As an entrepreneur & a woman in medicine with ADHD, it has never been more important for me to be a ruthless protector of my energy.
I also just so happen to also struggle with chronic pain from endometriosis, IBS & migraines which can leave me bed-bound more days a month than I care to share with you here.
Here's the thing though, I’m also an inspired creator with lofty goals that will stop at nothing to see them through in this lifetime. I refuse to allow myself to give up and live a suppressed life because of my condition. I am committed to finding ways to work with it.
Because there are some months where I may not have pain & feel human for only 1-2 weeks, I have made it my mission to be as streamlined, organized & efficient as possible in the shortest amount of time.
I have steadily been transitioning out of hustle culture. All that did was land me in burnout-ville.
instead, I want to build a business and a life that integrates focused creation with plenty of space to live too.
These are my favorite productivity tools that have helped me immensely in working at a sustainable pace that allows me to honor my health & also helps me to consistently move the needle forward towards my highest goals.
The 80/20 Rule
The reality is that time, focus, energy & willpower are finite, but everyone seems to operate like they are endless, renewable resources. Whats more, is that the latter 3 diminish as the day goes by. If you have health issues as I do, you may notice that time, focus & willpower are always at the mercy of how good you feel that day. This forced me to scale back my workaholic tendencies & instead be more discerning with the way I use my time.
The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule is one of the most influential theories of the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, that postulated that 80% of outcomes come from only 20% of the related input.
This means that 80% of the work you do has little influence in getting you your desired result. Since only 20% of the work you actually do gives you 80% of the results you want, why not just focus on those?
As I began to get super focused I went on a rampage to trim all the fat off of my task lists- only focusing on a select few, catalytic, results-driven & achievable tasks per day/week/month & quarter.
The Major 3
To maximize my output while also taking care not to burn myself out in the process I dedicate time to prioritizing tasks vs just listing them and haphazardly or tackling them chronologically & without strategy.
So how do you know what your biggest needle movers are?
They will help you immensely to:
Look at how you spend your time working
Audit all your activities for effectiveness.
Keep only the activities that are the biggest needle movers.
Whatever your biggest needle movers are be sure to incorporate these into your daily work activities & routinize them into habits until they become automated.
Generally, I have a 10 minute brainstorming session at the start of each week where I list all my deadlines & tasks & then I spend time eliminating, delegating, or deleting whatever is not in direct alignment with my biggest needle movers.
I pick 3 Major Goals for the week & 3 major goals per day to focus on.
You can also zoom this out or in as needed if it helps you. For instance, I have 3 goals for each quarter of the year & 3 goals for the entire year.
Time Blocking & Activity Batching
Once I have my Major 3 for the week then I schedule 90-minute blocks of time for each goal every day.
Over the last few years, research has come out to support working in 90-minute blocks. Why this specific amount of time? Our brain takes up a lot of energy (obviously) bumping information back and forth between nerve cells and depleting our sodium-potassium ratios. Science has proven that our brain can last for 90 minutes at optimal (high-frequency) levels before losing steam, after which it needs a roughly 20-minute break.
This pattern of 90 minutes on, 20 minutes off is based on something called the “Basic Rest-Activity Cycle,” which exists both during sleep and outside of sleep. Riding that cyclical wave,
which our body naturally craves, can help our brains operate at peak efficiency.
A typical workday for me includes
3-4, 90-minute blocks with 20 minutes of rest in between to maximize my Ultradian Rhythm
3 Major Goals for the day- & I dedicate 90 minutes to each goal. The 4th block is typically utilized for daily admin stuff, like email management, client communication & stuff like that.
I typically Batch all similar tasks together. For instance, when it comes to content production for my blog or social media, I use a variation of Amy Porterfield's framework for batching.
Timers for Time Blindness
Part of my neurodivergent brilliance is that I am incredibly prolific when it comes to having ideas to express my creativity. However, part of that neurodivergence & ADHD is that I struggle with time blindness.
Time blindness is when you don’t have a good grasp of how much time is passing or how long it actually takes to do something, versus how much you think it's going to take.
When I first realized I had time blindness I began measuring how long I thought something would take vs how long it actually took. I was shocked to find out that generally, it took me 3-4x the amount of time I thought it would complete tasks!
So the timer became my good friend.
I set timers for my 90-minute blocks of focused work.
I set timers for breaks.
I set timers when I don’t feel like doing chores & want to at least dedicate 15 minutes to push the project forward.
I set a series of alarms to remind me of every deadline & appointment & it helps me immensely.
Timers also help me deal with getting stuck in a hyperfocus loop, which surprisingly is also a part of having ADHD. When I am really interested in something- I become totally engrossed in it, (hello that's probably why surgery is my jam) to the point where I can't break myself away from it until complete exhaustion which causes me to get burned out but also not move forward with the other stuff I needed to get done.
Timers are great. I use my apple watch or when that's dead I use one on my computer or my phone.
Project Planning Tools
When it comes to planning big projects that come up in my business like product launching, long-term content strategy, or marketing strategy, there are so many moving parts that it can become impossible to manage.
I use a project planning methodology that is based on the SCRUM & KANBAN methods.
Scrum is an agile development methodology used in the development of Software based on iterative and incremental processes. Scrum is an adaptable, fast, flexible, and effective agile framework that is designed to deliver value to the customer throughout the development of the project.
Kanban is a visual system used to manage and keep track of work as it moves through a process. The word kanban is Japanese and roughly translated means “card you can see.”. Toyota introduced and refined the use of kanban in a relay system to standardize the flow of parts in their just-in-time ( JIT) production lines in the 1950s.
When I have a project I use a Whiteboard with post its split into 3 columns
To be Done, Doing & Done. Each task gets one post it.
It looks like this:
Something about visually seeing the posts move down the board is highly satisfying. It also works especially great when working in teams with deadlines.
I also use a digital Kanban Boards & Project Management program called Asana.
How to be Distraction Proof
Since I’m so easily distracted, protecting my focus with the strength of an army is a must.
Did you know that every time you get distracted it takes 23 minutes & 15 seconds to refocus!!
23 minutes per ping of your phone.
Your focus is really at the mercy of the distractions we allow.
Here are my favorite 3 ways to STOP DISTRACTIONS from interrupting being in flow:
I use these noise-canceling headphones to stave off distractions.
Put my phone out of the room or on do not disturb when I’m in a 90-minute block
Tell people around me I am not to be disturbed unless its a life or death emergency- it's that serious lol
Although productivity is a buzzword that is used often in hustle culture, consider the intention behind your output of work to maximize your results.
Mindless hustle is a surefire way to get burned out, work against your brain's natural rhythms & delay the progress you need to get results.
Being a ruthless protector of your time, energy, focus, and willpower by building boundaries around how & why you work will help to keep you modestly booked while still helping you to achieve your goals & have energy left over to live a full life outside of your career.
This post contains affiliate links & I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.