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
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
This is Week 2 of A Year of Living Productively
I wanted to know if categorizing my tasks by importance and urgency using Stephen Covey’s matrix from First Things First would increase my productivity. I chose to create labels for each quadrant using IQTell. I spent quite a bit of time assigning my tasks to these categories and here’s what I discovered about this productivity philosophy.
How Covey’s Quadrants Saved My Sanity This Week
I know I already understand what’s important and I do important things. I had about twice the amount of important and non-urgent tasks as I did important and urgent tasks. I don’t think that’s because I am not spending enough time in Quadrant II, however. I am with my children, and to a significant extent, my husband all day. Next to my time set apart for devotions, they are my top priority. The tasks in Quadrant II are generally related to writing and organizing. There are just a LOT of things I should get around to doing in those areas. And I do spend a lot of time doing them. All of that to say, knowing what’s important in your life is paramount to choosing tasks. Committing to spending time doing those important, non-urgent tasks is also vital. I have both of those down, but there are problems using this philosophy as your only productivity method.
How Covey’s Quadrants Made Me Crazy This Week
I already have my tasks tagged for priority. The Important/Urgent tasks correspond to my must-do tasks with due dates. The Important/Not Urgent tasks correspond to my should-do tasks with no or longer-term due dates. The labels added nothing new.
I was overwhelmed. Using only the categories to work from, I had 40 important/urgent tasks and 80 important/non-urgent tasks. As opposed to last week when I tested paper and felt motivated, this week I didn’t want to do anything.
I don’t put unimportant tasks in my task list. I don’t write down “surf the web” or “spend an hour on Facebook.” I just DO those things. The matrix had no effect on whether or not I engaged in certain activities.
Importance is confusing. Even the activities that most people would label unimportant may have been important to me at the time. Didn’t I learn something and relax after a busy day? Social media is important to me, whereas it isn’t to other people.
Did Covey’s Quadrants Help Me Get More Done?
Unequivocally, NO. My productivity took a nosedive. Was that because I didn’t use paper? I’m certainly willing to entertain that possibility and plan to test other paper approaches this year. For me, though, Covey’s quadrants are more of a philosophical approach to tasks that have nothing to do with how much you do–even important things.
While I don’t organize my tasks in a task list by priority, I have a new appreciation for focusing on the important, but not urgent tasks. My current approach is to schedule these types of tasks as early in the day as possible so I get to them.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 3
I was reading Blog at Home Mom this week and author, Christin Slade reminded me that when I abandon routines, my productivity and my life suffer–even though I tell myself I’ll be fine. FLYLady‘s routines were the very first productivity approach I used. Before I found her, I did things willy-nilly. Even when I put things on a calendar, I wouldn’t check it before I started my day. Dishes, laundry, cleaning were done “whenever.” So profound were the changes in me after adopting routines, that I wrote an article about it for Woman’s Day magazine, began speaking about it, and was inspired to write So You’re Not Wonder Woman?.
My original routines were written in a notebook. When I got an iPhone and the HomeRoutines app came out, I gave it a try. I really liked it. I added more steps to my routines that I thought would help me get more important things done. The only problem I had was feeling bad if I didn’t do every single part of my routines. I quit because of my perfectionism. But I’d like to try it again with a new attitude. This time, if I do any part of a routine step, I will give myself credit. AND my goal will be to do half of my routines. If I do half of them, I will be doing considerably more than I’m doing now.
If you’d like to join me for a week, here’s what you do. Make a simple evening and morning routine on paper. If you want to go hog wild and have a school/work and/or afternoon routine, I can hardly say no. But I think you’ll have better luck sticking with short morning and evening routines. The HomeRoutines app is $4.99, but I’m not encouraging you to buy it until you determine that you like working with routines. Include steps in your routines that will help you organize your tasks and will help you feel on top of things. Loading the dishwasher each evening was a huge step forward for me. If you already do things every evening and morning, add a couple of new tasks to each routine. Make them as small or as broad as you need to (i.e., load dishwasher or clean up kitchen). I would list my routines for you, but I’m pretty sure you’d freak out. I’m psycho, remember?
To see how my work using home routines went, click here.
Week 1: Paper To Do List