whatever you need to do. I will bet you $100 you got more done in that 45 minutes of uninterrupted time than two hours of distracted time. Why? The brain needs to focus; research shows it takes you up to eight minutes to get refocused after you have been distracted. So you’ve got to eliminate distractions so you can set your brain up for success.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader, or it’s your first day on the job, every one of us can be super productive and all the more satisfied and fulfilled in our work as a result. It’s a matter of disciplining ourselves to implement the strategies (heck, pick just one to start) and keep on course and perfect it until we find the ones that work for us (and come back to them if we get off course).

I hope you found these strategies helpful. What other strategies do you have? I would love for you to put those in the comment section and let’s share in the community how to be your most productive, best versions of ourselves.

Want to check out more resources about how recognition can elevate the employee experience? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
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President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

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Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
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Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
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Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
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Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
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Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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