Double Your Daily Productivity in Just 10 Minutes
Is your to do list is taller than you are? Maybe you work without stopping all day and still don't feel like you got enough done when you pass out on top of your partially-folded laundry pile?
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Free Daily Battle Plan
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You woke up at 6am. Coincidentally, unless you're forgetting something, that was also the last time you sat down.
You continue working like a possessed windup toy until 9pm when your spouse catches you nodding off at the computer keyboard for the third time. You then look down at your to do list and realize with a sinking feeling that you got what feels like nothing done.
If this situation sounds familiar, you too have been a victim of sneaky, hidden, mom tasks.
Sneaky, Hidden, Mom Tasks
Let me start by saying that you do actually get stuff done. Even on days like the one above where you get to check maybe one or two of the items off your list, let me reassure you that you were actually Hercules'-twelve-tasks levels of busy.
In between the two or three small tasks you actually took note of doing, you filled up the dog bowls, changed the litter box, Lysol wiped four tables and seven counters, put away at least 9 pairs of shoes, folded two loads of laundry, rescued the toddler from near death at the hands (paws) of the scheming cat at least twice, made three box lunches, wrote a cute sticky note to hid in your hubby's folded clothes....
...you catch my drift.
Sneaky mom tasks are all the things you run around all day doing (but never manage to write down), so you never get "credit" for them.
To see a fun example of sneaky mom tasks at work, go out of town for a few days (you have to have a reason, like a work conference or trip...don't just walk out). When you get back, all the "official" tasks will have been done. The kids still got to school and ate (probably), but all the sneaky little mom tasks will have been neglected.
This is why, when you leave the house for more than 48 hours, you come back to something resembling a crackden.
So, now that we've identified "the productivity problem" (namely that there is no problem, your to do list just doesn't actually reflect half the stuff you do all day), let's solve it.
How to Fix the Productivity Problem
If you're driving somewhere new, the first thing you do is program your GPS. It would be ridiculous to get in the car and start driving randomly, assuming we'll make the right turns by accident, and realistically hope to reach our destination. (Do not try this at home. Not worth the gas money.)
As absolutely ridiculous as that sounds to read, this is what most people do with their days.
We wake up and bounce from task to task, assuming we'll get to what needs to be done, and hoping to reach our destination.
You have to make a plan if you expect to accomplish stuff.
Unfortunately, I can't take full credit (or any credit) for coming up with this concept. In fact, Habit #2 in Stephen Covey's highly-quoted The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind.
This is why it's important to make a plan. But how do you do that? Glad you asked...
The Elements of a Good Plan
While the simple fact that you're actually making a plan is a huge start, but there are several critical elements you should probably include in order to make the plan which will not only maximize your productivity but will actually be feasible to follow.
Even the most amazingly-made plan is still no good if you have no shot at following it.
Brief Yourself on the Day
This is the most obvious part. You need a list of all the things that are scheduled for that day. This means anything that happens at a specific time (meetings, calls, carpool, kids' extracurriculars, etc.). Anything that has an "o'clock" after it should get put on the list.
Also, since everyone seems to have eight million different calendars going on, I want take this opportunity to advocate having one digital calendar that gets updated the second an event is scheduled and then writing down on your battle plan each morning (rather than keeping a bajillion different versions at all times).
If you need more specific help, take a look at my post on how to organize your family schedule.
Focus on the Essential
You will never get to everything you want to get done.
As a mom, you will most likely never get to half of everything you want to get done.
That's why it's important to go into your day knowing the two or three things that absolutely, positively have to get done that day. This isn't the box for things you want to get done, it's stuff you'll be profoundly screwed if you don't get it done before bedtime that day.
It's totally fine if you don't have any tasks in this category on some days.
Focus on All Areas of Your Life
I have a tendency to get wrapped up in whatever project is my main focus. If it's housecleaning day, my work goes untouched, the kids' laundry doesn't get folded, and my bills lie forsaken on the counter.
However, when you have your to do items for your house, your marriage, your kids, and your own things all staring at you from the same page, it helps keep everything in the front of your mind.
Take Your Bandwidth Into Account
I am a master of the unattainable to do list.
Seriously, I have created a shameful number of to do lists in my day. They're beautiful, color-coded, wonders of the modern world. However, there is a higher likelihood of me sprouting wings and flying around the room than accomplishing everything on one of those lists.
No matter how beautiful, organized, or lovely a to do list is, it won't work out if you don't have the time to accomplish the items on it.
To create a truly successful to do list, it needs to be realistic and account for how much time you can actually devote to it.
Give it a Go
So, with these things in mind, I've attached here a fillable PDF version of the battle plan I use each morning. Download it and try the following procedure for a few days:
- Take 10 minutes to fill this out first thing in the morning. That means as soon as you're out of dressed and reasonably functional (read: coffee). Do it before you start "the flow" of the day.
- Sit down in as quiet a place as possible. (Give the toddlernado 10 minutes of coveted screentime if you must. This 10 minutes is for you.)
- Fill out the battle plan either on your computer or with a pen/pencil like the cavemen did.
- Any tasks that are absolutely, completely, unavoidably mandatory go in the top box.
- Your top priorities in each category go in the appropriate lines below it.
- Your actual scheduled events go on the bottom left.
- Everything else you hope to accomplish goes on the bottom right.
- Print it out (if you computed) and stick it in your pocket.
- Consult it often as you go through your day. Do a little victory dance every time you check something off.
Give it a try for a few days and see how it works! Drop a comment with your experiences!
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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