Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

preparing for tomorrow

By Kristina

Got the following newsletter from Time Management Ninja. Curious to see how I’m doing with regards to these preparation tactics.

What is 1 Thing You Could Do Today to Prepare for Tomorrow?

Change the time you get up (or go to bed) – Start the week well rested, not dragging.
Got up late today and have been puttering and cleaning, so I’ll probably go to sleep at 11:30 p.m.

Read 20 pages of a book – Learn something new.
Going to read Real Simple before going to bed.

Write in your success journal – Recognize where you have made progress.
I don’t have a success journal, but I do have a one-line-a-day one and I’ll write in it.

Clean up your desk – Give yourself space to be productive.
The piles of dishes, laundry, mail, papers, and prom centerpieces were driving me crazy so I spent a lot of time cleaning today. My “desk” is the corner of the kitchen counter.

Outline your big idea – Get that idea “out of your head” before it passes.
Didn’t do this.

Exercise – Exercise now, pumps up your productivity all week.
Went to soul.train Urban Flow Vinyasa Yoga.

Empty your inbox – Starting the week at inbox zero is powerful.
Totally not close 🙁

Pack your bag – Don’t scramble looking for things in the morning.
Done for lunch and work!

Review your calendar for the next 2 weeks – No surprise appointments.
Never thought about doing this before, but I did it and it makes me feel more organized about my schedule.

Groom your todo list – What needs to be done?
I’ve put my to-do items into Carrot. I’d like to get them organized into blocks in my Google Calendar as well…I’ll do that when I get up.

Do 1 task from your Someday-Maybe list – Keep it from being a Someday-Never list.
I shredded a ton of junk mail today. I’d been putting that off for a while, so it felt good to do it.

productivity hacks #1-3: one week later

By Kristina

One week later, here’s how I did!

Check email standing up
3/5 – broke this in the morning by paranoidly checking if I had gotten sub coverage for dealing with a broken heating water pump. When I got to school, I did all email standing up at the laptop cart.
3/6 – did it! it’s making me so aware of how much time i’m spending on email.
3/7 – accidentally wrote some sitting emails in the morning, and in the evening at my kitchen counter.
3/8 – slipped a few times for work, but ended up not checking personal email for most of the day
3/9 – cheated a LOT this afternoon.
3/10 – it worked when I had the laptop at the kitchen counter, but I moved it to the dining room table and ended up sitting.
3/11 – cheated some during the day.

Morning: Pure Barre or Yogaglo, Bellocq Breakfast tea, breakfast
Evening: pack lunch, set up teakettle & tea, lay out outfit, pack work bag, write in journal, drink tea and read.
3/5 – could not wake myself up to do Yogaglo. Tea and breakfast were good (but started late because waiting for plumber).
3/6 – went to Pure Barre and did breakfast routine. drank an iced venti redeye after. Did crosswords with New York Times app.
3/7 – went to Pure Barre. Thought I’d be really sore. Was good but I was so tired later. My evening routine is not going so well…I am hesitant to read Broken Harbor (creepy thriller) right before bed.
3/8 – let myself sleep in (planned yesterday). needed it, though i accidentally left on my Pure Barre alarm.
3/9 – did Pure Barre in the morning, did crosswords at night.
3/10 – could not wake up to run before brunch. Also sat while emailing a lot (I moved the computer to the dining room table vs. the kitchen counter.
3/11 – did Pure Barre in the morning, did crosswords at night. Also ran in the evening, so I was more tired than usual.
3/12 – ended up sleeping in instead of doing Yogaglo.

Smarter To-Do List
Write out to-do list at beginning of day. Prioritize it in order of importance (and then what needs to be done consecutively) and work on it in that order.
3/5 – didn’t do at start of the day and regretted it. I started doing it at 11:00 a.m. but was still answering emails instead of immediately working on the tasks.
3/6 – did on a notecard and did 2/3 because I let in some cherry-picking tasks.
3/7 – need to make sure to do this as soon as I sit down…I let the day get away from me. Also not in Evernote but in my Google Calendar as starred tasks.
3/8 – did it at the end of the day (3 MITs). didn’t update my list or use it in the day because of snow day.
3/9 – did it at the beginning of the day but couldn’t get focused after helping a friend develop a blog tagline. That was some cherrypicking of tasks.
3/10 – did it at the beginning of the day on a notecard…but didn’t get one accomplished (IB Coordinator workday task list).
3/11 – Tried to do it the day before my IB Coordinator off-site workday…got overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that I put on the list and didn’t prioritize.
3/12 – Wished that I had prioritized…would have felt more confident and productive.

I wish I had tried to change one thing at a time versus going for all three productivity hacks in the past week. I am very happy with my newly developed morning workout habit. I never would have guessed that I’d be walking to the T at 5:00 a.m., excited to feel the burn at Pure Barre. I could view my sleeping in on alternate days as a failure, but I won’t. I now realize that I’ll need to stay consistent with alternating days before trying to move to an every-day routine, and to sharpen my evening routine with an earlier bedtime and weaning off the crossword app back onto fiction books.

I’m going to aim for the 3 MITs habit again. I think it will add focus and cut scope creep in my day. I’m still trying to let go of the idea that I have to be constantly working on evenings and weekends, and to trust that I can teach a class without spending hours on the lesson. I’ll use the Google Tasks and put “*1), *2), and *3)” in front of the task names for the MITs and then number the rest.

I am going to try the email-with-timer. I think the email standing up made me aware of the time I was spending on email, but my view of “standing desk = good” probably kept me emailing longer than I should have.

productivity hack #3: no cherry-picking

By Kristina

From A Life Less Bullshit:

3. Stop “cherry-picking” your to-do list
My most unproductive days always have one main thing in common: I work through my to-do list in a haphazard order, doing just the easiest things and procrastinating on the bigger, scarier – and much more important – ones. In short, I cherry-pick my to-do list. This month, though, I’m working with a new strategy. First, I brain-dump everything I think needs to get done that day. Then, instead of jumping into that mess by choosing whatever I most want to work on, I re-write the list in a specific, thoughtful order. Which of these things is most important? That one gets the top spot on the list. What’s most important after that? Which tasks need to be done consecutively? And on and on until I have a to-do list that’s much smarter. Then, I start at the top of the list and work on the first task until it’s complete. When it’s complete, I cross it off and move to the second item on the list. I don’t give myself the option of bouncing around, so I don’t waste time wondering what to do next and I don’t waste emotional energy feeling bad about procrastinating on the biggest thing. Oh, and a big bonus of this system is that it works perfectly with the way I check my email, because completing one or two tasks gives me a clear break-point in which to do 30 minutes of email before getting started on the next thing on my list. All in all, it’s a way to create a bias toward real action, because you have to get the first thing on the list accomplished in order to move onto the second thing, and so on.

Over the past year, I have improved from scrawls on scraps of paper to putting my tasks into specific days into Tasks on my Google Calendar like Around the World L, but my priorities aren’t defined clearly. I have a bunch of tasks that I just keep moving forward to the next day, and my only attempt at prioritization is to put an asterisk in the name of must-do tasks so that they get bumped to the top of the list. I also am guilty of doing tasks not on the list and then adding them to the list so I can check them off. It’s time to smarten up my to-do list for MITs: most important tasks.

So there you have it–my next week will be an experiment in email timing, bookends, and MITs!

productivity hack #2 – bookends

By Kristina

Also from A Life Less Bullshit:

2. Create daily “bookends”
The way I start my day has a huge impact on how the next 24 hours unfold. If the first thing I do is reach for my phone and check my email in bed, my mind is already buzzing with a list of things that other people need from me. To stop myself from doing this, I bought an alarm clock to use instead of my phone alarm (remember alarm clocks, haha??), and every night before bed I turn my phone off and leave it in another room so that I’m physically incapable of checking my email from bed. (Hey, you do what you gotta do, right?) Now, with that hurdle taken care of, I’m focusing on creating what I call “daily bookends,” little routines to start and end my day. Because that’s the thing: The beginning and end of our day are the times we have the most control over. In the middle of the day, we’re subject to other people’s wants and needs by email, phone, in person, all of it – and it can be tough to focus on what’s most important to us when we’re being bombarded on all sides by other people. With this in mind, one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re still focusing on your personal priorities is to create a simple morning and evening routine to act as “bookends” to your day. Your morning routine might be 10 minutes and involve a latte and quiet meditation. It might be 40 minutes and involve writing in your journal and eating pancakes. For me, it’s peppermint tea and accomplishing one complete task for Life Less Bullshit (writing this note to you, for example, or outlining a blog post). No matter what your routine entails and how long it lasts, starting your day with something important to you sets an empowered tone for the rest of the day. And then, at the end of the day, it’s nice to have a “just before bed” routine, too. You know, a little way to end the day on your own terms instead of just falling into bed like an exhausted wreck. For me, that means 10 minutes of tidying up my apartment and laying out my workout clothes for the morning. For you, it might mean taking a bath, or washing all of your dishes, or reading in bed, or calling your mother. Whatever makes you feel your best. Our daily bookend routines don’t have to be strict, long, or complicated, but I’ve found that I function much better when I draw lines around my time and put a high priority on the things I know are important to me.

The “checking email in bed” was so me…at 5:30 a.m. and at 11:30 p.m.! The habit got so bad that I’d look at email (personal and work) constantly and set a precedent that I’d reply to people at all hours of the night. I also started playing Words with Friends and Scramble under the covers, which further impacted the quality of my sleep. Healthier behaviors at the beginning and end of the day will help me with overall productivity.

My bookends will be:

– Morning: at least for the next week, a morning workout (Pure Barre in Boston or Yogaglo at home), followed by a protein-full breakfast and Bellocq Breakfast tea. Gulp…this will be a difficult change. In the beginning of February, I tried a 6:00 a.m. Pure Barre class on a whim, and discovered I actually liked it. I never thought I’d be a morning exerciser, but now that I don’t do lesson planning in the mornings, I can actually fit in a full hour workout! However, I haven’t tried to do a full five days in a row of morning workouts. Alternating days has been the best I’ve done so far, but a consecutive day habit will require better sleep.

…which leads me to:

– Evening: packing my lunch, setting up the teakettle and tea, laying out an outfit, packing my work bag, writing in my one-line-a-day journal, drinking Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime or Honey Lavender tea and reading. This will be money-saving, time-saving, and calming.

productivity hack #1 – email timer

By Kristina

From A Life Less Bullshit‘s email newsletter on March 1:

1. Set a timer when answering your email
I’ve read a lot of tips about how to best organize your inbox by using labels and folders and filters, and while I definitely think some of those techniques can be helpful, I’ve also found that solely focusing on email organization can mask the real problem. Buying pretty boxes to hold all of your clutter doesn’t actually help you de-clutter, you know? Especially considering that what I really want is to make email my bitch, which means that the first thing I do is treat it like a once-in-a-while task instead of an all-day ongoing activity. I mean, listen, I know myself well enough by now to admit that if my inbox is open and an email arrives, I’m going to read it. I might not respond to it, but I’m compelled to read it, which completely breaks my focus from whatever I was working on when the email popped up. So, instead of keeping my email open all day, I treat it like a task. Periodically throughout the day, I open my inbox and I set a timer on my phone for 30 minutes. Then, I start at the bottom of the inbox (aka the emails that have been there the longest) and I answer them, in the order they were received, as quickly and efficiently as possible. I don’t skip around from email to email, I just go straight up from bottom to top, answering and archiving each message, and when the timer goes off I close my inbox. Then, I do this same thing again a few hours later, on and on throughout the day. By batch-processing my email like this, I’m able to focus on my work when I’m working and I’m also able to respond to the email itself more efficiently with the motivation of the timer. It’s almost like a game now – how many emails can I answer in 30 minutes?! – and it’s really helped boost my productivity during non-email periods.

I keep hearing a lot about only checking email three times a day, and I’ve dabbled with this (and feel proud of myself when I can go until after lunchtime without checking personal email). However, my work email inbox keeps growing…and I find my planning periods sometimes get dominated by answering them. I like Nicole’s ideas for a 30 minute time limit and answering from bottom to top. She has also mentioned in another email newsletter to check email standing up. I’m going to try both strategies for a week each.