Today’s post has little to do with the pictures of my two youngest babies featured above (Jack and Jilly). I just snapped some photos while I was walking around the house and thought, “they are so sweet, I just want everyone to see them”. I guess in a round about way it may have to do with today’s blog, since a couple of years ago I would never have been just casually walking around the house with nothing in mind to do besides take random pictures of my pets. A couple of years ago, I would have felt the need to constantly be productive every minute of every day, doing something that would have visible or tangible results.
I am still a lot like that today, however, I have come to realize that not doing anything IS actually still doing something. Slowing myself down was difficult for me to do, if I wasn’t sick, I usually would be doing something, cleaning, working, thinking about cleaning or working, taking care of the kids, cooking, etc. I rarely would take time to just sit down and enjoy a moment of silence or read for a few minutes, or heaven forbid, take a nap! Since I have simplified life, I have found that my list of to do’s, is much shorter, leaving me with more free time to move slower, enjoy a moment or two of rest and silence, or just enjoy not feeling like I have to get something done at any given moment.
With this slower pace, I have actually found that I am more productive in the long run. When I am not pressed to complete tasks quickly, whether it is something work related, cooking dinner, helping the kids, reading a book, I find that the outcome is of better quality and the process of getting there was much more enjoyable. So, how do you slow down and start focusing on less to achieve more productivity? I started by choosing my three ‘Most Important Tasks’ for the day, and making sure that I got those done. Those top three items were personal and/or work related. As long as I was able to cross those tasks off of my list, I gave myself permission to feel productive for the day, and it didn’t matter what else I got done. It wasn’t long before I was getting those MIT’s done early on each day, so I added 3 optional personal tasks, and 3 optional work tasks to my list.
The key to completing my tasks are-
1) Make sure MIT’s can be completed early on in the day.
2) Focus on ONE task at a time until it is finished.
3) Group like tasks together into one MIT.
-Complete MIT’s early in the day. My ‘Most Important Tasks’ are usually things like phone calls, errands, answering emails or prepping food. Things that are essential to be done that day, and that can be done at any given time, since I am a morning person and like to start getting things done early. Getting your MIT’s out of the way early in the day also gives you freedom for the rest of the day, and makes me feel like I want to get a few more things done later on.
-Focus on one task until it is finished. I was used to multi-tasking all the time until I started reading about minimalism and simple living. I knew multi-tasking was not that effective, but I felt like I was being more productive getting a little bit of everything done, even though I wasn’t finishing a whole lot. Now, I have certain days that I plan one of my MIT’s to make phone calls, schedule appointments or call family and friends. I block out a couple of hours to do so and just start making calls. I have found that once I start making calls, I get focused and can move through them quickly and enjoyably. I do the same with tasks like answering emails, entering receipts, cleaning out folders, prepping food or cleaning bathrooms. The focus on one task alone helps me feel more centered, making it easier and much more enjoyable.
-Group like tasks together. I like to group tasks together before I get started so my focus is spent on like items. I find the following to be the most natural tasks to group together to help myself stay centered and avoid distractions.
– Making work and personal phone calls, scheduling appointments and follow up calls.
– Going through mail, folder with papers that needed to be saved for various reasons to follow up on at a later date, like registration forms, school permission slips or reminders to be calendared.
– Cleaning like areas of the house, multiple bathrooms, vacuuming all rooms, mopping all tile, sweeping the garage and patio.
– Errands and grocery shopping. Whenever possible I try to make a list to go out one day a week and get all of my errands, appointments and grocery shopping done at once. It may take several hours, but it is just one day a week and leaves me with more time instead of making small trips over and over throughout the week.
As you pay attention to the tasks you complete on a regular basis in your own home and at work, you should see a natural rhythm or schedule emerge when it comes to completing tasks like the ones listed above. A little bit of planning can help you slow down and actually end up being more productive in the long run. Below is an example of my weekly routine that has now become a habit and natural rhythm in my life, if you like the format, check out the free download I have available that you can print and use for yourself. I’ve also included a downloadable form for planning your MIT’s.
Click on Worksheet to Download