How To Plan Your Work Day (And Week)

As a self-proclaimed time management strategy junkie, I've talked about how one of the ways I handle a stressful work day is by using the Productivity Planner.

A large part of my job is project management, so not only am I managing my own time, but also the time of my creative teams and often my external clients too.

The Productivity Planner, like it’s predecessor, the Five Minute Journal, has a super simple layout and beautiful design aesthetic, as well as plenty of inspirational quotes from well-known productive people. So how does it work?

Forward plan your week

Every Monday morning, I sit down with my coffee and start to fill out my tasks for the week - the planner asks you to pick your top 5 tasks, then your secondary 5 and then the 5 tasks you can complete only if you get the top 10 tasks done.

I also fill out the one action that will make my week more productive, which is good to pin down with a clear (and hopeful - ha!) mind on a Monday morning.

Ideas might be turn off email for periods of time, take regular breaks or batch tasks.

Prepare for each day

Once you have those 15 tasks nailed down, you move to the daily workday planner and continue to fill out a fresh plan each morning.

Not only do you choose your number 1 most important task to complete that day (and again the subsequent secondary tasks you can complete if that gets done), but the planner also encourages the Pomodoro technique.

The idea is that you work for 25 minute intervals, then take 5 minute breaks in between. So you estimate how many 25 minute blocks you need to get your task/s done, then being the race against time.

Look back on Fridays

Finally on a Friday afternoon, I complete the weekly review - no coffee this time, but a glass of wine about an hour away...

I note down what went well, what I learnt and (the most important part I think) what didn’t get done on my list and what will flow over into the next week.

That part of the review is particularly insightful as it reveals where I’ve procrastinated, where people haven’t gotten back to me on time or where I am or the team are letting projects slip.

What do you think of the Productivity Planner principles? I’ve been following them fairly consistently throughout 2016.

Would you like a follow up post with my learnings (and failings) around the process so far this year? Let me know in the comments below. 

My Most Embarrassing Technology Sins

You don’t have to look far these days to find an article full of recommendations about ‘switching off’, staying present, connecting with people in real life, reading ‘real’ books, and so on, and so on.

I have no qualms admitting I’m addicted to my phone (and, let’s be serious, my iPad too).

But I still go out for dinner with friends, I still read ‘real’ books (not as much as I scroll my feeds, but hey) and I don’t own an Apple Watch.

Today, to make us all feel a little better, I thought I’d repent on everyone’s behalf —  here are my current worst technology sins, warts and all.

I check my phone before I get out of bed

Yes, it’s true. I used to avoid doing this, but these days, I can’t fight the feeling.

And the first thing I do when I wake up is feed my cats in Neko Atsume. Yes, it’s true. I love video games and I love cats so there you have it. Sin one down.

I cut my finger and suffered through the phone-holding pain

A couple of weeks back I managed to slice my finger while cooking, right in the crook of my index finger, where you apparently hold your smartphone.

Every time I held my phone it hurt — the leaning of the phone against the skin, the bending of my finger, everything really.

But do you think I stopped checking my phone? No way.

I ignore people at lunch so I can read my phone

I don’t do this every day, but if I’m having a particularly busy morning, I do like to escape to the work kitchen, eat my lunch and zone out on Instagram.

Sometimes this involves rudely ignoring a co-worker who’s trying to strike up a conversation with me.

I know that makes me a bad person, but sometimes I just need my fix.

I fall asleep to YouTube videos

In line with my zen way of waking up in the morning, over the last few weeks I’ve found myself depending on YouTube vlogs to put me to sleep.

I guess this is the same as watching TV in bed (also a no-no I’m sure) but it does feels wrong, particularly when you wake to find the iPad tipped onto your arm in the middle of the night. Whoops.

Anyway, my favourites are Vivianna Does Makeup and The Lindquists. Enjoy!

Ok, now that my shame is out in the open, tell me — what are your worst, most deplorable technology sins? Please share below!

 

3 Ways To Destress In Any Situation

Signs of stress can express differently in different people.

For you it might be increased heart rate or a sinking feeling in your stomach. For others it’s feeling out of control with a scattered mind and loss of concentration.

Whether it be at work, home, or any other situation, here are my tips for regaining clarity in a stressful situation:

Realise they are only thoughts

Often when we’re stressed we feel like we’re letting someone down - our family, our boss, ourselves. But often we have no hard evidence of this and it’s simply a thought we’re having.

I’ve been loving delving into Brooke Castillo’s teachings recently and she constantly reminds us that our feelings are caused by our thoughts and our actions are caused by our feelings.

One more time:

Our feelings are caused by our thoughts and our actions are caused by our feelings.

Here’s an example.

The thought ‘I am falling behind on the housework because I’m too busy’ may bring feelings of inadequacy, stress and overwhelm. Our actions might then be to frantically try to clean the house (when we’re already tired) or to flop on the couch and beat ourselves up with more negative thoughts.

If we realise they are only thoughts and we can change our thoughts, this will often have a major effect on the reduction of stress.

So try reframing the thought - in the example above you might change the thought to ‘I’ve been really busy lately so I should have a quiet night. I’ll get to the housework when I have the space and time to do it.’

Get organised

Although the example above advocates ease, if you have the headspace, getting organised will often ease the stress going on around you. You might clean your desk at work and start a fresh to do list, or you might try some decluttering at home to free up space.

Once you’re coming from a clearer physical space, you can often see things afresh and start to deal with whatever was stressing you to begin with.

See people

AKA get out of your own head...

As mentioned in my first tip, the stress we feel is pretty much always caused by our thoughts. If we’re alone, with plenty of time to let negative thoughts take over, often the stress won’t dissipate.

Try going to an exercise class, catching up with a friend for coffee or going to lunch with coworkers.

The very act of talking to others about new topics will give you perspective and changing your environment will help reset the stressed feelings.

How do you deal with stressful situations? Let me know in the comments below.

How I Manage My Email Inbox

I’ve had lots of requests to write time management posts here on the blog, and one of the biggest ways I manage my time is by managing my email.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve suffered that sinking feeling when you leave a meeting, only to see you have 32 new emails that weren’t there an hour ago.

I’ve woken at 5am and thought ‘I’ll just take a quick peek at what happened overnight’ then lay awake anxious about the day ahead.

But it’s all a mind game. You are in control of your reaction to email and you are in control of how you manage it.

These tips may not be ground-breaking but they’ve served me well as I’ve navigated through what we all have to navigate - a busy work and personal life.

Compartmentalise your day

The quickest way for me to leave work without having achieved anything is to sit on my email all day. As soon as I reply to one, the next comes in and I’m jumping all over the place, all day long.

I don’t have strict rules as to when I check email but I do make sure once I’m working on a task that I don’t flick back to my email client out of habit and lose focus.

Lately I’ve been trying to work on projects in time blocks or Pomodoros (a la the Productivity Planner). I work on the tasks, but I may also review and reply to emails related to that project specifically. This saves me feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting my response.

Acknowledge receipt

I work mostly with clients but I think this tip applies to coworkers and family and friends too.

A quick email to say you’ve received their note and will get back to them soon / tomorrow / next week will:

  1. Make them feel heard and let them know you’re onto it.
  2. Make you feel better as you’re not staring at a stack of unanswered emails feeling guilty.

File file file

Get emails out of your inbox. It’s so satisfying to file emails as they are dealt with and to watch that inbox number shrink.

I used to try and keep my email inbox to around 20 emails but unfortunately these days it’s more like 50.

Either way, pick a number to work towards to avoid your inbox spiraling out of your control.

Unsubscribe

Ah, the sweet pleasure of unsubscribe.

As we all go down the rabbit hole of news sites, blogs, digital product offerings and so on, it’s easy to hand over your email address in order to receive a freebie, a newsletter or regular updates from a site.

But sure enough within a month you’re deleting those emails without reading them or wondering how the hell you’re receiving them in the first place.

I have a few that I love to receive (I'm looking at you Jess Lively, Laura Vanderkam and Paige Schmidt) but most of the others just end up annoying me or adding to the feeling of overwhelm.

For me, every time I take a holiday I go through my emails and unsubscribe from all the stuff I’m not reading. Try it now!

How do you manage email? What’s your favourite tip I’ve given?

 

5 Lunch Break Ideas to Increase Your Productivity This Week

For my entire career, I’ve always been a huge proponent of taking my lunch break.

In fact I’m quite commonly known around the office as the one that will always go out for a walk at lunch, and have befriended many coworkers over the years who want to join me sporadically or regularly.

Clearly not every day or week lends itself to taking a full lunch break but, when possible, I try and recharge.

I find my afternoons are much more productive and I can reset my energy levels for the rest of the day.

Here are 5 ideas to try out this week.

Enjoy a book

Escapism is a great way to recharge your brain. After a busy morning, reading fiction can help you step out of the work grind and even strengthen brain connections and cognitive function

If you can’t find a cosy spot to read, download an Audible book and listen to it as you take a walk around the area.

Eat without digital distractions

This is a tough one that I continually have to work on.

It’s very easy to scoff your lunch while scrolling through all the Instagram marble bathroom or smoothie photos you’ve missed from the morning.

The problem is you very rarely enjoy your food and it’s easy to either eat past fullness or not feel full at all as you haven’t savoured your food.

I find it hard to stare into space while eating, but talking to coworkers at the office kitchen table is a good alternative and, as an added bonus, it helps build relationships.

Meet a friend

Use your lunch hour to catch up with a friend for lunch.

Chatting about topics other than work projects and enjoying a proper break at a local cafe will leave you ready to focus for the afternoon.

As an added bonus you won’t have to cram as many social engagements into the evenings and weekends if you utilise your lunch break for catch ups.

Listen to music

A good way to give your eyes a rest from screens is to plug in some good tunes.

You could enjoy music while lying in a nearby park, taking a walk (we’re seeing a pattern here) or browsing local shops.

Again it will help you get out of your own head and escape into whatever type of music works for you.

Pamper yourself

Self-care is a very positive way to spend the middle of your day.

Get a manicure, a short shoulder and neck massage or try out some makeup at a local cosmetics store.

The focus is on rejuvenating yourself and feeling fresh when you return for an afternoon of work.

What helps you recharge on your lunch break?

 

How You Can Beat The Dreaded Sunday Blues

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a victim of the Sunday blues. Around 3 or 4pm on a Sunday, I start to feel a dark cloud move over me. My days of freedom are almost over and I start questioning if I’ve ‘made the most’ of my time off. I start to worry about the unknowns and to do lists of the weekdays ahead and a general feeling of malaise washes over me.

A few months back, I decided I was fed up with this feeling and I wasn’t going to let it control my Sunday afternoons... So how did I do it?

I did all my chores on Saturday

Sunday afternoon used to involve doing groceries, meal prepping, cleaning and other errands. Does that sound like a time to look forward to? Yeah, didn’t think so.

I’ve switched it up and now do most of my weekend jobs on Saturday, leaving Sunday less of a day to dread. Saturdays have a different feel about them, so I’ve found it less of a pain to do my errands on that day. And waking up on Sunday with a very short to do list is worth it.

I avoided a hangover

Guilt, regret, anxiety, irritability. Sound familiar? A few too many vinos on Saturday nights were leaving me in a pretty terrible mood come Sunday. The journal Alcohol and Alcoholism characterises hangovers as “general misery” with symptoms including drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal complaints, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety. No wonder I wasn’t loving Sundays.

Although I still enjoy a drink, I make sure to drink lots of water and try and steer clear of my beloved red wine, which according to the same journal, causes the worst hangovers

I did any work early in the day

I try not to make a habit of doing extra work over the weekend, but some weeks I need to play catch up, and other weeks I know doing some work on Sunday will get me set up nicely for a busy Monday ahead.

Again to save it hanging over me, I’ll try and do it early on Sunday, usually late morning. And if it’s not required, I steer clear of the work laptop.

I talked about it

Yup, I asked around. So many of my friends confessed that they too feel the Sunday blues. Just talking about it left me feeling less alone and made a distinct difference to my outlook at the end of the weekend.

It’s been easy to send a message over to a friend and see how they’re doing on Sunday afternoon. We usually check in and remind each other there’s no need to feel down.

I gave myself permission to relax and have fun

Despite feeling the need to be super productive on Sundays to get set up for the week ahead, I’ve recently let this belief go. I lead a busy life, so now feel no guilt for lying around watching cooking shows (one of my favourite guilty pleasures) or going out for a long lunch with friends.

Allowing time for rejuvenation will increase your motivation in the long run.

Do you suffer from the Sunday blues? What are your strategies for beating them?


Light Links: May

How has your May been lovely readers? We’ve had some beautiful crisp days in Melbourne but the early mornings and evenings are definitely getting a little too chilly for me as we head into winter starting in June.

Luckily I escaped for a warmer weekend in Sydney, with quality girlfriend time. I also did some more decluttering at home and we celebrated my husband’s birthday. I’ve got lots of great links for you this month so grab a warm tea (or a cool wine) and enjoy.

Having a bad day? How to turn it around and talk yourself into a great day at work.

Smart ways to dial back at work (yes, you can dial back!) once you’ve set an expectation around your performance.

A personal story on saying yes to your purpose. Can you believe a female’s confidence peaks at 8 years old?

False ideas we may have around being a mother and having a career - a three part series:

Inspired by the original post from Jess Lively, Grace from Design Sponge shares the things that scare her.

Stop fighting against your feelings and ‘accept what is’.  

And finally, 40 quotes to help quiet your mind


Light Links: December

 
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Happy December lovelies. It has been a fun one for me – holiday parties, our housewarming (6 months late!) and some great weather.

I hope you’ve had a great December and enjoyed some celebrations too. 

Time to enjoy some of my favourite links from the last month. Happy new year, thanks for reading and see you for lots more in 2015! 

Oh and a quick note - I'll be posting on Mondays in 2015, so hopefully my posts will help you start the week off right.

A moving but confronting post on miscarriage and those things we need to stop sweeping under the rug.

Ready to change jobs or career path next year? Use the holiday downtime to get prepared for a change in 2015.

One of my resolutions is to improve my body image and stop stressing about my weight. Here's someone who has stopped the weight obsession. My favourite quote? "Never again would I confuse my self worth with a number, no matter how high or low it was."

I'm always fascinated by these experiments. What it's like to live a week based on Pinterest's most popular pins.

What looking back and looking forward can do for your goals. How Laura Jane Williams changed her life in 2014.

Light links: November

 
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November has been pretty intense! I started a new job and am really enjoying it. I am learning stacks, have cut my commute in half and am working in one of my favourite areas of Melbourne.

But, I’ve really had to catch myself when it comes to placing pressure on myself.

Despite always telling my new team members this, I need to practice what I preach when it comes to overwhelm. I won’t know everything straight away and I need to accept it’s going to take time to get up to speed. Leave a comment with your wise words on how to admit this!

In the meantime, relax and enjoy some of my favourite links from the last month.

Probably the most powerful thing I’ve read recently – motivating yourself by adding the date of your death to your calendar…

A fascinating article on career burnout. So many striking statements about how our careers now demand constant availability, and how unsustainable that can be.

I feel like most of us insist on a disclaimer when it comes to spoiling ourselves, in the fear of coming across as self-indulgent. Here’s why you should definitely treat yo’self.

I love a top 10 and I love a Ted Talk. I know how I’m spending my Sunday evening. So many good topics here.

And a reminder for myself going into December. ‘We all want to be all the things and we just cannot be.’