Productivity doesn't just happen. You don't just wake up, get things done, and be an effective powerhouse. You have to make the effort, and that's hard. The TV and social media are always beckoning for your attention, kids need watching, dinner needs cooking, and all the "must do" tasks on your list become "do laters". Then later you feel guilty that you didn't accomplish more. First of all, there is no reason to feel guilt, let that go. Then, using our 10 steps below, start creating the tools you need to make being effective feel effortless and significantly less stressful.
Step 1: Visualize. Picture this...
Imagine a day that starts with you waking up to know exactly what needs to be done. Your clothes are laid out, you know what you should do and how long it will take. It could be little things, like having a clean travel mug for your coffee in the morning, or perhaps you know where your keys are without looking... You go about your day, effortlessly crossing things off your task list, because you have the right amount of time to get each of them done. At night, you automatically set yourself up for success the next day, without wondering how to do it. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
Now spend some time visualizing what your day would look like if YOU were set up for success. What would it feel like to know exactly what needs to be done and know you had the exact right amount of time to accomplish it? What kind of person do you picture? Is she well kept? Hair done, socks that match? These are all things that can be done with the right set of routines.
So picture it. Really spend some time thinking about what it would look like and how it would affect your life.
Step 2: Find the time
You need to know what time you have available to get this routine(s) done. If you know that you only, realistically, have time from 8 pm to 11 pm on weeknights, use that time. Work within the time you've got. You can always adjust it later, especially after you start finding more time in your day thanks to your new more effective lifestyle, but you have to know when you'll fit it in to start with. We recommend a morning, afternoon, evening, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual routine, so spend some time deciding what time each day you'll do your routines, as well as what day of the week you'll do your weekly routine, what day of the month, etc.
Step 3: Make a list (check it twice)
List all the things. We mean it. List everything you want to get done. We recommend doing this on a scrap piece of paper. Here is an example of a list for a morning routine:
- Wake up
- Brush teeth
- Get dressed
- Fix hair
- Make coffee
- Eat breakfast
- Take vitamins
- Set up slow-cooker for dinner
- Start load of laundry
- Leave for work
Take the time and list all the things for each routine you want to make. You'll probably forget things and have to add them, which is why the scrap paper is nice to use for this step.
Step 4: Put the list in order
You know that you can't brush your teeth and get dressed before you wake up, so organize your list chronologically and in a way that makes sense. 1..... 2..... 3...... Once you have them all in order you can write them down some place more permanent.
Step 5: Communicate with the household
There's nothing worse than getting excited about your new productivity plan and finding out that you can't make it happen because of someone else's schedule. This is why we recommend talking to your team (your family) and finding out if there is any reason you can't dedicate these time slots to the greater good. If you expect help with any of the routines, like if you are planning on someone cleaning the kitchen after you cook, then we recommend discussing that too.
Step 6: Set an alarm
Until your routines become habits, set alarms. Most smartphones now allow you to name your alarms, which can be extremely handy. Name them after your routines so you don't wonder why you have an alarm going off at 6:45pm every night. Set as many alarms as you need to in order to set yourself up for success.
Step 7: Use a timer or stopwatch.
You know that you have set aside only so much time for each portion of your routine. If your entire routine is going to take you one hour, and you have four things on your list, you know you must get each item done in 15 minutes or less. A timer or a stopwatch can really help keep you on track, as well as let you know how long each task really takes.
Step 8: Be consistent.
The only way to turn these routines into habits is to do them regularly. Try not to skip it. If a routine isn't working for you, or if it takes too much time, or if you otherwise just find yourself avoiding doing it, take the time and ask yourself why? Perhaps there is something that needs to be tweaked and adjusted to make it a more realistic undertaking. You can't get from zero to hero in one go, so be persistent and consistent.
Step 9: Adapt and overcome.
Is the routine working for you? Does it leave you feeling less stress or less anxiety? Do you feel better prepared for the day? If it is doing the opposite of any of these things, it might be time to tweak and adjust your planned routine. This should help make your life easier, not harder. Most people won't enjoy doing their routines right away, this is normal, push through. If the results of your routine aren't what you hoped for though, then adapt the routine in the ways you think will make you more successful.
Step 10: Don't give up.
We are hoping that every routine you set for yourself (or a family member) will lead you down the path of greatness. We hope that you wake up feeling ready to tackle the day and that you go to sleep with confidence in what you can accomplish, but if not, don't feel discouraged. Keep trying, keep adjusting, and above all, know that progress, even in the tiniest of increments, is still moving you in the direction of your goals.
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Jane Wild, Founder of Jane's Agenda
Serial entrepreneur, former Operations Manager, boy mom, and proud wife to a disabled USMC veteran.