We all have those can’t be arsed days when all we want to do is laze about on the sofa and watch cookery shows on TV (or maybe the cookery shows is just me?). However, most of the time we just can’t afford to do that. Does anyone else find that once they let a day slip it feels like you are playing catch up all week? For me, it’s now essential that I am productive, or I can’t generate income basically!
Over the last few months I’ve worked out a few ways to make sure I get shit done. It’s not just about work, but it’s also about fitting in things like times to workout and prepare meals. What I find is that by being organised, the time I can relax is actually spent relaxing instead of stressing about the stuff that isn’t getting done. Hence why I’m writing about this on a healthy living blog – all the kale and half marathons in the world means jack shit to your health if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed!
Here’s a few tips that have helped me. Some of this may sound like a lot of work, and it is to start with. However you need to think of things longer term, once you’ve set up reoccurring task lists etc they will save you way more time and stress over the long term believe me!
Be the queen of lists
I write lists for everything. My world would come crashing down around me if I didn’t have my lists! I use Evernote so that I always have synced lists on my phone, home computer, work PC and iPad. If you aren’t into the technology a pretty note book does the job just as well. A good place to start is with a weekly to do list spilt into days, and a monthly to do list as well as a shopping list. I know that there are some set things I need to do each week and every month, so I keep a ‘master’ list of reoccurring tasks such as sorting out my finances, backing up my blog etc. Then I transfer items from those lists to my weekly / daily to do list. Due to the way I work, I also keep a note at the bottom of my weekly to do list with things I know are coming up that might be one offs so I don’t forget them, for example renewing the car insurance.
For my shopping list I try and keep an ongoing list of stuff I need, not just groceries. Before I head to the shop, I to transfer the groceries element to a piece of paper as the phone signal for Evernote in my Sainsbury’s is crap!
You can get a fabulous free printable to do list from The Creative Exchange and this creating the ultimate to do list on Stylist is awesome.
Don’t be afraid to be flexible
As much as I have my weekly to do list split into things to do each day, I am flexible with it. I’ve learned that if I force myself to do a task I’m just not in the mood for I will a) do a crap job of it and b) take forever doing it. Instead I look at the list and see if it’s possible to switch things around and do something I’m feeling more in the mood for. This post is a good example of this as I had noted on my list that today I’d write a reviews post but I really wasn’t up for that and felt like writing this instead! Same with things like cleaning etc. I try and do things well before any deadlines they have, but sometimes you do just have to suck it up and do them unfortunately!
Know YOUR productive times
I think that some of us are more productive in the morning and others in the evening. For me, I do my best work in the first half of the day. I generally have a mid afternoon lull, so I try and do tasks then that don’t require as much thinking. Lucky for me I do have a little productive boost in the earlier evening as well. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses and working with them means I get the most out of myself.
Use technology, but not too much
Let’s face it, technology is awesome! There are now so many things you can use to help you be more productive, phone apps can be wonderful for this covering everything from managing your household budget to reminding you to drink more water! However, it can have it’s downsides. I know that I can easily lose a day just responding to emails and social media so I set myself times to go on it. I answer emails in one batch each morning, then check at lunch and at dinner time. Anything that is not urgent get’s knocked back to be answered the following morning (I love the Mailbox app for this). With social media I tend to check morning, lunch and evening but try and stay off it the rest of the time. Try having a look for phone apps that can help you with things you struggle with or have trouble remembering.
It can be really hard when you are faced with a to do list a mile long that you know you’ll never get done. Obviously it makes sense to prioritise what tasks are the most important and then knock the other ones back to tomorrow or later in the week. I try not to give myself more than 3 major tasks a day, if I finish them I can do something that I’ve knocked back to tomorrow, or I can make myself a cuppa and put my feet up ;-)
I schedule almost everything, it really has a huge impact on how much I get done. Trying using a paper planner or calendar app on your phone. I use Google Calendar which syncs with the Sunrise app on my phone. I schedule the times I’d like to workout, as well as meetings and appointments. I add big major tasks to my calendar sometimes as well. If you know you need to be reminded of something, the Sunrise app is good for sending you a little alert.
I could write an entire post on meal planning, in fact I have a whole fact sheet on it in the 12 Weeks to Feeling Fabulous Course! It is a brilliant thing to get into the habit of doing. It doesn’t mean you have to lose all spontaneity or that you can’t have what you fancy if what you planned isn’t floating your boat that night. Keep it flexible and something that you quickly revisit each day and it will do it’s job much better. Meal planning saves you time in trying to decide what to make, last minute emergency trips to the shops, and time preparing food. In my experience with clients, it’s also one of the best ways of making sure you are eating whole foods based meals. Don’t forget you can get a free meal planner when you sign up for my email updates.
I think my over all view of being organised is about getting as much ‘stuff’ out of your head as possible. When you have a million thoughts about doing this or that stuck up there, you can waste so much time just trying to make decisions. Once it’s out, either on paper or using one of the fabulous techie things, then that’s less time spent trying to decide what to do and more time doing it! Once you’ve started to use those tips, then it’s about making them into habits, everything becomes a lot more automatic after that.
Do you struggle with keeping organised and being productive? How do you get shit done?
My main challenge is to get started on big tasks – for instance, a big batch of marking or a significant writing piece (I am an academic). My desk never looks as clean as when I have a big task to tackle ;-)
The way I deal with these big tasks is to break them into small chunks and to focus on one at a time. So, instead of tackling, say, 150 exams, I focus on 5. And if I am really struggling with focus, I give my self a time limit – I say to myself: ‘I will only work on this task for 20 minutes or whatever’ (and, importantly, I do stop when that time limit comes).
Great tip to chunk things down like that! Love the idea of setting a time limit too!
I’m such a productivity junkie! I think that point about knowing your most productive time is really important – now I have a little more control over my days, I make sure to get certain tasks done in the AM and so on. My big tip is Kanbanflow – it uses the agile workflow method, and I can set timers on it that keep me focussed on a task. #productivitynerd ;)
Ooh will have to check out Kabanflow, sounds intriguing!
Love your tips. I can get so overwhelmed at times. I will write so many lists but I think my main problem is my husband ;-) bless him. He can tempt me away from my job list by saying “oh let’s do that later….let’s watch TV….let’s just chill” But I guess really it’s my fault for getting tempted! I hate nagging as well so tend to take a lot on myself rather than keep saying “Ben can you do x please” because I like to just get things done there and then rather than waiting. Gosh I sound like a control freak! I guess I am a bit…but most of the time I tend to have a handle on things. And let’s be honest, housework can always wait sometimes if I’m feeling stressed ;-)
I’m the same, I tend to think if you want something doing do it yourself! James will then ask why I didn’t ask him to do it but then doesn’t understand why I like things done now instead of later haha!
I needed this post yesterday! I really couldn’t concentrate and the day kind of slipped away quicker than I wanted it to.
Starting off with a list is always the best course of action for me and it reminds me of what I need to get done. I put absolutely everything on the list – even texting people back/replying to emails as I find I can often get into long winded conversations when someone replies straight away because they are sat at their desk. Instead, I make a note to leave a reply until later so that I don’t lose half an hour of my morning!
I like your idea of answers emails in batches 2/3 times a day and this could work for me. Emails drain my day away otherwise!
Any good organising app suggestions for Android?
Glad this was useful! I’m sure Evernote is available on Android I use it for everything!
Love being organised and I am mostly good at it. Everything for home and school goes in ipad diary. Everything at work is diarised with reminders for everything just in case. Lists are great I always prioties 3 things to get done first and usually start with the one I least want to do. I’m the same with the housework. Worst job first and then it’s done and out of the way then I can feel positive about it. I find with meal planning I only get on with one day at a time but I usually have a craving going on for something so I usually plan that in too. Also my husband cooks at least twice a week while I’m at work and we decide together what it’ll be usually. Just read your blog whilst eating your Mexican inspired tortilla salad, very nice. I’ll be having it again tomorrow at work oh see I planned two days lunches.
Sounds like you are super organised! I wish I was better at doing the worst task first though!
I am definitely getting better at getting shit done, but it still needs some work!
This is really helpful Laura, looks of good tips. I’m a massive procrastinator, and I flit between being distracted by everything and then getting stressed as I feel I don’t have enough time to get everything done, need to incorporate some of these tips!
Glad this has been helpful Lauren!
I totally agree with all of the above Laura. I’m a really organized person but it’s largely because I’m a list-maker…if I can’t get stuff out of my head and on to paper then I get all befuddled and don’t get anything done! It’s almost like the act of putting something on a list reassures my brain that I won’t forget and then it can let go and stop stressing :)
I am totally addicted to lists, in fact if I do something that is not on my list I will add it just so I can cross it off! I recently started using my google calendar and I love it, although I need to think about when I actually want the alerts sent (eg some of them were coming while I was at work so too late really).
Thanks for sharing this. I struggle with this quite frequently. Once I stop being productive for the day, the day is gone and then the week is gone because I’m playing catch up. Amen to this.
I love this post! I love to be organised, and write lists in the morning and end of every day so that I can come in the next day and know what I need to get done, and then throughout the day to keep on top of everything. It definitely helps me to prioritise when I’ve got a lot on my plate, and I factor in meetings etc so can set myself realistic goals.
We use Google Calendar at work which is really useful, and I set my own personal reminders on my Outlook calendar. My iPhone calendar keeps me up to date with personal appointments etc. Really should think about syncing them all up….