Happy Monday, friends! And welcome to week 3 of Project: Purposeful Productivity! If you're new to this series, for the past few weeks we've been talking about being more intentional with our time and accomplishing more in our days. We started out by discussing goal setting, and last week I shared 10 oh-so-simple ways to start being more productive *today.* This week is all about routines!
One thing that's hard about organization and productivity techniques is that they're almost never "one size fits all." Different personalities, phases of life, responsibilities, and other inhibiting factors mean that a strategy that's perfect for one person might fall flat for another. And if something falls flat for you, that's okay. I've been there many, many times! When that happens, though, instead of just throwing in the towel, we can adjust and find the thing that does work for us in our current stage of life.
Making changes and increasing productivity is not about will power. It's about routine. If I can work something into the routines of my life, I'm a lot more likely to stick with it over the long haul than if I just "try harder," which usually wears off over time. This past week I sat down and thought about five different ways that I've gone about revamping my routine at different points in my life. If you're in need of a change to help you increase productivity, hopefully one of these will work for you too!
1. Take on a major change.
Yep, we're jumping in to the deep end right away. This is the type of revamp that has worked for me most recently, and it was a total eye opener when I tried it. For almost three years, my main work time was from 8 pm to 12 am after the Cs were in bed. I would finish my work, but I was always exhausted and less than productive throughout the next day. For part of the time that I was in this routine, I felt like the late nights were a necessity if I wanted to be able to accomplish everything. The Cs were tiny, and as soon as they woke up in the morning (which has always been early), they needed my attention, so the only time I could get things done was after they went to sleep at night.
Now that the boys are a little older, though, they're more self sufficient in the morning. And since Donnie and I are both working from home full time, we switch off watching the Cs during the week, so I have more dedicated "work" time. There was no need to continue the late nights that resulted in tiring, unproductive days. So I made a major change. I totally cut myself off from working at night (because I knew that if I started I wouldn't stop until late) and started going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 5. Yes, 5 is early, but I am actually getting much more sleep than I was before. I have also been amazed at how much more I accomplish during the day when I get an early start and actually have energy. The "major change method" has definitely worked for me.
2. Take it one step at a time.
There have been other times in my life, though, that a major change like just wouldn't have been feasible. I would get all pumped up about it and try it for a day or two, but because of work or kids or other responsibilities, it would just be too much to realistically keep up over the long term. Sometimes I need to take it one step at a time.
Even if I have a huge list of things I want to improve, I often just need to choose one thing and focus on it and be content with putting other things on the back burner for a while. Sometimes it has been as simple as starting my day by reading a book for 10 minutes. Other times I have used my lunch time to go for a short walk. I didn't change everything, but I slowly made small tweaks in my routine and by being consistent with them, I was able to make bigger changes over time.
3. Try the Jerry Seinfeld method.
Donnie is a major Seinfeld fan, and he is actually the one who told me about this strategy-- I was surprised how well it actually worked for helping to build a new habit! Choose the new habit you want to form. Then get a big calendar and hang it in a place where you'll see it all the time. After you complete the new habit on day 1, you get to put a big X on that day on your calendar. The next day, you complete the new activity again, and you get another X. After a few days, you have a chain of Xs, and your job is to keep from breaking the chain. It becomes addicting!
One reason I think this works so well is because instead of doing one huge push every once in a while, you just chip away at your new habit/activity little by little each day. You certainly don't want to break your beautiful string of Xs, so over time this consistent work will result in significant improvements, and before you know it, the habit is built.
I have often used this strategy for getting into a new workout routine. My alarm goes off and the last thing I feel like doing is getting out of bed, but I don't want to ruin my X streak, so I suck it up and hop to it! 🙂
4. Focus on mornings.
If there is only a small part of the day that you can focus on, make it mornings. My mornings set the tone for the rest of my day. Maybe you're better at switching gears than I am, but I know that if I start the day by hitting snooze a bunch of times and then laying in bed and looking at my phone for a half an hour, I will feel lethargic and unproductive throughout the rest of the day. When I get a good night's sleep, wake up when my alarm goes off, and have a quiet time and work out, I keep up the productivity throughout the day and get way more accomplished. If you just choose one thing, work on settling into a morning routine that works well for you, and then take on other areas.
5. Grab a buddy (or a few).
Sometimes all you need is a little bit of accountability. Knowing that someone else is relying on you to accomplish your part of the bargain can be really motivating. When you are tired and want to quit, they push you to keep going (and vice versa). Having to answer to someone else who is committed to accomplishing the same thing you are can be a total game changer.
At the beginning of this year, Donnie and I began meeting with a mastermind group of people trying to grow their online businesses. We meet every other week, and at the end of each meeting, we always commit to having certain things done before we meet again. We also make larger quarterly goals and set yearly themes that we keep track of in a Google doc. Knowing that we have to report back to this group of people helps us stay on track-- we don't be the only ones who don't follow through with what we've committed to doing! I can definitely say that our business is better because we've had these other like-minded people to keep us on track.
It's all about routine, friends! If we can build those habits and stay consistent with the little things, those small daily wins will turn into big results over time. I challenge you to choose even just one small part of your routine to revamp and see how working at it daily improves your productivity. I'd love to hear about your favorite strategies in the comments, too, so leave them below! If you missed the past posts in the Project: Purposeful Productivity series, you can see them here...
Have a wonderful week!