Growing up, my very hard-working dad would always tell us, “Work smarter, not harder.” I hear his voice in my head all the time now, which is usually a good thing! Most working moms want to get our work done as well and as efficiently as possible, so we can make the most of our time with our kids. Even though I now work from home, I hate the feeling of not being done with work for the day when it’s time to pick up the girls from school… because it means more work awaits me after their bedtime. Having my work caught up is one of the best feelings, because then my attention is not divided, and I can truly relax in the evening. In this post, I shared a few of my favorite planning and to-do list tips and tools. Here are three productivity tips that I’ve found to be especially helpful in getting things done.
- The Pomodoro Technique. I’ve been setting a timer to get things done for years but just discovered this specific timer method. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, work as hard as you can on a task, break for 5 minutes, and begin again. This video gives a quick overview. Over time, it supposedly helps you to see how many “poms” you need to allot for certain tasks and can help in planning your day realistically – which is good for people like me who tend to be overly optimistic about time management. Lots of writers and professors use it, and I’ve found great success with it in the past week for writing and grading.
- Break your to-do list into micro-tasks. A few years ago, I read part of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. The part of the book that really stuck with me was his explanation that many of our to-do list items are actually macro-items that have multiple related smaller steps. For example, one of my to-do list items is “Submit travel request for conference,” and that could be broken down into other steps, such as: Email administrative assistant, Print forms off website, Locate registration receipt, Calculate meal costs, etc. The goal is that you enable yourself to complete the task by being more specific about exactly what needs to be done and how much time it will take. Simple, but brilliant – at least to me!
- Daily Top 3. I got this one from Inspired to Action (I guess you can tell by now I love Kat’s stuff!). Like the first two, it’s super easy but makes a big impact. Each day, when you write out all your to-do list items, go back and star or circle your “top 3” things that MUST be done. Now, I know, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking there’s no way you could pick just three. Sometimes I make two lists – one for work tasks and one for home/family tasks, and circle two or three in each area. But the main idea is to force yourself to prioritize what urgently must be done vs. all those things that seem important but really aren’t. The goal is still to get to all of your to-do’s, but in the case that you don’t, at the end of the day when your head hits the pillow, there is a great satisfaction in knowing that you at least accomplished the three most important ones.
I told you they were simple, but sometimes simplest is best! What’s your best tip for maximizing your work time?