When you are busy, and I mean really busy, it can feel like you are drowning. It can feel like you just can’t get ahead no matter how much you try.
Sometimes, we can’t help how busy we are. And for those times we need a strategy for how to most efficiently conquer our to-do list. I want to share with you how I’ve learned to be my most productive self so that you can do the same.
Even when you’re a minimalist, there are times when you are just plain busy. Not everything is in our control, after all.
I’ve truly decluttered my entire life! And I do my best to keep extra stuff off of my schedule so that I can focus on what is super important to me, while still having time to take good care of myself.
But there are still seasons when things pile up. Isn’t it the truth that everything seems to happen at once?!
Productivity Tips to Be Your Most Productive
When you are in a busy season, remember the three P’s: prioritize, prepare, produce. I will walk you through each of these in this article.
So, when you are in one of those busy seasons, how do you do it all? First of all, you probably can’t. That’s why it is super important that you prioritize everything currently on your plate. Something might have to give, even if only temporarily, so it’s important that you know what is on the bottom of your priority list.
If you want to be your most productive self, you have to know your priorities and keep them at the forefront of your mind as you move throughout your day. If it helps you, write down your priorities and put them in a place where you will see them.
Create a Plan
In order to be your most productive self, you need to have a plan. If you are a morning person, you might be able to plan your day first thing in the morning. If you aren’t a morning person, you MUST plan your day the night before. Whenever you choose to plan out your day, follow these simple steps:
First, write down your obligations (i.e. appointments). Second, record everything on your to-do list. Third, prioritize that to-do list so you know what needs to get tackled first. That’s it! It’s that simple.
Gather What You Need
Now that you have a plan, get ready for it! Set out the clothes you will need. Gather the necessary supplies. Pack your lunch. Get anything and everything ready so that you can jump right in and conquer your to-do list.
It’s best to do this the night before as well, that way there aren’t any surprises in the morning. You don’t want to have grand plans to get started right away in the morning only to find you need to make a run to the store for a missing supply.
Get in the Right Mindset
So you have a plan and you are ready to execute it. Now what? Should you jump into your to-do list right away the next morning? Most likely, the answer is no. Even if you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed right away in the morning, that doesn’t mean you are in the right mindset to be most productive.
I suggest that you have some sort of morning routine to get you in the right mindset. Do something, every morning, that makes you happy, calms you, and encourages you. Some people journal. Some people drink tea and meditate. Find what works for you, and stick with it.
It may seem counterintuitive to spend time on a morning routine when you are super busy, but believe me, it makes a huge difference in helping you be your most productive self the rest of the day.
But first, let me say this: checking social media, or even your email, first thing in the morning will not get you in the mindset necessary to be most productive. For a long time, that was my morning routine, and it was horrible for my productivity.
Browsing social media often times put me in a bad mood, or it sucked me in and I would waste a ton of time looking through my news feed. Checking my email first thing in the morning left me feeling frustrated (with how much junk was cluttering my inbox) and overwhelmed by all there was to do.
A note on my morning routine:
This is the effective morning routine I have adopted:
(1) I make myself a cup of coffee. (2) I practice mindfulness and focus on my breathing for 5 minutes. (3) I read my Bible and devotional for about 30 minutes. (4) I spend about 10 minutes praying and writing down my thoughts and reactions to what I read. (5) I spend about 10 minutes planning out my day.
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A note on how I plan my day:
I use the time-blocking method to plan out my day. Time-blocking just means that I use a planner that lists the hours of the day, and I fill it in first with my obligations or appointments that day. (Get your free printable day planner here!)
Next, I fill in the essential, everyday routine types of items. These are items such as my morning routine, eating lunch, and driving the kids to and from school.
Last, I fill in the schedule with the items on my to-do list in a different color. I do my best to schedule my most important items first to ensure they get done.
Even more important, I ensure that I am using my prime-time hours for the most important or difficult tasks. (More on prime-time hours in the next section!)
Now that you have prioritized and prepared for your most productive day, this is where you simply get ‘er done.
Take Advantage of Your Prime-Time Hours
I once heard about a concept called golden hours…this is what I came to call my prime-time hours. Just as prime time on your TV is the peak time for television programming to get the most viewers, your “prime-time hours” are the most optimal time for you to get things done.
Your prime-time hours are those hours of the day when you are most productive, most on your A-game, and most yourself.
So, when are your prime-time hours? When are you most productive? You need to take advantage of that time in order to be the most productive and most effective during the day.
Furthermore, where are you most productive? Often times, this is a place that makes you feel comfortable and isn’t distracting. So, I’m not talking as comfortable as your bed, otherwise you would be distracted by the thought of sleep.
By comfortable, I mean a place where you are at ease and able to focus. For me, this is my desk (as long as it isn’t cluttered). But I also like to move around for different tasks that require a different mindset.
A note on my prime time hours:
I’m a morning person, so my prime time hours begin about 30 minutes after I wake up until around lunchtime. I know that I need to use these hours wisely in order to do my best work.
This is when I write blog posts, plan meals, and create new products. When I do these things during my prime time hours, I can do them better, and more quickly, than if I attempt to do them at other times when I am more mentally or physically tired.
At one point, I had actually come to believe that I was no longer a morning person or a night owl, because I felt perpetually tired. At first, I thought that it was because I was a mom. For real though, being a mom is exhausting most of the time!
But the truth is, I am a morning person who is also a people-pleaser. The real reason I don’t feel like a morning person anymore is because I would take on too much responsibility or not use my time wisely.
For example, I would usually stay up too late in order to spend time with my husband. But at that time of night, all I have energy for is watching T.V., so I wouldn’t exactly call that quality time.
My new goal was to find more intentional ways throughout the day to spend quality time with him. That way, I could still get to bed early enough to begin my day early and work when I’m most productive.
This helped prevent the burnout I was experiencing every day, as well as allowed me to give my best self to my work while not having too little left over to give to my family. If you want to give your best self to all that is important to you, make sure you are taking your prime-time hours into account.
Stay Motivated and Focused
Now you have prioritized, prepared, and begun to produce…how do you stay motivated and focused?
First, as I mentioned earlier, keep your priorities at the forefront of your mind. When you remember what is important (and why it is important), you are better able to stay motivated and continue being your most productive self.
You stay focused by saying no to anything non-essential that pops up in order to protect your time.
Also, you can keep your focus by only doing one task at a time. Please stop multi-tasking! Doing more than one activity at once is possible, but it isn’t possible to do both well. That’s because your brain can’t multi-think.
Focusing on one task at a time means that you will be able to do your best work. And that’s what being your most productive self is all about! Being more productive IS NOT about doing a ton of mediocre work.
If you don’t want to produce a bunch of mediocre work, you also need to slow down. Take your time.
I know that this is difficult to do when you feel like your to-do list is coming out of your ears. But the truth is, when you slow down and focus on the task at hand, you actually work more efficiently. This means more work is accomplished in less time.
Finally, you can help yourself stay motivated and focused by taking breaks. You could set a timer and take a break when the timer goes off. You could get up and take a walk.
Or maybe you need a bite to eat or a beverage to stay hydrated. Sometimes I simply change my scenery and that’s all the break I need to refresh my mind and body.
It can feel like we don’t have control over how busy we are, but we usually do.
But, it is definitely more complicated when it comes to working. When you aren’t your own boss, you don’t always have a say in how much you take on. In this instance, it is extra important that we do what we can to remain healthy mentally and physically.
After all, we are able to be most productive when we are most happy. Check out this article with some wonderful tips on how to be both happy and productive at your job.
In order to be most productive, you first have to prioritize what is most important. You also must prepare by creating a plan, gathering what you need, and getting in the right mindset. And finally, you produce the best results by taking advantage of your prime-time hours, and by staying motivated and focused.
Here’s to becoming your most productive self!