10 Ways to get more things done in a day (How I trick myself into being more productive)

Starting with a realistic version of the yoga ‘child pose’…

Starting with a realistic version of the yoga ‘child pose’…

Every day your list of things to do gets longer and juggling all of the new 'baby chores' on top of your other lists can be overwhelming. Sound familiar?

Every day I have a different list but there are still a lot of things that get crossed off. I love hearing about other people’s organisational tips and here are ten that I use regularly that help me get more done.

(NB: I am not a super-mum – but I do get a lot of things done.)

1. Keep a pen handy and write things down.

Whether you use a diary, notebook, cell phone or other ‘write down system’, this is a vital tool for keeping your list of things to do manageable.

It may seem trivial, but writing things down stops things from floating around in your head. This also helps you to sleep better and not worry about forgetting things. When my head is full, I can’t relax – and we all know the importance of being able to relax when you are stretched thinly across all the needs of your family.

Currently I have a week planner with weekly priority lists, a small notebook for ideas that strike me when out and about and a desktop on my work computer covered in ‘post its’. I use the electronic ones because I am a bit green like that  - but it is so satisfying deleting them when they are done.

Of course, once you have your ‘write down’ strategy sorted, start crossing things off when they are completed. Reward yourself for doing so much. Small achievements count.

2. Number your lists in terms of priorities

A big list is not manageable and can be overwhelming. Take two minutes to number your list from ‘most important’ to ‘least important’. Try to tick off the most important items first.

Another way to prioritise is to break the list down into ‘quick and easy’ or ‘time-consuming’. The quick and easy list can be crossed off between the bigger jobs you need to tackle.

I love crossing off ‘two minute jobs’ when I need a break from the ‘big jobs’. I love a diary that looks like a scribbley mess by the end of the week because of everything that has been crossed out.

3. Involve your baby in chores/wear your baby

One of my biggest mistakes I made early on was trying to do all of my house chores (and start my business) during nap times.  This did not work because it didn’t allow me to have any ‘me’ time and I resented my new role as a housekeeper/homemaker.

Do your ‘jobs’ when your baby is awake - then you can both/all have down time when they are napping.

I wore my baby in a sling when he was little and he now helps with chores. We make everything a game or a learning activity. (I.e: laundry activities = sorting colours, making a pile of laundry to hide under, a tunnel under the clothes airer, adding pegs to string and sliding them, transferring pegs to different containers, pinning pegs to clothing that you are wearing and getting your toddler to get them off you and peg themselves. Changing bed sheets: making a tent for teddies, ‘whooshing’ the sheets, making a ‘sheet hill’ for your toddler to roll down, making a pillow castle, bouncing games, tickling games... be creative!

I have yet to try the ‘strap mops to your knees crawling race’ for mopping the floor – but I have it nicely stored…

I would love to hear your ‘fun while cleaning with a toddler or baby’ ideas!

4. Set measurable goals for the week

You might have an exercise goal or a house work goal, a personal goal or a business goal. Whatever it is, make it ‘SMART’ -  Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

i.e: ‘exercise more’ is not a measurable goal but ‘walk at least 20km a week’ is. If you have a measurable goal – you can park 1km away from your destination and quickly get ‘another k’ in towards your goal of 20.

It’s also another good idea to share your goals. Write them on the fridge and encourage the whole family to set a personal goal.

Recently I have teamed up with some other like-minded mummies and we meet once a week to share goals, progress and future goal setting for the following week. I feel more productive because I tell them what I want to achieve and I feel accountable – but I also make sure my goals are measurable so that I don’t have to say ‘I haven’t done anything’. Even small goals, when achieved, can do wonders for your self-esteem and general well-being.

(NB: I used to be a secondary school teacher (can you tell) and setting learning goals was vital for tracking development with students and for building their self-esteem– why not apply it to life in general?)

5. Use a  ten-minute time-boxing technique

This is a technique where you give yourself ten minutes to do something you need to do/want to do. Turn off your phone. Close down the internet. Time yourself and just do it. Without distraction, you might be surprised at how much can be done.

Free-writing in a ten minute time box: This can be a mood booster. Give yourself ten minutes to write everything down that is bothering you/worrying you/stressing you out. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar or sentences – just get it down and don’t stop for ten minutes. When you are done, throw it away. This can be so cathartic and help you have a better mind set for other things that need to be done.

6. Incorporate warm-ups for  work

Sometimes I ‘finally’ get my window of opportunity and I am not in the mood to do anything.

If I have illustration work to do, then doodling might be my warm up.

If I have writing work to do, then writing in a diary might be a suitable warm up. Or a crossword puzzle might help my brain switch into the right mode.

If I have business ‘stuff’ to do, then tackling the ‘easy’ job list first might help me get my mojo on.

If the warm-ups don’t work, at least you tried. Allow yourself some down-time and reshuffle your priority list and see if you can’t ‘just’ cross a couple more small things off instead while you boil the kettle and settle in for a nice cuppa.

7. Plan for ‘you time’ and quiet time

I go walking every day with my son. I try to go rain or shine. I don’t take my phone unless I am going somewhere slippery and might need to call for help (currently pregnant and lacking balance). It is good for me and my son likes it too.

What I want to better at is giving myself time to read (something which feels like a luxury these days). ‘Reading time’ needs to be added to my list to make sure I allow myself time to do it. If I write it down, it becomes a measurable task – if I don’t, it is just a dreamy maybe that might never make its way back into my life.

8. Plan twice, make once.

We don’t live near any shops so if I need to make something (food/craft/other) I need to make sure that I have everything on hand. Jumping back in the car to get extra groceries and supplies is not worth the time wasted travelling.

9. Break larger tasks into achievable smaller blocks

‘Clean house’ – as if. (Too much)

I used to have a much cleaner and tidier house. Now the house chores still get done – just not all at once. If you do a couple of small things each day from your list of house chores, then you are still doing pretty well in my books. I.e: Two windows a day would be manageable – but not all of the windows in the house!

i.e – ‘Clean kitchen’ gets broken down into easy jobs: wipe bench, rinse dishes, load dishwasher. Wipe cupboards, mop floor etc.

A friend squirts jiff onto the surfaces she wants cleaned in her house and lets ‘whoever discovers it’ wipe it off when they next shower, wash their hands, use the toilet etc. I like that concept…

Forceful delegating anyone?

10. Do something every day for future you

For me, the way I start each day is important. If I wake up to a house full of trip hazards, dinner dishes and piles of washing, then the grumpy monster settles in for the day and my day will be much less productive while I dedicate my time to ‘mind bitching’.

-          So I try and do ‘something’ to ensure that future me (tomorrow’s me) will wake up nicely.

Some ideas might be: do a quick toy sweep of the house to make sure there is nothing to trip over. Get the coffee cups out/breakfast table stuff out in advance so that it feels like someone is helping you make breakfast. Prepare the kids’ lunches/snack packs/nappy bag the night before. Hide the pile of washing behind a closed door (it’s still there but at least you can tackle it when you are ready!). Choose your baby’s clothes (and yours) the night before so that getting dressed isn’t a mad rush of ‘where are my socks?’…

Little things count. (Mummy learning 101).

Share your goals and tips! I would love to hear them!

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