Let’s go ahead and dive into productivity secret #1.
Most people think that productivity is about getting more stuff done (ideally in the least amount of time possible). Well, here’s the secret: productivity is not actually about getting more done – it’s about getting the right stuff done (and actually doing less of the stuff that doesn’t matter to you).
Consider this illustration. You may work very hard to prepare a decadent meal, but if you knew all along your family would be eating out that evening, your work would not be considered “productive”. You expended high amounts of energy, but it didn’t result in something worthwhile – which is quite a bummer.
That brings up the question – how do you know if you’re doing the right things? How do you make sure that you’re not spending too much time on the things that aren’t important to you or that aren’t helping you make true progress?
In order to optimize your productivity, you need to have a clear vision as to where you are headed and what you want to accomplish. Taking the time up front to set goals for yourself leads to much higher output than trying to run blind.
The most important thing about the goal-setting process is to take your time and go through the process of setting good goals. The best part is that you can start at any time – you don’t have to start on January 1. You can start right now.
In order to be optimally productive, I find it most helpful to create what I call an “action plan”.
This is a really simple process and I’d encourage you to grab a piece of paper and a pen to sit down and walk through it with me!
I start the process of crafting my action plan by sitting down and having a self-to-self brainstorming session. You may have heard this called a “brain dump”. It’s a super effective way to get all of your great ideas out of the jumble in your head and onto your paper where you can sort them out. Just write down everything you wish you could improve, do, and accomplish in the next month, year, and throughout your whole life.
Next, I start grouping all the things I wrote down into areas to focus on – which I oh-so-originally call Focus Areas. I may have written down that I want to lose weight, drink more water, and get 10,000 steps each day. These goals all fall under the category of being more healthy, so I’ll title my focus area “Personal Health”.
From there, I break down my focus area into specific habits and projects that I want to accomplish. And hear me when I say specific. Your focus areas are the place to be vague – you want to be more healthy, more mindful or read more. Now is when you break it down into the nitty-gritty of how you get there.
I do want to add in one caveat, however. If you’re like me, you could probably list 500 different things you would like to achieve someday. Please realize that you cannot do it all.
Having an inability to do everything is not a weakness, it’s a blessing. It sounds counterintuitive, but it really is a good thing to have too many good opportunities.
Now is the time to pick which are most important, and which can wait until the next goal-setting session. For example, for me scrapbooking is one of the goals that is on hold. I want to do it. I love the idea of creatively documenting my family. But it’s not going to happen right now because it’s not a priority. If later on more time opens up or my priorities shift, the opportunity will still be there and I can take it up then. There’s no need to feel guilty for saying no to some good things in order to make room for the best things.
As you are deciding which goals are most important, I’d encourage you to break your action steps into habits and projects. There are some “one-and-done” things that you’ll want to accomplish and check off the bucket list. In other areas, you’re looking to make an entire lifestyle change, and it’s important to know which you’re looking for heading into it. Notate which action steps are habits and which are projects here at the beginning.
After that, it merely comes down to following through on what you told yourself you’d do. Pick a few specific action steps (I’d recommend no more than 4) that you wrote down to work on for this month only. Come next month, you can decide if you’ve engrained your new habits and it’s time to move onto the next ones, or if they still need a little work. Often times I’ll find I need a few months of really diligently working on a small selection of habits before they become second nature. Tracking your habits can be a game-changer. It’s easy to feel unaccomplished when everything seems willy nilly, but seeing the concrete proof that you did reach that 8 cups of water goal 3 days last week helps you feel more empowered to keep at it this week instead of throwing in the towel.
Trust the process, friend. There’s no correct timeline, and there’s no deadline for personal improvement. As long as you’re better today than yesterday and this month than last month, that’s progress. And that’s all any of us can ask of ourselves.
I Heart Productivity Bundle ($34 Value) This printable productivity pack is designed to walk you through the process of setting goals that really stick and then track your progress.
The Goal Getter Workbook ($25 Value) The Plan for Busy Women to Go from Dreams to Plans to DONE
Quarterly Targets and Goal Trackers ($7 Value) Set, track, and achieve your goals with this strategy guide and quarterly-based printable
The 90-Day Personal Productivity Power Plan ($197 Value) Lise Cartwright created The 90-Day Personal Productivity Power Plan to share the EXACT principles and strategies she used to master her to-do-list in a matter of months so you can do the same.
Goal Setting 101: How to Set Goals As An Absolute Beginner ($49.99 Value) Goal Setting 101 is an 8-lesson eCourse that teaches you exactly how to set achievable goals.
Just those 5 resources are worth $316, but you can get the entire Productivity bundle, which includes those 5 things along with 41 other resources for just $39 for a very short time. Get yours here.
Is an overflowing to-do list an all too familiar companion? Is the phrase “so much to do, so little time” the mantra of your current season of life? I’ve been there, friend. When there’s task upon task demanding your time it become vital to learn how to prioritize. You CAN turn that mountain into a molehill, and I’ll show you can easy way to do that with my Sticky Note Productivity method!