About four years ago, when my third daughter was born, I decided that I wanted to work part-time to reduce our daycare costs, support our growing family, and help my husband with our small business. I thought that reducing my hours at work would allow me to have better control of things at home and increase my productivity. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was forgetting things and didn’t have a handle on the chaos that was our life with a small business and three small children. The days would fly by, but I wouldn’t accomplish much. I mean, yes the kids were fed and happy(ish), but I wasn’t getting to my to-do list completed or helping out with our business like I wanted to.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve now picked up another part-time job (because over-scheduling is all I know how to do) and having productive days is non-negotiable. When I took on that second job, I had to figure out how to be effective and efficient…and fast. I dove in headfirst and learned how to be productive, especially in a busy time of life.
Here’s what’s helped me pivot to a life of productivity versus a life of chaos. Don’t get me wrong, my life is still chaos sometimes…well most of the time actually, but it’s more of an organized chaos now and that helps tremendously.
Use Time Blocks
I first learned about chunking your day into blocks of time where very specific tasks are completed during that time from the financial guru and blogger at Fun Cheap or Free, Jordan Page. This single tip was a game-changer for me. I have trouble focusing on a task without getting distracted by another task, which typically makes the original task take much longer to complete. When I started chunking my day and focusing on the task in each block, I became much more productive. I find that my blocks for time are shorter since I have to switch gears multiple times throughout the day, but it really is a personal preference for the length of time in each block and what works best for you. I utilize this planner by Emily Ley which has a special column for blocks for time.
It only took me 11 years of being a mom to figure this one out.
No matter how tired I am at night, there are certain things that I do to make sure I’m set up for a productive day the next day. For example, our mornings are crazy, so we are nighttime lunch packers. In fact, everything is packed the night before including water bottles. We just don’t have the wiggle room in our morning schedule for this task.
Another thing I like to do is make sure the kitchen is clean (or at least tidy) before bed. This starts the morning off with a clean slate. I fail at this more times now that our evenings are getting so busy with our girls’ activities, but when I am able to maintain these routines, then I am set up for more success the next day.
There are many other routines I’ve established throughout my day where the little tasks become second nature and they don’t seem so big or time-consuming anymore. Exercise falls in this category as well. When I make exercise apart of my daily routine, it doesn’t seem like such an obstacle to overcome—I mean I have days where it absolutely is an obstacle, but for the most part, it’s a routine and just something that I do during the day.
Where are my naptime ninjas at? I used to be a naptime hustler, those were the days. Now, I spend a lot of time in my car. I could probably get a part-time job as an Uber driver; as much time as I spend driving my girls to their activities, I might as well pick up some strangers, too!
I also wait a lot: wait in the car rider pick up line, wait for my daughter to finish her practice. I’ve learned this car time is the best time to catch up on all that digital minutiae that needs addressing. For example, I need to check and reply to emails in the four email accounts I have. (Managing emails could also be a part-time job.) Sitting in the parking lot waiting for my daughter to finish basketball practice is the perfect time to complete that random Google Form for school or reply to that parent’s email.
This is also my time to run to the grocery store. I’ve completed a week’s worth of grocery shopping during my daughter’s one-hour tennis lesson on multiple occasions and have only had to text the coach once that I was stuck in line checking out and to let my daughter know that I hadn’t abandoned her.
If I have 10 minutes before we need to leave for school pick up, I’ll do a quick clean in the downstairs bathroom. I don’t follow a strict cleaning schedule; I’ve seen those floating around lately and they stress me out, but I do try to find a few minutes here and there to wipe down the fridge and microwave or do a quick bathroom clean. I have found this is a much more productive use of my time than picking up my phone and scrolling IG for 10 minutes.
I am a podcast and self-help book junkie. Listening to productivity podcasts or reading self-help books really energizes me to get my life together. In teacher terms, it’s like Professional Development for Productivity. A few of my favorites are “Grace Not Perfection” by Emily Ley and “The Productive Woman” hosted by Laura McClellan, but don’t stop here there are tons of apps for productivity that will streamline your daily tasks and help you get the most out of each day. Personally, we live and die by the Cozi Calendar App.
The most important thing that I have learned about productivity is that while it’s good to use tools (digital or not) and apps for productivity, it is just as important to limit random social media scrolling, which is a complete time-suck and killer of productivity.
I definitely fail a lot at this productivity thing, but I try to celebrate productivity success and avoid discouragement by failures. The high I feel when I get things done is exhilarating to me, and I try to ride that wave right into the next day.
What are some things you do to increase productivity in your daily life?