pro•duc•tive: (adj) Having the power to produce readily and abundantly; generative; creative.
Photo by bitporters
We home managers have a lot to do. What are ways we can increase our productivity without hiring a staff? Here are a few tips.
1. Determine your specific goals and desired results. Do you want a perfectly labeled pantry? Then take the time to do it well. But if your goal is simply to clean the kitchen, don’t get sidetracked by that nonessential job. You’ll never finish cleaning the kitchen.
2. Monitor your time management. Find out how much time you really are spending on certain tasks. There are lots of great online time management tools for free, such as Toggl. It’ll probably be eye-opening.
3. Limit your TV time. Seriously cut it back. I’ve been floored at how much more I’m able to get done now that we almost never watch it.
4. Write things down. If you’re like me, then managing a home, parenting, and working part-time means my brain cells are devoted to a myriad of things – and if I don’t write things down, I will forget it. Keep something handy with you at all times to write down things you don’t want to forget, be it big or small. This is the foundation of the popular Getting Things Done system. (I’m working on devising a GTD plan for home managers – but more on that later…)
Photo by Uros Petrovic
5. Know yourself. Notice when you’re most alert and when you’re most distracted. Do you need coffee at 1 p.m. to make it to bedtime? Make sure and get that cuppa joe. Does music really help you clean better and faster? Then turn it up.
6. Expend your energy logically. In congruence with the hack above – if you know you’re an early bird, yet your energy really slumps in the afternoon, then assign your tasks accordingly. Focus on jobs that require the most physical or mental energy in the morning, such as managing your budget or weeding the garden. Then in the afternoon, fold your laundry or make that your blog-reading time.
7. Turn off computer software you’re not using. If you really need to figure out your online bank statements, then close out other websites for the moment. If you need to write a long email that requires your full concentration, why not close out your email client and/or the internet, and use a text writer until the email is written? That way, a “ding!” saying you have new email won’t distract you.
8. Get enough sleep. You know this one already – you feel a lot better and get so much more done when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Those days when you were up way too late the night before – well, you know how it is the next day.
9. Don’t try to do everything perfectly. This is an essential one for a perfectionist like myself. I’ve never been good at gardening, so I don’t try to do more than the basics (and even that doesn’t always work). Instead, I focus on those tasks I’m better suited for, like home decor. I still try my hand at gardening, but I don’t stress over it.
10. Eat simply. It’s fun to try a new recipe from time to time, but when your goal is a productive day, stick to what you know well. Simple recipes tend to be quicker, and can often be healthier.
11. Don’t bring distractions inside the house. If there’s a celebrity magazine that sucks you in and causes you to sit all day on the couch, then don’t even bring it through the door. If you have a habit of thinking you’ll fix or remodel a garage sale purchase, but the poor toaster sits for months untouched, then maybe get rid of it and buy one that actually works.
Photo by always canadian
12. Go outside. We stay-at-home and work-from-home moms can easily spend all day inside the four walls of our houses. If you’re lethargic and overwhelmed, go outside for a bit. Sit on the back porch with some iced tea, a notebook, and a pen, and gather your thoughts. Being in the sunlight will renew your energy.
13. Exercise. It increases your energy, and therefore your productivity.
14. Do what you love, and do it well. If there’s an area of home management where you’re particularly gifted, it’s okay to focus more time and energy on it. You’ll actually feel more productive because you’re doing something well, and you know how to do it. Sewing takes more time than running to Target, but if you truly love sewing and are pretty good at it, then maybe it’s worth the extra time to make your own curtains. They’ll be exactly how you want them, and at the end of the day, you’ll go to bed knowing you’ve accomplished something. You can’t do this every day, but every now and then, it’s perfectly reasonable to devote several hours to your craft.
15. Read the Bible. Pray. In the morning is ideal.
16. Clean as you go. A little clutter pick-up every few hours is easier than a major overhaul at the end of the day when you’re exhausted. Either strategically make piles, or put something where it belongs from the get-go.
17. Stop clutter before it starts. I know that’s not always realistic with little kiddos, but you can do it with your own clutter. It really is much easier to throw away junk mail as soon as you get it, instead of letting it pile up. This concept is what I’m trying to do with cleaning up after each meal.
18. Make something. Even if you don’t think you’re creative, you’d be surprised at how doing a craft for an hour with your preschooler will revive your spirits.
19. Read only worthwhile blogs. There’s so many good blogs out there, and you’ll never truly benefit from them if you’re also trying to read 75 blogs that don’t really do much for you. Be ruthless and slash them out of your RSS reader. If Simple Mom isn’t blessing your life, then by all means, delete it. Seriously.
Photo by kelly
20. Organize logically. Put cooking tools that you use while you’re using the stove near – well, the stove. Toss your bills near the area that’s best for bill paying. Put items you don’t mind your little ones playing with at their arm’s reach, so they can get them themselves. Likewise, if you really don’t want your kids touching something, then put it where little hands can’t get at it.
21. Cut down on clothing. You’ve heard it before – if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. I prefer to have fewer clothes that are more well-made and fit better. I can wear them again and again for years while they retain their quality. This means less clutter and more closet space. Less clutter means more productivity, because your home will be easier to maintain, and it will be more functional. (And yes, oftentimes quality clothing is more expensive, which is why I hit the Goodwill in the nicest neighborhood in town before I go to a regular shop. 9 times out of 10 I find what I need at the Goodwill.)
22. Be unproductive in a deliberate way. We all need down time, and it’s not necessary to always have productivity on the brain. So when you’re unproductive, do it well. Read books that are about something you’ve always wanted to learn, instead of a random book that had a pretty cover at a garage sale. Turn on the TV when there’s a show you hate to miss, instead of having twaddle blare in the background while you space out. When you surf the internet, use tools that help you find stuff you’re genuinely interested in, like Stumble Upon or Kirtsy.
23. Delegate. Moms tend to think they wear a cape and mask, but it’s mutually beneficial when everybody in the family pitches in around the house. Kids can clean their own rooms, and even littles can start learning.
24. Encourage productivity. Don’t nag, but do be a cheerleader as your family completes tasks. Use music if it helps, make a game out of it, or do something fun as a family when the jobs are done.
25. At the same time, give everyone (and yourself) some grace. If you push yourself to be productive too much of the time, you’ll burn out and then get nothing done.
26. Ask, “How can this be done better?” If you pay your bills with paper checks and envelopes, just because that’s how you’ve always done them, maybe online bill pay would be more efficient. Instead of making pasta sauce every time you make spaghetti for dinner, consider making a ton of it at once and freezing it for later.
27. Multitask. We moms are great at this. Clean the bathroom while your little ones are in the tub. File your nails while you’re on the phone. Chop up all the veggies for the pizza toppings while the dough for the crust is rising.
28. Singletask. But sometimes, certain things need all our attention, and they’re done more thoroughly and efficiently when we don’t focus on anything else. Don’t try to organize your office supplies and alphabetize your files while you’re sitting at the desk to empty your email inbox. It will take you hours longer, and you’ll only be halfway engaged.
Photo by Grace and Alice Schnebly
29. Cultivate a hobby. Don’t get lethargic about life! Take up something you’ve always wanted to do, like running or knitting. It’ll increase your mental (and sometimes physical) stamina, and more stamina means more energy. We need energy to be productive.
30. Drink water all day long.
31. Use social bookmarking sites to find what you need on the web. Google is great, yes, but sometimes if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, social bookmarking can really come in handy. If you’re looking for an easy shoulder bag pattern, and you see one on del.icio.us that’s been bookmarked 318 times, maybe that’s one worth looking into.
32. Make a weekly schedule and stick to it. If one entire Laundry Day works well for you, then assign a day for it and devote yourself to the task. Or if you’re like me, and prefer to do a little laundry every day, then pick a good time of day to do it, and make yourself a short daily appointment with the washing machine.
33. Make a to-do list that works well for you. The Daily Docket might be a good option.
34. Put that to-do list in a Home Management Notebook.
35. Have a small home. 1,200 square feet is quicker to clean and usually easier to manage than a 3,000 square foot house.
36. Change your definition of productivity. Maybe you’re expecting too much out of yourself, so you feel unproductive when the 30 items on your to-do list don’t happen. Instead, like using the Daily Docket, make a deliberate decision to plan out what you’ll be satisfied at accomplishing by the end of the day.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before. “ Franz Kafka
What has been your experience? What increases your productivity as your manage your home? Have any to add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Can’t wait to read them in the comments section.