I haven’t posted many productivity tips over the past several months… most likely due to the fact that I personally haven’t felt extremely productive over the past several months.
I’ve been doing what needs to be done and accomplishing my bare minimum each day. I’ve been staying on top of all the house work, all my blog work, all my VA work, keeping mouths fed, and providing various amounts of entertainment for my children throughout the day 🙂
In all honesty, I feel pretty good about what I’ve accomplished with 3 children in tow all day long!
That said, the desire to be more productive is always there for me — and since I rarely have complete control over when, where, or how long I will have an open window of time to be productive, I’ve gotten really good at “preparing to be productive” so when I have a few extra minutes (or hours) of unexpected free time, I can make the most of it.
If you are in a very “full” and busy season of life when free time is almost non-existent, I hope today’s post will offer some help. In my experience, simply being prepared to be productive has allowed me to accomplish so much more each day.
Here are 3 ways I prepare to be productive.
1. I Know What I Need (or Want) to Do
A.K.A. I have a list!
Sometimes it’s an actual written daily or weekly to-do list. Sometimes, it’s just a mental checklist of things I know need to be completed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Sometimes it’s a special project I work on whenever extra time appears (like painting furniture, working on my digital photo books, landscaping, etc.)
Whatever the case, I always have a nice long list of things I COULD do with extra time.
Please note that these lists of things are not always things I expect myself to do, or things I will feel stressed out about if they aren’t accomplished.
For example, if both boys take really long naps at the same time on a day when Nora is gone at school (for the record, this has maybe happened 1 time the whole year…) I would most likely use that extra time to work ahead on my blog posts.
Computer work is quiet work that I can easily start and stop as time allows, so having a little extra uninterrupted time during the day would be the perfect opportunity to work ahead on my blog — however, since I usually never have that time during the day, I wouldn’t necessarily plan to accomplish all that extra stuff, nor would I be stressed out if it didn’t happen.
The point here is simply that I am aware of things that could be done IF there is extra time.
2. I Know Approximately How Long The Tasks Will Take
I’ve talked about timing tasks before — and although it might sound completely ridiculous to time yourself on various tasks, it has truly been a massive productivity booster for me.
I know that cleaning out the dishwasher takes me less than 5 minutes. I know that I can get dressed and completely ready for the day in less than 15 minutes. I know that I can respond to a handful of emails or comments in 5-10 minutes. I know that writing a blog post from start to finish usually takes around 2 hours, and that I can flesh out some of my ideas or edit the photos for the post in about 20 minutes.
Dave often laughs at me because now that we have kids, I have time estimates for various tasks both with and without children — for example, getting groceries with children will most likely take 1.5 to 2 hours, when I can do it by myself in almost exactly 1 hour.
By knowing approximately how long various tasks and to-dos will take me to complete, I can better know how to utilize small pockets of unexpected free time throughout the day.
For example: if a grandparent unexpectedly stops by to play with the kids for 30 minutes, I know that I would never have enough time to get groceries or write an entire blog post… however, I would have enough time to respond to a handful of emails, clean out the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, and fold a load of laundry. Or, if Dave gets home from school extra early, I might quickly clean the bathrooms or clean out my van before starting dinner.
None of these tasks are things that absolutely need to get done that day or that minute… but eventually, I would need to empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, clean the bathrooms, and clean out my van — so by knowing that those tasks need to be done eventually (#1) and knowing how long those tasks take me to do (#2), I can better utilize my time and be much more productive.
3. I Constantly Look For Productive Opportunities.
At this point in our lives, Dave and I have chosen not to use any type of daycare or nanny for our kids, outside of Nora’s preschool. We both feel like the main point of me working from home is so that I can actually be home with our children (revolutionary, I know!)
Because of this, most of my mornings and early afternoons are spent playing, feeding, clothing, reading to, and being with my kids.
I know that I generally have enough time to complete my to-do list after Dave gets home for the day and after the kids are sleeping at night — however, I am always on the lookout for small pockets of unexpected time during the day that I might be able to squeeze in one of my to-dos.
For example, if Nora and Simon are playing nicely together while James is napping, I might be able to quickly prepare dinner, or at least part of dinner (I usually do this in the morning if possible). Similarly, if I can occupy them at the table (coloring, lunch, snack, gak, crafts, etc.) or entertain them with a 15-20 minute show on Netflix, I can use that time to tackle a few of the shorter to-dos on my “lists”.
This doesn’t mean that I’m rushing around all day long trying to squeeze something productive into every single minute of my day — it just means that I’m always looking and prepared when an opportunity presents itself because I know that in order for me to accomplish everything I want (and need) to do each day, I can’t afford to waste time.
By simply knowing what I need to do and how long it will take me to do it, I can turn unexpected pockets of free time into mini productive periods throughout the day. And honestly, it’s amazing how often those little free pockets of time randomly “appear” throughout my day (probably because I’m always looking for them).
Preparing to be productive is a relatively SIMPLE concept; however it’s not necessarily EASY. It’s a learned skill that will require lots of repetition to form a habit… but from personal experience, I can confidently say that it is worth the effort.
Preparing to be productive has allowed me to accomplish more, stress less, sleep more, and procrastinate less (all good things in my book!)
Want more productivity?
Here are a few more of my favorite productivity posts:
7 Tips for a More Productive Morning (and why I’m not following many of them!)