One Simple Hack to 10x Your Productivity

or: how a content strategist took control of her time and got her life back

Would you like to increase your productivity levels? Do you ever feel that your time is not your own? That you’re always dancing to someone else’s tune (they never ever have the same taste in music as you.. why is that?) and you know something has to shift so you can finally get things done? If this sounds like you then you’ll love this post.

One Simple Hack to 10x Your Productivity

This guest post is written by my friend content strategist Sarah Arrow. Sarah runs with husband kevin and is also the face behind the highly acclaimed Business Blogging Challenge

As a content strategist, I have high visibility. This means I’m often told that I’ll burn out and I need to slow down. These same people who are always telling me I’m doing too much, are the very same people who try to make me dance to their tune! At first, this drove me nuts. Why didn’t they see what hypocrites they were? The “Slow down / do this for me” conversations were impacting my ability to work. I needed to do something to get my productivity back on track and be more productive.

There had to be a better way of managing my time

And there is. It’s called Zero White Space.

When you have zero white space in your journal or diary, you don’t have the time to spend on things that are not productive.

Imagine my day for a moment. I get up, I have breakfast, I take a shower, put my hair up and then I go to work. I know precisely what I have to do up to a week in advance, and everything I have to do that day is in my journal. Everything is in the journal.

Everything is in the journal

I use the Best Self Journal and my day starts with gratitude, and then is planned into 30-minute segments. You can add anything you want to do in the segments, you just don’t leave any white space. There are no gaps at all in your diary for the day.

  • Do you want to check emails? Schedule it
  • Do you want to talk to a client? Schedule it
  • Spend 30 minutes on social media doing nothing? Schedule it.

You can do whatever you want, so long as you schedule it.

My typical schedule looks like this:

  • 10am – Email Triage
  • 10.30 update scheduler
  • 11. Stretch legs
  • 11.15 Spend 20 minutes on Facebook
  • 11.35 Client work
  • 1pm Lunch
  • 1.30 stretch legs
  • 2pm check email
  • 2.30 client call
  • 3.3o client call
  • 4pm family time
  • 5pm family time
  • 6pm family time
  • 7pm check email

Everything from emails to client calls is in the journal.

Except for writing this post. This post is “30 minutes mucking around on Facebook” and when I said I’d write a post for the Time Guru himself, I nixed Facebook and started writing.

I can do anything I want with my time, so long as I write it down in advance. In the past, I’d add to the diary (or journal) all the things I’d done that wasn’t scheduled. Urgh! When you manage your time this way around, you’ll see that you can never do anything that you want to do. All of your time is dictated by others! Did you set out to run your business this way? No? Me neither!

With zero white space, you become incredibly productive on the things that matter to you and your business.

When you track your time you’ll suddenly discover where all the leaks are, and you can then plan how to deal with them. This in turn leads to an almost immediate increase in productivity. I have several email accounts, and on average I get 3,000 emails a day. Unlike the lovely Annabel Kaye, I don’t have rules set up to manage the inbox. Through zero white space and time tracking I noticed that my email triage was ineffective, I hired someone to sort them out for me. It’s a small investment that frees up 3 hours of my day. Each morning I have a neatly typed list of what needs my personal touch and what’s been dealt with.

I also noticed that I spent a lot of time talking to my dad on a Friday afternoon. My dad is one of my business mentors, he’s wise and thoughtful and I realised whilst I sometimes spent that time picking his brain, I also spoke about my daughters and what I was doing.  I rescheduled the calls to a Sunday morning. He now gets to talk to me and my daughters. This is a better use of our time talking.

Zero White Space Scares People

The thought of planning out and tracking all of your time absolutely terrifies people. They are resistant to the thought of tracking their time. Maybe they fear that they will have nothing to show for all their “busy”? I don’t know why they would think this is a bad thing. Surely when they know where they lose hours they can do something about it. I do know that this one simple technique has freed up my time in ways that people only dream about.

If the thought of tracking your time scares the daylights out of you, then you know you’re onto something. Book in a session with Mike and work on getting your time back on track. He has plenty of ideas that don’t include zero white spaced journaling!

Sarah Arrow is a content strategist. She’s maintains high levels of productivity and gets things done. One day when she grows up, she’s going to be as productive as Mike Gardner.

Could you make Zero White space work for you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sarah Arrow

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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5 thoughts on “One Simple Hack to 10x Your Productivity

  1. It’s a simple idea then you come to put everything you want to do into 30-minute slots. Filtering out the crud; things that steal your time such as social media – I mean, being honest, how many of us REALLY go on FB to do business? I know what I’m like on there – group, group, group, “Ooh – lovely shoes!” – notifications, memes, yoga, my own groups, etc.

    Looking at the number of tasks are in my diary, I need to put my stuff into 30-minute slots. Just a trial, you understand….


  2. I know that I am far more effective when I structure my days well, the zero white space method does work really well for me but i don’t do it enough…need to get back into it and make it as much of a vital habit for me as it is for Sarah. As a floaty hippy I really struggle to stick to things like this, but they really work so need to retrain myself to be less floaty and more focused!