Simple Ways to Be More Productive With Less Time
It should come as no surprise here that I am a planner. I like to stay organized and follow schedules. It’s what teachers do. You try corralling 24 nine year olds without a minute-by-minute plan. Chaos for sure! And of course that trickles over to my personal life.
However, I am currently in the depths of the newborn stage with Violet and the question how to be productive when there’s less time is on my mind. I’m lucky to even be able to write this post right now. And in all honesty it’s probably going to be written over several days in short spurts. It’ll be between writing this post or rushing around cleaning up the house. Or more likely trying to take a nap so I don’t feel like a zombie.
Anyone who’s had a baby or helped care for a baby or knows someone with a baby knows that getting things done with a baby is way, way more challenging than when you’re just doing you. Oh the days when I could just procrastinate for hours!
What does it look like to be productive now?
Being productive now looks like a well-choreographed sprint. Usually I wait 5-10 minutes to see if Violet is actually asleep enough that she won’t hear me creep away. If I’m successful, it’s an all out rush to do everything that I couldn’t do when I was trapped under her little sleeping body. But surprisingly, more gets done now than it did before. Here’s what I learned about being more productive with less time.
Focus on shorter bursts of “doing” rather than how long it takes to get it “done”
Previously whenever I started a task I thought of it in terms of how long it would take to get done. If I needed to write and edit a blog post, it could take roughly two hours. So either I was sitting for two hours to grind it out or I did it in two one-hour increments. I was all about big chunks of time because I had big chunks of time.
Now, instead of setting out with the idea of getting things done, it’s all about what can I do with this amount of time. I may have fifteen minutes or I may have ten so the focus shifts to smaller tasks. If I’m working on a blog post I may spend my first fifteen minutes outlining it. The next time I’m free to work on the post, I’ll take the next step. It’s all about breaking things into bursts of productivity rather than needing sustained productivity. It’s also helped me be more focused on what I’m doing.
Stay hyper focused on what you’re doing
Along with working in short bursts, it pays to be hyper focused on what needs to get done. Admittedly this is still something I’m working on, especially when I’m doing work on the computer. I have to remember to close all the tabs and hide my phone!
When I am focused on the small task or tasks that I can get done in that short burst, I sometimes get it done faster than I thought I would. However boring or annoying a task may be, if you stay focused on getting it done, it usually gets done quickly. So hide the phone, close the tabs, and get focused.
Prioritize what brings you the most happiness
There are tasks that need to get done because they have to get done. There are tasks that need to get done because they have to get done AND it makes you happier when they’re done. For me, I like when my bed is made and Violet’s room is put together. Once those tasks are done, I feel happier and they really don’t take that long. On the opposite end of things, I don’t really enjoy dusting the living room. How does it get dusty so quickly?!?
Prioritizing the tasks that bring me the most happiness helps me get more done. Instead of starting with the annoying/boring/awful tasks, start with a chore that needs to get done that you don’t mind doing. It’s like I trick myself to actually enjoying (kinda maybe) doing chores. Doing the more enjoyable boring tasks first will get you in the mindset of doing work so you’ll still have some energy to do the rest of your to-do list.
Choose one or two MUST dos
Just today I flipped through my planner and landed on a weekly spread from before Violet was born. Each day had a detailed list of to-do’s, most of which had to get done right then. I was really proud of getting every single one done. When there were no arrows moving an activity to the next day, it was an achievement. That was a productive day.
If I felt like every single activity on my to-do list was a must do now, I would go crazy. When you’re living your life in fifteen minute bursts of productivity, you have to choose what really is a must do. I try to have one, maybe two things on my list that are must do. They are things that have to get done, like paperwork for the insurance that is due by the end of the month or completing thank you notes.
Must do’s now are usually more time sensitive than other things on the list and they might be more time consuming than other tasks. Now my must dos are spread out over the week. It may seem like I’m getting less done but I think I’m more focused and strategic with my time.
Give yourself grace
The most important thing I’m learning about how to be more productive with less time is to give myself grace. While I feel like my focus and time management has improved having these time constraints, I’m learning that there will always be things in my day that won’t get done. I’m learning to be okay with it.
I hate the saying, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.” Yes, it’s true, we are all given the same 24 hours in a day and we have the choice about what to do with them. However, we’re not all operating with all the support people we need to have our hands free and a 100% focus. If you’re trying to get things done with a full plate and without a full support staff, you’re basically superwoman.
Giving myself grace and understanding in this period of my life is important but it’s also hard. Some days I still get down on myself for our messy living room or the fact that the baby’s laundry is still not folded and put away. I’m trying to be more understanding that right now there’s just less time for keeping a perfect house or pumping out lots of blog content. Instead these are the days for cuddling a sleeping baby or making a home cooked meal with Nick.