I’ve always been a very productive person, but it wasn’t until I was taught “work sprints” by a friend that I really started to make things happen. A lot of things, all in tiny chunks of time.
Work sprints are my new favorite thing. I take a look at my schedule each week and the time blocks I’ve already allotted for work and personal tasks, then I schedule at least 90 minutes a day for my sprints, usually at least 5 days (sometimes 6) days a week.
Whichever internal business project is a priority for me will dictate how I spend my time during my work sprints. I always have a growing to do list for internal projects, so when it’s work sprint time, I sit down and plow through those lists. Right now I’m plowing through content creation and have written months worth of posts and content to cover our editorial and content calendar.
Now, I’ve always had these massive lists for each project, but it wasn’t until I started working with my friend J Deckert that I started really moving through them. While many projects need ongoing tasks, the goal is to take one project at a time and move it into maintenance mode through work sprints.
This means that for 3 – 4 weeks, I’m focused solely on one project during my sprints. Outside of that, I may work on other tasks for other projects, but the sprints are laser focused. By the end of this period, I should have a project on maintenance mode for months at a time. Then I move onto the next project.
Having such a focused priority and a clear chunk of time to work has made all the difference. It’s easy to find 60 – 90 minutes a day, and it’s easy to set a timer and plow through my list. It also feels AMAZING. I feel so productive during a sprint, and so accomplished at the end, because I’m actually moving through things. I’m no longer bouncing from project to project, feeling whelmed by all the things I need to do. I’m focused, taking action, and know that I will actually complete something BIG so I can move onto completing other BIG things in my business.
Some important things to know about sprints:
- Eliminate distractions. During work sprint time, nothing other than focused work on one project happens. There’s no Facebook, checking email, folding laundry, bounding around on other projects or tasks, client work, or anything else that would distract me from what I’ve set out to do. This takes some practice, and I think the best thing you can do is set a timer and use a site blocking tool if you need it. Turn off your phone, close your email app, and set a timer that you can see as you work. It becomes a fun game of racing the clock!
- Have a clear list of things to work on. I personally love to use Basecamp, and J recommends Asana, but any task tracker will do. Have ONE PLACE for each project where you dump any ideas or things you need to do. Work sprint time isn’t time to organize your to dos (maybe once at the start), it’s time to DO THE WORK. Take at least one 60 – 90 minute block, or another chunk of time before you start, and organize your to dos. I like to break out creative tasks from technical or admin, because that helps me pull tasks that suit my mood and energy level each day. Any time you have an idea or something you need to do, drop it on the list. This gives you a queue of things to work on and all you have to do is pick one and go!
- Pay attention to your energy levels. There are some days when I feel totally blah and uncreative… so I don’t force myself to create anything, because that just doesn’t work. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t do my work sprint. Like I said before, I break my tasks into creative and non-creative lists. When I’m feeling creative and energized, I create. I write blog posts, design things, and do anything else that requires my creative juices to be flowing. When I’m not, I focus on admin, technical, production, or other tasks that are more mindless. This means I’m still making progress, sticking to my sprint blocks, and honoring my flow.
- Remember the goal is to get to maintenance mode. Unless you only have one project or one main focus in your business, the goal is to get to maintenance mode so you can move on. For me, I have MANY projects… Mastery, VIP days, Jumpstart website design, my Awesome Life Tips book, Awesome Life TV, and my two signature programs (technically part of Mastery, but large enough to warrant their own sprint time). When I’m working on a project, my goal is to plow through a ton of stuff and get it into maintenance mode. Maintenance mode means I’m putting as little creative energy towards it as possible, having everything done in advance, or having a clear schedule mapped out so it’s simple showing up and doing what I have to do. Then, I move onto something else and plow through that list until it’s set for awhile. This is a cycle, but it helps me make massive progress on each thing, without overwhelming myself.