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10 Tips for Getting More Done Every Single Day
on February 16
The list of things I want and need to do is always much longer than the list of things I actually accomplish. I can’t do it all. I wish I could. I am constantly striving. But at the end of the day, I’m usually just a girl who drops more balls than I catch.
And I’m okay with that.
You may remember that my New Year’s resolution this year was to do less and enjoy more. This is such a hard concept for me. There are so many things I want to do that I have a hard time slowing down, cutting things out, and not burning myself out.
This year I’ve made a few conscious adjustments to the way I do things, and it seems to be helping.
I am by no means perfect. In fact, I’m so far from perfect, it’s not even funny. Much to my own dismay, my house is not always clean, my kids are not always cute or well-dressed, my laundry tends to pile up, not every closet or cupboard is perfectly organized, I’ve given up hope of ever parking our car in the garage, sometimes I pay our bills a few days late, and occasionally we eat cold cereal for dinner because I just don’t feel like cooking.
The type-A-perfectionist-overachiever in me gets frustrated by these failures, but the eternal optimist in me keeps hoping that someday it will all come together.
Until it does, here are my strategies for squeezing the most quality time out of every day:
1. Set your priorities.
Take 10 minutes to write down your priorities and to examine who or what is important to you. Keep this list in a place where you can look at it frequently. The amount of time you spend on things should be somewhat relative to how important it is in your life. I realize that this is easier said than done, but life is short and moments are precious. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
2. Set the timer.
I have found that setting the timer is the best way to motivate myself to do things that I don’t want to do and the best way to limit my time wasters.
For instance, I like to have a clean house but sometimes I can get a bit carried away, not wanting to do anything else until my house is spotless. Limiting myself to 1 hour of cleaning time a day has made me realize that I can still function even if there are spots on the mirrors. And more often than not, because I am racing against the clock, I get more speed cleaning done in that hour than I would otherwise.
Limiting the amount of time I spend on seemingly endless time-sucking tasks like email and facebook and twitter has helped too. If I only have 15 minutes to sit at the computer, then I have to prioritize.
Finally, setting the timer provides motivation for things I hate doing, like paying the bills. If I know I only have to do it for 45 minutes, I can force myself to sit down and focus.
3. Take time to regroup
I try to give myself 10-15 minutes each morning to drink a cup of coffee, sit down with my planner and write down my to-do list. Likewise, I try to take a few minutes at the end of the day to figure out what my plan is for the next day. Knowing what is coming up, what I have to get done, and what I’d like to get done helps keep me focused.
4. Set small weekly goals.
Several months ago I was inspired by this post on Ashley Ann Campbell’s lovely blog, Under the Sycamore. Rather than make monthly goals, which I had always done in the past, Ashley wisely sets small weekly goals for herself in 4 categories. On January 1st I resolved to try this new method and 7 weeks in, I’m amazed at how much more accomplished I feel.
Each week I set one goal for myself in the following areas: Home Improvement, Organization, Project Completion, and Family Fun. For my weekly organization goal, I choose a week out of Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life, which is set up to give me a completely organized life over the course of one year. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. This book helps me break things down into manageable pieces. So far, it seems to be working.
5. Use a planner and checklist.
There is something so satisfying about crossing completed items off your list. Or maybe that’s just me. I use a checklist each day because it helps me stay focused in spite of the billion distractions–kids, phone calls, email, errands, runaway dogs, etc.–I encounter each day.
I started using a planner this year after being without one for a long time. Whenever something comes up, I write it down and no longer feel like I have a million things to remember taking up space in my head. I also write down my weekly goals right in my planner so that I can stay on task.
6. Involve your kids.
For the longest time I was trying to accomplish things around my kids until one day it finally occurred to me to let them help. Sure, things may take a little longer, but instead of ignoring them and saying “not right now, mommy’s busy” we are spending quality time together.
Trouble loves helping unload the dishwasher, loading the washing machine, wiping the table, and picking up toys. Princess, on the other hand, is a big help with sorting the laundry, hanging clothes, and clipping coupons. And they both love to help me cook. The hour or so before mealtime used to be extremely stressful, with 2 crabby, hungry, & whiney kids who just wanted my attention. Now they want to help me make dinner every night and instead of dreading that time of day, I cherish it.
7. Divide and conquer.
If you have small children at home, you know how hard it can be to accomplish anything while they are awake. I try to split my to-do list into things I can do with the kids or while they are awake and things I need to accomplish while they are napping. The second Trouble goes down for her nap I stop whatever awake-time task I was working on and switch to the nap-time list. Like setting the timer, knowing I am working against the clock, I can usually focus and get a lot done during that time.
8. Wake up early or stay up late.
I am a morning person, so getting up at 5am doesn’t bother me. And to be perfectly honest, I love the peace and quiet and alone time I get at that time of day. However, since I have had kids, I also stay up much later than I used to, usually until 11pm or midnight. Those hours after the kids have gone to bed or before they wake up can be so productive. I figure there will be plenty of time for sleep when they’re teenagers, right?
9. Avoid television.
Husband and I have one show that we enjoy and watch regularly, but otherwise we rarely turn on the TV. And honestly, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. There are so many things that far outrank television on my priority list that it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice.
10. Give yourself a break
For me, this is the hardest part. But I’m learning. Luckily I have a great husband who not only helps out around the house, but helps remind me of my priorities and tells me its okay if I can’t do it all.
Because no one can do it all. It is just not possible. So try to relax, do what you can, take a break when you need it, and don’t get so caught up in your to-do list that you forget to take each moment as it comes.