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. 

The Habits I Forgot To Keep

How good are you at keeping habits? I have a few ingrained ones - daily yoga, keeping hydrated, getting organised the night before work.

But I also have a few that have come in and out of my life and just haven't stuck long-term.

Or more specifically, I only call on these practices when I need them and that's usually when life gets a little challenging.

I think that's interesting - I wonder if I kept the habits going regularly, if those challenging periods would be more infrequent? 

So what have I been working on habit-wise? 

Meditation

I remember discussing meditation with a friend once - I said I didn't notice much of a difference when I did it regularly but always noticed a difference when I didn't do it. She said 'Alert - I think that means it's working!'. Ha. 

Meditating for 5-10 minutes each morning is making me feel more grounded and less likely to rush ahead with the day's stresses.

My favourites are Gabby Bernstein, the free UCLA Meditation Centre tracks and I've just downloaded Insight Timer to try.

Journaling

Remember my Five Minute Journal period? So that habit hasn't continued for now...

I have however been sleeping quite badly of late, waking up at all hours and not being able to fall back asleep. So the last couple of weeks I've been doing a brain dump before bed - writing down anything that's worrying me and letting the negative voice run riot.

Lo and behold, I'm sleeping much better.

I highly recommend trying this out from time to time - if only for the fact that when you read back on your thoughts days or weeks later, you usually realise they were not true and never came true. Hello perspective.

Planning my week

Once I'm into the week, I find I'm juggling work, study, blogging, exercise and relationships and that sometimes leaves me feeling a touch overwhelmed.

Although I have it all in my head, I've found recently that getting my week down (digitally for me, not on paper) on a Sunday gives me a clear picture of what's ahead and where I'll have pockets to fit in the things I really want to prioritise. Simple but effective!

What habits have you let slide? Let me know in the comments below if you're planning on bringing them back.

 

Where I'm At with Naomi Arnold from Project Healthy Happy Me

I’m excited to be featuring Naomi Arnold on the blog today, in the latest instalment of the Where I’m At interview series.

Naomi is a business and life coach with a background in psychology and counselling. She quit her job at the Australian Government and moved interstate, becoming a full time coach over a year ago. The tragic news of her father’s terminal brain cancer was a major catalyst for the decision. Naomi now lives in Queensland, Australia with her husband and young son, has a successful business and has been featured in Cleo magazine, Inspired Coach magazine and The Huffington Post.

I hope you enjoy her interview (and the bonuses!) as much as I did – again teaching us the lesson we need to learn again and again – to take it easy on ourselves and enjoy life.

What is your usual wake up time?

A cute little two year old boy named Daniel usually jumps on my bed around 6am in the morning.

What is your morning ritual?

My morning ritual shifts and changes a lot depending on the context of my life.

These days, on a ‘good’ day, I meditate and journal upon waking, and then take my little one for a walk along the track to see the horses, before returning for breakfast with my family.

On a ‘naughty’ day, I reach over and grab my phone to read the influx of emails and social media notifications I’ve received overnight. Shhh…. Don’t tell anyone. ;-)

Tell us about your commute.

I’m very blessed to be working from home and not have to commute.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

I’m a planner. On a Sunday, I take time out to plan what I need to do for the week ahead, including what I will do on each day.

This means when I start work each day, I don’t need to think about what needs to be done – I just do it!

However, I also give myself permission to throw those plans out the window if need be. They provide a guide for me, but they need to be flexible and adaptable.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

My ideal lunch break is spent sitting outside with my family, soaking up the sun, laughing and re-energising after a focused morning of work.

Stomping around the yard, roaring, and pretending to be a dinosaur with my toddler is an optional bonus.

What kind of workout schedule do you try to adhere to?

I used to have a strict, non-negotiable workout and gym schedule, to the point where it became an unhealthy obsession. Nowadays, I’m much more relaxed about working out.

I try to move my body every day – whether it be through walking, running, yoga, some resistance training, or just bursts of activity using my Move That Body playing cards.

(Ed: Bonus – here are Naomi’s Move That Body playing cards for your daily use)

I write ‘movement’ on my to do list each day to ensure it’s something I do alongside my other tasks – even if it is a quick stretch, jiggle at my standing desk, or burst of lunges, push ups and squats in my room!

How do you like to end your day?

I like to end my day with a big cup of peppermint tea and a great book (currently Rosie Batty’s A Mother’s Story), before taking one last peek on my snoozing toddler, and climbing into bed for a final meditation before sleep.

What time do you doze off?

I try to be in bed with lights out by 10.30pm at the latest – I know that when I start to let this slide too many nights in a row my energy and irritability levels during the days to come are not desirable!

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

I recently discovered a love for painting and colouring and began to make time for doing something creative each day.

I let this practice drop when my family and I got addicted to a television series (damn you, Heartland!) and have been meaning to pick it back up again.

Now that I’ve said it here, I WILL!

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

Please make a conscious effort to be gentle and kind to yourself.

Next time you’re beating yourself up or feeling stressed or anxious, ask yourself – What can I do right now to show myself more love and kindness? What would I do if I were to treat myself like my best friend? What is one thing that I can do to move forward in a loving way?

Can you give my readers your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

(Ed: Even better than one recipe, here’s Naomi’s recipe pamphlet from her Freebies Library. I’m looking forward to trying the healthy apple crumble…)

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Thanks again Naomi! Follow her below (and download her Freebies Library too!):

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Where I'm At with Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life

I am thrilled to be featuring Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life blog and The Simple Sophisticate podcast on Where The Light Plays today.

I've been following Shannon's blog since early 2012 and have felt like I've 'gotten to know her' even better this year through her podcast.

The Simply Luxurious Life really does cover all areas of life in a luxurious, yet attainable way - home, style, food, ways of being, the French lifestyle - to name a few. Shannon is a high school English teacher in Oregon, has had great success with her online career and even brought out a book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide in 2014.

Enjoy this peek into her daily routine, and I hope you'll enjoy following her online as much as I do.

What is your usual wake up time?

5am.

What is your morning ritual?

Because I find I am most awake, fresh and creative in the mornings, I don’t want to waste a moment in the morning sleeping in, so once I am awake, I am up and going.

I will wake up an extra hour early so that I can ease myself into the day and indulge in simple luxuries.

My breakfast is the same, but I crave it each day: steel oats with raisins, honey and roasted sliced almonds, one egg over-easy and hot water with lemon.

My dogs Oscar and Norman are at my feet all morning (which makes it even harder to walk out the door to my teaching job during the school year), so I bring a treat for each of them to the table, where I enjoy my breakfast while reading the local morning newspaper.

I always have Morning Joe on in the morning as well to stay abreast of the breaking national and international news as well.

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Tell us about your commute.

I feel fortunate to say I live less than a mile from my school, and when I’m not teaching, my commute is to my home office to blog, plan and tape my podcast.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

Planning is something I sincerely enjoy doing. I will plan my day, my week, the month, set yearly goals and 5–10 year goals for fun even if it wasn’t required.

I find it exhilarating to plan, check in and celebrate when I complete what I have set out to do.

The gift that planning gives me is that when I finish what I need to do, I can relax and just let my mind wander. I am always amazed at where it travels and what it comes up with when I give it this freedom.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I need my alone time, so during the school year I enjoy most days having lunch to myself. Sometimes I will join other colleagues, but because lunch is so quick and we have to be on in fewer than 40 minutes, I need time to recharge.

When I am blogging, I spend my lunch either at a cafe or in the kitchen creating something from scratch, then I’ll sit down and relax until I am ready to get busy again.

What kind of workout schedule do you try to adhere to?

Working out is not only something I know I need to do for my health, it is something I thoroughly enjoy; however, I am not someone who tortures themselves.

My dogs become jumping beans when they see me put on my workout clothes and grab their leash. So seeing their enthusiasm makes it easy to go for an hour-long hike 5–6 days a week.

Bend has endless trails right outside my door, so I feel as though I am in the wilderness in minutes, and can fortunately return home in minutes when the hike is complete.

I also sign up for one Pilates class at a local studio, as well as two twenty minute strength sessions at home, each week.

How do you like to end your day?

Something I have shared with my blog readers for years is my evening ritual.

I need time to unwind and usually give myself at least an hour no matter how late the work day has lasted.

So long as I haven’t indulged in dessert, I will pair my evening black lavender tea with a dark chocolate peanut butter truffle from my favourite chocolatier Arrowhead Chocolates. Since I have recently moved to a different town, I place my order every two months to be sure I always have these decadent, rewarding treats at the ready.

What time do you doze off?

I am an early bird because I enjoy my mornings so much, so it is not unusual for me to be in bed by 8:30 and asleep by nine.

DVR is my favourite everyday invention as I typically will watch my favourite shows the next evening at an hour that works with my schedule.

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

Find the courage to say “No”. The best gift I gave myself was recognising what I had to do, what I wanted to do and then letting go of all the rest without guilt.

We only get 24 hours in the day and each day builds upon the day before. Where do you want to take your life? Once you know the answer to that question, saying “No” becomes much easier.

Can you give my readers your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

Absolutely! Part of my evening ritual upon returning home from work and having finished the walk with the dogs is stepping into the kitchen. It is such a therapeutic activity.

A typical evening will include some sort of vegetable dish and a protein. Sometimes I also have a slice of a baguette with cheese or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A simple, yet delicious vegetable side dish is a recipe from Julia Child. Her green beans: Boil the beans for 10 minutes in salted water until they become al dente. With a Japanese strainer, remove them from the water and place them in a hot skillet. Let the water steam off of them for about 30 seconds and then add 1-2 tablespoons of good unsalted butter. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, make sure the melted butter coats the beans (about 1 minute). Then add fresh lemon juice and leave the slice of lemon in the pan.

Voilà! You are done. The beans should be shiny and full of flavour, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Pair with Sole Meunière (click here for the recipe) and a glass of rosé. Bon appétit!

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Thank you so much for being interviewed Shannon - you've inspired me to plan my days even more carefully and of course try your recipe (rosé and all!)

You can find Shannon at the links below and also click the video to gain more insight into the simply luxurious way of living.