6 Tips to An Ultra Productive Day

Truth be told, this post was going to be named about 47 other things before I settled on "6 Tips to an Ultra Productive Day". That's because there are several ways to start your day off on the right {read: organized} foot. And today I'm going to share with you the transformational steps I learned how to take to make my days start off as smoothly as possible. So let's dive in, shall we?

 
6 Tips to An Ultra Productive Day_theluvlylife
 

The Simplest Way to Start Your Day

What stresses you out at the end of the day? My trigger is an evening filled with disorganization and chaos (be you never saw that one coming......sarcasm). I have energy at the end of a busy day by mornings are time constrained and I'm not an early riser by nature. Getting as much prepared, packed and set up for mornings makes our lives so much easier.

I say our lives because, remember, I'm a working mother of three young children and a wife to a wonderful man, but who's attention span is that of a mosquito. {Sorry honey} And I've seen my own friends who run through frazzled mornings as well, only to barely get everyone off in the right direction.

Here are some small steps you can take to turn those frazzled mornings into a thing of the past. And keep reading until the very end....the last two are SUPER important for anyone aiming to hit their goals this year!

1. Pack as Much As possible the Night Before

My oldest kids are in elementary school still, but I do ask them to partake in making their own lunches. I want them to know how to fend for themselves eventually, and this is a good starting point. The oldest makes his own sandwich and picks his snacks, grabs his drink and puts his entire lunch together with only help if a sharp knife needs to be used for anything. (P.S. He's 10)

My next school age son gets only two choices (sandwich type - ham or turkey) and also grabs his own snacks and drink. If he's feeling bored with the choices or doesn't like anything I've offered, I resort to the school lunch menu. If nothing appeals to him, he's responsible for putting together a lunch option and gets final approval from us.

My youngest is a super picky eater and she's still only 3....so she doesn't get much say as to what goes in her bag ;)

2. Make A Vertical Command Center Using Magnets

I love the pictures of neatly filed papers on a home office desk or magazine rack but in reality, it's not where my eyeballs land before all of us go off in several directions in the morning. That's why I implemented this next tip in my own household.

Unless you live in a cardboard box, chances are there's a metal fire rated door in your house or apartment. It may be on the way to the garage (if you have one) or the front door to your apartment. Either way, this is a great place to use magnets to hold important, time sensitive papers. I use this spot in our house to put the papers that need to be seen before the kids leave for the day. 

For example, school pictures are being taken soon. I used a strong magnet to put the picture papers onto the back of the mudroom door. If we forget the paper to hand in on picture day, then we're probably hanging out in the mudroom with our eyes closed and shame on us. 

Other examples of papers I stick to the fire door are teacher contact info, birthday party invites, permission slips, etc. I also have a flexible pocket I bought at a home office store where I can toss in some coupons or gift cards so we can grab them when we're flying out the door.

3. Universal Electronic Calendars + Paper Planners

Because we are a family of 5, chances are we're off in varying directions any day of the week. To keep it all straight, I have a command central family calendar that hangs on our wall by the kitchen table. But what happens when we're not home sitting at the table below and a schedule change happens?

We make use of Google calendars with different calendar colors for each member of the family and/or theme. The calendars are synched in real time across all wireless devices in our family (even grandparents) so when questions or changes come up, everyone can see the calendar in real time.

calendars_screenshot_091616

As you can see, all but my youngest child (because she's only a toddler right now) have their own calendars. I use a separate calendar for meal planning so there's no question around "hey, what's for dinner tonight?" And events that happen on a recurring basis with no timeframe, show up at the top of my calendar view.

Checking the universal calendar after lunches are made ensures that the likelihood of missing an important event (school picture day, sports try outs, even bill pay reminders) are slim to none.

Because we use Google calendars, it automatically creates a list called Tasks and gives me the option to show it in my calendar, which I do like. 

I also still carry around a paper planner that I've been using for a few years now. It's a disc system planner I found at Staples. Each year I print out a variation of planner pages to keep myself organizes as a whole.

 
DIY Planner_theluvlylife.com
 

This planner is sectioned off to incorporate monthly calendars, daily views with tasks and to-do lists as well as prioritized items to complete for the day or week, a few folders for those important loose papers we need, and a section entirely dedicated to notes I take.

4. Capture Ideas Wherever You Are

As many people with busy lives, I sometimes find myself driving to one of my many weekly destinations when a flood of ideas come at me. Well I can't just pull over to the side of the road and start writing furiously. So the next best thing? Grab my phone and start speaking my idea into Evernote.

The sooner I get an idea onto "paper", the better chance I have of coming back to them to continue nourishing them. Creativity comes in spurts so getting the sparks down and moving along to the next thing helps keep everything fresh and moving. It's like creating a bank of small ideas to keep in my pocket when writers block sets in.

I personally love the voice-to-text feature as it captures my ideas at the moment they come to me and helps me continue with my busy end-of-day process.

5. Overestimate Your Time

As a project manager it's my #1 job to understand timelines and what it'll take to get the job done, including how much time and how many resources. Every single day I hear the question "how long will this take?" and my standard response is based on set intervals of time. 

Setting up intervals not only standardizes your workflow, but it gives you the ability to stand firm on your response AND build in some cushion in case something goes wrong {which does happen}.

Overestimating the time it'll take to get a project done will give you that necessary cushion and it'll help you when the project goes south, for whatever reason. I always tell my clients "I will always tell you the truth, but you may not like what that truth is". In the end, they appreciate more the fact that I give them a longer timeline but can stand behind why it's longer than they expected.

6. Break Out Your Day

If you've never heard the story about how the boy got all of the rocks, pebbles and sand into the jar, it's a story about prioritizing for success. 

Here's a visual example:

Say you have a Mason jar. You have 5 large rocks {about the size of plums}, 12 small pebbles {about the size of grapes} and 2 cups of sand. You need to put all of that into the Mason jar and put the lid on it.

If you fill the jar with sand first, then the rocks, you won't have room for the pebbles.

If you put the pebbles in first, then the sand, you won't have room for the rocks.

If you start by putting the rocks in first, then place the pebbles in the jar, and top it off with the sand, the sand will fill in the holes and everything will fill the jar.

Think of your day as the Mason jar. It's rigid and won't ever change shape. Much like your day, it only has 24 hours and you won't ever get more. 

Now think of your business tasks in terms of the analogy.

The rocks: getting client work completed, the marketing scheduled, the launch email funnel/series finalized

The pebbles: writing and scheduling blog posts, editing some graphics or video

The sand: working on that course that you bought, researching your next month's worth of content ideas, tweaking your site design

By prioritizing the biggest tasks of your day first, then the smaller but still essential ones next, and lastly the fine items, that'll round out the day and you'll fill the day as best as possible with all the important tasks that you need to accomplish.