Even though I had more time on my hands two years ago before becoming a mother, I wasn't nearly as productive—the primary reason being that I didn't have to be. Sure, I had a ton of my plate, but nothing like I do now, between the blog, The Shop, and Sloan, to name just a few things. As a result, it's imperative that when I'm in the office, I use my time effectively so I can devote myself to being a mom, wife, and friend outside of work. Over the years, I've found small tweaks to make each minute as efficient as possible. I still have my off-days, but in general, I've found that by using these tips, I'm able to make the most of my time and get far more done:
Something I picked up from my days of working from home is that a clean work space is crucial. If my desk is messy, it translates to me being distracted. That’s not to say you need your own office (I used a kitchen table for years), but make sure whatever surface you’re working from is clean. I take a few minutes—ideally at the end of each day—to tidy-up my desk and the surrounding areas. I put away coffee mugs, break down boxes, organize notes, and clear my space—and subsequently my mind—for a productive setting. The same goes for my desktop and inbox. I'm most productive when everything is organized, online and off!
Health may not be obvious when thinking about getting things done, but feeling good plays a major role in my productivity. When I’m well-hydrated, well-rested, and eating healthier food, I function better. I keep a water bottle on my desk (the one I included in my Best Buys of 2016 post), stock the office fridge with (relatively) nutritious snacks, and do my best to engage in some sort of physical activity everyday, whether it's a morning walk or hip-hop class. Lastly, I try not to skip out on downtime, even when it feels like the last thing I have time for. I do my best to turn off work mode in time for dinner and our nighttime routine with Sloan—and The Bachelor, obviously.
Setting deadlines throughout the day is key. I can’t remember where I first learned about The Pomodoro Technique, but it’s one of the smartest time management tips I’ve come across. You work in distraction-free spurts, followed by a scheduled break and repeat the process until your task is completed. The time segements can vary, but I like the 25:5 ratio. For 25 minutes, put away all distractions and focus on the task. After 25 minutes, I take a 5 minute break that ideally doesn’t involve tech—stretch, get a glass of water, chat with the team, etc. I take a longer break for lunch and that’s when I’ll check social media or any pressing notifications. I use this for work, but it’s also helpful for mundane chores like cleaning out closets.
I’m a notorious multi-tasker, but I’ve found that trying to do too much usually leads to a lack of focus. When I really want to get more done in a day, I batch my tasks. If I have tons of emails to get through, I’ll focus on my inbox at a set time, instead of jumping to a different project and leaving part of my brain in between. If I need to run errands, I’ll wait until I can do them all at once instead of leaving the house or office three separate times. Having set days for certain chores or tasks helps, too—for example, I know that every Tuesday is laundry day. It takes away the stress of when to fit it in and instead I'm better-equipped to plan my day accordingly.
Growing up, I was the kid who needed a gold star to feel good about myself. As an adult, I still crave that physical reward system. Though I’m not using a star chart anymore (though I can see Sloan loving this idea in a couple years), I’ve found other ways to treat myself after finishing something big. A nice glass of wine, a quiet bubble bath, a new lipstick—just a little something to celebrate my hard work. Having a prize at the end of the tunnel is usually the last boost of motivation I need.