It’s a question I’ve wrestled with personally.
I sometimes wonder if this picture is how my children will remember me: my back to them, staring at the computer screen, saying, “Just a minute” for the fifth time in a row.
If you can relate, I would love to have you read my post on 5 Minutes for Faith today and share your thoughts.
This is Week 10 of a Year of Living Productively
This week I tested several of the principles outlined in the Time Warrior by Steve Chandler. Specifically, I focused my thoughts on the present task and used action to prevent procrastination. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.
How the Time Warrior Saved My Sanity This Week
- Reinforced the power of action. There were a number of times I found myself sitting and stewing about something. My usual m.o. when I have a problem is to think about it, Google it, and talk about it. You can imagine how low my productivity is when I’m in this mode. There’s nothing wrong with problem-solving, but taking action is much better for my mood and certainly better for my productivity. I wish I could say I was batting a thousand in this area this week, but I can at least say I spent less time mulling things over and more time doing things.
- Helped me recognize the role of thinking in productivity. I had a challenging week physically and emotionally, but I got to experience the huge impact my thinking has on my ability to get things done. The less I do, the worse I feel. The more I think about my problems, the less I do. I’ve known this truth for a long time, but this week reinforced the lesson.
How the Time Warrior Made Me Crazy This Week
- Not a fun new technique. The nine previous weeks, I had something new to do. This week I just had something new to think. While I think this cognitive strategy has more potential to improve my productivity than anything else I will try, it’s not the most motivating initially.
- Not well physically. I’ve been battling fatigue, making this a very difficult week to work on my productivity. However, it’s probably the ideal test for me.
Did the Time Warrior Help Me Get More Done?
Yes. Did I have one of my most productive weeks yet? No. But I got more done this week by far than if I had not been focusing on taking action and adopting a present focus. I believe that with time, this attitude has great potential to improve my productivity.
While I honestly never think of the Time Warrior book per se, the truth of accomplishment being the best cure for malaise has become entrenched in my thinking.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 11
This week I’ll be using the principle of scheduling my tasks. I’ll be using the SmartPad and SmartDayPro apps to implement it.
The concept. Research is convincing that deciding when you’ll do something dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll do it. However, the problem with the studies is usually they’re examining the likelihood of subjects doing a task or two. People like you and I would be scheduling multiple tasks. So does the benefit of allocating a time for them disappear? We’ll see.
There’s another potential benefit of scheduling multiple tasks, however. Scheduling requires an estimate of time needed that is used to determine how many tasks can be completed on a given day. The pie-in-the-sky productivity hopes of people like yours truly disappear when confronted with the cold, hard truth of a schedule. Difficult decisions about what won’t be done today can be made with the added inspiration of realizing that not even the scheduled tasks can be completed if you indulge in an extended web vacation. I know I’m not the only one who takes them! The iOS apps from Left Coast Logic automatically squeeze your tasks into your schedule (though you can easily rearrange them). The red line that moves through your agenda along with the clock, eliminating potential tasks when others aren’t completed on time, is very motivating.
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Determine a method of scheduling each day’s tasks. You could use a paper or digital calendar or an app like SmartTimePro. Scheduling should be done daily to accommodate changes that come up. Estimate how much time each task will take. I like to over-estimate, doubling estimates that are less than an hour. Be sure your appointments and breaks are on the calendar (keeping your working hours in mind), then add your tasks to the schedule. Refer to the schedule throughout the day as you work.
Click here to see how my week of scheduling with SmartPad went.
If you’ve tried Time Warrior principles 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
Week 3: Routines
Week 4: Paper Planner
Week 5: SMEMA
Week 6: Guilt Hour
Week 7: Envision Ideal Day
Week 8: Do it Tomorrow
Week 9: Pomodoro
If you want your child’s attention, just get on the phone and they’ll appear in an instant with the latest whine or dispute for you to referee. Am I right? Unfortunately, misbehavior works to get our attention. Good behavior often doesn’t.
The Problem with Ignoring Good Behavior
Whatever is rewarded gets repeated. I’m a psychologist and I taught my clients this. But in my own home, I’ve struggled to use this principle. When the behavior is bad, I react. When my kids are good, I just want to celebrate. You know, by taking a nap. I’m not wanting to go out of my way to reward them.
While it’s inconvenient to reward and discipline, it’s vital that we do. That’s why I was ecstatic to find the Caught Being Good app for the iPhone. I have my iPhone on my person at all times (why is another story), so using it to reward good behavior is very convenient.
The idea behind Caught Being Good is that you look for the behavior you want (not what you don’t). Of course, misbehavior should have consequences! But the purpose of the app is to teach children WHAT to do rather than punish for doing something wrong. Verbal praise is a powerful reward, but using other rewards can make behavior change even more likely.
How Caught Being Good Works
If you’d like to watch a video of the app in action, check this out. If you prefer my incredible description to clicking over to YouTube, here goes. Anything your kids do that you like, you announce, “You’ve been caught being good!” or something to that effect. You then present them with your phone with the app open. They choose their name and spin the wheel. They’re then given a reward from among those you’ve pre-selected using a frequency you’ve chosen. If you can’t give the reward immediately, you can save it under their name for later.
Using this app with my kids has prompted them to make my bed for me numerous times, do chores without being asked, and to surrender a privileged seat or snack to a sibling. Some rewards I’ve included include choosing a snack or cereal from the store, being taken out for ice cream, or having a sleepover. Rewards I least want to give out (like sleepovers) I’ve set to occur least often. It’s taken some time to work out the right rewards. The kids have helped me by telling me which rewards are lame and which are occurring too seldom. Yes, they’ve complained about the sleepover.
Catch Your Kids Being Good
If you have an iPhone, you can download Caught Being Good in the app store for $.99. I’m not being paid a commission on it. (What’s wrong with this picture?) Set up an account for your kids (I’ve used it with my 16-year-old, too!) and add your rewards. I discourage you from announcing your intentions. Just surprise everyone by announcing at dinner that Junior’s been good by eating his broccoli without complaint. When the rest of the kids (and your hubby) chime in that they’ve been good, too, and also want a spin, explain that they can’t request spins. They have to be caught.
What if you don’t have an iPhone or don’t want to spend the money on the app? Make your own paper reward wheel using an old board game spinner or create a reward jar.
Need reward ideas? Whether you use the app or not, check out this list of reward ideas for kids of every age.
Now if only the kids would catch me being good and would give me a good long nap as a reward!
How do you reward your kids for being good?
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
I’ve spoken of my fondness for TaskCurrent before, but now you might say we’re in a relationship.
I’m one of their featured authors currently providing streams on homeschooling, fitness motivation, and dealing with difficult people.
TaskCurrent allows you to sign up for streams–a topic-focused series of mini blog posts with associated to-do’s. These are like little shots of wisdom and advice that take no time to read.
Here’s what LifeHacker had to say about TaskCurrent. I like that the developers want family-friendly content and they’ve been really wonderful to work with.
I’ve created one stream for new homeschoolers and those who love them.
If you’re brand new to homeschooling, you will love my How to Homeschool stream as it makes the process very simple, with the best resources to get you started. But if you’re a veteran, you’ll love my stream, too. It’s the perfect thing to recommend to people who ask you how to get started homeschooling. Have I mentioned that it’s free? You’ll find it in the education category.
I’ve also created two streams for motivating you in fitness and relationships.
The first is 15 Days of Fitness Inspiration. I’ve collected 15 videos, articles, and blog posts that will help you finally get fit. It’s like 5-hour Energy for fitness, without the shakes and insomnia. You’ll find it in the Health & Fitness Category.
The second stream I authored that may be of interest is a series on dealing with difficult people. I combined a number of blog posts I’ve written on the topic into a series of advice. Unfortunately, this has been a really popular topic for me! You’ll find it in the Relationships Category.
I will have more streams available in the future, but for now:
- please download the free app
- subscribe to one or more of my streams
- and spread the word!
- If you like my streams, please rate them. (If you don’t like them, I don’t mind if you’re too busy to rate.)
When you share this on your favorite social media, you will help people find my streams (and other helpful streams) on TaskCurrent and God willing, help change people’s lives. Thanks in advance for helping me help others!
One of my hobbies is trying new applications to make life easier, more productive, or just more fun. These ten applications have been added to by productivity arsenal in recent weeks.
- ActiveInbox You may recall my love affair with Goodtodo. The Goodtodo website and accompanying iPhone app helped me get to inbox zero and stay there. There was only one thing I didn’t like about it and that is that it isn’t fully integrated with Gmail, my email client of choice. In other words, while I could forward emails into Goodtodo (and that’s the point), I often had to go back into Gmail to access emails with lots of links, as these aren’t clickable in Goodtodo. I had heard of ActiveInbox before, but was put off by the Getting Things Done moniker. I don’t use every aspect of the GTD approach. What I didn’t realize is that ActiveInbox does everything that Goodtodo does and more. While it’s not meant to be your primary task manager, that’s exactly how I’m using it and I love it. I have the paid version and feel it’s worth every penny.
2. Springpad Everyone knows Evernote and lots of people love it. I liked it, too, but had a particular frustration. I didn’t like that I couldn’t make a checklist that I could easily rearrange or easily make a note that was a task to complete. Springpad does that and more. The user interface is much more appealing to me as well.
3. SmartPad Even though I have my tasks neatly organized in ActiveInbox, I have days when I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in. One app I love to use in that situation is SmartPad. This iPad app tells you how much you can get done given your schedule and time you have to work. If you dawdle, you can watch the tasks you hoped to accomplish fade from possibility. SmartPad will soon integrate with a SmartDay website which will make the app even more user friendly.
4. Final Version – Wunderlist The man pictured above is not an app, but Mark Forster, who comes up with a new productivity approach every few months. As long as you don’t think of the “Final Version” as the be-all-end-all, but rather as a fun way to gamify your task list, you might enjoy it. I like to use it when I am feeling unmotivated and then Wunderlist is the iPhone app I use. As you tap the stars to indicate that this is a task you prefer to do before the last starred task, the items are put in order at the top of the list for you to begin working on.
5. Clear This is another iPhone app that works for doing the Final Version or just as a great list app. The beauty of it is its simple, clean interface. To make an item a priority, move it up on the list and it’s in the red zone. To add an item between items, simply spread your fingers apart to make room for the new one. If you just want a simple means of organizing tasks in terms or priority, Clear is a great option.
6. Schedule Planner Pro Research shows that we accomplish more of the tasks we schedule. This iPhone app not only allows you to schedule your tasks, but compare what you actually did with what you planned. It’s not perfect, but I love the concept and will use the app when I am working on schedule discipline.
7. Task Current I think of the Task Current iPhone app as a Fun To Do list that I can use to inspire me or even as a reward for doing less-than-fun to do’s.
8. Fitocracy Fitocracy is a seriously addictive website/iPhone app for people like me who thrive on compliments. This diverse community will make you feel like a million bucks for completing your workout, whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or just getting started. There are groups for Christians, but I’ve found the whole community to be very supportive. I was doing squat thrusts at 11:00 p.m. just to finish a “quest” and earn the approval of my fellow fitocrats. What on earth?
9. Daily Feats In case you were wishing there was a pat-on-the-back app for things like housework and parenting, I have good news. Daily Feats gives you points, social approval, and even tangible rewards for doing tasks related to your goals. While company reps are often giving out what are called “props” and sharing links to their products, I’ve found it to be welcome as the products are appropriate to my goals.
10. 750 words Are you a writer who wishes there was a social gaming app to help you get writing done? There is! Earn points for logging 750 words into this writers’ website and compare yourself to others with writing muscle.
What new apps have you found for getting things done?