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This post was updated and republished April 25, 2019.
How many times have you laid your head down on your pillow at the end of the night and wondered where the day went? You had so much you wanted to accomplish but feel as though you didn’t cross nearly as much off your to do list as you had planned.
You wanted to be more productive and get more done, but it just didn’t happen.
Could it be that a lot got thrown at you throughout the day? Or that maybe your time-management skills just need some work?
It’s not that you were necessarily lazy or spent too much time focused on something that you thought wouldn’t take nearly as long as it did (and yes, we all have days like that!). But rather, you were busy, you kept moving, and yet you weren’t all that productive. Sound familiar?
This is a part of my story and at some point I realized that
TOO MUCH IS AT STAKE TO CONTINUE ON THIS PATH
– My Sanity
– Insert a million other things
This was a daily occurrence for me and so I set out to find ways to be more productive. I knew that if I wanted to go to sleep at night knowing I got everything done during the day that I wanted, then I needed to figure out what would help me get there. In other words,
I WAS DONE SPINNING MY WHEELS
Below are 5 steps that helped me on my path to productivity. I saved the best for last because it is the one I want you the most to leave here remembering. It was a game changer for me!
Tip #1 Make a to-do list and prioritize it
I’m talking about the pen and paper or some other kind of real to-do list; not just a list of tasks in the back of your mind you need to get done.
I know this isn’t a new concept, many of us have made and used to-do lists many times. But how often do we actually stick to them? And how often do we let them actually benefit us?
To-do lists are often one of those things we do for a period of time and then forget about. We might pick it up again a few months later but then it only lasts for a short while again. But the truth is
THESE SIMPLE LISTS THAT DON’T TAKE LONG TO MAKE CAN SAVE US SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY AND HELP OUR PRODUCTIVITY GREATLY INCREASE
It’s important to limit your tasks in a day so you don’t get burnt out.
Tip #2 Do it right away
I used love to put things off to do later (or at least I like to tell myself I loved it since I did it so often…). This included both quick and easy tasks (hanging up my coat, RSVPing to an event, throwing garbage away) as well as tasks that took just a few minutes longer (sorting the mail, doing the dishes, putting away laundry).
Tasks would pile up and then I would have to spend time going back and completing them (a step that could have been avoided in the first place if I had just done them right away).
There are a few ways doing tasks right away can benefit us:
– They are not taking up space in our minds knowing we eventually have to get to them done.
– Having to get them done doesn’t take up space on our real to do list.
– It frees up time to get more important things done.
– It prevents clutter, and of course less clutter means more productivity.
If you struggle to not procrastinate getting tasks done that take just a few minutes, then first start doing right away anything that takes less than a minute and see how it helps you.
Bottom line: if you want to be more productive, then you must not be a procrastinator.
Tip #3 Set a timer
There are times when I feel like I have so much to do that I don’t even know where to begin. Or I have to get things done that I just don’t feel like doing. But if I know that I only need to spend so many minutes at a time on it (meaning there is an end in sight) then beginning the task isn’t so bad.
This even helps me get things done faster because I’m trying to beat out the clock. My husband and I did this the other day when we cleaned the kitchen after dinner. I set the oven timer for 15 minutes and off we were! We got as much done as we could before the timer went off. And once it went off, we were finished for the time being. (Tip: kids love to “beat the clock!”)
Setting a timer for my tasks doesn’t necessarily mean I only spend that amount of time a day on each task. On the contrary, I often go back to a task to work on it some more. The timer just helps to break up everything I need to do and gives me an ending I may not otherwise have.
So how long should you set the timer for?
I would suggest experimenting to see what works best for you. For some tasks, I like to do them in 15 or 20 minute increments. Others, like when I am writing, I spend about 60-90 minutes at a time before taking a break. (Step 5 will help you determine when you should spend a longer amount of time on a task.)
Related post: When You’re So Overwhelmed You Can’t Even Get Started
Tip #4 Eat right, exercise, and get a decent amount of sleep
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you
IT IS A LOT MORE DIFFICULT TO BE PRODUCTIVE WHEN WE DON’T FEEL GOOD BECAUSE OF SOME HABITS WE HAVE CREATED IN THESE AREAS
To be at our best, these three are ones we must get right.
I know this can be difficult for us to do, especially when we are busy and on a budget. When I plan meals, I work hard at coming up with ideas that are quick and inexpensive because of our schedules and budget. And what I often notice is these quick and inexpensive meals aren’t all that healthy.
But instead of just giving up on them (because again, cheap and simple is my goal), I try to make sure I still include fruits or veggies in every meal. That way even though we may be eating pancakes for dinner, we are still getting some sort of vitamins.
We also mainly drink water and try not to eat too many unhealthy snacks throughout the day. I also try to find a couple of ways during the week to throw in a few healthier, inexpensive, options for dinner.
I still have a long way to go on getting this one right, but I have gotten better and know that physical activity is a must for me to feel good.
Part of the reason I struggle with this is because I don’t want to take the time out of my already busy schedule to go to the gym. To combat this, I have been spending time on YouTube finding free exercise videos so I can work out at home. I also think sometimes just turning on the radio and dancing around your family room is a fun way to get your heart pumping!
Other habits I try to stick to for a little exercise:
– Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
– Walking to where I’m going whenever possible.
– Standing up and moving around every so often throughout the day.
Whatever you do, try as best as you can to get at least 20-30 min of exercise in everyday. Although I still struggle to take the time to do this, I have gotten better. And I know the more I work on it the even better I will feel!
Get enough sleep
Sleeping helps our bodies repair themselves, benefits our heart and weight, and of course we are all in a better mood when we sleep well.
While experts recommend adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, it’s no secret that many of us get much less.
I have found that having a great pillow can go a long way into determining what kind of a night’s sleep I get. I bought my husband and myself My Pillows for our anniversary last year and we love them! They are tailored to each individual person, come with a 10 year warranty and a 60 day money back guarantee. Don’t overestimate a comfortable pillow!
I have also found that I feel best when I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Obviously, doing this is not always realistic. If you are a parent with a newborn you are going to probably lose out on a lot of sleep. If your work schedule is all over the place you may never have a set sleeping schedule. That is why it is important to also eat right and exercise and hopefully that will help give you the energy you need when you don’t get the right amount of sleep.
As I already stated, I saved this one for last because it is my favorite and it is the one I want you to remember most. If you don’t do anything else on this list, please do this one (well, okay, please also do number 4 because that’s pretty important for other reasons as well). But I really do believe that for many of us, this is the number one way to be more productive.
All of us have a time during the day when we are at our best. This is the time when we are most creative, energized, focused, ready to take on whatever comes our way. This is when I do my most difficult, critically-thinking task(s). And hopefully if I have time, I will also try to get to the easier, more mindless tasks during this time.
I am at my best in the morning. When late afternoon or evening rolls in, I begin to lose motivation and focus, regardless of whether or not I had to go to my day job. That is why it is necessary for me to wake up at 5am every weekday morning: so I can get some writing done before work. I know if I wait until after work, I will not be nearly as productive. This could seem obvious since I just worked for 8 hours, but the same can be said for me even on a weekend when I don’t have to go to work.
My sister, on the other hand, admits that she loves to begin almost anything later in the day.
Determine when you are at your best. If it is the morning like me, then don’t wait until evening to start getting done what you need to. If it is at night, then prioritize your to-do list in way that saves your hardest tasks for the end of the day.
Then let me know how it is working for you!
Being more productive is definitely possible for all of us, but it takes effort. We can’t sit by and wait for it to happen to us. We must deliberately take steps and adjust where necessary.
While there are countless others, these are 5 ways I became more productive when I was just spinning my wheels.
What has helped you?
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