How To Actually Get Things Done

We’re crazy for productivity right?

Many of us are carting around our to do lists in our phones, in notebooks, in our brains.

The satisfying tick of an item off our to do list gives us the rush we were looking for, but sometimes the list seems to outweigh the time and energy we have right?

Not necessarily true.

Often the time we spend thinking about our to do list or procrastinating on it, could actually be spent getting things done.

So what’s the best way to satisfy that time management urge and avoid the guilt of not getting through what we were planning to get done?

Put it in your calendar

Whether it be at the start of each week or longer term for a larger project, list out each task that needs doing, then pull your calendar out and actually schedule each one.

Writing a big long to do list at work for example, then getting to Friday afternoon realising you haven’t done 75% of it, is a sure sign you need to actually book things in.

Estimating how long each task will take is also super useful and helps spark our competitive side.

Only have 1 hour to write that report? Chances are you’ll get it done within the hour in a race against the clock.

Accept you probably won’t want to do it

Understanding this has pretty much changed my life.

Whether it’s the gym, cleaning or doing a large task at work - I have the best of intentions and when I get to the scheduled time, I think ‘hmm, nah…’.

Once I accepted I was often going to feel like that, I was able to just notice it and make a decision to press on anyway.

It’s a little cliched, but who has ever worked out, looked at their clean house or finally solved a major work problem and regretted it? I didn’t think so.

Accept that your mind is going to try and talk you out of getting things done, and keep going anyway.

Congratulate yourself

Something I’m quite hopeless at is actually pausing to celebrate when it’s called for.

I’m usually on to the next project or idea, when as I wrote here, if we don’t stop to acknowledge milestones, they’ll easily be forgotten.

Make a concerted effort to congratulate yourself in some way after a long week, a big work project ending or a home renovating job coming to an end.

This will make it all worth it and help you reflect back on the effort you’ve made.

Will you put your to do list in your calendar this week? Let me know how you go!

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. 

How I Stay Healthy At Work

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I’m well into the principles of intuitive eating.

‘Healthy’ isn’t the restrictive word it used to be to me though.

Today it’s a way of eating and moving my body that makes me feel energised, light and able to make the most of my days.

I don’t want to eat bland, healthy food that leaves me longing for more, and nor do I want to punish my body with grueling exercise.

But I also acknowledge I don’t live in a bubble.

At work there is the temptation of morning tea cakes, free pizza for lunch and a vending machine that calls my name when I’m stressed and/or bored (how kind of it).

So in order to maintain my version of healthy, I have a few tricks I use at work that keep me feeling good.

Be armed with snacks

Not having healthy snacks around me is a one way ticket to eating foods that make me feel unwell.

I stock my drawer with nuts, fruit and popcorn most weeks. This makes sure that when I’m feeling the urge, I’ve got something I can grab and snack on that will not make me feel sluggish.

BYO lunch or rotate some healthy options

After working in the middle of nowhere for almost five years, I am pretty damn good at making my lunches. You can read more about my meal prepping tips here.

However, if I’ve lost cooking motivation or I’m out of lunch ideas, I have a few local healthy options (let’s face it, 99% of them are one of my favourite cuisines - Japanese) that I rotate.

I feel just as good eating those as if I had brought my own lunch in.

Loosen the reins so you don’t splurge on Friday

On Fridays there is a different feeling in the air. I often have lunch with coworkers and a chilled glass of white wine is calling my name by 4pm.

A few years back, this was usually a slide into splurging and sometimes a whole weekend of eating and drinking to excess.

However, these days I realise I need to have this much fun every day, in one way or the other.

If I treat myself in other ways throughout the week, I’m less likely to go crazy and feel blergh every Saturday morning.

Do it if you want to, then move on with your life

This is definitely my most important tip.

If your body wants a piece of pizza, or a cookie with your coffee or a pint of beer at Friday lunch, HAVE IT.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those guilt-free, then moving on with your life.

Don’t obsess about it, or promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow.

Simply enjoy the moment, listen to your body and move on with your life. Seriously.

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?

 

October Recap and November Intentions

We are almost through October so it’s time to review my intentions for the last month.

Cut off technology at 10pm (and read hard copy books)

I am getting better with this intention. I’ve been reading this great book, which is basically short interviews with interesting Londoners. It does entice me to read every night but I still find myself often taking ‘one last look’ at social media. Disconnecting from technology is a work in progress for all of us I think.

Enjoy the daylight

Unfortunately I injured myself earlier in the month, so I haven’t been able to do much exercise, including going to the gym. However, walking has been doable so I’ve been walking along the river most nights after work before we sit down to dinner.

With the clocks moving forward in Australia, it’s been beautifully light and warm, so I have definitely felt an increased appreciation for the daylight. And with less wine than I intended to enjoy last month, which is probably a good thing!

Revel in upcoming events

An expressive birthday moment with friends...

An expressive birthday moment with friends...

Over my birthday weekend I made sure to sit back and enjoy special moments with friends and family and not let them pass by too quickly.

Unfortunately the music festival I was going to was cancelled but I still have plenty of upcoming fun activities to practice this technique on.

November Intentions

Schedule quarterly shopping days

Uh, how fun does this sound? This year I’ve been planning my budget a little better and putting some extra money away for clothes and beauty.

It’s starting to build up and I figure rather than making spontaneous online shopping hauls (hello Asos), I should make a day of it and go into stores, try on and buy great products and finish with a meal or drink with a girlfriend. Who’s with me?

Eat more frogs at work

I ebb and flow with this concept, but back when I wrote this post, it was working really well for me. It’s a very busy season at work so, rather than fall behind, I’m going to try and get my ‘ugliest’ task out of the way first thing.

Whether that be a phone call I’m dreading, a report I’ve been putting off, or plugging my headphones in and getting my inbox back under control, it will put me in good stead for the rest of the work day.

Plan for the holidays

Yes, it’s nearly that time again! Between work and social events, I usually do a frantic online shop (are we seeing a pattern here?) in early-mid December.

This year I’d like to think ahead, work on some great, thoughtful gifts and also get a food and drink list started to make this season extra special.

What are you planning to get done in November? Let me know in the comments below.

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: February

 
The newest family member - Pickles! 

The newest family member - Pickles! 

It's the last Monday of February (and the last Monday of summer here in Australia) and we're a couple of months into the year. It's going pretty great for me so far, but there's lots of things I hope to work on in 2015, including one of my favourite things - this blog.

February was full of quality catch ups with friends and a new addition to our family, a rescue kitten named Pickles. He's pretty amazing.

Here are some interesting links I've found over the last month. Enjoy your week lovely readers.

I'm not sure how realistic this is, but here's a take on the perfect routine for your work day. Yeah, power naps still don't fly at my workplace.

Do you regularly criticise your body? I know I do. Hopefully it won't take illness to appreciate it - here's a beautiful take on how we view our bodies from Susannah Conway

A breakthrough for me in February - I deleted the MyFitnessPal app from my phone! This article reminds me why.

I forgot to share this one back during the holiday season, but it's just as relevant throughout the year. Ditch the pressure of planning an amazing holiday, stay home, stay off social media and relax

And for a laugh I'm sure we can all relate to - The 12 emotional stages of a pedicure

My new 2IC here at the blog.

My new 2IC here at the blog.