Productivity. It is the difference between getting into the zone with your passion and purpose and wishing you were in the zone. You can find what it is you love to and are meant to do, you can find a way to live that mission in your life, but if you don’t find a way to manage your life so that you can make it happen, well, then you likely don’t ever get into that zone and sweet spot that you are waiting for, that you are aching for, truth be told.
The difference between the people who get things done and those who falter isn’t that one is more passionate or more purposeful than the other. The difference can often be which one is more systematized, which one has figured out what is needed to get things done efficiently and put those things in place.
I saw an interview earlier this year with President Obama. He was asked how he managed all the decisions that have to be made all day long. Sometimes, I am paralyzed with the one decision I have to make in a day and, yet, the President has to make at least a dozen of decisions in a day, sometimes an hour. President Obama’s answer? That he just didn’t make any small decisions. He has suits in only two colors- that way it is cake to get dressed in the morning and everything matches. He doesn’t make decisions about his food– someone else picks what he eats. Any smaller decision, he passes on to save his energy for the big decisions.
Now, this post is not about politics or politicians. But how President Obama organizes himself to be able to make decisions all day long shows us something about organizing ourselves to be productive. You’ve got to make some stuff easy so you have room for the harder stuff, the higher energy stuff, the more demanding stuff.
You have got to systemize some of your life.
Hence, today, I am sharing 10 suggestions to help your productivity. Some I do, some I borrowed from suggestions people shared on Facebook and Twitter. All can help you tackle life more efficiently so that you can do the work you are meant to do in this world more passionately and purposefully.
1. Organize your time and to dos. The singlehandedly best thing I do for my productivity is to stay on top of things. I have a complex organizational system-– there’s a daily calendar, a daily to do list, and a master to do list. It’s a lot in theory. But I tell you what- it keeps me crystal clear and on top of things and rarely do I ever wonder if I am forgetting something. That I don’t have to worry if I am keeping up with all of the moving parts really saves me ample amounts of energy and time. To stay on top of my systems, I maintain a weekly planning ritual. Find an organizational system that works for you and that allows you to deposit ideas you have that you aren’t ready to work through yet so that you can free your mind up to actually be productive.
2. Organize your peeps. If more than one person lives under your roof, then you will likely need to get on the same page about some things– whether we’re talking about a partner, kids, a a partner and kids, a roommate, a parent, etc. Create a family command center to organize daily essentials and to also track each person’s time in the way that it might affect others.
3. Forward thinking meals. I have several friends who find that the place where they grind to a stop is dinnertime. Whether they work away from the home or not, they have put in a hard, long day somewhere and when they walk into the kitchen, they are overwhelmed by making sense out of the pantry. So, what if, actually, you quit making dinner a 6 pm decision? Every Friday night, I plan the next week’s menus. What will we eat each night? Does either parent have a meeting that will take us away from the house? I write each night’s dinner on the command center calendar and directly write our grocery list as I menu plan. In fact, I actually start my weekly grocery list as soon as I walk in from the week’s grocery shopping. I put a pen and sheet of paper in the same spot and BF or I add to the list all week long. When it comes time to menu plan, I add everything we need for our meals. My grocery list is organized into 5 sections that roughly correspond with where things are in the grocery store which also helps me organize my shopping trip pretty easily.
4. Online bill pay. If you find that you struggle with getting checks written and envelopes in the mail, change your approach. Maybe add weekly bill paying to your weekly menu plan or weekly review so that you can feel good about making sure everything is handled while not also making a big block of separate time for it.
5. Workout first. If you are anything like me, when my list gets busy, the first trade I am always willing to make is my work out. Of course, days or weeks later, I am so disappointed that I made that choice and can see it for how shortsighted it was. One of the work arounds that I have for this tendency is to work out first– even before I scan the email on my phone because it is so easy for me to see an email that popped up overnight and feel like I have to deal with it right then. I am not 100% with following my own rule on this one but I do know that everything goes much better and I am, in fact, more productive when I workout first.
6. Eat the Frog. Once you are home from the workout, have been fed and watered, and are ready to start your official workday (and, again, all work here is valued so no worries on what type of work it is), do the least pleasant thing first. Maybe it is unpleasant because it will take a lot of time or require you to do something that you don’t like or is hard. Whatever makes it “the frog”, do it first. I have found, as my friend Tami says, that the dread is worse than the task and the sooner I dissipate the dread, the more productive I am about everything else, too. So free yourself by doing the worst thing first.
7. Time yourself. If you have something that you are doing that need to go quickly but you know that you have a tendency to let it distill out into the world’s biggest task (mainly because it is the frog and you do not want to be doing it), give it a time limit. Maybe you are a teacher and need to get some grading done. Give each paper a certain amount of time it should take you to grade it and race the clock. Do the same for dishes, putting up laundry, etc.
8. Take a minute. Speaking of laundry and dishes, divide those draggy tasks into one minute exercises. Straighten the living room, load the dishwasher, put away the day’s clothes, etc. for just one minute. Do that throughout the day and nothing is as bad as it could be at the end of said day.
9. Take a break. Give yourself a quick break in the midst of all of your doing. I am able to put off Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter when I have something big to do because I tell myself, “oh, you can check for new pins after you write this column and get it turned in.” Also, diversity your breaks. Don’t just take breaks that let you surf the internet. Take reading breaks, walking breaks, stretching breaks, prayer breaks, meditation breaks, yoga breaks, painting breaks, singing dreams, dancing breaks, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Just breathe.
10. Be authentic and honest always. It insures that you don’t have to keep up with anything. These words from Fanny Brice say it all: Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?
What are your tips and tricks for being productive?