6 Productivity Hacks You Should Try This Year

6 Productivity Hacks You Should Try This Year

6 Productivity Hacks You Should Try This YearAfter tools, I get most excited about little tricks I discover for saving time or getting more done. These are six of the discoveries I made last year that you may want to try:

#1 Make your environment inviting

I am extremely cold averse. As I was setting up a writing office in my basement, I kept thinking about the cold and about how unwilling I am to use my scrapbooking desk because it’s right by a door that lets all the cold air in. So I bought my own space heater that can direct warm air my way and HELLO, I’ve my fanny in my warm chair ever since.

Maybe temperature isn’t your problem, but lighting or seating is. Make the needed change and see if you aren’t more productive.

#2 Use a year-long wall calendar

I bought a jumbo, full-year, dry-erase calendar for the wall above my desk. Suddenly a year didn’t seem so long–especially when I added important dates like vacations, blog post deadlines, and goals. The advantage of seeing time this way is I am less likely to procrastinate! It’s also easier not to overload your calendar when you see the big picture. I originally planned to write two blog posts a week. When I saw it on the wall, I realized that would mean much less accomplished on my homeschool curriculum. I cut back my planned blog frequency for most weeks to one.

#3 Get more sleep

When I did Body for Life, I cut my sleep back to seven hours. I really did feel great during that 12 weeks, but I convinced myself that I only needed seven hours of sleep. Truth is, most of the time, it ended up being six to six and a half. I was wrong about what I needed physically and emotionally. As hard as it is for me to be sleeping by 10 p.m., I have been sleeping from 10-6 consistently for some time now and I feel amazing! I feel really stupid that I was making such an obvious mistake. I no longer feel exhausted by afternoon and am still productive.

#4 Randomize tasks when motivation fails

There are times when I just don’t feel like doing what I’ve scheduled for the day. This is especially true the later in the day it is and the more tasks I feel I need to do. At these times, I go to Random.org or use the iPhone app and generate a random number using the number of tasks I want to address as my range. The rule is I have to do at least something on whichever task I land on. If I can’t do that task for some reason, I do the next one on the list. This method has the advantage of helping me to complete tasks I would ordinarily procrastinate on.

Give it a try!

#5 Do the most important things in the morning

I kept thinking I didn’t have time to write curriculum (one of my most important things) in the morning. I work out, eat breakfast, chat with my husband, do personal devotions, and shower first thing before doing chores and homeschooling. I saved my writing time for the afternoons and it worked! I was motivated and energetic to write in the early afternoons. The problem was that something else always seemed to crop up in the afternoon, so I couldn’t write. I realized that those other activities wouldn’t interfere with my writing time if I did it early morning.

So I decided to workout in the basement and immediately go to my basement writing desk. It worked! I consistently get an hour of writing in during early mornings. I did have to give something up and that was chatting with my husband. For many people that wouldn’t be a wise tradeoff, but my husband works out of our home. I talk with him all day, including a little later in the morning. He enjoys reading his Bible and the paper while I write.

#6 Organize by day

I used to do certain types of tasks on particular days of the week and I got away from it. It makes life so much easier and more efficient. When a finance-related email comes in, it’s dated for Mondays. I can do them all in batches without adding a context tag or wondering when a good day is to do them. I am also doing blogging tasks on Thursdays. Everything else that isn’t urgent is ignored. What an amazing feeling of peace that gives me! To top it off, I feel like I have an abundance of time to get my tasks done. Trying to do a big mix of tasks adds to my feeling of overwhelm.

What productivity hacks are you crazy about?

This post is part of a 5-day series on productivity favorites. You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers. Check them out!

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6 Productivity Tools You Should Try This Year

6 Productivity Tools You Should Try This Year

6 Productivity Tools You Should Try This YearI love productivity books, blogs, and podcasts, but I REALLY get excited about productivity tools that make my life easier. Here are six that I was crazy about in the past year that you may want to try too.

#1 Timeful

Scheduling is the number one way I get things done now. But because I always tend to overestimate what I can accomplish in a day, I LOVE Timeful. I can automatically determine what I can reasonably do and at the same time, get suggestions of when to do certain tasks or habits I’m working on.

A second benefit of Timeful is that I have a record of what I’ve actually done during the day as I have a Timeful calendar set up to sync with Google.

#2 Balanced

This is an app I recently discovered and it’s perfect for reminding me of things I want to do regularly. Unlike most other apps, it isn’t annoying. The UI is gorgeous and the app functions like a nice friend who gently suggests I do something I said I wanted to do.

#3 Random.org

I use this app every day for chore management. I’ll explain how in a future post. But the app saves me enormous time refereeing squabbles with my kids! I also use it when I’m feeling stuck and unwilling to follow my schedule. I’ll explain how in tomorrow’s post on productivity hacks.

#4 Focus@Will

Focus at Will is a website and app that produces music to help you focus and get more done. Unlike most music websites, Focus’s mission is to keep you from noticing the music at all. In fact, if you notice it, you’re supposed to skip to a different track.

Focus offers a free trial. During mine I determined that Ambient noise works best for me. While I was enjoying increased productivity, I wasn’t enjoying the music. So I tried listening to Pandora while I worked. MUCH better! I enjoyed the songs so much that I would stop and sing along and then I would research the artists and would be sure to take the time to give a thumbs up to songs I liked. Whoops.

I went back to Focus@Will and absolutely love that I can set a timer for a work period and can then report how focused I was. Unless I’m interrupted by someone, I find 100% focus. If I’m around the kids, I wear headphones. If not, I play it over my computer speakers. I would love to know if it works as well for work away from the computer. If you try it, let me know!

#5 Asus Transformer

I bought this tablet with a keyboard that looks like a netbook on Cyber Monday for a mere $260. I cannot express how crazy I am about it, particularly because it uses the full Windows operating system. One of my huge frustrations with the iPad as a writing tool is that isn’t possible. I am using it only for reading and writing. I had a large monitor and full-size keyboard that I wasn’t using, so I set up a desktop work station at home like this.

When I’m ready to write on the go, all I have to do is turn it off, unplug it, and pop it in my purse. One of the first things I downloaded was Scrivener which I also can’t recommend enough for writers.

#6 Tools4Wisdom Planner

A friend sent me a link to this at the end of the year and I was so excited about it, I had to order it. What I love about it is the huge emphasis on goals. Every month and every week, you are asked to specify your goals, why you want to achieve them, and the steps needed. There are also half-hour blocks all day for planning time. Sometimes I want to see what I’m doing on paper, rather than on my little iPhone screen. This is just the ticket!

The paper of this planner is like silk. It works perfectly with my Frixion pens.

What are your favorite productivity tools?

This post is part of a 5-day series on productivity favorites. You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers. Check them out!

5 Days of iHomeschool Network goodness!

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6 Productivity Podcasts You Should Listen to This Year

6 Productivity Podcasts You Should Listen to This Year

6 productivity podcasts you should listen to this year

Even though I had my own podcast, I wasn’t much of a podcast listener until this last year. Now I’m crazy about them! These are six productivity podcasts I enjoy and you may, too.

#1 The 5 AM Miracle with Jeff Sanders

I do NOT get up at 5 AM, but I don’t have to in order to enjoy this fabulous podcast. Jeff talks about a variety of topics such as exercise and nutrition, but is focused on productivity. I love the quick tip he shares each episode and the experts and books he introduces to readers. He motivates me to get up early and get things done first thing in the morning.

I wish I had listened to Jeff’s podcast before I started my own and it would have been much improved. (My Homeschool Sanity Show podcast is currently on hold as I work on developing homeschool curriculum).

#2 Expert’s Enterprise with Hugh Culver

Hugh has not been producing new episodes in the past month or so, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy a binge listen of the archives. Like Jeff, Hugh does a great job of sharing basic principles in a personal, motivating way.

I come away from his podcast feeling that productivity is really quite simple and nothing to be stressed about.

#3 This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt

I have gotten so many great book tips from this podcast and I’ve benefitted from the wisdom of Michael Hyatt as well. I love the fact that he is willing to be honest about his own failings.

As a blogger and author, I really appreciate the content directed to this portion of his audience. Others may enjoy the leadership principles he discusses.

#4 Beyond the To-Do List with Erik Fisher

I really enjoy listening to Erik’s interviews with top productivity names as well as people I don’t know. Whereas many other podcasts go off-topic frequently, this one doesn’t. So if I need a shot in the productivity arm, this is the podcast I listen to.

Erik has a very guy-next-door persona. You come away thinking, “If he can do it, so can I.”

#5 2Time Labs Podcast with Francis Wade

I’ll admit it. I love Francis’s accent. But even more, I love the enthusiasm he brings to his interviews. He seems honestly fascinated by his guests and their expertise and having been one, I can tell you it’s a pleasure to share with his listeners. He hasn’t taped interviews in several months as he has completed his new book, but there is plenty to entertain and inspire you in the archives.

#6 Life of a Steward with Loren Pinilis

I love how Gospel-focused Loren’s podcasts are. You come away from listening feeling refreshed, as though you’ve spoken to a trusted friend. He did a three-part series with Matt Perman of What’s Best Next that you may enjoy and shares how he lost 100 pounds in another episode.

What are your favorite productivity podcasts?

This post is part of a 5-day series on productivity favorites. You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers. Check them out!

5 Days of iHomeschool Network goodness!

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6 Productivity Blogs You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity Blogs You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity Blogs You Should Read This YearThe truth is, we don’t always have time to read full-length books to improve our productivity. That’s where blogs come in. In just a few minutes, we can have the inspiration we need to get more done. Here are six of my favorite blogs from last year that I recommend (in no particular order).

#1 99U

Offering a mix of productivity content that appeals to a wide audience, 99U is a place I often find myself, usually following a link from Google+ Productivity.

Here’s their best of 2014.

#2 Life of a Steward

I don’t know of a better blog for keeping the faith front and center in discussions of productivity. If you’re a Christian, you don’t want to miss this blog.

I really like his post A Superior Goal Setting Model: Beyond Smart. I think you will, too.

#3 Hugh Culver

I started reading Hugh’s blog this year and look forward to new posts every Sunday. I find so many of his posts compelling, which is impressive given how much I’ve read on the topic.

One of his hallmark posts is How to Get Your To-Do List Out Of Your Head, Organized & Done

#4 Productivityist

Mike Vardy is the man behind Productivityist and a great guy. I love his reviews of apps like this one of ToDoist. He is active and helpful in the ToDoist community on Google+ as well. This is an excellent guest post on a step-by-step system to higher productivity.

#5 Bakadesuyo.com

These epic blog posts are like mini books on specific topics incorporating research, videos, and tips. Very impressive as I know just how long these kinds of posts to write. Therefore, I don’t write them.

This post on how to stop procrastinating is an example. If you watch the videos and read all the enticing link, you will BE procrastinating. Just warning you.

#6 MarkForster.squarespace.com

It’s not the blog that I’m crazy about as much as the forum. I get most of my productivity tips from the great people there.

Here is one of my favorite threads where people talk about how they’re managing tasks now. Feel free to jump in!

If this is one of your favorite productivity blogs, be sure to subscribe to the productivity-only posts for Psychowith6. What are your favorite productivity blogs?

This post is part of a 5-day series on productivity favorites. You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Nhindetwork bloggers. Check them out!

5 Days of iHomeschool Network goodness!


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5 Days of Productivity Favorites

5 Days of Productivity Favorites

productivity, best productivity books, best productivity blogs, best productivity podcasts, best productivity tools, best productivity hacksI love to write about productivity and miss the Year of Living Productively series and some of the great articles that followed like these:

6 Important Habits for Getting More Done

A Better Daily, Weekly, Monthly To Do List

Get More Done With a 1-Thing To Do List

Motivation for Doing What’s Most Important Today

But for me, this is a year of being truly productive and realizing the dream of writing and publishing my own curriculum. (For you homeschoolers and parents with kids in elementary school, I will share more as soon as I can.) For now, I came up with a compromise. This week I will share 5 posts about my productivity favorites of the year. These are the books, websites, podcasts, tools, and hacks that I loved (that didn’t necessarily come out last year) that I think you might enjoy too.

I am including all five links below:

6 Productivity Books You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity Blogs You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity Podcasts You Should Listen to This Year

6 Productivity Tools You Should Try This Year

6 Productivity Hacks You Should Try This Year

I would love to hear your favorites!

You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers. Check them out!

5 Days of iHomeschool Network goodness!


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6 Productivity Books You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity Books You Should Read This Year

6 Productivity books you should read this yearI have read so many productivity and organizing books that I started to think I can’t learn anymore, but boy was I wrong! It isn’t that the concepts are completely new; it’s that the personal insights and presentation are. I had a hard time limiting myself to six, but here are some great productivity books for you to read this year and why I’m crazy about them.

Perfect Time Based Productivity

#1 Perfect Time-Based Productivity by Francis Wade

I was very surprised that this book, which helps you evaluate your productivity habits regardless of your approach, was so enlightening. For example, one habit is collection. This is the idea that you need to collect all of your to-do’s into one trusted system. This is so obvious, but David Allen helped me see that my failure to do this was giving me grief. I’ve been using some kind of task management system for a long time, so I thought I would get high marks in this area. Wrong!

The evaluation in the book helped me see that I was not collecting phone, text, or IM-related tasks. Thus, I was forgetting them! I am now immediately adding them to my system, which at present is ToDoist.

There were other reasons I loved the book, not the least of which is its use of research to support best practices for getting more done. Francis Wade wrote a guest post in which he explains how we can get even more done if we’re already productive.

This is a book you’ll want in your library, regardless of the app or system you’re using at the time.

Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD

#2 Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD by Susan Pinsky

I cannot even describe how much I love this book. This book is the natural sequel to FLYLady’s Sink Reflections. I don’t believe I have ADHD, but the author makes it clear that you don’t have to have it to benefit from these organizing principles.

I think I can summarize the premise of the book this way: organize for how you will behave rather than how you’d like to behave. In other words, you may wish you would take the time to put things back into beautiful, stacked Pottery Barn containers, but the truth is you will shove it back into a cabinet, wherever there is room. So make room! Drastically declutter.

I am following the home storage solutions 101 calendar for decluttering this year and I am drastically decluttering. Here’s an example. I have a large number of expensive kitchen appliances that I needed when I was really into healthy eating (why I’m not obsessed with this anymore is a post for another time). While I keep telling myself that I’m going to make homemade jerky and tortillas and bread with wheat flour from my mill, but I don’t. These appliances take up enormous room in my kitchen and mind. Every time I see them, I feel like a failure. No more! They served a purpose at one time in my life and now I’m going to bless someone else with them.

There is more to this book than I can describe here, but I can’t recommend it enough.

The One Thing

#3 The One Thing by Gary Keller

I am easily overwhelmed by all the things I have to or would like to do. Most people have heard of the 80/20 principle (that 80% of the rewards come from 20% of your efforts). Keller makes it that much simpler: choose the one thing that will make everything else easier or eliminated.

I was so enamored with the book that I created a daily, weekly, monthly to-do list for it. I still love it as it gives me clarity and peace of mind.

The One Thing can give you peace of mind, too, no matter how many to-do’s you have on your list.


#4 Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I heard about Essentialism after I read The One Thing. I worried that it would be redundant. It wasn’t.

My biggest takeaway from the book is that I want to BE an essentialist rather than do a few things to simplify my life. I want to replace the nonessentialist thinking of I have to, everything is important, and I can do it all  with I choose to, only a few things really matter, and I can do anything, but not everything. The last two are particularly important for me. As hard as it is to admit that I can’t do it all (and that it doesn’t even matter that I can’t), there is great freedom there too.

Essentialism is a book I need to reread regularly. I think you’ll want to be an essentialist, too, if you give it a read.

Your Procrastination Solution

#5 Your Procrastination Solution by Loren Pinilis

Loren has guest blogged for Psychowith6 on productivity before and I’m a huge fan. He recently completed his ebook which is free to subscribers. I have to tell you that I’ve read a huge number of books on procrastination and I wasn’t expecting much, but this book is really valuable if you are a Christian who struggles with putting things off.

My favorite tip from the book was to visualize yourself in the process of working toward your goal and not just achieving the goal. As I work on my curriculum, I keep fantasizing about the day when the first volume is complete. That’s great! But it makes the day-to-day fanny-in-chair stuff seem that much more unpleasant. Now I visualize myself writing and learning how to complete the project.

That brings me to another insight from the book which was HUGE for me. Loren writes that many people procrastinate because they don’t have a growth mindset, but more of a pass/fail one. In other words, some people put things off when they discover a task doesn’t come easily to them. They assume that they “just aren’t good at it” so there’s no point in continuing. I realized that this is me! I approached my blog that way. When I didn’t have instant success, I thought I wasn’t good at it, and waffled about continuing. Now, of course, I know that like most things, it’s something you can improve on. Most importantly for me, I realized that I had a pass/fail mindset about the curriculum I’m writing. I was wondering if I would be good at it or not. That set me up to procrastinate. Now I’m approaching it as something that will be challenging at first, but that I will grow into.

I believe you’ll gain insights in your procrastination and how to stop, too.

Manage Your Day to Day

#6 Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei

I listened to this book via Audible when I was on vacation and it was just what I needed. While it is geared toward creatives (and is rated PG for language), I found the admonitions to unplug and give myself time to think incredibly valuable.

The book does offer good ideas for building routines as well. But I do pretty well at that already. What I don’t do as well at is giving myself margin. As a result of reading the book, I plan to take Sundays off and unplug. That may be challenging at first, but I’ll grow into it. It’s not a pass/fail, right?

What productivity books did you read last year that you recommend?

You may enjoy the other 5 Day Hopscotch posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers. Check them out!

5 Days of iHomeschool Network goodness!

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