When I give my productivity workshop, I always start with explaining that I am not here to tell you how to do more in an hour. I don’t see your life or mine as a factory with input and output. My philosophy is not about the checklist, the widgets, or the over booked schedule.
To me, productivity is a means to an end – the end being joy and fulfillment. Honestly, why do anything if it’s not for this end goal?
In my daily schedule, I must have:
- About 3 key items to be completed
- Blocks of time to focus my attention with defined purpose
- Flexibility to be inspired, creative, and spontaneous
This is my homegrown solution which is a mix of many teachings I’ve learned in the last 10 years as a corporate professional, student, and self-learner.
It can be as simple or intricate as your schedule, brain, and time allows. It works for a CEO, startup founder, a stay at home mom, or an actress just fine. It’s super flexible, and what’s best about a daily schedule is that you can change it every day to fit with a changing schedule or set it once for a more productive fixed schedule.
Let’s jump in.
Step 1: Identify your Joy Activity(ies)
Before we get into the details of your endless to-do list, we will begin with the things that bring you the most joy, that set you up for your day, or that are simply the most valuable to you. These might be things you already do like workout or have dinner with your family, but as you rebuild your schedule, I encourage you to think about something that you wish you had time for. Really reflect on what brings you inner joy.
This activity or maybe group of activities will be your non-negotiables. Your new, higher standard of living includes doing this activity everyday.
Why? Because it doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person or the biggest task-taker or the fastest to-doer, if you’re not fulfilled. And I’m not saying that this thing is the silver bullet, but it might improve your mood a bit, it might begin to set the tone in your life that you prioritize yourself, and most importantly, you’ll begin to think about what truly brings you joy which will be an endless, but worthwhile journey.
Step 2: Determine Your Goals and Daily Goal Task
Once you have your daily “joy” item identified, we can look more long-term.
What is your goal? The most powerful way to create goals is to begin with an annual view and break it down to quarterly, monthly, weekly, and then daily. Yes, all of it. Sometimes when I’m really lost, I think about 10 year goals or sometimes deathbed goals and work my way back. It gives me perspective.
Side Note: Please let me know if you want me to talk about goals more in-depth in a future post. I love goals just as much as schedules.
For now, have something you’re working towards that is bigger than getting by today. With that goal in mind, you can create daily tasks to bring you one step closer.
If you can find a repetitive task, that is more likely to become a habit and bring you towards your goals faster. For example, do 10 squats at 12pm or make 10 calls or write for 40 minutes everyday. Even if it’s just for this week, find a mini task to start producing results .
Step 3: Identify Your Intentions
Intentions are kind of like goals except they’re leading indicators of success instead of lagging indicators. Your intentions are a combination of your why and how you want to feel. It’s about stepping into a specific sense of being which you choose and control throughout the different segments of your day.
When I first started “setting intentions” for blocks of my day, I would write things like “helpful” for my work meeting segment. Very recently, I’ve really thought about what I would LOVE to feel during my day and set that intention. It felt like a stretch, but honestly I was tired of feeling mediocre. For my work segment, I said, I want to feel successful. I thought, “I don’t know what that looks like when I’m in a virtual meeting, but I’d love to feel like that”.
Guess what? That’s what I started radiating. It’s so simple because we usually forget we can control the way we feel. We often are comfortable in the default mode, but I guarantee you even a daily intention can be quite life changing.
Another example is decluttering my home. I’ve had this on my radar for some time (an actual place in the schedule, more on this later), and my intention used to be to feel organized or something along those lines. Then I thought, what do I REALLY want to feel? My intention changed to “I want to love my house. I want to be so proud of where I live”. I’ve gotten more done in two days than I have in two months towards this task.
Try it for one day and please let me know how it goes!
Step 4: Block out your immovable events
Most of us have those things in our lives that we just have to do whether it’s work, school, parent duty, or otherwise. In my last workshop, a mother asked if breastfeeding was part of this category since she was on a schedule. The answer is yes!
The easiest way to create your schedule is to block out these times first. If you haven’t noticed, this is the first time we’re actually talking about your schedule.
Simply block out this time (if it’s not already) and be sure you have an intention for it. If possible, try to use big blocks of 2-3 hours. Yes, this means if you tend to have meetings spaced out throughout the day, try to fit them into one or two blocks max. You really shouldn’t have more than 6 hours of meetings in a day, I don’t care who you are. Yes, I’m looking at you Elon Musk.
If you’re that important, you can delegate or decline.
This is a great time to introduce a quick template to show you how I use existing planners for my method. I’m a pen and paper girl, so I take my physical planner or a piece of paper and draw a line through the activity section to allow me to write my intentions next to my activities.
P.S. I’ll provide a blank one at the end for you to print out.
Step 5: Schedule your Joy Moment
The only thing that gets scheduled before your joy moment is the things you absolutely cannot move (step 4). Once that is done, your joy activity(ies) go into your calendar. Ideally, this is part of your morning routine, but if not, put it in the next reasonable block.
I like to combine my joy activities in the morning to create at least a one hour block. Because these activities are the most important tasks in your day, I suggest having a Plan A and Plan B for when these occur just in case there’s any interruptions.
Step 6: Schedule your goal task
It’s time to find and commit to working towards your goals. This means setting up time everyday to move towards your larger vision and version of yourself. Got it?
Step 7: Identify buffer or flex time
The rest of the schedule is based on your specific scenario, so I’ll give some quick tips, but before that I want to make sure you find some buffer time. We’ve already covered all the main things in your life – joy moments, immoveable events, and time to work on your goals.
Everything else is flexible, but people and things will take up all your free time if you allow it. Don’t allow it, but also don’t overschedule yourself. Create buffers to relax, unwind, catch up, or to simply be inspired or spontaneous. Yes, you have permission to schedule this nothing time and then tell someone, “sorry, I’m busy at that time”. Overscheduling is almost as bad as no schedule.
- Optimize for joy: Stop doing stuff you hate. Seriously, if you can, just stop. Otherwise, delegate, reduce your frequency, or change your mind about your activity. How so? Answer the following to get clarity on your purpose and discover if this is truly a must:
- Why would you want to do this?
- Are there advantages to not doing this?
- Are there disadvantages to not doing this?
- Why do you feel stuck?
- Is there something else you prefer to do?
- Is there anything you could do to prepare for the task? (a mini task or the task?)
- Radar Section: Instead of a super long to-do list with things that aren’t actually important or urgent, have a “radar” section in your schedule or below your to-do list for projects or tasks that aren’t priority or joy. This way, you can leisurely pick them up when you’re inspired to do so or during flex time (if you feel like it). Again, I’m all about joy.
- Sprinting: You can get more done in less time. Remember that time your mother in law or friends were coming over at the last minute? Or when you got that assignment or report done in a record time? Exactly. Your mind can perform miracles with hyper-intention, hyper-focus. So instead of giving yourself all day or an hour to do whatever – workout, report, cleaning, etc. Take 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or 15 minute timed sprints. You won’t even have time to think. Just do it.
- Batching: This was already implied in Step 4 with keeping all your meetings together. You must do this for everything, even your personal relationships. Anyone who has taken my workshop knows that I’m only a wife about 2 hours per day. It’s not only honest to the reality of our lives, but it helps me be more intentional. Even if you work with clients based on their availability, you can choose to have every Monday or 3-4pm be your admin block when you respond to emails. Do not respond to emails throughout the day unless you are an email support staff member, this is a complete waste of time. So categorize your type of work, and batch it together in blocks of 2-3 hours.
How fun was this? Am I the only one that absolutely loves schedules?
If you’re interested in an on-demand Productivity workshop where I walk you step by step including the goal setting, you can access the course at https://mayraleen.thinkific.com/courses//own-your-life/.
If you’re interested in hosting this for your team or organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment below if you have other tips!