One of the things most of our struggle with is not having enough time in our day to feel as organised, productive and calm as we'd like to. How can we balance it all? How can we most effectively juggle work, family and home demands?
In reality, there may not be such thing as having true 'balance' - life is always going to be busy, in some phases more so than others. Whatever your work and family situation, we all have the same amount of hours in the day, it's how we plan and use our time that matters! I've been talking a lot about productivity recently, and today I'm rounding up 23 of the best tips and strategies for creating routines and systems that will encourage you to be as productive as possible each and every day. Let's get into it!
1 | Write it down
There’s definitely something to be said for writing things down in order to achieve and accomplish more in your day. Research suggests that, when we write something down, it’s as if we’re actually doing that thing. ‘Writing seems to act as a kind of mini-rehearsal for doing… Visualizing doing something can ‘trick’ the brain into thinking it’s actually doing it’ (Source: LifeHacker)
Writing things down helps you ‘declutter’ your mind and focus on what needs to happen. Making it a part of your routine to record your tasks, schedule, goals and priorities will not help you feel less overwhelmed, and help you plan ahead, but will also help you visualize actually getting that thing done. Pretty powerful, right?
2 | Plan your time
One of the most effective strategies for being more productive and efficient every day is to actually plan your time. Whether it's a daily list, a weekly plan, a monthly overview, or a combination of the three, it's about setting aside that time to plan out how you will spend your time. Knowing exactly what's ahead for the upcoming day or week will allow you to be more realistic with what you can achieve, and more effective with how you use your available time. Batching your tasks into categories or types can really help you be extra productive - I spoke more about this batching planning method in this video inside our Home Balance Facebook community - I'd love to see you in there!
3 | Set priorities and deadlines
When you are planning out your day or week, it’s important to set priorities so that you can get through the most important tasks first. We can often get caught up with all those little jobs which can quickly add up and leave you less time to get through the more necessary tasks.
This can often be the way with household chores - you think you’ll just quickly fold the washing, put on another load, do some dinner prep, and fill out some forms before you go to the shops to buy that birthday present. But all those ‘mini-tasks’ quickly add up, and before you know it, you’ve only left yourself 20 minutes to get to the shops before they close, so now you’re rushing around and panicking! We’ve all been there…
It’s so important to set priorities for what you really NEED to get accomplished - both for the week and each day - as it will help you focus on your most important mission, and ensure you get that task completed before you tackle the others. I like to use my weekly planner and set 3 priorities for the week to make sure I definitely get those things done by the week's end. You might also want to list your daily priorities in order to stay focused for the day. Setting these deadlines ensures the task doesn’t drag out forever!
Click on the button below to grab your copy of The Productivity Pack - an amazing investment in becoming a more productive and organised you!
4 | Create a Master List
Not sure exactly which tasks you should be focusing on first and prioritising? Consider creating a Master List of projects for the different areas of your life. A Master List is basically a way to get all those projects out of your head - according to April Perry, most people have around 20-100 projects that we're working on all the time! You might have a Master List for:
- Home Projects
- Items you want/need to purchase
- Work projects you’d like to accomplish at some stage
Creating this Master Lists means you’re writing things down and getting them out of your head, prioritizing, and again, having that ‘mini-rehearsal’ for actually doing the thing. You can then choose 3-5 projects from this list to work on for the month, which prioritizes exactly what you want and need to accomplish.
When you’re planning your week, you can see when you'll have time in the week to fit in tasks from any of these top 3-5 projects. If it’s a particularly busy week, you might only be able to get through a few small tasks, but if you have some spare time or a quiet weekend, you might be able to tackle a larger section of a particular project.
Related Post: How to create routines to help you stay organised
5 | Break big tasks into smaller chunks
While it’s all good and well to write down your home projects, sometimes the very thought of starting them can be a little overwhelming. Here’s where it pays to break those bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For example, if one of your projects is to organise the garage, there are quite a few steps involved in this! You might need to:
- remove rubbish
- work out what's being kept
- put some items on eBay
- hire a skip to get rid of bigger unwanted items
- organise items being kept into categories
- buy large tubs to create garage categories
- create labels
- sweep etc.
Instead of just thinking you can organise the entire garage in a few hours, breaking it into these smaller steps means you know exactly what's ahead of you, and you can be more efficient about getting through a larger project such as this.
6 | Use a family calendar
A calendar is the best way to keep on track with your schedule and appointments, and is especially great one for keeping on top of your family’s comings and goings. A calendar which has a designated column or spot for each family member is particularly useful, as it allows you to see at a glance what is on for that person on any given day. You could also use an everyday calendar and have a different colour for each family member to give you those visual reminders.
Related Post: Using a family calendar to plan your year
7 | Set goals in the different areas of your life
Goal setting is an important practise for keeping you focused on what you want to achieve in the different areas of your life. I spoke more about our goal-setting process in this post, but if you’re new to goal-setting, you might want to think about what you’d like to accomplish over the next 90 days in terms of health, wealth, family, home and work.
The goal-setting planner in my new Productivity Pack outlines the steps for detailed goal setting, as you can list down your priorities, and the action steps you’ll need to take in order to accomplish your goals in a set amount of time. Again, writing down those goals acts as that mini-rehearsal for your brain, and pinning your goals somewhere in a spot where you can see them daily will encourage you to be more productive and focused on what you really want to achieve.
8 | Take the time to reflect on your goals
It’s also important to take the time to actually reflect on your goals at the end of a set period of time. Looking back on what did work, what didn’t (and why), and what you need to do more/less of, is an important step in the goal-setting process. It means that when you record your next set of goals, you’ll be able to approach it with greater focus and clarity.
9 | Eliminate time wasters
Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of doing things in our day the same way over and over again. Having a really good look at how and where you spend your day, and which time-wasting activities could be eliminated, can really give you back so much time. Such things as:
- Checking your phone every time you get a new notification -- consider turning notifications off and only checking your phone at certain times of the day
- Ironing a few items of clothes here and there -- consider doing all the ironing in one or two sessions in the week after a few loads have been washed and dried
- Dealing with paperwork tasks every day -- consider designating one day of the week to complete all paperwork tasks
- Running errands every day -- consider designating one day of the week when you’ll already be out and about, to complete all errands at once (#taskbatching!)
- Sorting your laundry before every wash -- consider setting up colour-coded laundry baskets so the family can help with the sorting pre-wash
Which time wasters could you potentially eliminate from your life?
Related Post: 7 simple ways to be a more organised mum
10 | Automate wherever you can
When considering which time-wasters you could potentially eliminate, you should also be looking to automate wherever you can in order to be more efficient each day. The official definition of automation is:
'The technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devices, reducing human intervention to a minimum' (Source: Dictionary)
So what could you automate in your home life so your effort in the task is at a minimum? You might consider automating your bill-paying - setting up monthly direct debits for those recurring expenses such as electricity, gas, phone, Internet etc, rather than having to remember paying the bills each month. You might also put a set amount automatically into a savings account so you're moving ahead with your savings goals.
You could also automate your grocery shopping by setting up a Master List on an online shopping site. Then, every time you do a shop, you can pull up the list and select (or deselect) the items you need, based on what you and your family members commonly eat/drink/use.
Related Post: Are you ready to get your finances more organised?
11 | Designate days of the week for household chores
Breaking your household tasks into more manageable chunks each day will make your task-load feel more automated, as you’re doing a particular task each day without having to put too much thought into it! I shared in this video how I like to designate a different day of the week for a particular household chore, so I know exactly what I’m doing that day, without feeling like I have to do everything.
Try having a look at your schedule to see which chores would make the most sense on which days e.g. if Thursday is your busiest day, you probably wouldn’t want to vacuum and mop all the floors on that day! However, the one chore that you’ll probably have to do a little of each day (especially if you have children living at home) is laundry - whether it’s a load every day or second day, and a day or two days for ironing. Laundry is one chore that is trickier to catch up on when you get too far behind.
12 | Delegate
In my last episode of The Organised You TV, I shared my belief that mothers often feel like we should be doing everything on our own. Not only does this lead to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it can also leave you feeling resentful, as the running of the household, and important decisions, rests solely on your shoulders. Sometimes we’ve made it this way because we want and like to control everything, which means others feel less comfortable offering help; and other times it might be because we haven’t actually ASKED for help or INSTRUCTED others.
This is where delegation can be so effective when it comes to increasing productivity. Whether it’s setting up a chore chart for your kids so they’re starting to take on some responsibility (I’ve just started my 3 year old one and it’s working a treat!); asking your partner to take on some household chores; or doing things together at night, delegation can work wonders for making everything run more smoothly. And if you don’t have anyone in your household to delegate to, go back to ideas 8 & 9 by eliminating time-wasters from your day and automating wherever you can!
(Case in point: I delegated packing the weekend-away-suitcase to my 5 year old - and he did it brilliantly!)
13 | Establish a command centre
Whenever someone tells me they are feeling overwhelmed by all the things they have to get through, I always recommend establishing some sort of command centre - my favourite organisational spot in the house!
A command centre is basically a designated spot for housing important information and paperwork - mail, forms, bills, school info, artwork, as well as a calendar and schedules. It’s a great spot for being able to immediately file away paperwork to be dealt with at a later time in the week. You can also set up a charging station here so you don’t have cords and devices lying around.
You can see my previous command centre set up in this video - it didn’t take up a lot of space, and provided me with a space to put all of those things that would otherwise be cluttering up the home. I can’t wait to share our amazing new space with you soon!
Related Post: Command Centre Inspiration
14 | Use binders
There are several home binders that can really cut down on your time and help you be more productive. Here's my top three:
- A household or family binder, which can hold all important phone numbers and addresses, policy and account numbers and passwords. A household binder is a great thing to establish if you’ve got children at school, as it provides a spot for all the important information, such as term newsletters, staff information, phone numbers etc.
- A finance binder can hold all your banking information, phone numbers and passwords, as well as a budget tracker, debt repayments and savings tracker.
- A recipe binder is great thing for loose recipes from magazines or newspapers, or even copies of your favourite recipes from recipe-books, so you can create more space in your kitchen by getting rid of some of those cookbooks!
You can find all of these binder printables (and more) in The Productivity Pack, so you can get straight to work with setting up these great systems, and allowing them to save you time and effort on a daily basis!
15 | Plan your meals
Speaking of recipes, you will be so much more productive if take the time to plan your meals. Meal planning allows you to save money, time, energy and effort by knowing exactly what you’re cooking each night of the week, rather than staring into the fridge and wondering what to prepare!
Whether it’s a weekly or fortnightly plan, looking ahead at your schedule and working out a meal strategy that works for you and your family will be a much better use of your time. You could choose a different base-ingredient (i.e. chicken, beef, pasta, vegetarian, fish) for each night, or even a theme i.e Mexican, Chinese, Italian etc. Have a blank shopping list pinned up so you can easily add to it throughout the week and cut down on time spent creating that grocery list.
Related Post: How to shop just once a month
16 | Get to Inbox Zero every other day
Sorting and attending to emails on a daily basis will prevent the inbox overwhelm, and ensure you are actually following up on what needs to happen. I spoke more about my email sorting process inside our Home Balance community, where I've set up folders inside my inbox for immediate action, follow up, tickler and archives. Having a system for sorting your emails means you’ll get through what you need to without spending your entire time in your inbox.... plus it means you get to see this sweet message when you're really on top of things!
17 | If it takes 2 minutes or less, do it straight away
You’ve probably heard me say this one before, but being truly efficient with your time is all about dealing with those 2 minutes jobs straight away. These jobs might include:
- Wiping the counters
- Putting items back in the pantry or fridge
- Taking the bins out
- Hand-washing a few dishes.
- Putting away some toys (or delegating that job to the kids!)
- Quickly sorting clean socks and underwear
- Tidying a shelf
- Filling out a form
If it can be completed in less than 2 minutes, it will help to keep the clutter at bay, and prevent those household chores from building up and becoming overwhelming.
18 | Put things back in their place
Cleaning up the house and staying on top of daily clutter will be a lot easier if you and your family gets into the habit of returning things to their home. If you find that you continue to have clutter piles building in different spots throughout the home (i.e. kitchen table, bench-tops, front door), then take note of what these things usually are and make it your mission to find a home for them.
For example, if paperwork continues to pile up on the bench-tops, a command centre will give you a place to store it all that is out of the way. if you’re always tripping over the kids’ bags, hats and shoes, you might want to set up an entryway zone where these things have their own designated spot.
Related Post: Organised entryway ideas for a calmer start to your day
19 | Create a morning and evening routine
Having a set routine for both your morning and evening will not only mean less stress and ‘hectic-ness’, but will also allow you to maintain a more calm and peaceful approach to the beginning and end of your days.
My new morning routine (which I spoke about in this live video) has completely changed how I approach my day, and really increased my productivity. These changes include waking up early, doing 5 minutes of meditation, writing out 3 daily gratitudes and goals, saying some affirmations, doing 30 minutes of work, and 30 minutes of exercise before the kids wake up. I learnt this new routine from a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, which I would highly recommend you have read of, it's so inspiring.
We then have our set morning routine, which the kids know and can intdependently follow, which means we are not running around frantically or rushing out the door in the morning. Have you got a set morning routine in place?
20 | Get up a little earlier
Whether you get up just 15 minutes earlier, or an hour earlier than what you’re normally doing, this slight change to your morning routine can be an amazing time to start your day in a really productive way. Something about that morning quiet really can do wonders! Whether it’s finding time for exercise, planning your day ahead, or getting ahead on a few household tasks or paperwork, getting up early can be a real game-changer in terms of productivity.
21 | Make time for some exercise
It’s a proven fact that people who exercise are more productive, both personally and in their work life. Not only does it keep you more alert and focused throughout the day, it also gives you more energy and improves your brain function.
According to The Next Web, having exercise as part of your everyday routine means you’ll be able to more easily 'find an optimal work-life balance, possibly because structured activity help[s you] become better at time management and more confident in their ability to pull off the demands of both work and home'.
Work out when best suits you to fit in some exercise - morning can be great as it sets you up for the day ahead, but if you're not a morning person then setting aside some time in the evening might work better. Whichever time you choose, scheduling exercise somewhere into your day is a great practice to get into.
Tip: have a specific drawer or box for your workout clothes that you can easily pull out and get your outfit ready for the next day so there's no excuses!
22 | Less time on your phone
There is no doubt that the more time you spend on your phone, the less time you have for quality moments with your family and friends. Spending less time on my phone has definitely been a big goal this year, and having just read this article from Mashable, I’ve installed a new app on my phone called Moment, which will track exactly how many hours a day I spend looking at my screen. Scary stuff when it all adds up!
Would you give it a try?
23 | Make time for yourself!
Above all, there's no way you can be super productive and efficient each and every day if you don't make time for yourself. Whether it’s time to yourself in the morning, or when exercising, or having some downtime in the evening, or some alone time on the weekend, taking a break is so important. You need to make yourself the number 1 priority - yes, above your children, your partner, your friends. If you fall apart, then that’s not going to be of any help to anyone! You deserve that time for yourself and your life will run a lot more smoothly because of it... in fact, I'm taking my own advice and I'm off to book myself a massage!
If you're wanting to become more productive in your day-to-day life, then The Productivity Pack is for you! Filled with printables, checklists, planners and templates, it's a great investment in giving yourself more valuable time for the more important things in life. Click the button below to get your copy...