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Being a busy person by nature, I love talking about productivity. I am always trying to find better ways to be more efficient and get things done faster. (Disclaimer: just because you get things done more efficiently-doesn’t mean you should cram your day with more things. Use that extra time for you! I’m actually not a fan of the word productive/productivity – check out why here.) So today I’m here to share my top 10 productivity tips with you!
1. Plan Your Day Out the Night Before
Using a planner is so important to keep yourself on track. Write out how you would like your day to ideally (and realistically) go the next day, and write down your top 3 priorities of what you’d like to get done. The post above goes more into detail about planning out your day, but try and stick to just 3 to-dos for yourself each day. You’re unlikely to be able to fit more in than that, especially if you’re giving yourself time to take care of you!
By planning out your next day before you go to bed, it’s fresh in your mind when you wake up, and you’ll be ready to go without hesitating the next morning. There will be no “what should I start with?”, because you’ll have already made your top 3 priorities clear.
Looking for a planner? Check out my favorite – Day Designer!
2. Start Your Day With a Morning Routine
How do you want to start your day? How much time do you have? Starting your day with the same routine each and every day will help your body get into a rhythm. At first, it may feel like a struggle, but as time goes on, you’re going to realize how much your body and mind craves that routine. You’ll feel off for the whole day if you skip it!
I personally get up extra early so I can complete my morning routine. For me, it’s worth the sacrifice because my routine helps to ground me and starts my day off strong. I start every morning with coffee and quiet time first thing. For me, this looks like reading my bible and doing whatever current bible studies I’m going through, praying, and writing in my journal.
Find what works for you, and what is going to help you start your day off on the right foot. Maybe that means getting a quick workout in. Maybe that means reading a good book. Maybe that literally means just sitting in silence before your kids get up. Do yourself a favor though-don’t play on your phone. That’s not going to rest and rejuvenate you. I promise.
3. Turn Off Phone Notifications/Sound
Speaking of phones, turn off those notifications on your phone. You really don’t need to be notified everytime someone likes your new picture on Instagram or every time you get an email or text. Each new ping your phone makes, or each time it lights up while you’re at your desk working, you’re automatically taken out of whatever it is that you’re doing. Thus, wasting time that can be better spent on other priorities-like playing with your kids! Do yourself a favor, and commit to whatever it is that you’re doing by turning your phone on silent, turning off notifications, and setting your phone face down. Those notifications will always be there when you set aside time later to intentionally mess around on your phone.
If you go into your phone settings, you can turn off notifications from apps. I personally have almost every single app blocked from notifying me. My phone is usually on silent even when I’m at home, and I have most of my group chats set to do not disturb so that I don’t get notified by a barrage of messages (if my family or the other youth leaders are reading-I promise I love you!). Really though, that helps me control myself because if the phone goes off, I automatically want to look at it. If I get pulled out of a task to look at a notification, I’m most likely going to become sidetracked from what I’m working on.
4. Use Time Blocking to Guide Your Day
Time blocking is just what it sounds like-blocking out your time each day for certain tasks. This will help you get into a rhythm of the day, help you stay focused throughout the day, and help you be okay with number 10 on this list. I’m not going to go into much more on this today, but be sure to check back next Tuesday because the entire blog post will be about time blocking!
5. Meal Prep the Night Before-Even if You Work From Home
Maybe it’s just me, but if I don’t meal prep the night before, I’m not going to eat right. I’ll inevitably just put it off until I’m too hungry to do anything but grab snacky things. We try not to keep much junk in our house because neither of us can resist, but even if what I’m snacking on is healthy, that doesn’t give me a balanced diet. If I’m eating enough of a balanced diet, I feel better and have a better day.
We’re pretty good about meal prepping before a work day, but it’s also been helpful to do it before a work-from-home day, or the weekend days. Even if I’m just grabbing an apple and setting it in a Tupperware container for my morning snack, the fact that I don’t have to dig to the bottom of our produce drawer for one makes it a lot more accessible in my mind. Which in turn makes me a lot more likely to actually eat it.
6. Don’t Start With Emails
Emails….they’re never-ending. I get so sucked into my emails it’s unreal. It feels like I could spend hours each day reading, responding, and deleting. Plus, they always end up adding to your to-do list because someone else needs this or that. Which is fine, I’m all about helping others out. However, don’t let the urgent override the important on your to-do list.
Don’t look at your emails first thing. Wait until midday, when you’ve got at least two of your 3 top priorities done. Set a timer when you begin-give yourself however long you choose and stick to it. What’s not done can wait until the next email check. If you get tons and tons of emails each day, choose two or three times when you’ll be checking emails. Stick to it though. Close your email browser tab so you don’t become distracted by the ping or notification. Only check at those times you’ve picked out. Then, it’ll just become part of your daily routine.
But how can I just stop when the timer stops if I still have a ton left to respond to? Don’t just start from the bottom-up in your inbox and respond to each one in succession. Instead, when you first begin, set up a new folder in your inbox for emails you need to respond to ASAP. Then, go through your entire inbox and only drag emails into the folder that absolutely cannot be handled later. Answer those first. With your remaining time, go back to the bottom of your box (those that have been waiting for a response the longest), and start replying in order.
If you find yourself responding to the same types of emails over and over again, create a template response for yourself. Save it in a folder labeled templates, and then when one of those emails comes through you can just copy/paste the template into the email as your response. Tweak a few things within it, and then send it off. You’ve saved a significant amount of time and can respond to more emails because you aren’t crafting a new email over and over again!
7. Group Similar Tasks Together
By grouping similar tasks together, you’re already in the right frame of mind for doing those tasks. For example, when I time-block my day, I don’t put down thirty minutes of cleaning the kitchen, an hour of work, thirty minutes of cleaning the dining room, an hour of work. Instead, I would put 2 hours of work, then an hour of cleaning, or something similar. The idea of breaking up the tasks makes it seem less mundane, but by grouping the similar tasks, I’m able to move faster and get more done.
8. Have a List of 5 Minute Tasks Handy
Sometimes around mid-day, I just really need a boost. I’m sleepy from lunch, I’m a little burnt out from working hard all morning, and I don’t really want to feel like a zombie for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Having a list of 5-minute tasks can give you a quick boost you need when even the coffee isn’t working anymore. With a ready-made list, you don’t have to use any more brain power deciding what to do. You just pick a few and go! You’ll be able to check a bunch of little things off-making you feel accomplished and ready to tackle the rest of your day, all while still being productive.
9. Give Yourself Deadlines for Tasks
We all have those things that sit on our to-do lists for months because they aren’t pressing. If it isn’t pressing, why waste one of our 3 to-do checkboxes of the day on it right? It’s not because we don’t want to get it done, but it’s just really not a priority. I’ve got a pile of things on a shelf on my desk waiting to become a priority, but they probably never will.
Unless….you give yourself a deadline for those tasks. A lot of things that end up on your to-do list will have a deadline. Need to buy a wedding gift? The gift has to be there for the wedding. Need to turn in a report at work? It’s needed by a certain date. Need to set up your next haircut? Eventually, your hair is going to get so scraggly you have to get it done. Those things will all have their own deadlines. But transferring old pictures from your phone to your computer? Not likely to give you a deadline. Working on that home project you’re wanting to do just for fun? Not going to say, “hey! Get me done by this day!”.
Without a deadline, there is no urgency, there is no priority. So set deadlines for yourself. Make sure they’re realistic, and you give yourself enough time to work on whatever it is. But also be sure you stick to it, if possible. Having a deadline will give you that back against the wall feeling that will really get you going. As I’m writing this, I’ve set a deadline to have our living room makeover completed before my mom comes to visit. Otherwise, we’ll never work on it (there’s a lot of painting of furniture I want to do….). So I’ve set my mom’s arrival date as my deadline to give myself the kick I need to get to work.
One last word of advice: don’t give yourself a bunch of these tasks to do at the same time. I would pick no more than one a week. When I’ve tried to set the deadlines all close together, it ends up making me feel as though none of the deadlines are “real”. Then they don’t get done.
10. Progress Not Perfection
Last, but most important, accept the idea of progress instead of perfection. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting there working on one thing, while you’re thinking about the last task that you didn’t finish. I struggle with this a lot as a recovering-perfectionist. Just the other day, I sat down to work after my deep cleaning the house time block was up. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I had only accomplished half of the house during the deep clean, and that my kitchen and dining room weren’t done. It took me out of my work and stole my productivity. Each time my mind wandered to that thought, I just brought my focus back and reminded myself “Progress, not perfection”. Eventually, I’ll be able to bring my focus back immediately, or not even lose focus, but it’s a work in progress.
When you have a big task to accomplish, give yourself plenty of advanced warning to work on it little by little. Otherwise, you’ll spend an entire day only on that one task, but still, end up feeling behind because you had to put all of your other tasks on hold for this one thing. You’ve still got laundry to move, a family to meal prep for, but you’re plumb worn out from this extensive task you worked on all day. You won’t feel productive at the end of the day but instead will feel like you spent all day on this one task that you may or may not have even finished.
Giving yourself that extra time allows you to work on it little by little. It also allows you to step away when you’re frustrated. When you’re frustrated, you aren’t going to be doing your best work. Give yourself time to breathe so that you can come back with a fresh head. Stepping back and clearing your mind will help to lead to new and better ideas as well.
Whew! That was a long post, with a lot of information! If you’re wanting to implement some of this into your life, don’t try and implement it all at once-you’ll burn out quickly. Instead, go slowly. Pick one to start with, create a routine/habit around it, and then pick another. Don’t forget to download my list of 5 Minute Tasks that can be done when you need a pick me up in the middle of your day! See you next week for an entire post on Time Blocking!
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