I don’t know about you, but the start of a new school year gives me LIFE!
I love the newness of it and the chance to start some new habits or to make some old ones better.
I also know that it feels overwhelming to many of us because here we are back in the land of lunches and karate and homework and dinner plans and laundry piles.
I took a little survey yesterday on Facebook and asked what struggles my friends have as it relates to productivity and, boy was it eye opening.
As moms with a full plates, we collectively feel overwhelmed with a lack of focus and follow through. We are plagued with procrastination and then the perpetual guilt of not getting done what we say we’re going to get done.
As a veteran mom and business owner, I know overwhelm. But over the last few years, I’ve been able to find systems and strategies that have made me highly productive without the all the drama of “busyness” and overwhelm.
I’m sharing those five strategies today, so buckle up and take some notes!
As a mom-preneur running a multiple six-figure business from home, I work out everyday, cook dinner nearly every night and work way less than full time and these strategies make it possible for me to do that. I struggled for years with this, but finally figured out how to throw away my to do list and GET MORE DONE!
I can’t wait to share with you how I—
- prioritize my life
- create for myself a positive mindset towards time
- make a plan every week that allows me throw away my TO DO list
- work with laser focus to honor my commitments to myself
- leave myself plenty of time to play, relax, make food, exercise, etc
Let’s dive in!
What does it actually mean to be PRODUCTIVE?
Productivity is the results you actually PRODUCE.
And most of the time when you’re filling out your to do list, you’re not writing what you want to produce. You’re just saying, “Oh, I need to work on this and then I need to work on this and then I need to work on my closet and then I need to spend time in my kitchen working on organizing that.”
But you don’t give yourself a result that you expect to produce at the end of that time. And as a result, you probably don’t produce anything at the end of that hour or day.
So what we want to help you sort of change your mindset around is what it actually means to be productive. It means to produce a result. And I think the thing that has helped me so much about this is that when you actually produce a result, you feel very energized versus when you have a long to do list of things that you never quite finish.
When I used to live with a never ending to do list, I would just beat myself up everyday that I didn’t get very far through the list. That made me exhausted and tired. And when you function with an ongoing forever to do list, it’s not very energizing.
But here’s what I will tell you. When you get something done that was on your list and you actually produced the result, that is very energizing.
So we’re going to talk about the process of how I do that.
Prioritize your life
This step is going to help you get the RIGHT things on the list and take EVERYTHING else off.
One of the ways to get some clarity on this is to make of time journal of YESTERDAY or last week and compare that to what you say are your priorities. For example, it’s really important to me that I take care of myself and I exercise and eat well. Does my schedule over the last few days reflect that? It’s really important to me that I prioritize my relationships and I spend time with people I love. But when I look at my actual calendar, is that reflected in how I spend my time?
So, take some time and write down everything you did yesterday and then ask yourself— is what I say my priorities are? Are those really my priorities? Is that really how I’m spending my time?
It’s so true the old saying that the way you spend your days is the way you spend your life.
And are we doing that on purpose and really accomplishing the things that we want to accomplish and prioritizing the things that we really do think are important? So if I say it’s important that I take care of myself and I live a healthy lifestyle, well did I go to the gym? Did I do some exercise? Did I sleep well? Did I prioritize real food? So how did I actually spend the day versus how do I say I think things are important.
Also, when it comes to prioritizing your life, you need to figure out what needs to STAY on your list and what needs to GO.
Do a brain dump or a thought download of everything that’s swirling through your head. Everything you need to do that’s causing you to feel overwhelmed. GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND ONTO PAPER.
Everything that you need to get done, get it all out of your brain.
The reason you feel overwhelmed is because you don’t write it down or you write it down on a never ending to do list and never put it in your calendar.
So I want you to get everything out of here and get it on paper, okay? When you get it on paper, I don’t want you to then start putting it right into your calendar just yet. I want you to then decide, does this fit with the priorities I say I have. Is this really important? Then ask yourself, is this something that I personally have to do? Could my kids do it? Perfect example today, I sent my teenager to the grocery store because that was something I couldn’t take off the list, but it didn’t have to be done by me.
There are certain things that only I can do.
Only I can work out my body, only I can spend time with my kids and my husband, only I can sleep for me. But there are so many things that somebody else could do. So could you delegate it? Could one of your kids do it? Could your husband do it? Could you pay somebody to do it?
I can’t tell you how much time and overwhelm it has saved me to really look at my list and figure out what doesn’t even need to be on the list. So, think of it this way, when you’re decluttering your house and you sort of take everything out and you make these piles, it’s going to be way easier to organize. And I promise you that a lot of the things on your schedule are things that don’t need to be there.
If you’re an overwhelmed mom who’s working full time, do you need to be making homemade cupcakes for your second graders class? Probably not. Unless that’s something that really energizes you and gives you energy. But if you’re going to forsake sleep for it and you’re going to halfway resent that you have to do it, delegate it. Buy the cupcakes. Better yet, send somebody else to buy the cupcakes.
There’s probably a lot of things on your list that don’t even need to be there. So after you make this list, I want you to cross everything off that you can either delegate that doesn’t need to be on the list at all, that totally is not really in alignment with what you say are your priorities.
Prioritize the list means you prioritize your life. What you do every day becomes what you do in your life.
Plan your time
The 2nd way to get more done is to plan your time.
Now some of you are going to say, I don’t have time to plan.
You don’t have time not to plan.
And I usually do this either sometime over the weekend or on Monday morning. A lot of times I do it on Sunday evening. I take the list from #1 that has all the stuff that I crossed off that I don’t need to do or that somebody else can do and then what is left, I put in the calendar.
And then I can throw away the list. What needs to get done by me is now on my calendar for the week. So let me give you an example. This week, probably like you, I had so many things that were still left on my list. I had to emails to write, videos to make, classes to teach, an ebook to finish.
One of the things that was really overwhelming me this week is that by Friday, I set this goal that I needed to write this little ebook by Friday. I’m writing a five-day challenge on living your purpose and I’m so excited about it. The content is so good, but I need to write it out all in one PDF. And that was swirling around in my mind like, “That’s going to take forever. I so don’t have time to do that this week.”
But I gave myself a deadline that I needed to do it by Friday and once I did that, I found these two-hour blocks in my schedule where I’m going to work on it. Now, I don’t feel overwhelmed because it’s IN MY CALENDAR and I’ve taught myself over the years to honor my calendar.
Now, here’s something really important with planning. You say, “Well, Dr. Edie, how long does it take to write a PDF?”
It takes as long as you give yourself.
So what I did is I gave myself a two-hour block on Thursday and a two-hour block on Friday to finish it. I don’t know how long it takes to write an ebook, but apparently it takes four hours. And here’s what I promise you, when it comes to planning things like this, if you will really teach yourself to focus (which is actually the fourth strategy) you will get so much more done in a specific amount of time.
When you say, “In this two hours, this is the result that I’m going to produce is I’m going to have half of this PDF done.”
Another example, this morning I had to write an email. It needed to go out today. I gave myself 45 minutes. That’s all I had. Guess how long it takes to write an email? 45 minutes apparently.
It actually didn’t even take that long. And I can tell you that over the years I haven’t been as consistent in the past about sending emails because I would give myself FOREVER to write them. It might take me five hours because I didn’t set a deadline to produce a result. I just said, “Work on email today.” And then Maybe I couldn’t find the right photo I wanted to use. Maybe I couldn’t find the right words. But, when I give myself a hard and fast deadline—like, it has to be done in 45 minutes. Guess what? It gets done in 45 minutes.
And done is better than perfect.
So when you’re planning out your time, you just give yourself an amount of time to do it. An hour, two hours. Most things can be done in that amount of time.
How long does it take to clean your closet out? As long as you give yourself. Right? So, just decide, I’m going to take two hours to clean my closet out. I’m going to take an hour to make our vacation plans and do all the calling and whatever. Get in the habit of planning things and giving yourself a certain amount of time.
The other thing that I love about planning is that you’re making your decisions ahead of time. So you’re deciding ahead of time on Thursday, from one to three, I’m going to write a PDF. I make that decision ahead of time, which makes it easier than trying to decide on Thursday IN THE MOMENT what I want or need to do.
The other powerful thing about deciding ahead of time is that your brain will go to work for you because it knows your intention is to get this done this morning. When I look at my calendar for tomorrow and I know I have to make a video about productivity, my brain starts helping me by coming up with ideas. It’s a super powerful thing.
Planning also doesn’t let you indulge in perfectionism.
You have one hour to get this done and that’s it. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done.
Positive time mindset
We have to stop saying, “I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so busy. I’m never going to get this done. This is so hard. I have so much to do.”
We have to stop saying that because that is how we indulge in confusion and overwhelm. If you say that all the time, your brain is going to prove you right. Your brain is going to go, “Oh, we’re overwhelmed. We never get anything done. We never finish our list.” And you won’t because your brain likes to be right, so if you tell it over and over how busy you are and how you don’t have time to gets things done, you’ll be right. If you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them.
So instead, before I start my work, I create the feeling of motivation and inspiration before I start working by telling myself something positive as it relates to time. I didn’t wake up feeling inspired and motivated. I create inspiration and motivation by saying to myself, “I have something really awesome to share with my people and I’ve got to get this done in 45 minutes so that I can share this awesome tidbit with them.”
I create that feelings I want by how to talk to myself about time and my work. Starting your day with that kind of positive mindset versus, “I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so busy. I’m never going to get it all done.”
We must tell ourselves what we want ourselves to think about our day and about our time. How do I want to think about time?
I have plenty of time. I have plenty of time to get my work done. I have plenty of time to go to CrossFit. And cook food. And make lunch for my husband. And hear about my daughter’s day. I trust myself to honor my calendar and do what I say I’m going to do.
You tell yourself what you want yourself to believe about time instead of telling yourself that you’re overwhelmed and that you don’t have enough time.
Power Focus Hour
Here comes the magic. When it comes time to honor your calendar and do that one thing on your list, ONLY DO THAT ONE THING. So when I was writing the email this morning, I wasn’t checking Facebook. Or scrolling Instagram. Or watching Netflix. I had one job. Write the email in 45 minutes.
I promise you that when you train yourself to do this, you will so much more done. But, this takes practice. When I started training my brain this way of getting things done, it was about 7 years ago. I read the book, Getting Things Done and I was so motivated to start this method.
The first year I practiced this way of productivity, I was maybe 20% better at doing it. The second year, I was 30% better at doing it. The fourth year, I was 40% better at doing it. Do you see what I’m saying? Be patient with yourself. You’re not gonna all of a sudden tomorrow create this system and then be able to execute it perfectly. And that’s okay. Just take baby steps.
Today, years later, I can get things done fast and I feel energized after I do it.
But even so, when I got up this morning, I didn’t wake up going, “Oh, I feel so motivated to write an email.” No, it’s 6 o’clock and it’s time to write an email, so I have to generate the thoughts and emotions that I want to do that, and I have to purely focus until I get that done, and not be distracted.
Don’t indulge in distraction or procrastination. Just tell yourself I have 45 minutes and I have to get this done and once you start practicing that, you will learn that you can trust yourself.
I know that I am highly productive now because I can trust myself. I can trust that the at the end of today, everything that was on my calendar, I got done because I didn’t do a million things, but only the three main things I was supposed to do today. And I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I felt energized.
Think of how you feel when you decide you’re going to clean out your closet and you get it all done. You feel like, okay, what else can I do? What else can I attack? It’s so energizing to actually get things done.
But you must train yourself to focus and do one thing at a time.
When you’re doing your task—no scrolling, no notifications, no phone calls. Don’t let yourself indulge in distractions. And then after that hour is over, you’re going to have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. I don’t think it’s wrong to be scrolling Instagram. I love to scroll Instagram, but I love to scroll Instagram after I get my work done and then I’m like, yes, I can just sit here and be mindless and scroll Instagram because I earned it because you know I got my work done.
So give yourself the gift of FOCUS and see what’s happens to your productivity.
Play, relax, waste time
Get your stuff done and then purposefully waste time, if you want. Purposefully scroll through Instagram because you did your work or purposefully sit down for two hours and read a book or take a nap. You should have plenty of rest time. But schedule the rest time in instead of living with this ongoing to do list that you never finish.
You now have time to play and relax and waste time if you want and you can do it with peace of mind, instead of overwhelm. When you prioritize your life, plan your time, cultivate a positive mindset about time, and execute it with power hour, you will have time left over to play. Go play with your kids, go play on the Lake, go take a nap, go scroll through social media, whatever.
But do it with a clear mind knowing that you got done what you wanted to get done for the day.
We have to stop indulging in overwhelm.
So my question for you is, why are you choosing overwhelm?
Why aren’t you choosing something better to say about your time and about your productivity? You get to choose. So I say, choose productivity NOW so that later today you can choose play.
Have a beautiful and PRODUCTIVE day!
p.s. The waiting list is now open for Life Mentoring School, my monthly teaching and coaching program! It’s like a gym membership for your mind and heart and will transform the life you have into the life you’ve always dreamed of.