I have a question for you today …
Do you ever feel like your mind is like your Internet browser? You have twenty open tabs, a few of them are frozen, and you have no idea where the music is coming from? I know I do at times!
Let’s talk about productivity, and what I’ve been doing to immensely increase the amount of work and tasks that I can fit into each day.
Please realize that I don’t consider myself en expert on this whatsoever. And I feel very lucky to be able to work at home while raising a little one (for now), but this hasn’t always been the case. My background includes working three very different jobs at once, sometimes clocking in 70+ hour weeks at one job, and feeling like I could never finish a thing on my ever growing to-do list.
And here’s what I’ve learned.
My goal in sharing this with you is to provide insight on what has been working for me, and maybe even offer a takeaway for you. I’d love to read some of your tips that you have for productivity, too. Please share your favorites in the comments below if you have them!
Here we go …
- realizing I am more productive in the morning that at night
I’ve been all over the map with sleep over the last few decades. I’m sure this comes from the previous jobs I’ve had that has required everything from dancing professionally until 10 p.m. and sometimes later, to teaching fitness classes, or working at a gym or breakfast restaurant way before the sunrise. And there were times where I did it all and depended on naps to get me through the days. This isn’t ideal, my friends.
My body has never been settled into a predictive routine of either turning in early to get up early, or staying up late to get up a little later. I had a horrible habit of bouncing everywhere, which ultimately affected my body’s internal clock to know when to thrive and when to rest. I would be tired at all points of the day, and that’s when I knew that I had to make a change.
Everyone is different, but I’ve realized that I am most productive in the early mornings! (Scott, however, is the biggest night owl and does not like getting up early. We’ve simply learned to coexist this way, and it gives each of us a little more alone time to focus.) I’m too tired at the end of the day to sit and work on something productively, so I’ve been making the mornings before Skyler wakes up my dedicated work time and it’s been awesome.
- thriving off of a routine
Some people perform at their highest potential when there is a set routine in place. I am one of those people. Once I realized this (much like the point above), I created a realistic routine for myself and tend to hit it. Of course, there are factors that get in the way at times like travel, projects that come up, and unplanned circumstances, but I generally do my best to stick to it and my daily productivity has improved tenfold.
The biggest objection that I get from people when I ask them what’s holding them back from hitting their fitness goals is that they don’t have time. Then I’ll ask what their normal routine is like, and figure out when they could add in two or more hours per week on their calendars for working out. Even if setting what days you plan to work out per week is the only thing that you have specifically planned out past your normal day-to-day routine, I can’t stress the importance of this enough. You’re ten times more likely to show up and complete the task if it’s written in your calendar!
My current routine includes dedicated time to work on specific things (more on that below), certain days of the week where I plan a workout ahead of time, and even add in little things that make me happy. The next point really dives in!
- planning for the week
I’ve been all over the place for so long, but not anymore. I’ve made a change over the past few weeks that includes planning out my meals ahead of time (gasp!), writing out what workouts I will be completing on what days, and even deeming certain days for specific tasks.
For example, I shared my weekly plan for dinners and workouts in my latest LIL Newsletter. I’ll plan to send these out at least once a month if you like to see them!
On top of those categories and other daily responsibilities, I have been planning out simple tasks that can all add up if you don’t space them out. Here’s a peek into the extra things I consider:
Tuesday: I spend as much downtime as I can working on creating content for upcoming posts.
Wednesday: I tidy the apartment every night, but this is the day where I choose to organize one thing (like a drawer or closet), even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.
Thursday: I know I will want to watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy episode (just keeping it real), so I make it a priority to finish my work early or get up earlier that day so I can turn it on once Skyler goes to sleep.
Friday: I clean the apartment. If I actually schedule it into my day, I’ll knock it out in just about two hours and go into the weekend feeling refreshed with the surroundings. This is also the night where I usually unwind with a face mask, glass of wine, and a movie before bed. It’s the little things.
Saturday: This is the day I don’t have any plans at all, which I think is also important do to in order stay on a routine!
Sunday: Scott, Skyler, and I go to church, get groceries, work on things around the house, and always end the weekend with an easy dinner and a long walk through the park with Roadie. It’s my favorite.
It may sound tedious to plan all of this out, but knowing that coveted veg time is waiting for me on Fridays really motivates me to get my other stuff done throughout the week in order to enjoy it! And, of course, I move things around to enable other fun things like catching up with friends and going to events that pop up at the last minute. This is just an example scenario!
- focusing on one thing at a time
I’ll be the first to admit that I multi-task all day long if I let myself. But I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive when I focus on one thing at a time, then cross it off and move on. Also, I’ve realized that cutting my daily To-Do list down to about a handful of things is much more realistic and encouraging to complete.
- going to bed earlier to wake up earlier
This is a popular tip from many, but let’s dive in for a minute. At one point or another, most have a goal to wake up “earlier” in their mornings, whatever that means. The goal is to fit more into the day, whether it be for a workout, time to get your head on straight for the day and meditate or read, or for those with kiddos, to get an hour of solid work or quiet time in before the day is spent tending to others.
When I used to work full-time at a fitness studio and clock-in before 5 a.m., I didn’t see an option to wake up “earlier” on those days. And then I wanted to catch up on sleep on my days off, so I wasn’t getting up earlier then either. My downfall was always trying to do too much at the end of the day, which got me to revved up or too into a project to turn in early.
But the rule stands. If you want to keep a long-term habit, you have to be consistent. For me, this includes making it a priority to go to bed early in order to wake up early. Even a 10 p.m. bedtime allows me a 5:30 a.m. wakeup time with a full seven and a half hours of sleep, which is my sweet spot. It’s more doable than you think!
- talking on the phone more and texting/emailing less
I know this sounds weird, or even scary for those who prefer to live in a face-to-screen world, but how often do you actually talk on the phone?
I’ve really been trying to catch up with loved ones on a regular basis lately, and something that has helped me do this is actually calling them or using the Voice Recording option on my text threads. Hearing a voice conversation is more personal, and it takes less dedicated time for the conversation than sprinkling in long text catch-ups throughout the day.
Also, if an email thread tends to go beyond two or three replies back, it might be time to take the conversation over to the phone and knock out the task at hand!
- fitting in Power Hours
You can even do Power Half Hours, or whatever works best for your schedule. I aim to get in at least two uninterrupted hours for writing and blog work during the early mornings, followed by at least one solid hour to work on my online businesses, answer emails, more writing, etc. during Skyler’s nap time, and then a third hour after he goes to bed.
Sometimes these turn into half hours, and sometimes they turn into longer periods of time if my day allows it, but these Power Hours have been HUGE for me. I set my phone to “Do Not Disturb” (more on that below), or even put it in another room so I can focus on my tasks at hand and knock them out.
For example, I had a great Power Hour at the gym yesterday. I had already completed my workout for the day, but I decided to utilize the gym daycare for an hour and fifteen minutes, so Skyler could play with other kids and I could focus on uninterrupted work time. It was great for both of us!
If you don’t have kids, I would still recommend planning set times of the day where you have uninterrupted work time, whatever that means for you. It could be as simple as planning to work at a coffee shop to break and refocus from your normal day’s routine.
- setting my bedtime alarm on my phone
I played with this setting back in the decades of “no routine life” listed above, but it ended up annoying me when I couldn’t stick to it. If you have an iPhone, there is a Bedtime Schedule feature that gives you the option to set your ideal bedtime and wake up time for every day of the week. For example, going off of what I listed above, my current bedtime is set for 10 p.m., and my wake up time is set for 5:30 a.m.
Basically, this feature helps you discover when you need to go to bed. You set your desired wake up time (which you can adjust as you see fit), and then it sets a reminder to alert you when you should be getting ready to go to sleep and calculates the number of hours you will get from doing so. Like I mentioned above, I used to get frustrated with this feature because I couldn’t stick to it. But now that I’m learning to thrive off of a routine, I’m absolutely loving it.
- taking advantage of 10-15 free minutes when I have them
Do you get annoyed at things like standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at the doctor’s office, or even sitting in line to pick up your kids at at school? I know I do. Something I’ve been doing lately that has really helped my productivity level is to think of things I could do in ten minutes that would help my day.
If I know I’ll have at least ten stationary minutes, I’ll usually check emails, check in with clients, or even start drafts of post ideas on my phone. It may just be for a few minutes, but I love the feeling of getting something done if I’m in a situation that I con’t control anyways.
- setting “Do Not Disturb” time
This one is an extension from the Bedtime setting that I mentioned above. I opt to have my phone turn on to Night Mode at a certain time to decrease the white lights and get my brain ready to turn off at night. When the Bedtime feature is set, it also puts your phone on “Do Not Disturb” from the hours you set for sleep. This has been game changing for me, as it allows me to fully unplug at night and not receive messages until I’m up early the next morning.
This also eliminates the temptation to aimlessly scroll your phone in bed. I think we’ve all been there at on time or another where we find ourselves in a rabbit hole and have no idea how we got there until it’s thirty minutes later. I have a feeling that the most productive people don’t do this, and I challenge you to dedicate a set amount of time to do that (if you like to) and then cut it off.
Of course, what you do for work and other situations in your life may not allow you to use the Bedtime feature, but if you can, I would highly recommend trying it or setting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” from time to time!
And with that, I better go. Skyler will be waking up from his nap at any moment, and I still have some things to take care of. Thanks for stopping by the blog today and we’ll chat again soon.
Here’s to getting more out of our hours in the day, friends!
What are some of your favorite and most effective productivity tips?