For years I worked in a healthcare setting in which my success was determined by my time productivity. The expectation was to be (X)% productive each day (and X was an EXTREMELY high percentage!). The only % of my day that was considered productive was the time in which I had face to face interaction with patients. I did not particularly love the pressure of that and had a difficult time getting out of that mode at the end of the day. However, I think there is a part of all of us that like to look back at our day and feel productive.
If I have spent my time each day reaching “max productivity”, I will have spent time with the Lord, completed all my duties for work, spent quality time with my kids, invested in my husband, cared for our home, reached out to friends, chatted with my family, checked the mail, paid the bills, chauffeured the kids to their practices, prepared 3 meals + snacks x 5 in our tribe, helped everyone with homework, reviewed all the papers that came home in the folders, checked my calendar for anything extra and bathed my kids and myself in some form or fashion.
The never-ending list can be exhausting, overwhelming, impossible, all the things.
Not too long ago, at the advice of someone else much wiser than myself, I took a time inventory. I recorded at the end of every hour what I had spent time doing in that hour. Those hours in the day I thought I needed more of?? I was wasting A LOT of them. Not wasting them as in using them for a time of rest- just wasting them doing things that were meaningless to myself or anyone else.
Hopefully, we do not put pressure on ourselves to “produce” every moment of every day. There is a balance. But when we use our time wisely for things that matter, we are productive.
It is 2019 and the resources at our fingertips are abundant.
Here are 9 tools that make my life easier:
1)GOOGLE CALENDAR: I had always been a big Erin Condren fan. I LOVE a paper planner. I like to write with all the colored Flair pens. I like to flip the pages and see what’s ahead and what is complete. Unfortunately, I can’t carry it everywhere and I would forget to add important happenings to my calendar! The result in an often frazzled brain + no written trace that I need to be at X place at X time? nada. nothing. I miss it. (insert important thing like picking up a kid here!!) I tried Cozi and Apple’s calendar first. No good for me. I have been using Google Calendar for over a year and it is $$$$$$!! I can color-code by family member, add the location of events, view the whole month/week/day, and even share with the hubs! I can officially proclaim that digital calendar-ing is the way to go.
2) SLEEP CYCLE APP: Ever think you could be more productive if you didn’t wake up feeling like you took a nose dive off the wrong side of the bed? I have been using Sleep Cycle for over 5 years and LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!
According to Sleep Cycle’s website, “Waking up easy is all about timing. Sleep Cycle alarm clock tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up during light sleep. Waking up during light sleep feels like waking up naturally rested without an alarm clock…Your movements vary with each sleep stage. Sleep Cycle uses sound analysis to identify sleep states, tracking your movements in bed. Sleep Cycle uses a wake-up phase (30 minutes by default) that ends at your desired alarm time. During this phase, Sleep Cycle will monitor signals from your body to wake you softly when you are in the lightest possible sleep stage (stage 1-2).”
(Side note- Sleep Cycle will not let you sleep past the time when you set your alarm.) The sound it makes when it wakes me up literally makes me happy to wake up! It is the real deal. I believe there is a small fee for this app, but over 5 years in- WORTH.IT.
3) MEAL PLANNING + GROCERY APPS: HELLO, My name is Tiffani and I am here to say that I have always struggled with spending way too much time and money on groceries. I go in with a list and come out with WAY more than I needed. I get home and we either consume something we did not need or it sits in the pantry/fridge until its expiration. INSERT WalMart grocery app, Shipt, and Instacart into my life. (If I knew how to insert an angel emoji here, I would!!!) I try to meal plan 1 month at a time (I also make this visual to the family so they know- and my 6 year old son shares the info with the non-readers in the fam). I normally do a big grocery trip around every 2 weeks. Once I make my meal plan, I write down the ingredients I need and just click through and order. I order the bulk from Wal-Mart. The items I don’t like to buy from Wal-Mart or the items they might not have, I order through Shipt from Publix or Target or through Instacart from Aldi. Ordering online makes me 1) spend less time 2) spend less money and 3) spend more time on things that matter. If you are missing out on this 2019 luxury, you are TRULY missing out!! (Sorry small towners that don’t have this luxury. You should totally lobby for it.)
4) SCREEN TIME APP: I wish I could count the number of times I had opened a social media app without even realizing I was scrolling. Nothing sucks up your time like social media. How did 4:45 just turn to 5:30 in what felt like 3 minutes? It was those thumb swipes up. They stole your time. And they don’t give it back. There is a place and time for social media, but do not let it steal ALL your time. There are too many things bring you actual JOY. Social media will never fill you, so limit the time you spend there trying to get something it was never meant to give. The screen time app will allow you to set boundaries on how much time you spend on social apps. Set a reasonable amount of time (i.e. If you set the app for 3 minutes/day, it is doubtful you will stick to that) and utilize your self-control to stick to it!
5) CLEANING CONCENTRATES: This sounds so trivial, but until last year when we transitioned to a non-toxic/chemical-free home, I had always purchased pre-mixed cleaning products (409, Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc.) Sometimes my home doesn’t feel like it, but I do A LOT of cleaning and we use A LOT of products. I was finding myself constantly running to the store to pick up a bathroom cleaner, a countertop cleaner, a stovetop cleaner, a ____ cleaner. Not only that, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which brands and which products were the best. Now, I have a few different bottles and the concentrates needed to mix them. I add the concentrate, add the ounces of water needed and am back in business. It takes all of 20 seconds. The concentrates have lasted us a LONG TIME and when I was thinking about what truly makes my life more productive (+ more frugal + less toxic in this case!), these concentrates definitely make the cut! (We use Shaklee, but there are lots of products with concentrates out there!)
6) EVERNOTE: My husband has used this for years, but I just recently jumped on the bandwagon. Evernote is that all in 1 app. And the free version is still insanely useful!! Know why I love it? It can READ.HANDWRITING. FOR REALS?!?! So, I can take a pic of a note I wrote and later I can search for it and it can READ MY HANDWRITING to pull up that note!!! You can save whole pages, articles, recipes, images, PDFs, and more. (Think important documents that you don’t want to keep paper copies. Marie Kondo would be so proud of you.) Your clips are automatically organized with the notebooks and tags you choose. It can also help you manage your everyday tasks and projects, and even remind you so you never miss a deadline. It definitely lives up to its hype.
7) WAKE UP FIRST: I know, I know. I’m an early bird and you aren’t. I’ve heard it all. HOWEVER, there’s all the research out there to prove it. Go look it up. Waking up and having time to get yourself together, spend time in the Word, chat with Jesus before you have to face the day and all the people that HAVEN’T spent time with Jesus makes it worth the sacrifice of sleep one thousand times over. Seriously, if you want to be more productive, try starting your day a little earlier. Be the first in your home to wake up!
8) YES/NO LIST: You are one person. You were created by God for a larger purpose for His kingdom and for His glory. You were NOT created to be all things to all people. Decide what you are going to say yes to, what you are going to say no to and what your personal limits are. We were all designed uniquely. What I can accomplish in a 12 hour period is different than what you can accomplish. You can look to the left or right (or scroll at any moment that you haven’t set your Screen Time timer for) and see someone that can run circles around you and someone that moves at a slower pace. You can choose to compare and judge, or you can be grateful God created YOU to be the only YOU there ever was or will be. Your time can be most productive when you create these filters in advance.
Let me give you an example: It is important to me for our home to be a safe space for our kids and their friends, so even though life is crazy, I choose YES to having their friends over often. So one of the filters on my YES list is “Creating a safe space/home for my kids.” However, I also work. I cannot be at all the events at their school. I would love to be actively involved in the PTO, but I have to say NO to a lot of daytime events at their school. When I know I am saying YES to some investments in my kids, it decreases the guilt in my NO. There is a balance. Check yourself if you are always saying YES or if you are always saying NO. Create a filter to run your “to-dos” through. It’ll make your days feel more productive.
9) RETHINK PRODUCTIVITY: When I say productivity, I bet you think chores, to do lists and all things misery. Re-think what makes you productive. That Scrabble game with your son? Productive. That 30-minute bath? Productive. That time spent encouraging a grieving friend? Productive. That time meal planning to feed your family? Productive. That time spent working on your budget? Productive. Broaden your view of what is truly productive.
Do not sell your time short. We are here for but a vapor. Just a tiny little mist. Let’s commit to using tools to make us more productive, but also to receive the grace we’ve been given we nail it and when we totally screw it up. You can do this!
What do you use that I need to be using? What helps your day be more productive?? I can’t wait to learn from you!!