Like many women, I am crazy busy.
I have my two young kids, housework, a childminding business during the day, and this web design business at night.
People are always shocked when they find out and ask how I do it. They’re either expecting some cool time management hacks or tips on getting a perfect work-life balance. But the truth is that I have neither of those things – I don’t use any crazy hacks and I for sure don’t have a perfect balance. Here’s how I’m very productive anyway.
What is Productivity?
Productivity isn’t about how long you can work without checking Facebook. Or how packed your calendar looks.
Productivity is all about performing at your very best, day after day, for weeks and months. To get there, you need to understand what your big goals are and build systems to help you achieve them.
And go easy on yourself. You’re not a robot. You’re going to mess up sometimes and that’s fine. The point is to have systems in place so that when you’re ready to get back to work you won’t have to start from scratch.
I really love Ramit Sethi’s Productivity Advice for the Weird and always pass it on to anyone asking for time management help. He breaks productivity into three parts: fundamentals, psychology, and details.
The most important part of the productivity pyramid, and definitely not easy. These are the things that we wouldn’t normally connect with productivity but optimising yourself at this level is really the only way to have lasting effects. If your fundamentals are in bad shape, psychology and details might help in the short run, but it will be more difficult to recover from a rough patch later on.
Set Up Routines
The more you can replace your daily tasks with systems, the smoother your day will flow. Have a clear morning routine that jumpstarts your day and an evening one that winds you down. Plan out your chores and errands for times of the day and week that make the most sense. Have a meal plan for the week. Set up your work schedule to match your energy throughout the day. write everything down so your brain doesn’t have to keep track. Automate as much as possible.
When you plan ahead you don’t waste time worrying about what am I going to make for dinner tonight? Will I be back from the store in time for my call?
You see this all the time with CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg who wear the same outfit every day or always eat the same thing for lunch. Our brains can only handle so many decisions each day so we want to save brainpower for the decisions that actually matter.
Take care of your body
Go to sleep. Eat your greens. Drink your water. Exercise.
This is basic stuff but you’re really shooting your productivity in the foot if you don’t do this.
If your body is coming from a place of weakness, you won’t be able to achieve great stregnths.
Do the best you can but don’t worry about being perfect, your body will adapt to what it needs. I have young kids. I haven’t slept a full 8 hours in years. But it won’t be like that forever, eventually those little monsters will sleep like normal people. I try to stay in touch with what my body needs and make up for the lack of sleep in the meantime by eating well and meditating.
Basically, take care of yourself however you need, but don’t expect to perferm at your peak day after day fueled on junk.
We’re taking care of our bodies and we have routines in place to make our daily jobs mindless. Now let’s redirect that freed up mental energy towards being more productive!
Identify what’s not working for you.
When people ask me to help them manage their time, it usually turns out that they have way too much going on that’s not actually helping them achieve their goals. Many people start out with a hazy idea of what they want to achieve, read some articles, and then pile all the things they’ve been told they should be doing. Eventually they’re totally burried by obligations and completely lost sight of their goal.
What’s your big picture goal? What’s your goal for this week? Today? Why are each of these goals important to you? What’s driving you to achieve these things.
Identify you goal and why it’s important. Eliminate everything that doesn’t help you achieve it.
It’s really hard sometimes to turn people away when they need something from us. But if you kill yourself helping everyone who asks, you will never have the impact you dream of.
Have a Positive and Resiliant Mindset
“Mindset” is a very popular word these days. Master your Money Mindset and get rich. Success is a Mindset. Have the right healthy Mindset and the pounds will melt away.
I exagerate. But your mind and imagination is definately a very powerful tool. Just look at the physical effect fantasies or daydreams have on us. Successful athletes use visualisation all the time to get their mind and body ready to win.
They’re not just imagining the finish line though. And if you just daydream about getting rich, you’re probably not going to get there.
Athletes will visualise every aspect of the race. How their feet feel on the pavement at the beginning, after the first mile, after 10. The sweat dripping into their eyes. What to do if someone edges them out. If they need to change strategy.
They’re preparing their mind and body for work and resiliance. If they imagine a smooth race where they cruise to the finish line, they won’t be ready for the reality.
We need to truly believe that we will succeed, and also truly believe that it will take work, it will take setbacks, and the plan will change. Productive people mentally prepare themselves for the work and have the confidence to bounce back when something doesn’t go perfectly.
This is what most people are looking for when they ask for productivity tips. What’s the best app, what calander do you use, any quick tips they can implement right now.
Hopefully, it should be clear by now that these are just extra toppings – optimising your fundamentals and psychology will make you more productive than any new app.
With that being said, here are a few ways you can optimise the details.
- Automate everything. The less you have to think about something, the more energy and focus you can spend elsewhere. No one wants to worry about buying toilet paper when they have a deadline.
- If you can fix it with money, do it. How much time will you save if you hire a housekeeper? How about someone to watch the kids while you work from home? Even a meal subscription service will save you loads of time and energy.
- Plan out your day the night before. I use my bullet journel to keep track of everything, and it’s a major part of my night time routine.
- Time tasks that you find boring so they’re less of a mental hurdle. You’re more likely to wash the dishes if you knew it only takes 3 minutes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes there really is just not enough time to get everything done. There’s no shame in asking your friend to help with the school run or help folding the laundry.
What we’ve learned
Productivty is more than just a cool new app. We have to dig deep and look at our health, routines, and mindset to be truly productive. Even though this is more difficult to set up and even a bit scary, we only have to do it once. How many times have we tried a new hack only to throw it away again? Let’s go deep and get it right.
What are some of your productivity tricks?