If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I lead a crazy busy life – I’m a mother, journalist (full time), daughter, wife, blogger and vlogger – and that’s on top of doing all the usual household stuff that we all have to squeeze in.
Fortunately, VIP helps me out with the latter two. Well, I say fortunately, but I expect it to be honest. I wouldn’t have married him if he was one of those goons who thinks the world revolves around them. And although I’m happy to make dinner and fetch cups of coffee etc, I also expect it to be reciprocated. Who wouldn’t?
Anyway, without losing track of why I started this blog post in the first place, I thought I’d offer some tips on productivity.
Why? Well, first of all it’s Work Wise Week (from 14th-20th May) which ties in very nicely with this blog post. Work Wise Week was created to bring awareness to smarter working practices and QuickBooks is looking to share productivity tips in honour of this week.
Secondly, years of juggling working life and motherhood have provided me with a few tricks up my sleeve and I’m keen to share them.
So here are my best go-to tips for having a fantastically productive day!
MAKE A LIST
The night before you want to have a fantastically productive day, you need to do two things. The first is to make a list of everything that you want to achieve the following day. It sounds obvious but seeing things in black and white written down really does work.
However, before you start making that list, be realistic in what you write. This is REALLY important. You want to over achieve during the day, not feel defeated.
For example, if your task is to clear, tidy and clean your wardrobe, dedicating 15 minutes to the job will put too much pressure on you, especially if the last time you did this you had to dedicate half a day to sorting it out.
I personally aim for three or four tasks a day. Remember these ‘tasks' can be smaller goals that are working towards a large project. Whatever you do, don't bite off more than you can chew.
MAKE A TIMETABLE
The second thing that you need to do the night before is to take that list and make a mini timetable of how tomorrow should look.
Again, be realistic and factor in ‘break times’ such as grabbing a cuppa or taking lunch.
Don’t martyr yourself; remember to take breaks and keep your energy up.
My timetable might look something similar to this.
6am -7am: Get up, dressed and downstairs. Read and clear emails, get kids’ school bags/uniforms ready, make a cuppa and have breakfast.
7am-8.40am: Get kids up, dressed and make their breakfast. Tidy downstairs and check social media accounts.
8.40-9.00am: Take kids to school and walk back.
9am-9.30: Complete Task 1
9.30am-1pm: Full time job.
1pm-2pm: Eat lunch and complete Task 2
2pm-3.25pm: Full time job
3.25pm-4pm: Collect kids from school
4pm-5.30pm: While kids relax, jump back on work
5.30pm-6pm: Cook and eat dinner (while checking social media)
6pm-7.30pm: Complete Task 3
7.30-8.30: Start the bedtime routines, read a book and chat with the kids.
8.30 onwards: Either complete Task 4 or sit down and clear emails on the laptop while watching TV.
Bear in mind that there will be interruptions throughout your day; your friend might call for a chat; you might realise that it’s your neighbour’s birthday tomorrow and have to rush out to buy a card – or you could receive a letter in the post which demands your time and attention.
A friend of mine often asks how I manage to get so much done in the little time that I have.
And I always tell her the same thing: when I put a time limit on a project and I know I only have that amount of time to get it done, I’ll just get it done.
For example, I know that after my lunch I have about an hour and a half left to work before I have to leave to collect my daughter from school. Knowing that I have that time constraint I’m already feeling the pressure – so I make sure I focus on the job at hand.
If I think I've got all the time in the world, I'll procrastinate, so if you need to get a job down, put a time limit on it. Hell, start a countdown timer or an alarm if you need to.
GET UP EARLIER OR GO TO BED LATER
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Decide how (and at what time) you are at your working best – morning or late at night?
I’ve trained myself on six hours sleep – going to bed around midnight and getting up at 6am most days (including the weekend).
But I know that in order to do this I can’t drink alcohol (it affects my sleep pattern) and every now and then I need to play catch up on the sleep – and get up at 8am on a Sunday for example.
You must have heard of the expression ‘making time’? By setting the alarm extra early you’ve just made more time for yourself – so don't waste it, MAKE IT COUNT.
Whatever you do, DO NOT work where there are distractions i.e. a TV playing in the background – and leave your mobile phone upstairs so you are not tempted to pick it up and get distracted by it. Otherwise, before you know it, the hour would have passed and you would have achieved nothing.
CLOSE YOUR EMAIL
Unless your task demands time on your email – CLOSE the emails. I don’t just mean minimise the window on your computer, I mean close the actual programme so that you don’t see (or hear) any emails dropping in.
This is the single biggest factor that contributes to unfulfilled tasks. Don’t get dragged into reading emails because then you’ll get dragged into sending a response, and while you’re doing that another email will drop in…..and again, before you know it, you’ve lost an hour.
Commit to the task at hand with as few distractions as you possibly can. If the phone goes, either leave it or answer it and tell the person that you’re on deadline for something and ask if you can call back at a later time.
USE ‘DEAD’ TIME
I try not to waste a single minute. If I’m waiting for the phone to call, I won’t sit there doing nothing; I’ll be checking my emails or social media for example.
When I’m commuting and waiting for the train or a bus, I utilise my time wisely by typing out a blog post on my mobile phone or writing down ideas.
When I’m watching TV, in the ad breaks I’ll start some light housework or do the ironing.
And when I’m waiting for the kids to brush their teeth I’ll be getting their clothes ready for the following day.
I’m also a dab hand at multi-tasking. For example, when I’m doing something mundane like brushing my teeth, I’ll have the cleaning cloths in my other hand cleaning the sink area.
It’s all about thinking ahead. If you know what needs to be done, you can very often make your life much easier by thinking smarter – and responding quicker.
These are the main productivity tips that have helped me create order in my busy life and ensure that I continue to focus on what I need to achieve.
Yes, sometimes things don’t go to plan – and that’s fine. Don't beat yourself up about it; after all, we can always make time can’t we?
What tips do you have to make the most of being productive?