My husband often complains that my brain goes off on rabbit trails and I can be hard to follow at times. It is true. I am bouncing around from one thing to the next and thinking about laundry while making dinner and about a fundraiser at school the next week. And I jump from one topic to the next to the next.
However, I can be a very productive person. The operative word here is can.
I have to choose to be a productive person. I have to stop my brain from wandering from topic to topic so that I focus and accomplish my goals in a very short time frame–because let’s face it, time is a limited commodity.
In order to be a good steward of my time, I must have a plan. And then put that plan into action. It is really quite simple. And when I follow through with this idea, I am always amazed at how much I can accomplish in such a short period of time.
Let me break it down for you in 10 easy strategies and then give you the one thing you can do everyday in less than 5 minutes that with REVOLUTIONIZE your life and your level of productivity. I guarantee you have probably never heard this strategy before, but I am willing to bet it will be mind-blowing.
1. Set Priorities
This is the first step to being productive. Know what you want to accomplish and what is important to you in your life.
For me it is my faith first, taking care of my physical health and managing my disease, then my marriage, followed by being a good parent. If those things are all in place, I can already feel good about what I have accomplished as a person and then I can move on to my goals I have for my career, where I find it helpful to set monthly, yearly, and long-term goals to work towards.
2. Have a Plan
Let me guess–you have 6 meetings, 4 baseball games, 6 practices, 2 deadlines, and 3 play-dates all to manage this week? Maybe even more. The most effective way to keep track of these tasks is to write it down. Yes, write, not type, it down in a planner.
I truly believe that writing it down is a two-fold key to success. First, when you physically write something down, you help to commit it to memory. But you also are choosing to add it to your things to do. If something you are on the fence about comes up, it is easier to convince yourself to say no (more on this in tip number 7) when you have to write it down–and you see how full your calendar already is!
I use Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner. It is broken down into a monthly view, weekly view with daily time slots, budget sheets, and monthly goals. And it is ALWAYS out on my desk. It keeps me focused and organized.
3. Wake Up Early
You have heard it before and maybe your excuse is that you are NOT a morning person. Well, guess what– there is no such thing as a morning person! I never woke up before 8 AM before I had a job, then I had kids and 5:30 became my new normal. You have to train yourself to get up early. For me, I set my alarm one hour before my kids wake up. I get out of bed and work-out. Then I do my Cystic Fibrosis treatments while I have my morning quiet/prayer time and look over my to-do list for the day. I can then go about getting my kids off to school and return to my work without worrying about when to squeeze in my workout or crucial medical treatments. This literally gives me an extra hour of uninterrupted time each day–and when time is limited that is a precious thing.
I am all about routine. If I know Tuesday is laundry day, Wednesday is grocery shopping, etc, I can execute my other tasks around those things. Of course at times I need to be flexible and open to changing up my schedule, but having parameters in place guarantees that laundry will in fact be done before everyone runs out of underwear.
5. Block Time
It has been proven over and over that people are more efficient when they work in block time frames. I break my work day up into 30 minute slots. I work at one thing for 30 minutes, uninterrupted. At then end of those 30 minutes, I get up stretch, grab some water and either return to same task or move onto my next thing on my schedule. This allows me focus on one task at a time. If I feel I only have a limited time to get something done, I work hard to meet that goal and stop myself from letting myself get caught up in other activities. And while I like to think I am a great multi-tasker, the truth is that is probably one of the biggest time waster of my day. When I try to do too much at once, I do nothing well.
6. Immediate Action
Work towards your most important goals as soon as you begin your work routine. For me, after my children are at school, I sit down at my computer and devote the first few blocks of time of my day to my number one goal as a blogger–content creation. My brain is fresh and I work best when I work immediately. Then I can address other issues and things on my to do list with intention and time, not distracted by my number one goal in my career. Plus, isn’t it true if you that when you start the day productive, your day runs so much smoother and you can accomplish so much more?
7. Learn to Say NO
This is the HARDEST thing for me. I am a people pleaser and there are so many good things to say yes to, it is so hard for me to say no at times. I used to struggle with this even more than I do now. I never said no to anything. I found myself overwhelmed, stressed out, and not doing anything with a joyful heart. And then I got sick, really sick. And I had to learn to get picky with my time quickly. By having a plan and priorities in place, I know what my schedule has room for and what it does not. When I want to add something to my schedule, I can visually see if I have room or not in my planner. And often times, it gives me a solid NO. I don’t have guilt either when I can say, that block of time I have other commitments. People get that.
This is great for so many reasons. One, the less stuff you have, the less time you have to spend cleaning. Two, it is easier to focus if your work space is neat and organized. If it is filled with piles of paper, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the junk!
One tool that has helped me declutter has been Ruth Soukup’s book, Unstuffed. It not only teaches you how to clear your home physically of stuff you don’t need, but also teaches you how to mentally let go of clutter that is weighing you down.
9. Get Lost
I am serious. Turn off your phone. Turn off Facebook. Sign out of pinterest. Turn off Wi-Fi. Lock yourself in your office. Drive to a local book store and sit in a corner with your work. Whatever you have to do to focus on your important tasks, do it! The biggest time waster for me is social media. I get lost in responding to text messages, Facebook posts, or checking out my pinterest feed. While these things are fine, they amount to absolutely zero productivity and if I let them, they can take up 90% of my time.
I try to think of it like this–at dinner we have a no electronics at the table rule. We actually talk as a family. We bond as a family. It is a not only a time to nourish our bodies, but our souls as well. Do I miss that time on social media–nope! If I turn off social media and write 3 blog posts, was that wasted time–no way! If I let every ding grab my attention, am I am able to accomplish anything–NO! You get the idea.
10. Do Something for Yourself
Sounds selfish to some, but if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t offer anyone anything of value. When I have had no time to enjoy life, I find myself in a creative rut with lack of motivation to do anything and often snap at my husband and children for no reason. If I schedule time to do something just for me–like take a walk with a friend, grab a coffee with a favorite magazine or take a 20 minute nap, I feel energized and am so much more productive as a person. Not to mention a much more pleasant person to be around.
BONUS: My Number One Way to REVOLUTIONIZE Your To-Do List
Alright are you ready for this tip?!!
Pray over your to do-list.
Every morning that I choose to sit down and look over my daily schedule in my planner and pray over it, I am completely amazed at how God can use me. Sometimes, I accomplish 3 times as much as I set out to do. Other times I find myself being drawn to something that is not on my list–like ministering to a friend in need or making a meal for a family in need. And while those things were not on my original list, when I make myself available to be used by God as his tool, he can move mountains. I end each day and feel good about what I did–whether or not it was 20 things or 1 very important thing.
So let me ask you–what on this list will help you be more productive in your day? For me, I need to continually remember to pray over my to do list and be open to God changing what is on my list as the day goes on and needs arise.