How To… be more productive.

I think everyone agrees that being productive is better than not.

You get things done, free up time for later in the day and have that satisfaction that comes with being pleasantly busy.

But some days it can be hard to get anything done and you go to bed feeling pretty rubbish, like you have a thousand things to do tomorrow and despite all your hard work, you accomplished nothing today.

To minimize that sort of day, here are some helpful steps to being more productive.

Step 1: Identify your tasks.

As I always say and will continue saying: lists are your friend.

Look at everything you have to do, walk around the house and look for jobs and write a list of everything that needs doing, not necessarily right now, but in the next three to seven days.

Step 2: Categorize their importance.

Make a list of ones that are urgent and a list of ones that make a big difference. Anything on both lists is very important, next comes anything on the urgent list, next on the difference list and finally we have the things that need doing but are neither urgent nor do they make a massive difference.

Step 3: Schedule them.

You only have so many hours in a day. So take the most urgent tasks and schedule them in. Anything that has a set time will obviously need to occupy that time slot regardless of importance, but you should otherwise try and get the most important things done first.

Step 4: Make a BORED? chart.

If you, for whatever reason, need to kill time, then make yourself a BORED chart.

Here is mine as an example:

BORED

Whenever you feel the urge to procrastinate, have an hour of dead space or an episode of mania, whenever you would normally just have a dead, tense gap in the day you regret later, consult your BORED? chart. That way even your slow time is productive.

Step 5: Set long-term goals.

When looking at your tasks, you need to see them as parts of a whole. Some, like doing the dishes, you just do and get done with. But some things, like keeping fit or sorting the garden, need a long term goal in mind. Work out what the end goal of your activities is and set yourself targets to hit. This lets you see how far you’re getting and adjust accordingly.

Step 6: Request accountability checks.

And if you really aren’t sure of your ability to go through with the work or to focus on your goals, why not ask someone to keep an eye on it with you? Having someone to report back to and help you refocus could be a great help.

And that is how I make the most of my time so at the end of the day I usually feel like I used my time wisely.

How do you balance your schedule? Any tips on how to avoid procrastination and maximize your day? Please share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

8 Organization Tips to (Almost) Never Forget Anything.

I have a dreadful memory at times. Part of it is the same hormonal, mental, crazies problem that makes me want to sleep for days on end, hide from people, bite and break things or stare at walls rather than work. Part of it is just that I’m a forgetful sort of a person. With how long it takes me to learn names and get into routines and how hard it is for me to follow a set schedule, I’m sometimes surprised I’m functional. But I am functional, I do remember things, I do get things done (most of the time), and this is how I do it.

1. Lists.

I write lists for everything. Shopping lists, job lists, work lists, garden lists. Whatever you have to do, write it down and write it in context.

Good lists that I use regularly are “things I need to do today,” “steps to cleaning the (kitchen),” and “things to do in town.” Also, many websites have list functions. Not only do I have a list of blog posts to write, I make use of WordPress’s “Drafts” section on the dashboard to keep track of what I’m writing. I also use the beautifully organized “To Do” list on Fiverr and will flag any emails I need to respond to on Outlook. Lists do you good. Just remember to check and update them!

2. Strategic untidiness.

I’m hardly a minimalist, but I love to have a lot of clear surfaces, open floor space and bare wall patches in my house. However, I will strategically leave things in a mess on purpose. Why? Because that way I notice them!

When the pantry countertop is normally clear, but there’s a letter on it, I remember I need to post it when I next go out. When a wall is normally clear but there’s an ironing board with some shirts on it there, I remember I need to iron those shirts. When my sewing basket is normally in the wardrobe, but it’s next-to the sofa and a pile of things is on the coffee table, I remember I’m due a mending spree.

Plus, strategic untidiness also kills procrastination, because I can’t stand to leave things out of place a second longer than necessary!

3. Tell people.

Jon and I tend to relay things back to each other and ask each other odd questions all the time. We are basically walking dictionaries, encyclopedias, agendas and, in Jon’s case, a calculator for each other. But this will work on anyone who has a better memory than you or it will just increase the odds of you being reminded on time.

Tell someone what you need to remember. Try and make it someone who will be around at about the right time to remind you. It’s amazing how just by doubling the people who know something you increase the odds of remembering so much!

4. Fake deadlines.

Another one I do in part to curb procrastination, in part to remember things. If the deadline for an essay is Monday, my fake deadline will be Saturday or Sunday. If the deadline for booking an appointment is the 25th, my fake deadline will be the 20th. If the deadline for hoovering is 6pm, my fake deadline will be 3pm.

Simply set your deadline far back enough that it gives you time to remember it, panic and actually do it. That way you’re unlikely to be late or miss a deadline again.

5. Room by room.

A great way of reminding yourself of things is to sort similar tasks by room. Keep all your papers out in the office: one pile for things to send, one pile for things to file, one pile for things to copy, one pile for things to scan or transcribe. That way you get a visual reminder of what you have left to do at a time when it is convenient to do them.

Likewise with other rooms. Leave the ironing where your laundry dries or is folded once it’s dry. Keep the dishes in or by the sink for when you’re next washing. Try and think about what you would be doing in that part of the room and how you’d divide your time to make the tasks easier.

6. Notes.

Where lists fail, notes rescue you. Put notes everywhere. As text message drafts on your phone, stuck to calendars, next-to the things that need addressing, on your work desk, on your computer, on the fridge, anywhere and everywhere you will see them. The more important to remember, the more notes everywhere.

7. Folders.

For things that you need to remember on a monthly basis or even a quarterly or yearly basis, keep folders. The first thing in the folder should be a list of the last time you did it and what you did. The following pages should be records of the last times. This could be so you don’t repeat birthday presents, so you remember to save for the water bill or so you plant the vegetable seedlings out at the right time. Whatever it’s for, file it, label the folder and put a reminder on your calendar or phone that you need to check it a certain amount of time in advance.

8. Timetable.

Finally, timetables weren’t just good for school. Think about your typical week and write yourself a daily timetable. Do it hour by hour, so you can adjust things as you need. Write everything in it. Either print it out, write it on paper or do it on your computer, depending on what you’re more likely to look at.

For example, mine is on my computer because every day, first thing, I check my emails, student timetable and lists from the day before.

From around 4.30 until 5.15 I am seeing to the cat’s basics (food, water, litter, bedding), helping Jon get ready for work and doing any small jobs.

From 5.15 to 7.30 I am tidying the house, cleaning and doing odd jobs.

From 7.30 I am getting ready for work.

From 8.00 I am having lessons, writing for the blog, writing for money, writing my books.

From 16.00 I am tidying up, finishing my housework and cooking.

So usually by the evening I have done everything. And if I haven’t at least I have a few hours to finish everything.

And that’s how I try my hardest to remember everything. It isn’t failsafe. I still forget things. I sometimes forget to add something to a list or to check my list, even! But generally these tactics keep me organized, on track, low-stress and meeting all my deadlines.

How do you try and remember things? Got any tips or questions? It’s what the comments are for.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!