“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING BUT NOT EVERYTHING”

Wise words from David Allen, (a productivity consultant and best selling author of Getting Things Done), but so easy to forget. Especially when you are a mum and multi-tasking to the point of self-combustion on a daily basis.  It has been scientifically proven that focusing on one task at a time is way more productive than juggling several things at half-speed… so why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all??

This is what I’m thinking as I try to wash up, whilst entertaining my son in his high chair, trying to respond to my phone but then dropping it (doh), planning tonight’s dinner, thinking about my Twitter campaign for Digital Mums and listening to an inspiring podcast by Janet Murray of Soulful PR. Did I say listening? I meant barely hearing the background noise since it just can’t compete with my son’s toy-bashing from the other side of the kitchen…

Phew. I’m tired just reading about it. What is wrong with me? Why can I not just focus on one thing and do it well? I try so hard to not sit still because that’s time wasted right? That’s like not doing enough to reach those future goals when I could be out there smashing them isn’t it? That’s what they would have us believe, those of the goal-crushing, brand-new-you, live-your-dream, find-your-purpose business/life coach/mentor-y people. My head feels like one big snow globe and the minute you shake it, hundreds of ideas and questions and ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ start swirling around and I don’t know which way I am going next. I’m in a self-inflicted blizzard of  indecision and semi-productivity whilst  wishing I could magic up more hours in the day. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

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Deep breath…

I need to take the brake off… I already told myself I would use this maternity year to figure out what I wanted to do by spending time doing more of what I enjoy. So, here I am nurturing my love of writing through blogging. I’m also making leather accessories, spending time with my mini-human and learning digital skills through my social media management course (thanks Digital Mums!) and I’m taking inspiration every day from self development books, podcasts and blogs from amazing people (often women, often mothers), who have made it and are living the dream. If they can do it, so can I!!!

But hang on, wasn’t I just saying how much I am struggling to fit everything in?! Do I have too many interests then?! I dedicate myself to exploring my passions but then complain when I have no time to concentrate on one thing! I guess the real issue here is that I am just awful at organising my time, isn’t it?! So what can be done?

Well, I took it upon myself to try some productivity and time-management tips and share the ones that worked for me here…

  1. BLOCK OUT YOUR TIME – I can honestly say that when I set aside an hour to focus specifically on something, I am generally more productive. Example? I decided that if I’m ever going together myself back into shape, I MUST find time to exercise. Therefore, every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evening I go for a run. Those evenings are my dedicated exercise time and nothing must come between me and my sweaty trainers….
  2. SOMETIMES MULTI-TASKING DOES WORK – My running time has also become a multi-functional hour (ok, 45mins) of ME TIME. Not only is my body rejoicing to liberate itself of a few more sugar calories, but my mind is benefiting from a moment of tranquility whilst listening to an inspirational podcast. I get all the advantages of the physical movement plus the bonus of the endorphin flow whilst feeling productive. I actually find I look forward to my runs these days and if I don’t, I remind myself that what I’m really doing is making time to tune into a favourite podcast  – it just happens to be whilst moving my legs….
  3. IF YOU’RE OFFERED HELP, TAKE IT!! – I am super stubborn and HATE having to ask for help BUT when my mother in law offered to look after my son one afternoon a week to give me time to study, I jumped at the chance. Baby’s happy because he gets the absolute undivided attention of a ‘playmate’ for a few hours; Nonna is happy because she feels useful and is alone with her precious grandson and I am happy because I finally get a moment to myself! We’re all winners here.
  4. MAKE TO DO LISTS – I’ve always been a list fan – think I get it from my dad – because I have a terrible memory. Recently, I have brought my list-making into the digital age and downloaded the WUNDERLIST app for my phone, (although other apps are probably available), which means no more scrappy notes laying around and it has a really satisfying ‘chime’ sound every time I tick off a task! Love that. Get some chiming in your life.
  5. PRIORITISE YOUR TASKS – When you have completed the most important 3 things on your to-do list, you’ve already been successful! The rest of your day is yours to spend as you wish. For example. Today’s priorities were to 1)study/work on my Twitter campaign for Digital Mums and 2)Write a blog post (this one). That means that once these are out of the way, I have time to work on my leather stuff and then this evening go for a podcast running sesh!
  6. LEARNING TO SAY NO – This is kind of linked to the above point about prioritising. If we truly don’t feel like we have much time to do things, why would we start agreeing to do a load of things that either don’t interest us or are not helping to realise our goals? It’s hard to stick to but I find that if I can, I allow my time to be spent on the things that matter to me, which are usually the important ones anyway…
  7. RISE AND SHINE IT’S GOAL-CRUSHING TIME!! Sad but true, if you really want to get things done, you can’t lay in bed all day thinking about it. Luckily for me, I have my son to wake me each morning BUT I still could do with getting up a little earlier if I want to be out of pyjamas, washed, dressed and ready before monster wakes up. On the days this has happened, I genuinely have got more done but I’ll be honest, I can’t quite bring myself to do it every day so maybe there’s hope for the summer when the days are longer and generally more cheerful to open the blinds to…
  8. GET A PERSONAL ORGANISER I’m all for digital but I love having a place to write stuff down and reflect. I still need to get better at this but I find that if I dedicate 30mins on a Sunday night, it’s a good way to set me up for the week ahead. The one I have been using since January is the TRIGG LIFE MAPPER which covers list-making, goal-setting, reflecting and positive quotes to keep you on the right track.
  9. TRY TO TURN THE TASKS INTO HABITS – I once read somewhere that if you can turn something into a habit, by regularly showing up, it becomes easier and less of a chore to do it. Example; I’ve run more in the last 2 months by turning it into a habit (with set days) than I have in the last 6 months when I was just trying to fit it in where I could.
  10. TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS – Easier said than done and I am like a distraction (read procrastination) queen!! That said, if it’s something super important, I do like to isolate myself from distractions which means taking myself off to a quiet place, putting my phone away and settling down with a nice cup of coffee (which stops me getting up 2 second later with the excuse that I have to make myself a drink)! This obviously can only happen when my partner is home to take the bambino or when the little one’s sleeping but once that exhausting newborn stage was over, I was able to get on and do things when he napped.

There are so many other ways and methods of course including apps, planners and tools so what do you do to stay productive and organise your time? Have you read any life-changing books on the subject? Leave a comment below and share the love!

Anyway, these are just a few starting points and I’m sure that if I could take my own advice, I’d be laughing right now. Maybe the next post should be about self discipline…. (rolls eyes….)

Zoe x