As we hit the time of year when all of us are feeling like changing (at least a little). But I think whether we want to lose 20 pounds or send birthday cards by mail to all our friends and family, we can all agree that being more productive means we are more likely to get what we want done.

I’m a bit of a process junkie: I love learning information that makes it easier to do things. I like creating efficiency. But sometimes I get a little too caught up in the theory versus the practice.

Below are all things I am actually practicing to make me more productive.

1. Asana
Purpose: Task management to get all the details out of our brains and email and into a searchable, prioritized system.
Estimated time saved: 4 hours/week

Hands down Asana has changed the way we do business. Whenever there is a project, we can break it into tasks and due dates. And best of all, it’s searchable, meaning Kassie can note some weirdo website we’ve inherited won’t let us edit it in Google Chrome and when she gets to that task can avoid the headache of trying to do something that literally won’t work.

Also by assigning dates, I can see what tasks are a priority daily and slowly chip away at larger projects that would not get done otherwise.

And the best part? It’s not stuck in my email but searchable by anyone at Breaking Even. They can see what’s been done, what hasn’t, etc. easily and add notes/comments. Ah, things getting done without me needing to be involved! You can learn more in our blog post about it we wrote awhile back about our love for Asana. 

2. Systemization
Purpose: Make routine tasks happen quickly and smoothly to save on time/energy.
Estimated time saved: 2 hours/week

I was listening to Tim Ferris’ podcast a few weeks ago when he suggested everyone for at least a week plan out the first two hours of their day. Have a time frame and system for everything from when and where I walk the dog to how I put together a smoothie. And you know what? Not only did it free up my decision making energy for more important stuff later in the day but my morning did run more smoothly.

I’m not saying we all live like robots but I am saying we spend our energy thinking about stuff that could be automated that is taking up energy and brainspace, both in our personal lives and business lives.

At Breaking Even, we’re working on creating and finalizing one document per month for one of our processes. Then ideally, if we are swamped and needed to hire, we could give our new person the documents and they could get the party started.

In life, I’m trying to automate my morning smoothie (so many possible ingredients and recipes) as a start. And if I save myself 10 minutes a day, that’s over an hour a week… and over time, that’s something!

(You can get a free ‘systems’ book by going to this website and clicking on ‘Free PDF’ in the middle of the screen: http://www.workthesystem.com/. Can’t promise how long it’ll work but if your brain doesn’t operate like a Swiss watch (mine doesn’t) then having a blueprint to help you think this way can help.)

 3. Toggl
Purpose: Tracking time between multiple people across multiple projects. 
Estimated time saved: 1 hour/week

I’ll admit it, up until a week ago, I would spend a least three hours a month in spreadsheets, which is how we were keeping our timecards here. So to see how much work we did for Client A in a month, I’d go to my spreadsheet, then Kassie’s, then John’s, then Leslie’s. It was a lot of exhausting first grade math with sometimes a sprint at the end of the month to make up for time we hadn’t put in (but I thought we had). Dumb dumb dumb.

I came across Togglr as a time keeper and I love that it’s not only searchable but tracks time spent on tasks and that multiple people can use it. I haven’t upgraded to the paid version yet but honestly, paying a few bucks a month to free up hours of my time is a no brainer if it comes to that. Plus it integrates with Asana tasks via a Google Chrome extension. Could it be any more in line with our purposes?

Check out Toggl here.

4. Psychology
Purpose: To uncloud the clouded mind.
Estimated time saved: 1 hour/week

OK so it’s one thing to make systems and do all this other stuff but mental fog is a whole other thing to deal with. What if you’re distracted?

I saw this exercise and thought it was GENIUS:  http://www.ampyourresults.com/2014/12/28/the-other-half-of-the-focus-equation-no-one-talks-about-2/

Do it and you too could get at the root of your procrastination, apathy, etc. Because let’s face it, all the tools in the world aren’t going to help you if your ‘inner conflict’ is at work, all the fun timers, task managers, etc. aren’t going to help you.

And speaking of that human element…

5. Accountability partner
Purpose: To be accountable to another human being weekly about what has and hasn’t happened yet in terms of achieving goals.
Estimated time saved: 30 minutes/week 

And if you really want to get something done, there is nothing like having to tell your friend/a slightly detached individual that you haven’t done it yet… and have them push you as to why.

Meeting with Ashley weekly most of the year made me do things I wouldn’t have done… but I think next year we’ll work together even better now that we’ve figured each other out a bit.

If you want to read more about this, check out this previous blog post I wrote about my accountability partner. 

So if I am actually saving myself about 8 hours a week (and these are all fairly conservative estimates), that’s a significant amount indeed. I can’t explain in any other way how I have been able to do so much ‘extra’ this year without having to work more than a handful of weekends.

I don’t see myself picking up more ‘tricks’ than this but I do think implementing these better will allow me to do more and better in 2015. And here’s hoping you’ve seen something that helps you do the same.