When reflecting upon what was an amazing 2014 (we planned a wedding! got married! went on a honeymoon in Europe! found out we were expecting! I launched a side business!) before ringing in the new year, I decided that one of my most important resolutions would be to master the art of productivity. I wanted to figure out how to better organize my time and life so that I could spend less time feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and more time working in a smart, productive way. I was tired of going to bed every night with the house a wreck, feeling like my to-do list was still pages long and as though I hadn’t accomplished anything worthwhile. I know that my time is going to become even more precious with the addition of a baby girl to our family in July, so I want to feel like I’m in an organized place leading up to my maternity leave. While I can’t say I’ve come close to mastering this art quite yet, I have spent a lot of time educating myself about productivity, and I’ve made several changes in my daily life that have made me feel like I’m on the right path to my goal. While many of these tips aren’t groundbreaking, hopefully some of them will help you to become a bit more productive in your daily life, too!
1. Education. There’s a wealth of information out there on productivity, from podcasts and blogs to books and magazine articles. I was quite overwhelmed at first, but eventually became excited that so many individuals are also interested in this subject. There is such a vast amount of knowledge to be learned! Here are a few of the resources I’ve used: The Productivity Show, A Life of Productivity, The 5 AM Miracle Podcast, “The B Bar Blog” and “Elle & Co.“ And a few books on my reading list: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives,” “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
2. Waking up early. I’ve found that I’m most productive in the morning, when emails aren’t flooding my inbox and I can sit down with my cup of coffee, get a handle on my day and power through projects and blog posts. I’ve started waking up an hour earlier (at 6 a.m.) and getting right to work. This was an easy change for me since I work from home, but I’ve found that I can get so much done by 9 a.m.—which is when most people are just starting their workdays. This routine really sets the tone for my day and allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished at least a few major tasks before lunch.
3. To-do list management. I live and breathe by my to-do list. If it’s not on my to-do list, it’s not getting done (and I’ll most likely forget about it), so I try to write down everything. I use Meg Biram’s GSD Master List Notepad because it’s perfect for organizing my various projects. I tear the sheets off and put them on clipboards: one for Glitter Guide—which I divide into categories like content, business, partnerships, shoots—and one for all my other freelance jobs, personal blog and event company work. I update these lists every week and cross off tasks with a highlighter. I also use TeuxDeux, which is a website-slash-app for an electronic to-do list that updates me daily based on what I check off. I put all of my personal and more specific tasks here, whereas my “Master List” has larger, more general tasks.
4. Email management. Email is a big time-suck for me, and a place where I still need a lot of help. I can sit down and lose hours of my day just responding to emails, and then end up not crossing anything off my to-do list. This is definitely a work in progress, but I’ve tried to stick to a few rules to help: I block off time for emails on my schedule and try not to be glued to my inbox all day. This allows me to get other tasks done. I don’t check email on my phone unless I’m out all day for something like a shoot. Especially on the weekends and nights—I just don’t look. This has been really helpful. When I run out to Target during the day, there’s no reason to look at my inbox. I know I can’t respond until I’m home, so checking only causes unnecessary stress. I’ve also started religiously using labels, folders, stars and tasks in my Google inbox. I can’t believe I waited so long to do this. I’ve found the tasks to be the most helpful—when I first log on, I check my tasks to take care of any emails that I put off from the previous day. I have a running micro to-do list specifically for my inbox. I’m trying to only check my email four times a day—early morning, before lunch, after lunch and before the end of the day—but it’s taking time to really force myself to stick to this routine.
5. Scheduling. Scheduling differs for everyone, but since I work from home, I can set my own schedule. For me, this is a big perk of self-employment. Until this past year, I tended to wake up, look at my to-do list, get an idea of what needed to be done and spend the day taking care of business. I’ve usually been inclined to tell others, “I’m flexible—let me know what time works best for you.” But I’ve become more strategic as I’ve realized that I can control my schedule and plan things more intentionally. I don’t schedule anything on Mondays if I can avoid it; instead I reserve it as a catch-up day for easing back into the workweek. This change has been so helpful! I try to plan all of my calls and meetings for after lunch (when I know I’m less productive), saving my precious morning hours to knock out big projects. I also block off chunks of time for specific projects to keep me on task. This has really changed how much work I’m able to do—sometimes I even set a timer! To do this I use my Google Calendar, where I also add appointments and reminders. I don’t let myself check email during these times unless my task is “Clean out inbox.” Finally, I try to start my day with the tasks that are the most time-consuming and least desirable so that I can get them over with!
Do you have any productivity tips or resources? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
—Caitlin Kruse, Editorial & Partnership Director of Glitter Guide
Image by Natalie Franke