Then I tell myself to not be so hard on myself and make a mental list of all the things I've done recently, to positively reinforce the mental attitude that I have been productive and that if I have been productive, I can continue to be so.
All of this comes hand in hand. The more I believe I am making progress, the more I concentrate on making more progress and the less stressed I become about the impending deadline. The more stressed I become the more I struggle to concentrate.
This is the first, and main, tool in my productivity tool box. Letting myself off the hook. If I feel I'm not being productive (and I am really the worlds best procrastinator) then I'm more likely to not do the things I want to get done.
If there's one other thing I need tackle everyday to get things done, it's distraction.
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes, from emails and instance messages popping up and replying to them straight away, to constantly pulling myself away to make tea, remembering that task I forgot to do earlier, to gazing out of the window at the little birds flapping about.
I have one main technique for managing this. Sure I have a few digital tools to help me with the landscape of managing communication and clients and projects, and help me to make sure I have enough time for the productive side of work.
But really it's just down to one non-digital technique.
My todo list.
Pen, paper, list
Yup it's a daily list. It helps me stop procrastinating on the thing in my brain, plonk it down on paper and deal with it later.
Most mornings when I'm working I'll outline my day. (Sometimes when I'm really organised I'll do this the night before). I jot down what I achieved yesterday to start the day in a positive way (this really helps with motivation). I think about my main work tasks and any other to dos I may have. These can include general work related admin, such as emails, social media or unrelated todos (like phoning the washing machine repair people). I try to have a slot of time first thing in the morning, lunch time and late afternoon to deal with these tasks, leaving a larger amount of time for the main work tasks. If I need to will split up into sub tasks, I will again jot these down.
This helps with immediate computer distractions. Closing down anything unrelated to these tasks, like Slack or Inbox, whilst I'm working on main work tasks really helps with this type of distraction. I also put in breaks, just to make sure I take them. They can be so easily missed and this girl needs a good cuppa quite frequently.
This pen, paper, list technique is also great for if my mind wanders to something I've forgotten whilst I'm on a bigger task - I can just jot it down and forget about it until later.
You'll notice I say most mornings, I'm not hugely strict. They'll be days when I'm out and about, meeting clients, catching up with coffees. Some days where this type of list doesn't suit at all. But when I'm sitting at my desk, when making things has to be done, I find it hugely beneficial.
To notepad or not to notepad
I live with a notepad, but I rarely make these daily todos within. I keep my notepad for project notes and planning for thing's I'm working on. Sure if I attend a meeting a task list will come out of it. But this will only be used as reference for a later todo.
Daily todo plans are always on a separate sheet. If I'm out and about and I do want a list, I have one of those sticky note shopping list style todos with me. It means I can easily screw up the daily and start again afresh the next day. What's done is done, if I didn't manage everything I set out to do, no biggy, there's always tomorrow.
A new, whole day. A new list. Don't beat yourself up, you did stuff, you get things done.