There is always something that needs to get done. This week we’re starting a 2-part series about getting it all done, with Part 1’s focus on some of the things I personally do to accomplish what matters most to me.
Getting it all done is not the same as doing it all!
Does being a productive woman mean we’re going it all? Sometimes it seems like that’s what the world thinks. We’ve all seen the articles, the books, the portrayals on the screen of women “doing it all,” and if you’re like me, you’ve sometimes felt discouraged, because that vision of a productive women seems impossible to achieve.
I’ve often thought that it’s possible to do it all (whatever that “all” might be for you), but not all at the same time. I tend to believe that instead of trying to “do it all,” we need to decide what’s important to do at each stage of our lives, and then find ways to get all of that done. This is, I believe, somewhat different from “doing it all.”
This week is part 1 of a 2-part series on getting it all done–accomplishing the things we need and want to do today, this week, this month, etc. This week in part 1 I’ll share some of the things I do personally to be as productive as possible. Next week I’ll talk about some “best practices” recommended by others.
I’ve been asked many times how I “do it all,” especially when I had kids at home and was working, podcasting, etc. I usually tell people I don’t do it all, but I have gotten a lot done over the course of my life so far. I’ve been thinking lately about what that means, and how I’ve done it.
For me, it’s crucial to start with thinking deeply about what I want in my life and, even more important, who I want to be in the world, and to do my best to order my life accordingly. Finding ways to be both efficient and effective is key–to use my time well.
Family has always been the most important thing to me, although I’ll confess that priority hasn’t always been reflected in my calendar and to-do list. Nevertheless, much of my thought over the years about productivity has been focused on finding ways to be as efficient as possible, to allow me to get the necessary stuff of life and/or my job done as quickly as possible, leaving time for the things that matter to me
Another priority has been to foster and preserve my own peace of mind. I’m by nature a worrier, always looking ahead to how things might go wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to be at peace and to manage my time, space, and life to make that easier for me.
With those two priorities in mind, I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of things I do to help me get it all done.
1. I don’t do it all
At each stage of my life there have been things I wanted to do but deferred. For example, when my kids were young and I was having babies and home-schooling, I didn’t have a full-time outside job, and we limited the outside activities for us and for the kids so we could protect family time. Now I have a demanding career and a podcast, but my kids are grown and gone (so don’t require my daily attention), we don’t socialize much (and I miss that), and I’ve deferred writing until I retire.
At each stage of my life, I think hard about what matters most, about what my personal limitations are in terms of time, energy, and attention, and I intentionally focus my time, energy, and attention on those important matters for that stage of life and let other things wait.
2. Most of the time, I put things away right away (don’t put it down, put it away)
- Open mail at the trash can.
- Put my purse away when I get home instead of dropping it on the kitchen counter.
- Dishes into the dishwasher
- Clothes in the laundry or hung up as soon as I take them off
- When I cook, start by filling a dishpan with hot soapy water that I can put the mixing bowls, utensils, etc., in as I use them, so that nothing dries on them and while I’m waiting on food to cook, etc., I can quickly wash and stack them in the drainer.
- I try not to leave a room without scanning to see if there’s something out of place that belongs in the room I’m going to, and taking it with me. I keep a basket at the bottom of the stairs for things that need to go upstairs, and try to remember to grab those things when I head up the stairs.
Why? Cultivating this habit makes it much, much easier to keep spaces clutter free and tidy, which contributes to a peaceful environment, avoids distraction, and eliminates time lost to searching for things when I need them.
This requires that everything have a designated place, which is another element of this.
When it comes to organizing things, I try to make it even easier to put them away than it is to get them out, because when you want to use something, you’re more motivated to put forth effort than you are when you’re done with it.
3. I make my bed every morning
- Makes the room look neater immediately and pretty all day
- More restful to get into a made bed at night
This is a small thing that makes a big difference to me for my own peace during the day.
4. Keep things close to where they’re used
Whether it’s in my kitchen, my bathroom, my office, or wherever, I try to organize my space so that the tools I use the most often are readily at hand.
This also means that I keep a set of cleaning supplies in each bathroom–mostly toilet bowl cleaner, disinfecting wipes, and microfiber cloths–so that when I’m there and notice cleaning is needed, I can take 5 minutes to do that. (Helpful because I have a 2-story house.)
Similarly, I’ve organized my desk so that the tools and supplies I use most are within reach.
This habit allows me to be efficient and effective in accomplishing necessary tasks, minimizing the time spent on them so I can have more time for other things.
5. Write things down
Put appointments into the calendar with phone numbers, addresses, etc., and alerts set to remind me far enough ahead of time to prepare. Use the travel time feature in my calendar app. This is both an efficiency and peace-of-mind thing. It allows me to make efficient use of my time, but more important, gives my worrying mind relief from having to remember things.
6. Create a short list of daily to-dos every evening
I keep a comprehensive running list for the week that I start on Sunday and keep in a visible place. Each day I look at that “master” list and identify 2-3 tasks I’ll do that day.
On Friday night or Sunday morning, I create a list of things I need/want to get done over the weekend.
Again, this is a peace-of-mind thing. It helps me to focus on getting things done, knowing what the plan is, and not waste brain energy trying to remember.
7. Keep a donation box handy
I keep a box in an easy-to-reach spot just outside the door to our attached garage. When I run across things I can part with, I put them in the box immediately. When it’s full, I put it in my trunk or Mike’s truck to be dropped off at the charity shop next time we pass by.
This is about keeping my surroundings uncluttered and tidy, which helps me work effectively and also helps me be more peaceful. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch (Marie Condo would be horrified to see the hundreds of books I have in my home, for example), but by constantly culling out possessions that I’m not using for whatever reason, I can keep my surroundings less cluttered, contributing to a more peaceful life. Keeping a donation box handy helps.
8. I purposely remind myself to be grateful
I can get stressed by my job or when things don’t go right (e.g., refrigerator conking out). I’ve taught myself to stop when I start to spiral and instead to focus on what I have to be grateful for. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but by intentional practice it’s become easier to remember.
9. Go to bed with a tidy house
The first things I see when I come out of our bedroom in the morning are the “great room” area–kitchen and living room. It helps my day start better if those two areas are tidy, so nearly every day before I go to bed I wash dishes, turn on the dishwasher (if it’s full), straighten couch pillows and throws.
10. Look for moments of joy during the day and be present in those moments
This is not “natural” for me. My inclination is to always have my mind somewhere other than where I am. But by practicing looking for these moments, and pausing to notice them, take a breath, etc., I’ve become happier and more at peace–and all the studies show that happier people are more productive!
- Hummingbird feeder outside my office window
- Sitting on the patio with tea and a book for 10 minutes
- Quote from YT video: “Life is made up of a whole bunch of little moments, not a few big ones.” We shouldn’t spend our lives wishing away today and waiting for the weekend or our vacation.
A few last words
These are some of the things I do to be more productive–both in the sense of getting important and necessary things done but also to allow myself to make a life that matters as I define it.
What do you think?
What do you do to make sure you’re getting the things done that matter most to you? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
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Royse City, Texas