This is Week 7 of a Year of Living Productively
This week I tested Jason Womack’s technique of envisioning my ideal day each morning. I wrote what I envisioned using idonethis and then followed up by writing how it went. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see what I planned to do this week.
How Envisioning My Ideal Day Saved My Sanity This Week
- Helped me become less task focused. Even though the metric I’ve been using is “getting more done,” the truth is that’s not all I’m after. I want to have peace in knowing I’ve used the gift of this day well. Thinking about my ideal day helped me consider more than just things to do, but people to love, and experiences I wanted to have. That gave me some peace this week.
- Gave me a general guide for the day. I didn’t plan to envision my days this way, but I ended up writing down how I saw the day unfolding, step by step. As long as I kept this guide in mind, it worked well to help me recall what I really wanted my day to look like. It also helped me take all my commitments for the day into account.
- Got me to do things I ordinarily wouldn’t have. I found this was especially true in the evenings when I’m much harder to motivate. I made time for my kids and for reading and I felt great about that.
How Envisioning My Ideal Day Made Me Crazy This Week
- I wasn’t well. I had another week of extreme fatigue and that made thinking about my ideal day that much harder. I finished the week feeling better though and I’m hopeful to be back to normal soon.
- Started off as an unrealistic routine. At first, I approached my ideal day list as a have-to list. That didn’t work well. I felt like I didn’t want to do any of it then. The rebel in me kicked in. But then I reminded myself that this was just a wish list–not a requisition–and it helped a lot. It also helped not referring to it, but just remembering what I’d written.
Did Envisioning My Ideal Day Help Me Get More Done?
Yes. At first I thought my answer was going to be no, but that’s because I expected to do everything I had planned. When I started seeing it as a general guide and not a must-do list, I started seeing progress. I plan to continue doing this mentally, though I don’t plan to continue recording it via idonethis for the time being.
I do this now using an app called the 5 Minute Journal. I answer questions about what would make today great. I do believe it makes a difference.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 8
“Do it tomorrow” doesn’t sound like very wise advice until you read Mark Forster’s book. I read Do It Tomorrow a number of years ago, tried the approach, and failed miserably. Having a number of years of experience in productivity, I decided to give it another try. I re-read the book and I think I understand what went wrong last time and I’m very excited to test it this week.
The concept. Most of us aren’t efficient in getting our work done, because we do things as a reaction. We attend to all kinds of requests as though they were urgent, when most of them aren’t. By waiting a day to do those that aren’t argent, we can organize them to get them done quickly. All the day’s email and paper can be handled at once, for example. The idea is that you are always completing one day’s work rather than an endless stream of tasks. Any work you have now that you’re behind on (including email) is declared a backlog. The first part of your work day is devoted to clearing the backlog–at least 5 minutes every day, and then for as long as you wish. The rest of your day is devoted to working on the tasks that came in yesterday. The idea is that you can stay on top of your work, and if you can’t, you need to figure out why and take steps to address it.
Do it Tomorrow is chock full of ideas for dealing with projects, finding time to work on meaningful goals, and addressing procrastination. It’s a great read! (The links above are affiliate links.) I’ll be using IQTell to manage my Do it Tomorrow approach, but a dated diary works beautifully, too. (Note: My past mistake that I’ll avoid this time was entering many tasks that were really part of my backlog to action the next day.)
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. 1. Put all work you’re behind on into backlog folders where it’s out of sight. 2. Collect all today’s incoming work and deal with it in batches tomorrow with the goal of completing all of it. If you take action on a project and have more to do on it, re-enter it for the next day. 3. Items that you must action today (because they’re urgent) should be written on a separate list. 4. Spend the first part of every work day clearing your backlog. If you’d rather not order the book, but still want some guidance, search the forum on Mark Forster’s website for DIT.
Click here to see how my week with DIT went.
If you’ve tried envisioning your ideal day 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
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
This is Week 1 of a Year of Living Productively
When I told a friend whom I met on a productivity forum that I was going to be using a paper to-do list this week, she laughed and said, “Techno Girl is going paper, huh?”
Yeah, I’m out of my element. I haven’t consistently used a paper to-do list in many years. Those of you who’ve always used paper may be frustrated with me. First, I’ve discovered benefits of paper that are no-brainers for you. But second, I’ve also discovered some frustrations with paper that you will think aren’t an issue at all.
How a Paper To-Do List Saved My Sanity This Week
A sense of completion. The biggest unexpected benefit for me was feeling like I actually accomplished something. I do think I did more than normal, but even if I hadn’t, I felt like I did. Most digital to-do lists dismiss completed tasks from view, leaving me with the feeling that I haven’t accomplished anything. In fact, I assumed that I hadn’t gotten much done this week until I noticed that most of my tasks are crossed off. There’s just something about crossing off a task with a pen, too.
Reduced overwhelm. Because I only planned to use paper for the work week, I didn’t list everything that I could potentially do in twenty lifetimes–which is what I tend to do on a digital list. Several times when I felt stressed, I reviewed my list and thought, “That’s all?” A limited number of potential tasks is a very good thing for someone like me.
I left it behind. One of the things I assumed was a drawback of paper was actually a benefit to me this week. Because I didn’t take my list everywhere with me like I do with digital lists on my phone, I felt like I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the activity at hand. So I chatted with friends at the kids’ P.E. class rather than trying to figure out what tasks I could do at the same time.
How a Paper To-Do List Made Me Crazy This Week
Lack of integration with e-mail. I am accustomed to having my email and tasks work together. I didn’t like the feeling of wasting time writing down email-related tasks. I expect that paper users don’t do this, but because I clean out my inbox constantly, I didn’t know what else to do.
Pen failure. Not only did my pen run out of ink, but it tore my paper as I tried to get it to work. Then I couldn’t find a decent pen. That’s the kind of thing that drives me nutty.
Poor follow-up system. If I knew I wasn’t going to work on a task until after this week, I didn’t have a good place to put it. I chose to use a digital approach because I no longer use a paper planner nor do I keep written notes. For me, it seemed silly to have to move back and forth from paper to digital and all-paper is out of the question for this woman who needs digital alarms to remember any kind of appointment.
Did a Paper To-Do List Help Me Get More Done?
Yes! I was more motivated to cross off tasks that remained on my list and felt productive finishing my to-do’s for a change. While I am ready to return to a digital list this week, I realize that I have to find a way to limit my lists AND see everything that I’ve finished.
I still occasionally make paper lists and like them when I do. But my primary lists are digital because of the convenience of having my phone with me at all times.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 2
The late Dr. Stephen Covey’s approach to productivity explained in First Things First can be distilled down to his focus on four kinds of work: urgent/important; not urgent/important; urgent/unimportant; and not urgent/unimportant. He emphasized the importance of spending time in Quadrant II: not urgent/important. Urgent and important tasks are attended to without much effort, but those activities which enable us to grow, build relationships, or fulfill our dreams are so often put on the back burner because they don’t demand our time. That is, unless you have my kids and husband. They demand my time! But I’m thankful for that. Of course, Covey urged us to spend less time doing unimportant things, urgent or not.
This week, I am going to see whether categorizing all of my tasks by these four quadrants will improve my productivity. I’ve spent a lot of time determining what’s important in my life, so I am ready to go. I am beta testing IQTell and will be using this very flexible system to categorize tasks this way. If you’d like to join me this week, you can set up tags or categories for almost any digital to-do list. However, there are paper forms for you pen lovers, too.
Hoping that checking in with your results next week at least ranks as Quadrant III! Please vote on whether paper helps you be more productive before you click off to get things done. Have a blessed week!
P.S. Read A Year of Living Productively if you don’t know what I’m doing. Click here to see how Covey’s Quadrant Approach worked for me.