Spoiler alert: I don’t.
But let’s get real here. I do have a lot going on. I have a busy job, a side business, lots of hobbies/interests, 4 dogs, 1 preschooler, a husband who travels for work, and a partridge in a pear tree. I also run 5-6 times per week and attend yoga (or barre) and Orangetheory classes. Often, on days I run, I work out twice a day, running in the morning and heading to a class in the evening.
I know this sounds nuts, and it often seems like I actually do more now than I did before we had our son. Although, I did complete my MFA back then and also trained for marathon during my last semester of grad school (i.e., thesis hell) all while dealing with an hour-plus commute to work, so then again…maybe not.
Still…I do a lot. I shock people with my list of things.
And while I know I can’t do it all, and I definitely know I can’t do it all at once, I do have ways of just being efficient.
My first secret: I have a lot of energy in general. This is probably mostly biology and not anything I’m actually doing. I’ve always been like this. And in the slumps when I haven’t (like the newborn fog phase, the toddler sleep regression phase, or when my son is sick), I also haven’t been as productive because getting sleep is the foundation for all of it. Truthfully, I’m still not sure I get enough sleep, but it’s way better than it was for the first few years of my son’s life.
So here are a few things I do to get things done —
Use block scheduling - I chunk my day into large blocks of time and I stick to them. I divide my work between “manager” and “maker” time. Manager time is meetings, meetings, meetings. Maker time is just that. Working on creating things. By chunking meetings into one large time block and maker time in the another large time block, I’m more effective at getting things accomplished.
Even during those blocks of maker time, I use the Pomodoro technique — I do a solid block of uninterrupted, focused work, then take a break for a few minutes. And by take a break, I mean, get up, stretch, let the dogs run around in the yard, do a few yoga poses, sketch something, etc. I do not mean taking a break by checking email or Slack messages. There’s a block of time for that somewhere else.
Schedule workout times on my calendar and keep that commitment. This is a meeting with myself and it’s important. It keeps me healthy and focused, and improves my sleep quality. In fact, running is often part of my maker time, simply because I do a lot of thinking, ruminating and idea generation while I’m running.
Go to bed early(ish). At least way earlier than I used to pre-child. I do this because mornings come fast in this house…
Wake up early (5:30am - ish). I’m most productive in the morning, before meetings have started and my coworkers on the West Coast have woken up. This is the complete opposite of how I finished grad school - back then, I was most productive late into the night/wee hours of the morning. Funny how things change, eh?
Make one batch of (healthy) food on Sunday, eat leftovers all week. Seriously. I do not have time to cook dinner every single night. The weeks that I don’t do this, I’ll get a meal delivery service, like Gobble or Hello Fresh, and get a few nights of meals out of those (despite the indicated serving sizes, we typically have leftovers so we can stretch these out over a few days).
Use Trello, Google calendar, and Gone-App to keep track of my days. I’d be lost without using some kind of scheduling tools. I’ve tried physical planners, but I’ve found my schedule gets so hectic and packed, it’s easier to just go digital. I also use Trello to track all of the zillions of ideas for all of the things that come into my head during the course of a day.
Work on at least one thing that’s not work-related each day. Whether that’s art, jewelry design, blogging over on my lifestyle/Charleston/running blog, taking pictures, whatever, doing something — generally of the creative flavor — helps keep me sane.
Thinking small. Then thinking smaller. And doing that. I recently read The One Thing and it was (dare I say) life changing. The whole premise is thinking smaller to do bigger things. Focusing on the smallest possible task to get you to the next smallest possible task that builds on the one before it, and the one before it, and the one before it…you get the idea…until you reach your big goals. It’s a domino effect and it really works.
Work remotely. Seriously. This is the key to it all for me (other than sleep). Working remotely has increased my productivity in all areas of my life ten-fold. Not sucking up my time and energy with an annoying commute easily gives me back hours of time, productivity, and most importantly, results.
Give myself some grace. Seasons in life shift and change. Some weeks or months are busier than others. Priorities ebb and flow. Some days, everything just falls apart. And sometimes, I feel defeated. And during those times, I let myself be, even just for a moment. I go for a run, I head to yoga, I draw something, I write…and then I keep going.