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I’ve talked before about how difficult it can be to find time to get things done.
Like, literally feeling your productivity shrivel up and die.
And I’m not talking about finding time for the fun things like crafts and DIY projects and trying new recipes but the everyday things. Things like cleaning and laundry and grocery shopping that need to get done even if they’re not top of your “fun things to do list”.
And of course, there’s family time and day job time. And the time when you don’t want to do anything at all except binge-watch Grace and Frankie on Netflix. (If you haven’t seen that one, I highly recommend it because it is laugh-out-loud funny.)
I wrote that original post when I was working about 60 hours a week at my day job and trying to fit in house stuff on the weekends.
The weekends seemed to fly by and then it was Monday morning and time to start it all over again.
Sound familiar? Ugh, what a drag.
Since then I’ve made some priority changes in my life. Changes that include working fewer hours and spending more time on things that are important to me, like the fun things and the family things and the “what does Sharon want to do today?” things.
When you work full-time, it can start to feel overwhelming after a while.
It seems like there is so much to do in a day that it’s impossible to get through it all.
I started looking at the flow of my day, from the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed, trying to find some way to create a more manageable schedule and eke out some productivity.
What I found was just a few simple changes to when I did things resulted in a BIG improvement in my productivity every day.
And a few organizational changes helped me reduce the time I spent thinking about what I needed to do. I’m more in control of my days now instead of often feeling that I’ve fallen short of something.
Today I’m going to share what those things were that I changed. If you’re also feeling a little overwhelmed and controlled by your to-do list I think changing things up a little will help get you back on track too
I switched my workouts to the morning
If you’re not a morning person this one is tough. It was for me too. I’m not as bad as I used to be about hitting the snooze button until the last possible minute but I wasn’t exactly leaping out of bed at 5 am to go work out either. But once I’d done it for a few weeks I really started to enjoy it. I actually got my work out done for one.
When I was working out after work I’d end up skipping it more than I should have. It was an easy excuse too. “Oh, I’ll get up and do it in the morning. I worked late/still have to get x done/don’t feel good/(insert another excuse here).” Except I wouldn’t get up and do it in the morning because I wasn’t in the habit of doing it. Yet.
If we’re being honest there was also a sense of relief that it was out of the way. I wasn’t subconsciously dreading it all day because it was already done. Finito. Finished. The endorphin high that lasts through the morning didn’t suck either. ? It’s also an item that can be checked off the to-do list first thing so I was starting the day with a sense of accomplishment and my evenings were free for other things I wanted to do.3
I started taking a shower right away
Changing when you take a shower sounds like a really weird thing and you might be wondering how this could possibly make any difference in productivity….but hear me out.
I usually followed the same morning routine. Wake up, if it was a workout day I’d do that, if not I’d go downstairs and get a cup of coffee. I’d chill out, drink my coffee and get ready to face the day. I’d pack my lunch and then I’d shower and get ready for work. Pretty typical.
But one day I woke up and got in the shower instead of heading downstairs first.
After I had showered, then I went downstairs and followed the same routine. Except for this day when I went to get ready for work, my hair was dry and I didn’t have to spend 10 minutes with the blow dryer. So not only did I save 10 minutes, my hair is probably healthier too. Sweet!
On days that I workout it’s the same. I shower right after my workout before I do anything else. Even though I’m only saving 10 minutes or so it feels like I’ve really gotten something out of the way.
And instead of drinking my coffee and maybe playing a little Candy Crush, now I’ll try and knock out a few simple blog tasks. Sometimes I have 45 minutes or more of free time in the morning and I can get a lot done in that space. Productivity gained!
These first two things alone improved my attitude and helped me start the day on a positive note.
But I wanted to see if there was more I could do. There was.
I began to pack my lunch the night before
This is not a new concept. In fact, packing your lunch ahead of time is kind of a no-brainer when it comes to saving time in the morning. BUT think about the other changes I made in my morning routine – getting the workout and shower out of the way first thing. So here’s another thing that I don’t have to worry about in the morning.
In my old routine, by this time in the morning, I still needed to head upstairs to get ready and all I’d really accomplished was drinking coffee.
Now my morning routine is much smoother. After the workout and shower, I’ll grab my coffee.
I don’t have to worry about packing my lunch so I have time to tackle a few things on my list. Some days it is blog stuff, others it might be balancing the checkbook. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it’s something.
Heading out the door (or to my home office on the days I work from home) with a great attitude goes a long way towards keeping me motivated. Instead of feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders because of everything I need to get done, I feel great because I’ve already crossed a lot off my list!
Productivity challenge accepted!
I started using productivity apps
There were still a few more things to do before I reached maximum productivity.
I needed a good way to organize my to-do list for one. Running a blog involves so many tasks, both big and small. I’ve learned very well that it’s almost impossible to operate without a schedule. Blog work isn’t the only stuff I needed to track though. I have personal and household things to remember. I fiddled around with a few things until I found a system that worked for me.
The main part of it was Todoist. I can’t even describe how much I love it. I should probably do an entire
love letter post on Todoist. (update: I did a post on how I use Todoist that you can find here).
I’ll just say now that it’s super easy to set up and use. I entered everything on the blog, house and anything else I wanted to track in about an hour and a half. And that was everything through the end of the year. I’ll definitely work on a more in-depth post on how to set it up because this one is a lifesaver for me. I can pull up the app on my phone anytime and see what’s still on my list for that day.
Of course, I use Evernote for everything blog related. I keep all my research, ideas and drafts in Evernote. I love the tags and stacks feature too. Previously I’d been a OneNote user because that’s what we had at work. It took me a while to figure out what all the fuss was over Evernote but once the light went on, it really went on! The browser extension is unbelievably amazing. I use that thing every single day.
I’m starting to look at a few other tools but right now Todoist and Evernote are my main squeezes that keep me more productive.
I started using ambient noise apps
Yeah, this might be another one that makes you go “hmmm”. I’ve always listened to music or podcasts at work with headphones. When I’m at home I crank the stereo up. It seems like I need to have some kind of noise at all times. I sleep with the fan on in January because I can’t go to sleep when it’s that quiet!
Not that long ago, I came across a blog post that mentioned Noisli, which is an ambient noise app that’s supposed to help you with productivity or relaxation, depending on the sounds you choose. The idea is that it provides that background noise without requiring you to pay attention like you do with podcasts or even music. Coffee shop sounds are a popular one. Also rain, forest, train and…fan. 😀 You can choose any combo you want or they have selections you can choose.
I never realized how distracting podcasts and music are. And I should probably go back and listen to my podcasts again because I’ll bet I missed half of them! .
Once I started using Noisli I find I stay a lot more focused on the task at hand. My work involves attention to detail so it really helps in that respect. I have the browser extension at home but their app for Android sucked. I was willing to pay the $3 or whatever it was but it kept shutting down whenever I launched it. There’s another app for Android called Relaxio that’s just as good so I use that on my phone at work.
I came up with organization and scheduling systems
The last piece of my productivity puzzle was devising a system that helped me to streamline a lot more things. I hate it when the pantry or fridge get out of whack. It takes a long time to find anything and sometimes I’ll still miss it. Things were constantly getting stuck behind other things so I’d either buy more or have to throw it out because it was expired. There were those inevitable “Ewwwww, what is this?” discoveries lurking in the back of the fridge.
Solving this just took some dollar store storage bins and baskets. I have everything in labeled baskets and bins so when I need something it’s easy to find and get to. When it’s time to make a grocery list it’s nice to be able to pull out the basket and easily see what’s in there. I did this with the refrigerator, freezers (I have a deep freezer) and pantry so I spend hardly any time at all now looking for things I need. Done and done.
The least glamorous part of adulting has got to be the housecleaning. I am not happy if I have to spend an entire Saturday schlepping up and down the stairs with my caddy full of cleaning supplies. When it’s nice outside I just glare out the window every time I go by. I’m not a slob so I’m happy when the house is clean, I just object to spending all day getting it that way. That’s why a cleaning schedule is a great way to stay on top of everything but not spend hours at once doing it. I have my schedule broken down into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks. This is another way that Todoist is fabulous. I can easily add a recurring task by entering a due date of “1st of each month” or even “every 3rd month”.
I can spend a little time chipping away at it each day and things that usually are forgotten get done because they’re on the list. Wiping down the doorknobs, light switches and outlets are prime examples of this for me. Now I do it all at once; it takes about 20 minutes to go through the entire house and I do it once a month. There’s a feeling of accountability when you have it on a to-do list with a due date.
Let’s wrap this up, shall we?
So there you have it. Six really simple things I changed that have totally boosted my daily productivity.
Switching when I did certain things and finding effective ways to track others have helped tremendously. I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing each day and I have enough time to get it all done. It doesn’t mean I get everything done every day but at least it won’t fall completely off the radar if I have it documented somewhere. What about you? Do you have any time-saving tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments!