We’ve all been there: It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon on your day off—AKA, the day that you planned to get your whole life together (i.e., clean the apartment, catch up on your side hustle, organize the pile of mail that’s been growing on the kitchen counter, shop for groceries, attend a yoga class…)—and all you’ve managed to do is make your bed, browse Pinterest for interior design ideas, and successfully post a photo of your smoothie bowl on Instagram. #goals
As women, we wear so many hats and juggle A LOT of different plates. It doesn’t help that the longer your to-do list, the faster time seems to fly—whether you’re tackling it or not. On the days that I work from home, I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle to manage my time wisely. No matter how productive I think I am being, when my husband walks in the door at 6 PM, I find myself wondering how I could have let the hours tick by without completing X, Y, and Z.
In the past few months, however, I’ve had to learn the hard way what works to get all of my stuff finished on time (#adulting, amIright?), and I’ve come up with 5 simple tips to help you do the same! (If you are already a time management guru, however, skip the steps and scroll down for a Saturday surprise!)
Write it down
This is by far the most helpful tip for me when it comes to working wisely. I’ve always been a lover of lists, but it wasn’t until this past January that I started keeping all of my lists in one place—a simple change that has aided in my sanity and boosted my productivity tremendously. I use the Nourished Planner religiously for this exact reason: it allows ample space for meal plans, shopping lists, and your biggest 5 to-do items for each day so that you’re never scrambling to meet deadlines. But honestly, any journal or notebook will do! The best feeling at the end of the day is scratching off (or in my case, highlighting) what I’ve completed, and with the help of a paper planner, I’m ready to start fresh each morning—knowing exactly what I have on my plate.
This one sounds simple, but for me, it’s anything but. Like most of you, my job requires me to be on the computer. But perhaps unlike most of you, my job requires that I be active on social media, the #1 biggest distractor in the world. I can’t really help that, but I do my best to stay away from the rabbit holes that are my personal Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. While I’m working or writing, I’ll listen to music to help me stay focused and if I must take a break, I’ll get up and walk around, have a snack, or go outside for some fresh air. Resist the temptation to browse the internet mindlessly. The second you open up your Feedly page to read an article, your five-minute break will quickly turn into thirty precious minutes wasted.
Track your time
Ever block off a specific amount of time for a specific task, only to realize by the end of the day that you severely under- or overestimated how long it would take you? This problem is at the root of poor time management, and yet, it’s such a common mistake. Luckily, I recently discovered a very nifty time-tracking tool called Toggl. I use it for my job, but it definitely comes in handy when I’m writing, too! Turns out, I’m a very s l o w writer. But now that I’m aware of just how long it takes me to crank out a post, I can plan more accurately for writing assignments and deadlines.
Talk yourself through each task
Next to drinking a cup of coffee, this somewhat silly tip gives me the most energy in tackling my to-do list, especially when it comes to housework. (This might not be as good of an idea in a cubicle…) Time to do laundry? Say out loud: “Okay, first, I’ll wash the towels—and while those are drying, I’ll throw in the whites…” as you gather the full hampers. Need to organize the pantry? Try talking yourself through it: “Bread will go here, in this corner. Canned foods belong on this shelf, next to the pasta.” It may sound stupid, but I promise you, it makes the most mundane chores kind of fun! And if you’re tired or overwhelmed, talking yourself through each task—one at a time—will help you get through that midday slump and just keep going. Promise.
Stop thinking/researching/procrastinating and just do it
Lastly, I give you the most important rule of productivity, the secret of all secrets when it comes to getting shit done: Just do it. Okay, so it’s not much of a secret, but it is fool-proof. As a master procrastinator myself, I tend to research and plan and think about the best way to do things for hours before I get to actually doing the dang things.
Exhibit A: When I was in high school, I loved reading blogs and wanted to start my own, but I kept putting it off, thinking that I first needed to learn everything I could about blogging. So I kept reading—for months. Until finally, I realized I could spend a whole lifetime learning about blogging before making the first step towards becoming a blogger myself. My thinking was counterproductive. Don’t worry about how someone else is doing something or if you have the latest and greatest tools for the job. Just get off your booty and get started!
What are some of the ways you manage to stay focused on the job at hand? I’d love to know!
You may be thinking, ‘Emily, just get to the GIVEAWAY already!’ Alright, alright—you got it, friends! I’m excited to share that HSG has teamed up with Ally of That First Year and Kaitlyn of KVH. Creative for our first ever Instagram giveaway! Included in the collection are a few pretty things to help with your daily projects and overall productivity: an Anthropologie mug, May Designs notebook, and U Brands pens. We’re all about providing inspiration and encouraging expression ’round these parts, and what better way to do that than by giving away a few items we love for the #CreativeAndCaffeinated ladies (or lads) among us?
Find out how to enter HERE! And may the odds be ever in your favor.
*Deadline to enter is Tuesday, March 7 at 11:59 PM CST. Winner will be announced Wednesday, March 8!
UPDATE: Giveaway is closed! Congrats to Bree (@seabreeeeeeze) on being our #creativeandcaffeinated winner! 😉
Photos by Megan Weaver.
Co-Founder & Editor | Emily graduated from the University of Texas in December 2013 with a degree in English and journalism under her belt. She currently lives with her husband in Frisco, where she works for a chiropractor and moonlights as a lifestyle blogger. On any given day, you can find her hanging out at a quiet coffee shop, nose-deep in a good mystery novel or snapping photos of her extra frothy cappuccino.
3 thoughts on “Productivity 101: The Secret to Tackling Your To-Do List (+ A GIVEAWAY!)”
I’ve started using RescueTime (similar to Toggl) for the same reasons! It’s a big kick in the butt when you see staring you in the face just how long you were on FB that day.. and similarly awesome when you can track doing better each day. I might need to get back to writing out physical lists myself, I like digital ones for going between devices but sometimes the process writing helps me organize my thoughts much better!
Gah, I know the feeling with social media! It’s killer. But I think my tendency to waste time is exactly why I need an app like Toggl or RescueTime, haha. As for list-making, something about physically writing the task down helps me work towards marking it off. My digital lists usually end up collecting dust!
OH my goodness. We are so alike! This spoke to me so much, too! Great tips and I use so many of the same tools The best! xo