How You Can Really Get Things Done

How You Can Really Get Things Done

In a year of testing productivity methods, what worked best?

I am still working on an ebook about my experiments in a Year of Living Productively. While you’re waiting on that, I thought you would enjoy Francis Wade’s take on the process.

I will warn you that I am not the productivity queen Francis makes me out to be in his post and in the podcast interview he did with me. But he is a very engaging writer and podcaster! Among the things he wanted to know were what worked and what didn’t in this year-long process. I hope something I share will inspire you to find what works for you.

Francis also wrote a popular guest post here titled, Why CEO’s and College Students Manage Their Time the Same Way, and a productivity novel that you’ll want to read.



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Do Routines Help You Get More Done?

Do Routines Help You Get More Done?

Do Routines Help You Get More Done

This is Week 3 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the ability of routines to help me get more done. At the end of last week’s post I shared my approach. I have morning, school, afternoon, evening, and weekday routines in my HomeRoutines iPhone app. I had to do a little tweaking of the routines I’d created previously in order to fully test this productivity hack. Here’s what I learned.

How Routines Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Motivated me to finish the mundane. I was super excited to put this hack to work, especially after I tweaked the routines. Being able to click a star on my app after doing things like showering was motivating. I know. I’m weird. I buzzed around like a bee at the beginning of the week, trying to complete as many stars as I could.
  • Extremely effective in keeping the day moving. As I thought about how to change my routines, I realized that I often get stuck on a school subject for too long. I added Spanish to the daily schedule, rather than trying to do two longer sessions during the week and it’s working beautifully. The HomeRoutines app has a built-in timer and I found myself really enjoying that. The kids and I clean ten minutes per floor in the morning. As a result of thinking about routines, I started spending time filing during my ten minutes in the school room. In the past, I left that for a weekday and couldn’t seem to get myself to do it. I enjoyed seeing how much I could get done before the timer went off. Giving myself permission to check off a star if I’d done any work at all on the task made a difference, too.
  • Prevented procrastination. I thought about blowing off a mail task I had to do, but decided to really try to stick with the routine. I did it and wondered why on earth I procrastinate on mailing stuff! It’s no big deal.

How Routines Made Me Crazy This Week

This was an unusual week with a holiday and a snow day. I kept feeling like I should be doing school as usual, but didn’t. The result was I didn’t do much, but didn’t enjoy it. I doubt that this was the result of routines, however.

  • I wasn’t sure what tasks were most important and I was stressed. I was only focused on my routines, so didn’t know what critical or just important tasks I should be working on. And I didn’t factor in enough time in my routine to figure that out.
  • I resisted the routines. Routines worked beautifully in the mornings I was doing school. Afternoons and evenings were another story. When I get started on something (like writing or clearing email), I really don’t want to stop. Nirvana for me is a day that I can do anything with no obligations whatsoever. Having a routine that I *should* be using felt like an obligation. Besides, it wasn’t very practical. My son’s birthday was this week and with the snow, we felt like watching a movie later than usual. That meant I couldn’t follow my evening routine or at least that I didn’t want to.

Did Routines Help Me Get More Done?

They definitely did! That was especially true when I used them. I’m happy enough with them that I plan to keep using my morning and school routines. As for afternoons and evenings, I’m not sure. It may be that subconsciously, I want to be free to do what I want at these times.


I don’t currently use the HomeRoutines app, but routines are an essential part of my life. My current morning routine for example, is exercise, write, breakfast, devotions, shower, chores, and school.


The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 4

Ann Vosskamp daily planner


I heard about Ann Vosskamp’s Daily Planner on Next Gen Homeschool. I love that these forms give you a visual overview of the day. Yes, they’re paper! There is a weekly planning page I will use as well. I purchased a beautiful floral clipboard with a folder and notepad inside to store the pages from Target. I can’t find a link, sorry! I think adding this paper overview to my routines will really help–especially with knowing what HAS to be done.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Download Ann Vosskamp’s planner pages or choose another template like this one that gives you an overview of your day and week.

Click here to see how Ann’s paper planner worked for me. 

If you’ve tried using routines to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

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How I Finally Developed the Flossing Habit and You Can Too!

How I Finally Developed the Flossing Habit and You Can Too!


How I Finally Developed the Flossing Habit and You Can TooFor years, every time I went to the dentist, the hygienist would be on my case about not flossing. I honestly don’t understand why I was once a flossing failure, but I do know why I’m now a flossing fanatic. I changed my habits using a simple approach that can work for you, too, whether your new habit is flossing or something even more important.

No Oprah Moments Required

I didn’t have an emotional breakthrough with flossing by recounting a horrible incident in the dental chair when I was a child. I do like talking about the time the dentist hit a nerve while giving me an injection (it was AWFUL!), however talking it out didn’t get me to floss. Oprah is a case study in the lack of relationship between understanding a bad habit and ending it. So are our pets. You can train your dog to stay off the couch without having him recline on one for psychoanalysis, thankfully. You can develop a healthy habit (or change an unhealthy one) without understanding the roots of your behavior.

Quit Looking for Motivation

I didn’t start flossing because my dentist put the fear of gingivitis in me. I do recall being motivated to floss at one time because I hoped for the approval of my hygienist. When she didn’t praise me for my months of flossing and instead criticized my technique, I quit flossing for years. I don’t know why I started again. Maybe I had something stuck in my teeth? The point is, to change many habits, you don’t need a big reason to do so.

Just Do It. A Lot.

For some reason, I flossed several days in a row. Then I thought about not flossing because I didn’t feel like it. Flossing isn’t fun and I do it at the end of a long day when I’m fatigued. But I flossed anyway. I have no idea why. Then I got serious about the potential of not flossing. While I thought about skipping, I would reach for the floss. By the time I had determined I could skip it “just this once,” I was already done. I was on automatic pilot. I’ve been flossing every night for years now and I can’t NOT do it. Reason or no, motivation or no, just do what you know you should do, day after day.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:7

Rinse & Repeat.

I’ve used this method to change a number of habits. I lock my car with the remote each time to keep from locking my keys in the car. What was once a regular problem hasn’t happened in many years. I also run my dishwasher each night. I can be dead tired, but like it or not, there I am loading, adding soap, and pushing buttons. I am currently using the same method to develop a regular blogging habit. So far, so good!

What habits have you changed with this method or what habits would you like to try it with?


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