Productivity: How to Get Things Done, Even When You Have Three Jobs! My 8 Best Productivity Strategies
Someone asked me today, "How do you get so much done?" Gee. I had to stop to give that one some thought! How AM I productive? Am I productive enough? How do I get things accomplished in my life?
I had (and have) been doing certain things to get things done for decades, but had not given those time management strategies much thought until I went to answer that really good question this morning. I've always been a person who gets a LOT done, but HOW? Hmmm...I stopped a moment to ponder this.
For many years, I was the active mother of four children, all involved in sports and extracurricular activities. I've always worked a full time job outside the home, and still managed to work out three to five times a week, take college classes, and read at least one fiction book per month for enjoyment, plus any requisite nonfiction books on my list.
These days, I help my husband farm our small homestead, which entails animal care, garden maintenance and scheduling, and upkeep. I just retired from a full time career last year, and I began my blog right before that last year started. I now blog full time at home, and I put in about eight hours a day, not including the time spent on projects I write about.
In addition, I work as an herbalist for those who need help, when I'm asked. I still manage to work out about three times a week and I read an average of two books per week as well. I'm also still taking professional course-work, through online institutions to further both my herbal and blogging businesses.
Now, I know I'm not the only person who manages to get tons done each day. This is hardly an unusual phenomenon in our insanely busy lives--to just have too much to do, in addition to the things you WANT to do, right?
Here are the strategies I use kind of automatically to try to maximize my time.
Note: There may be affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping support Healing Harvest Homestead--Heidi
How I Get Things Done
1) I Block My Time
I had never heard of "time-blocking," but evidently this is what I've been doing for many years. I was calling it "batching," because that was the word that made sense to me. Essentially, this means that I try to schedule similar tasks during the same time period so I can get a lot of those done and out of the way.
For example, if I need to get some natural deodorant made, I'll also make sure to make some other salves that need to be made, infuse more oils if need be, and work on any herbal tinctures I need to bottle up or create.
If I'm making bread, well, then I'll go ahead and get the loaves started, take care of the sour dough starter and any other baking needs at that same time. I get everything messy all at once. I am guilty of saving up all my dishes dirtied during the day until evening---that way I can get them all done at once. We don't have a dishwasher, so yes, they sit in the sink, rinsed off, ready to be washed in one go.
My house doesn't always look perfect, but in this way, I can get more done at once.
2) Scheduling by the Minutes (Chunks of Time)
This is similar to what people are now calling "time-blocking," but there's a difference.
I started doing this when I was in my twenties. I was running a licensed home daycare, taking care of over six babies and after school kids, I had my own two babies at that time, was 100% nursing, and I was taking college classes in the evenings. On weekends, I waitressed at a nearby cafe for the breakfast crowd. I also worked out at least two times a week. I was SCREAMING busy.
I literally scheduled my days in terms of 15 minute blocks, and I stuck to that schedule like a dictator. Before the term, "like a Boss" was ever popular, that is what I was doing: I was scheduling my life like a BOSS. My days did not deviate from what I had scheduled unless there was an emergency. Those days of working, raising kids, and going to school are a blur, but I can say I accomplished a LOT.
These days, I'm a little more lax, but I still try to stick to a daily schedule. What I do now is use my phone to set alarms throughout the day. This makes me stick to a rough schedule. I even schedule an alarm to remind me to drink some water during the day--because I do forget.
3) The Dreaded To-Do List
When I make sure to write my priorities down for the next day the night before, I tend to get more things done. I'm more productive because I'm not going at the day willy-nilly.
I have so many things on my to-do lists, that if I manage to get about half of them done, I'm happy. And having crossed them off gives me a feeling of accomplishment, too.
I do not write the small things on my list, either. I put the big things on there, that I know MUST be done and/or that take a good chunk of time. Then I figure out how my day will be chunked up.
Bottom line: When I make that To-Do list, I get more done. When I don't make the list, I'm not as productive.
4) Stay Off Social Media & Other Distractions
What a time suck social media is! I swear---if I happen to open up my phone and start in on Facebook, I'm done in for hours. So. I have learned not to even look at my phone the first three hours of the day. Period. I also don't look at emails those first hours either. If I do, then I'm sucked into the black hole.
When I look at the things I accomplish by checking emails or weighing in on Facebook, I have to admit to myself, it's Nothing. Or at least Very Little. Sure, there are important things that I need to respond to via email, but I have found more often than not, that email is a big distraction, just as is Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Yes, those things are fun...and yes, they are even necessary evils to my current blogging business. In fact, they are vital. The key is to only spend minimal time, schedule that time, and apply my batching strategy above.
Yes, I know that's a bad word these days. I know evidence says you can't do more than one thing effectively at a time.
However. I have to say that one of my goals is to read a certain amount each week. I love reading! So, I use Audible to enable me to listen to books and information I want to hear while I'm cooking, doing dishes, cleaning the house, driving to town, etc. Why waste that time?
I still try to actually READ a book or magazine for at least thirty minutes a day, but my Audible time is done while I'm actively doing other things that don't require a lot of thought. Double-duty is a great thing, in my opinion.
6) Take Little Breaks
I admit. I'm really bad about doing this. I tend to go like a maniac all day long. I have thought about and actually planned in time to meditate or do a little yoga during the day. And when I actually DO stop and do these things, I have found my productivity actually increases afterward.
More often than not, though, I'm guilty of not stopping. This is something I'm working on.
7) Chunk Big Tasks into Smaller Tasks
Some projects are just big. Like HUGE. Writing an eBook, for example, takes a lot of time. And this is time spent doing many different things over a period of months! Therefore, I have found that if I break that large task down into the smaller things that need to be accomplished, then I can plan those out over a period of weeks.
8) Do Certain Things at Certain Times
There are some times during the day when I'm just more creative! This period of time will be when I try to sit down and write. There are other times during the day when my brain is just done, but I feel great! These periods are times for house-cleaning, getting out into the garden or chicken coop, tending animals, exercising, or making things.
So, when mental energy is high, I spend that period of time doing things that require thinking and applications. When physical energy is higher, I work out. When both are on the low side, that's when I take that little 15 to 30 minute break and meditate or do yoga...then get back to work.
Final Thoughts on Productivity Strategies
I wasn't planning on writing this article, I'll be honest. This article was written on the fly in response to the question above, "How do you get so much done?" I figured I'd sit down and write out what I do to get things accomplished during the day, and at that point, I figured, "What the heck? I'll just put this on the blog!"
And that's how I roll. I'm pretty impulsive. So, even though this article was not on my to-do list today, I did it anyway, and I hope it helps some people. It actually helped me, because it forced me to give my own time management some thought. I'll be tightening some things up because of this! Like, that social media trap! I almost went to that dark place this morning! :-)
You know, that saying, "I don't have time," is very relative. The bottom line is that if you are choosing to sit and watch T.V. when you could be getting more important things done, then that choice is going to affect you in some way. There are always consequences for every action.
So, if you have a desire to DO more, then adjust your daily choices. And the strategies above are some of the things I do to help me make those good choices, at least most of the time! One thing I'm really bad about and always have been, is taking time for self-care (besides working out). But that's a topic for another day.
My goal is to be more intentional about these strategies now. And to add some time to relax in there, too.
How do you get things done in your life? What are some of the strategies you use? I'd love to know! Share a comment with us!
Also, if you are interested in other similar topics around the homestead, maybe you'd like these articles: Urban Homesteading: Is it Really Possible?, 18 Necessities I NEVER Buy at the Store Anymore, and What I Do Instead, Homesteading: My 10 Truths About the Homesteading Life.
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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