Trying to figure out how to be more productive? Use these five tips to help you get more things done every day. These tips are simple ideas that everyone can do whether you’re a stay at home trying to keep your house in order or someone working full-time out of the home. Great tips for everyone!
Before I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom, I was a full-time project manager for a large technology company. Being a project manager meant that I had to basically figure out how to get everything done for a project within the allotted timeline and budget.
When I was working, I never struggled with being productive and getting a ton during the day. I had to, there just wasn’t another choice.
Fast forward to my life now. I have a to-do list but it’s things like wash the dishes, go to the park, photograph a craft, and other things that just don’t seem as time sensitive. I mean, the dishes will still be there tomorrow for me to wash if I don’t do it.
How to Be More Productive Every Day
I’ve really had to make an effort to be productive with my days so that when I’m talking to my husband at night, I can look back and see that I’ve actually accomplished something that day.
And watching ten episodes of Baby Yoda isn’t an accomplishment, although honestly sometimes that’s all I want to do. These five tips have helped me learn how be more productive each day and hopefully they’ll help you as well.
#1 – Write It Down
When it comes to my life, I have to write things down with pen and paper. You can use Google docs, an app on your phone, or whatever you want to keep track of everything, but if you don’t write it down, you’re going to forget it.
Choose what works best for you and go with that. I also like to have things written on paper and pen so that when I do a digital detox, I still have access to everything!
A couple of my favorites for keeping track of appointments, tasks, and so on:
- Erin Condren planner for deadlines, appointments, etc.
- Erin Condren notebooks for my actual to-do list
- Airtable – my absolute favorite way to keep track of my work digitally, it’s like Google Docs all put together in one massive database and ust amazing!
- Google Calendar – in addition to having an actual paper planner, I also like to have a digital one as well so that my husband can see things I put on it.
- Google Tasks – this is a very simplified version of a digital to-do list, but it keeps my longer-term projects and tasks all in one place.
Writing things down also means that you can check them off once they’re done. I personally love pretty notebooks like these ones!
#2 – Pick Your Top 5
This is something that I heard from Heidi Swapp at SNAP, and I’ve been using the idea ever since. It’s also similar to a principle in a book I’m reading, The Productivity Project.
Pick five things from your to-do list that you want to focus on for that day. And then focus on those five things first.
We often look at to-do lists and pick out the easy things on the list when in reality those are often the ones that don’t need to do done, or not right now. Make sure you’re picking the most important one.
If you finish those five things, go back to the list and pick something else to work on or give yourself a pat on the bat and take a break. It’s way too easy to look at your entire to-do list in the morning and get overwhelmed with all of the things you have to do; pick your five and finish those five.
#3 – Skip the Multi-Tasking
I am the queen of multi-tasking, and I always thought that was a good thing. When I’m writing a blog post, I’m almost always also watching TV. When I’m washing dishes, I’m typically feeding my son at the same time.
For some reason, I feel like I’m wasting time somehow if I’m only doing one thing. This is a habit that I’m trying to break, and I highly recommend you do the same. It is so much easier to get something done if you just let your brain focus on that one thing and not have to jump back and forth from multiple things.
Close your extra tabs, turn off the TV, hide your phone, and focus. Not only will you get things done much faster, they’ll probably get done much better than if you’d done them while distracted. Just put together that weekly meal plan, create your running playlist, or write that blog post.
The one exceptio for me still is doing the dishes – I’m always doing something else while I watch the dishes. It’s mind-dumbing work and other things give me something to focus on other than that I’m doing the dishes for the eighteenth time that day.
#4 – Set a timer and take breaks
I know it sounds a little counterintuitive to take breaks while you’re trying to get things done, but it works.
Set a timer and tell yourself that you have to answer emails for 30 minutes straight and then you can take a break. Or set a 15 minute clean-up timer and clean straight for those 15 minutes before you look at your phone.
But the secret is, you have to set a timer for your breaks too. 15 minutes to clean up then a five minute break.
The Pomodoro Technique actually does this with 25 minute increments. I like to do 30 because it’s a more round number, but 25 is good too.
#5 – Reward Yourself
We talked about taking breaks throughout the day. Take that one step further and after a productive day or a productive week, give yourself a small reward or if you finished a really big project, a big reward.
Small Reward Ideas:
- Dinner out with my family
- Watching an episode or two of my favorite TV shows (hello Gilmore Girls, Friends, and The Office)
- Going to a class at the gym
- Watching a chick flick like The Notebook
- Reading a book at night. Here are 15 books on my to-read list.
- Picking up my favorite magazine at the grocery store to enjoy
- Making my favorite mocktail and drinking it outside
- Going for a walk
- A DIY cucumber face mask
Big Reward Ideas
- A massage
- New outfit
- Girl’s night out with friends
- Getting a baby-sitter and going on a date night
- One of these self care gifts
And last but not least, my favorite big reward for being super productive is to plan a vacation with my family. We’ve got all sorts of trips planned for this summer including an Alaskan Cruise to Ketchikan, Alaska (a cruise for my mom’s 50th birthday).
My Favorite Books on Productivity
Want more tips on being productive? These are some of the books that have totally changed my mindset on productivity and work over the past few years.
- Atomic Habits – talks a lot about the stacking habits on top of each other, which is a great principle to learn!
- Miracle Morning – if you start your morning off right, it’s much easier to get everything done you want!
- Get Your Sh*t Together – one of my all-time favorite books, just a good kick in the pants for getting things done!
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – great for learning how to prioritize tasks and really fine-tuning your to-do list.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated and improved since.