Don’t Call It A Side Hustle: Productivity Hacks Born Out Of Necessity

What are the best hacks for productivity?

So, most of you reading this know by now that I have two full-time jobs. I still hold my role as VP of marketing for WC Smith, the property management and development firm in DC. I started Apartminty with my president and CEO’s full blessing, but of course with the caveat that our marketing team stayed on track. I’m often asked how I keep myself and my two teams productive.  Here’s the story behind the productivity hacks I’ve tried and tested.

Working a ‘normal job’ and being eyeballs deep in the launch of my own startup, life could very easily become overwhelming. Laying my head on the pillow at night, my mind was constantly dancing through multiple mental checklists, wondering what I may have missed or whose call I forgot to return.

“No rest for the weary” all of a sudden had personal relevance. At the beginning of this year, out of necessity, I made some habit shifts that have completely changed my day and exponentially increased my productivity and the profitability of both the WC Smith and Apartminty teams.


  1. Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting!

Previously throughout the course of the day, I would switch back and forth between roles as VP of marketing to start-up founder. In the end, while I thought I was productive, I was really just busy and distracted. I ate up so much time in the day by trying to switch mindsets and allowing interruptions to my workflow. There’s a buzzword for this called ‘context switching’ and I think everyone in property management can relate.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found after careful observation that the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks, on average, every three minutes and five seconds. And it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off. 

I read about the Pomodoro method and liked the concept, but felt the time restraint was too restrictive. But I immediately adopted the idea of ‘batching tasks.’

My day is blocked off into the type of task I am going to complete {like writing or answering emails or sales} and all computer notifications are disabled during certain time periods. I also do this with days of the week; Mondays are for writing, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for meetings, Wednesdays are for admin and HR tasks and Friday is my free flow day.   I find my writing assignments are finished quicker, budget and analysis tasks have less errors and efficiency has skyrocketed.

Another benefit is that I am relieved of the guilt I was feeling about neglecting either of my positions. The way my day is split out now, I ‘stay in my lane’ and know that each position is receiving my highest performance and equitable man hours.

The Batching Tasks mentality has spilled over to home life, too. Meal prep for the entire week is completed on Sunday afternoon. Mornings get off on such a better foot when breakfast and lunch are already made and just waiting to be grabbed.

This method also applies to the team. We have assigned check-in times for mini team meetings. This prevents me from interrupting their workflow and vice versa.


  1. Podcast addiction

Every time I see a webinar advertised for the newest marketing trends or not to be missed analytics expert, the FOMO immediately sets in. And while learning is key to keeping the companies progressing forward, the act of learning is a zero dollar activity. I don’t make my company a dime while I’m sitting in a chair learning. Of course, the after effects, if I’m able to take something home, apply it, and improve our policies or practices are where the ROI comes into play. That being said, I can’t dedicate ‘workday’ hours to any of the awesome webinars I want to sit in on.

Podcasts became the perfect solution. I live in DC…therefore I spend an hour+ in my car on any given day for my 3 ½ mile commute. {The traffic here is no joke!} Podcasts give me the benefit of keeping up with the latest trends, learning something new, and for whatever reason, have made me a much calmer driver…..that’s a benefit to everyone on the road! The commute has transformed from a dreaded necessity of wasted time into two of my favorite hours of the day.

  1. It’s not about setting goals, it’s about setting strategy

I learned an incredibly powerful strategy for accomplishing any goal. At first blush, it seems so simplistic, but it has changed not just the way I work, but the way our entire team is functioning…and that has led to our 2016 revenue already jumping into the six figure range. The strategy goes a like this, after setting the goal(s) you’ll achieve, you take the time to set 3 or 4 mini milestones or indicators that demonstrate whether or not you are on track to hit that goal. Then you start drafting the tasks that each person on the team will have to execute and by what date in order to hit that milestone.   Goals can sometimes seem overwhelming. And milestones, because they aren’t immediate, can be easily forgotten in the day to day hustle. But if you just have a task to complete, that’s manageable. The goal seems so much more attainable once you know how you are going to get there!

For instance, I wanted to reach a certain revenue target by March 31st. It was a big one for us. (Roughly 10 times what we were billing in December) I set the goal and the milestones that would demonstrate we were on track (a certain number of sales meetings set, number of free trials enabled, etc.) Then I drafted all the tasks that would have to be done in order to hit those milestones. (From simply making a list of target customers, to drafting copy for sales emails, to creating a retargeting campaign) The funny thing is, when it’s just a task to complete, it’s somehow easier. And as we started executing the tasks, the small wins started happening, and snowballing into bigger wins and created all the momentum the team needed. We hit our revenue goal by January 31st.

  1. Top of the morning to you

So, I fully understand that this one is going to make me sound like an android, but in the interest of sharing what has truly made us successful, this has to be said. I have a calendar reminder every day to say good morning to my team.

I am managing two teams, one team is remote and the other team is mostly in one office. I like to be in my office by 7AM-ish. When team members roll in, I’m already fully emerged in work. I realized that I sometimes didn’t even talk to team members until lunch. While that was less of a thing for the team in the office, I felt for our remote team members. It had to be really isolating.

The solution? Saying good morning.

No, really.

I have a calendar reminder that goes off at 8:45, reminds me to step away from the desk and say hello to everyone. This includes a quick Facetime or at the very least Slack chat with our remote team. Connection matters, but it is so easy to let it get buried under other priorities.

Now, 8:45 is an unofficial break time in the office. I can answer any questions without the team feeling like they are interrupting my workflow. We can make sure everyone has the right priorities set for their day, and we get to catch up on what happened last night on Scandal. When the team is happy and knows that I’m making them a priority, they make our clients their priority and the quality of our collective work improves.

  1. Work it out

Working 7-7 or sometimes longer, I have zero interest in getting up any earlier or going for a run…especially after the previously mentioned commute home. But as we all know maintaining physical health is important for so many reasons. It took some time to figure out where to schedule it in the day.

What has worked the best for so many reasons is a lunchtime workout. I hit the gym, work with a personal trainer or the rowing machine, hit the showers and I’m back to the office fully refreshed and refocused.

It’s almost like the day is starting over…which is perfect! There’s all the obvious benefits of keeping my cholesterol and body weight in check, but for me, it’s really the jolt of mental energy the lunchtime workout produces that makes the ridiculously overpriced gym membership totally worth it.

So your turn, what habits have you found to create your daily flow?

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