Planners and Productivity 101 | Giftie Etcetera: Planners and Productivity 101

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Planners and Productivity 101

My friend S complained on Facebook yesterday about the irony of getting nothing done because she spent all day yesterday researching ways to be more productive. That, S, has happened to most of us. {shameful look} You are not alone!

I find three things actually help me to be more productive: a morning routine, planning in advance, and having production goals instead of time goals.

Notice that none of these things are about the "usual" productivity tricks, like having a schedule, doing two things at once, or making the perfect tasks list.

I have those things in my toolbox, of course. I have a rough schedule of the day on my weekly (or occasionally daily) pages and a set schedule of mandatory appointments on my monthly planner pages. I often multitask. For example, I stand up and clean the kitchen whenever I am chatting on the phone with my sisters. I wipe down the inside of the car and clean it out while parked in the carpool line. I do have tasks for today, tasks for this week, and tasks for the long term noted. In addition, I make special tasks lists to help me complete a project.

But none of these really make me more productive. For instance, I might multitask chatting on the phone and cleaning, but I can't really do that during a work call. Doing two things at once  is NOT always the best plan. (Texting on a cell phone while driving? BAD IDEA.) And if I spend my whole day making schedules and tasks lists, I get nothing important accomplished.

Instead, I start with a regular morning routine. It's my signal to my mind to get into work mood. It doesn't take long - less than 15 minutes - but it gets my day moving and is a smooth transition between nonwork and work.

For me, my morning routine is putting on my glasses, having a cup of coffee (and sometimes breakfast), checking my messages/e-mail, and looking at today's planner pages. It can be done anywhere where I might work - at home, at the office, or at a coffee shop.

Productivity Time management getting things done

I know a lot of productivity experts talk about waiting to check e-mail. That is such a sweeping statement that does not take into account the nature of your work and your temperament. For me, I need to know if any urgent e-mails need to be dealt with first thing in the morning. I'm also not a person who gets lost in e-mail.

The point here is to create a morning routine that says "ready to work" to you. Maybe you are a school teacher, and that routine means taking roll, checking your mailbox, or tea in the teacher's lounge until the bell. Perhaps you need to write a daily list to get started. Maybe you visit with your co-workers for five minutes, then shut your office door. If you are a stay-at-home mom, maybe it means tucking the youngest in for a nap and finally brushing your teeth (you know, at 2 p.m., when you finally have a minute to yourself). Whatever it is, make it simple, quick, and consistent. And give it time! It will take some practice, putting the routine together with subsequent work, for your brain to make that important connection.

I also plan in advance. Otherwise, dealing with obstacles will sidetrack your routine.

Some ways that I plan in advance include writing appointments and due dates in my planner as they pop up, instead of trying to remember all of them. I dress appropriately for the day. I put out meat to defrost for dinner or prep double veggies the day before. I make sure I have the tools to do my job with me (packed in a tote bag the night before if I am working away from my home office).

Finally, and this one is the key to success for me, I make production goals instead of time goals.

Maybe my goal is to chop fruit for the week for lunches, research and write the portion of my work project that deals with Alabama and New York, or finish all the letters/bills that need to go in the mail this month.

What I try to never use as a goal is a time-based one, like "working 5 hours" or "getting errands done by 4 p.m." I know, I know. All the productivity experts disagree with this. They say to make and follow a schedule. Workout for 30 minutes or work on Smith project for 3 hours. But I NEVER do it. I would just watch the clock the whole time, and I would be miserable.

Instead, with a production goal, like run two miles or make a complete outline for the Smith project and write the first three paragraphs, I am concentrating on getting things accomplished. I feel a sense of success that does not come from working for 3 hours. My brain learns to crave that high.

Oh, and happy side result? I tend to make my billable hours goals or have free time left to do something else (like read a book or watch a movie).

TIP: If you have a production goal and limited time, set a timer to know when you HAVE to stop, goal accomplished or not. No need to clock watch and stress yourself out.



Mathochist said...

" I wipe down the inside of the car and clean it out while parked in the carpool line."

Smart! I would love to see a whole blog post devoted to little gems like this about how to discover/use otherwise wasted moments.

Christi said...

I agree with Mathocist!!! Little tidbits like that would be awesome!

Giftie Etcetera said...

I put some stuff in the Facebook group, but I'll think of a bunch and do one master post soon.

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea!! Me too. said...

I do a combination of production and time tasks. But like you suggested, when I do time, I always set a timer. Otherwise I would definitely clock watch and that would slow me down. Plus it's a drag.

Ali @ Glutenfreehomebakery said...

I'm a big list maker. Love hearing your ideas!

Unknown said...

I am looking for a user friendly planner. What do you guys think is a good one. Need space for notes and list. Love your blog. Full of ideas and makes me happy. Your the type of gal I would love to set down and have coffee with :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels the same way about these 'productivity experts'. Just about every piece I've read by an expert stresses to not check email first thing in the morning or to set specific times to check it. Perhaps they're directing their post to the self-employed who don't have anyone to answer to. Where I work, if I went 2-3 hours without checking my email it would not go over well!