Ok, y’all. We’re on a roll this year when it comes to productivity, right?
I’m (clearly) passionate about this stuff, so it was easy to run headlong into the meat and potatoes of step-by-step accomplishments. Or, you know, GOAL CRUSHING. Because that’s what we’re really doing here.
But the truth is, this is highly personal and requires YOU working to discover what clicks for YOU, and then making those things habitual.
Luckily, humans are surprisingly similar, being in the same species and all, so there’s heaps of data about productivity we can compare. Here’s some of the things that work for THIS human (and maybe you, too!):
- OWN YOUR GOALS. I typed that out three times before settling on just the right sentence fragment. ‘Articulate your goals’ was a close second, and not just because it’s fun to throw that word around. It’s because I don’t think it’s enough to write out your goals. It helps, but you also need to speak those goals.
Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell whoever you want.
Make your journey known, and keep it at the forefront of your mind. You can map out a secret weight loss plan and keep it locked in your phone’s notes, sure. But you can also tell your friends ‘I’m working on losing X pounds by X date’. You might be surprised at the support they can provide – and the accountability. But owning your goals is also about facing the hard truths I mentioned a few weeks ago – knowing what your goal is and what it is going to take to get there is absolutely critical to your long-term success.
- MANAGE YOUR TASKS. This is a two-part point, and the parts are equally important here. First, understand that you will need to BREAK YOUR GOALS INTO SMALLER STEPS. I wish I could promise that you’ll scale the mountain on day one, but that’s not how ANY OF THIS WORKS, y’all.
You’re probably familiar with the best way to eat an elephant – which is, obviously, one bite at a time. The same is true of the measurable steps you can take to reach your goal. For example – I need to have a garage sale. To do that, I need to sort through my ‘sale’ items. I need to tag them with prices. I need to group them so they’re easier for me to set out for sale. I need to advertise my garage sale. I need to corral all of the tables and racks and tents I’ll use. I need to make sure I’m set up with my cashapp and a bank bag with petty cash. I need to arrange for childcare and plan for snacks and drinks throughout the day. Only THEN can I set up my garage sale and welcome customers, so until garage sale day, I’m going to focus on knocking out those smaller tasks and not on the culmination of that work (ie, garage sale day), which leads me to the next point in managing your tasks. That is FOCUSING ON ONE TASK AT A TIME.
I get it, y’all. Everyone’s resume says that they’re good at multi-tasking. But the reality is that we aren’t actually that great at it. Give yourself the space to knock out that list one step at a time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to figure out how to block out every other distraction – although, if you figure that part out, help an ADHD sister out and share the secret. You just need to schedule those steps out.
In my garage sale example, I’m not tagging items and also trying to field questions on Facebook Marketplace. I’m not setting up tables and also dragging out items to sort for sale or to keep. I’m scheduling one task at a time, and sticking to it. So essentially, plan your steps and allow yourself to ‘clock out’ when you’re done. Don’t get overwhelmed because there’s so much more to do. If you scheduled an hour to tag your kid’s outgrown clothes to sell, spend that hour and then move on.
- DEVELOP EFFECTIVE HABITS. There are so many resources out there about the many habits that can help you become more effective, so I’m going to bypass all the reasons WHY you need to do this and just talk about the ones that work for me, ok?
Y’all can take these with a grain of salt, or like Bible, but the bottom line is – they work for me!
- Wake up early. My alarm goes off at 5AM, but I’m usually awake before that. We’re out of the house by 6:30 every weekday, and in full-swing weekend task mode on weekends. I am NOT A MORNING PERSON by nature; growing up, I was homeschooled and was actually shocked and appalled when I’d hear about people waking up at 7AM. Our days started around 10AM, and I liked it like that. But I have become SO much more productive as I’ve shifted to an earlier start. Not only do I have time for a morning minute (check out Hal Elrod for more on that) but I’m not starting my days rushed and stressed out, and that peace gives me the motivation to stay disciplined.
- Take brain breaks. Not a break to check emails or scroll through Facebook, an actual break. A quick walk, a physical movement, an actual disconnect from the task I’m working on – it’s important for me when I become focused on a task to be able to shift my mind. Sometimes I use those brain breaks as ‘rewards’ – especially if I’m working on a task I don’t enjoy.
- Exercise. It’s absolutely vital to my day that I get exercise in some way. Even if it’s 30 minutes of cardio on a treadmill, it’s a box that I need to check. It’s a step in my goal plan, but it’s so much more – exercise is proven to improve bodily functions, release feel-good hormones, help you focus, help you sleep better, and improve your overall health and productivity. And it makes sense – the better you feel, the better you focus.
- Clear out the clutter. There is nothing more distracting to me than a cluttered or disorganized space. I struggle with ADHD, so staying on task is something that is a HUGE, monumental battle for me personally, and it’s why I don’t take these organizational posts lightly. I know how hard it is to infuse structure into your life, trust me – it’s been hard-won in my own life, so I feel that in my soul. My diagnosis is also why I know that these strategies WORK. And keeping my spaces decluttered and clean WORKS. It prevents me from fixating on the things around me and gives my brain space to hone in on my work.
- Discipline, discipline, discipline. Trust me, honey. Willpower will only get you so far. Motivation? POOF and it’s gone. Without self-discipline, your desire to follow through with the tough stuff is going to fade out pretty quickly. It’s like this; you’re scrolling through Instagram before bed and you see an inspiring post about someone’s weight-loss accomplishment. You’re totally motivated now, so you set your alarm an hour earlier. Then that alarm is blaring in your ear at 5AM and you’re not at all motivated to drag your rear out of your cozy bed to exercise. Your willpower has deserted you, but you’re still the boss here. That’s where self-discipline comes in. You don’t WANT to drag yourself out of bed. But you WANT the results. And so you do it. And then you do it the following day. And you keep doing it until it becomes a habit.
- Combine tasks. This is like multi-tasking, but also NOT, because what kind of helpful blog would this be without a glaring contradiction?! In all seriousness, there’s a big difference in combining complimentary tasks and trying to ‘multi-task’ in the way that we traditionally understand multi-tasking. For example – I listen to podcasts or read ebooks while I’m working out. I regularly grocery shop with my sister or my mom (spending quality family time and also knocking out a chore). I make games out of household chores and include my toddler. We sing and dance and work on yoga poses while dinner is cooking.
- Follow the 5 minute rule. It’s a simple one; if it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now. Don’t put it off. Grabbing the mail on your way into the house? Sort it now. Cooking dinner? Wash the dishes as you’re working. Dropping your bag onto the floor as you walk into the door? Empty it out now. Rolling out of bed? Make it now. This rule has honestly revolutionized my productivity. Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, and we rarely realize just how deeply it burrows into our daily habits. The 5 minute rule, y’all – live by it and it will change your life.
These little habits may seem minuscule, but bit by bit, they’re going to impact your progress in a huge way. And when you see your own progress, and you’re managing your life, instead of letting life run over you, you gain confidence in the path you’re walking and those steps and habits get easier over time.
Ultimately, it’s about managing your precious, precious time. Juggling the things that make up your life, and knowing that you’ve created a framework that supports your goals and dreams.
I’ve touched on anxiety here on the blog, and I think it’s fitting to wrap up this (crazy long) post about productivity and life management strategies by sharing how much these ‘life hacks’ have also helped me manage crippling anxiety. I try to be open about the down and dirty of depression and anxiety, because before I met them in my life, I didn’t understand them.
And then they came in like that mother lovin’ wrecking ball Miley Cyrus used to sing about.
From chest-crushing, panic attack-inducing, can’t-get-out-of-bed anxiety came a determination that I could choose to live fully and freely, or accept what the voice in my head was telling me. Sitting down, putting a pen to paper and plans to life – I doubted myself a thousand times. Excuses? I made those up by the minute. Clearing my headspace and focusing on goals and manifesting positivity was HARD WORK, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
And if even one of the daily habits I’ve adopted can be a blessing for someone else who is slowly losing their ever-lovin’ mind and wishing they could figure out how to start to climb that mountain in front of them, it’s worth it.
Your goals are worth it. Your family is worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT.