Here is a big topic I wanted to talk about because I know a lot of us can feel a little overwhelmed by how much we need to do –not to mention how much we want to do each day.
I wanted to offer a few tips for what works for me to have the most productive day I possibly can while still balancing my family and trying to enjoy my life.
I am definitely not perfect at this, it is a never ending struggle for me, but I find on days when I deviate away from this list I tend to really fall behind. Suddenly an hour meeting will have passed without accomplishing what needed to be done and now I am late for my kids, the blood pressure shoots up and on and on it goes.
So if you have a To Do list that never seems to end, you might give a few of these tips a try and see if they help.
The first thing is to start with a list.
I like nothing better then an old fashioned to do list written in a nice little notebook (or the back of a napkin or a receipt crammed at the bottom of my purse…)
You might want a notebook or some sort of electronic list via your phone or computer or iPad. Whatever works best for you is perfect but get down everything you’d like to accomplish in one spot. If you have a hard time sleeping, you might consider keeping a notebook by your bedside so you can jot down every passing thought before bed. I make my list for the next day at night so I am off and running in the morning.
The most important thing is to have whatever means you use front and center all day to serve as your map. I like my little notebook and I actually drag it around with me all day long.
Now Eat the Frog.
There is a book called Eat that Frog: 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. It is a great book to pick up for a little motivation to get things organized and to get ‘er done each day. The basic premise of the book is that most of us procrastinate on the stuff we hate doing each day. Often times these things can be the most important items to accomplish and instead we fritter away our time on things that are not important.
This is so true for me! I find if I let things go on Tuesday suddenly it is Friday and then a month later andbefore I know it 4 months have passed. So the idea is to tackle the most important stuff first thing in the morning and just get it done and move on- or Eat that Frog right away.
If I need to get an article done on a certain day plus I have some errands to run plus a few hundred emails and 2 loads of laundry and some posting to do… Well I darn well better get my article done first thing and then tackle the rest of the list. If I go with my inclination which is to get the laundry started and get through all the emails, most likely I won’t even get to the article and now I am past due on something important.
So look at your list and determine what things are the biggest priority and get started with at least one of those items first thing.
The next thing is to start looking at your list and seeing what can possibly be delegated. Is there anything at all that someone can help out with? I hate delegating things but I have learned over the years I simply can’t do it all myself.
Can other family members help out with errands or housework? Can a co-worker or subordinate take a project off your hands? Can you ask another Mom at Girl Scouts to pick up the cupcakes and pizza? Is there anything on your list that you can immediately send off to someone else to handle? When you are feeling overwhelmed the best thing to do is simply ask for help. Most people want to help but they don’t know how. So give them a chance to do something nice for you. Believe it or not my husband actually likes it when I ask him to do things. I don’t think he enjoys dropping off library books or grabbing milk at the store but he knows how much I try to accomplish each day and I think it makes him feel better that he is helping keep the ship afloat.
In addition to eating the frog, I think prioritizing is a big key to being the most productive you can be. I have to do this all the time because I can literally sit at the computer for 15 hours straight and still not get everything done. I have to make my children and my household a priority each day and say enough is enough. Typically I give myself about 2-4 hours in the morning to burn though as much as I possibly can for work. Often I schedule out posts for the rest of the day, swim through emails etc… After that the kids are home and my priority is to spend time with them. In the late afternoon we typically go to the gym (another priority for me) and then it is dinner and bathtime and books and several more hours in front of the computer before bed.
So set your priorities on your list of things to do and focus on getting those things checked off.
Set a Timer.
I like timers myself because they help a lot in staying on task. If I can hear that darn thing ticking away I am less likely to get distracted. If you find yourself sneaking off to check Facebook while you are supposed to be finishing a project, you might consider a timer system.
I find this especially useful in housework. I work from home and I am one of those people that can’t sit still if the floors are dirty and the dishes are piling up and the laundry room door is about to burst… I just can’t sit and do my work. So sometimes I set a timer for 20-40 minutes and see how much I can zip through before it goes off. Once it goes off- that is it. Now I need to get back to work.
Break Things Down.
Another tip is to break things down into chewable pieces so you know what you are really biting off at the get go.
Instead of “clean house” you might write down- clean kitchen cabinets, mop floors, fold laundry and vacuum bedrooms. By breaking down each component of a task, you can get a more realistic idea of what needs to be done and how much time you need.
Determine Your Productive Time.
This is a tricky one because you want to identify when you are most productive and try to concentrate a lot of energy in that time frame. The tricky part is that I think a lot of us don’t get the sleep we need and let’s face it -when there are more things to do then time to do them, many of us cut back on sleep to squeeze more hours in the day.
Now I will raise both of my hands because I am very guilty of this but it is important to remember that your rest is so very,very important for your body and your mind. So I try as hard as I can not to skimp on my sleep each night. (I shoot for 6-7 hours.)
I happen to be a major night owl, I can focus and concentrate once the children are asleep and I tend to stay up pretty late. I am fighting a good battle to change into a morning person but in the mean time the night is when I get everything prepared for the next day- snacks, clothes, straighten up the house, do a little prep for the next day’s meals and so on. I even shower at night so I can get ready super fast in the morning.
It is important for me to start the day off right and not a frantic mess running around looking for soccer shirts and scrambling to toss anything I see into a lunchbag.
If you are a morning person maybe getting everything that is essential done first thing, plus buckling down on your To Do list is what works for you. Those precious hours before the children are up can be so productive if you are focused and the coffee is brewing away. Hopefully once the kiddos do get up you have a smile on your face to greet them and not a grimace of- oh darn just 10 more minutes!
Turn off the Technology.
One of the pastors at our church always tells us to make sure we are ruling technology and technology is not the ruler of our lives.
I think this is so smart and it is something I keep in mind all the time. Being in social media myself, technology can very quickly take over all my waking moments. I am not complaining at all because I love what I do, but it makes it a little harder to focus on a task when I am juggling so many things each day from the blog to twitter to instagram to facebook to pinterest…. it gets overwhelming.
I try to focus on what absolutely must be done and cut as many distractions as possible. If I know I only have 1 hour to get a certain number of things done, I turn off my phone, ignore Skype, ignore the doorbell and under no circumstances even open Facebook or Pinterest :). I have to shut off all the distractions or that hour can easily get sucked away by things not on my list.
I think women in particular have a gift for multitasking. I actually get fidgety when I am not doing a few things at once. I think to actually sit down and watch a TV show without doing at least one other thing might require restraints for me. If you find yourself behind each day can you cut things out- like TV time? If you need that time to relax your mind maybe you can also fold the laundry or finish those scrapbooks you have been meaning to do.
Note: I multitask during tv shows or while listening to an audiobook or while cooking dinner. I try very hard not to multitask when I am with my kids.
Give Yourself Permission.
Last but not lease give yourself permission to kick something to the curb. I know when things get especially crazy something just has to give. I can only do so much and the last thing I want is my kids parked in front of the TV for 8 hours straight because Mommy is too busy for them. I know on those sorts of days something has to give- either I have to make peace with the house being a wreck, accept that I simply can’t go to my regular gym classes or more often then not our meals just take a backseat. That doesn’t mean Cheetos for dinner but scrambled eggs with a few leftover veggies and toast are a perfectly fine dinner for our family.
I hope some of these tips are helpful to you and if you have any great ideas for how to be most efficient at accomplishing things each day please let us know!
This post is part of the 30 Days to a Funner Summer Series.