Moms, I’ve got a tip for you: Ignore everything you read about productivity.
You can download all of the iPhone apps you want, make a thousand to-do lists and colour-code your family’s fridge calendar, but what are you really doing? You’re organizing your things to get done.
You’re not doing them.
It seems like technology and lists are helping hands in the fight between productivity and procrastination, but they really just make more work for you, and ultimately cause you to lose time that you could be using to do the things you’re planning to do.
Instead, the grand-marshal rule of maximizing your productivity, whether that’s getting dinner on the table, ensuring bills are paid, or finding a way to get the kids to where they need to be in clean clothes: start something and finish it, period.
A test: when you walk in the door with a handful of mail, do you:
- Plop it on the counter to be sorted later, possibly with yesterday’s (and last week’s) mail, miscellaneous flyers from school and magazines;
- Sort it immediately into junk (straight into the recycling bin), bills (to the chequebook), and correspondence requiring a response; or,
- Toss the junk into the recycling, pay the bills by online banking or cheque, and email or telephone responses.
The easiest response to live with is often C.
If you habitually travel down road A, you may find ‘lost’ bills and permission slips late. Worse, you’ll be adding another to-do to your skyscraper-high list – clean off the counter. Door B allows you to feel some satisfaction – at least you got rid of the junk mail and put things where you mean to address them, later – but what’s stopping you from forgetting about them, or getting distracted when another event or responsibility pops up? C gets the job done right away, so you can put it out of your mind.
You can apply this principal to nearly everything.
Another example: You’ve got to drive across town with your kids in half an hour, laundry needs washing for tomorrow and you need to arrive home to dinner. How can you possibly get all three things done? You take a step at a time, uni-tasking. First, you assemble dinner for that evening earlier in the day so that it can cook while you’re out. Half an hour before you have to leave, you pop the clothes in the washer, and then get the kids ready to head out. After a half hour, you throw a lasagne, roast or casserole dinner in the oven, if it’s not in a slow cooker, and transfer the laundry to the dryer. Then you drive away. When you’re home, you’ve got dinner made, laundry washed, and you got where you needed to be, on time.
The reason this works is because you didn’t spend time making lists, or putting off a task. You simply saw the jobs that needed doing, and you did them in the most practical way. That, my friends, is productivity