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As women with jam-packed schedules, productivity can feel like an achievement that often alludes us. As homeschooling moms this reality seems even more prevalent. There are so many items you need to attend to, aside from making sure the homeschool day goes off without a hitch. No matter how hard you try there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Something always gets left behind, and usually it’s the thing you really needed to get done. At times, you’re left feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. So, what can you do to have a productive day?
I began asking myself that question one Friday evening as I stared at my carefully crafted “To Do List”, with less than half of the tasks completed. I was exhausted and should have been going to rest from a long week. Instead, I was sitting on the couch, staring at the list, and trying to figure out how I could get at least one more thing done before I passed out. I knew there had to be a better way. I wondered why my list failed me. Weren’t lists supposed to be synonymous with a productive day? Planning and lists are such an important part of my sanity, so feeling let down by the very method that usually brought me solace and peace was a devastating blow!
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As I continued contemplating the likelihood of tackling another task on my list. I was hit with the realization that the problem wasn’t the list. The problem was the contents on my list. My focus turned to identifying how to make my list work for me, and I was reminded of a quote by Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, “Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is important this very second.”
I regrouped and came up with a method to make this List Lover fall back in love with lists!
How to Have a Productive Day Everyday
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1. Create a “Brain Dump” List
List everything you want to get done today. Don’t worry if the task seems insignificant. Just list everything, and get everything out of your brain. By putting it all onto paper or an electronic document, you no longer have to carry it around and try to remember everything. Trust me, this one step helps tremendously with reducing stress.
2. Break It Down
Look at your “brain dump” list and determine what tasks MUST BE completed today. Circle, put a check mark, or highlight all tasks that must happen in the present day. If a task can wait until tomorrow DO NOT PUT IT ON THE LIST. Try to keep your list to no more than 7 items. This is your “MUST DO” list.
Note: I chose the 7 items/tasks because this number seems to be a sweet spot for me. You may work best with less items or even a few more than 7. Choose a number that works for you.
3. Organize It
Now, look at your list of 7 items and organize them in the order of importance. For example, “make breakfast” might be listed before “respond to emails”. Think about what tasks you would be really happy to get done in the present day and make sure you give them priority.
4. Tackle Your List
Start completing the tasks on your list. Make sure you complete the tasks in the order they appear on the list. Do not skip around. Also, you should only focus on one task at a time, and try to avoid anticipating the beginning of the next task. Lastly, give yourself short breaks (5-10 mins) as needed in between tasks to make sure you don’t burn out.
5. Rinse and Repeat
SPECIAL NOTE: You may not get everything done AND THAT IS OK!
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete everything on the list. Whatever you don’t complete should be added to your “MUST DO” list for the next day. Remember, you need to focus on what is important.
The List Lover is Back!
By using this new method of organizing my list in a more strategic fashion, I was able to complete tasks that were of most importance to me. Therefore, I reduced the likelihood of allowing less important things to get in the way. I was finally giving myself the privilege to focus on what was important to me! Now that I’ve learned how to use lists in a much better way, I’m much more productive and less critical of myself regarding what gets done.
If you’re a List Love like me, I hope I’ve given you a new way to look at using your list and keeping your sanity! What are some other ways you use list effectively?