Do you struggle to be productive? If so, you’re not alone! No matter what stage of life you’re in—high school, college, early marriage or a new mom—you’ll have things that need to be done. A daily routine can help you accomplish those tasks with grace and productivity! Here are six steps to help you get there.
1. Write down everything you need to accomplish in a given day.
Get out a sheet of paper and write down everything you need to do each day. Include making meals for yourself, getting dressed, commuting to work, doing homework after school. Anything you spend time on should be on the list.
Next, write down everything you want to do, but can’t: things like reading, playing the piano, sewing—whatever gets pushed to the wayside.
Go back to your list of tasks and circle the things you could do before school or work. If you got these done in the morning, or right when you get home, how much free time would you have later? The goal is to find time for yourself by scheduling specific times to do the tasks at hand.
2. Identify the problem areas.
Next, write down everything that stresses you out during the day. My stressors are:
- A messy house
- Undone dishes
- Trying to make myself meals while the baby fusses
- Staying up too late (babies wait for no man in the morning!)
Stress makes things feel like they’re out of control, but look at my list—all of those things are under my control! I want my daily routine to reduce stress, not increase it. But before we deal with solutions to those problems, we will make a separate list of “time suckers.”
Write down the things in your day that take extra time—things you do, even habits you didn’t know you had, that whittle away five minutes here and there. My list included:
- Picking out an outfit for myself
- Scrolling through social media
- Looking at emails as soon as they pop up on my phone
- Doing ALL the dishes at the end of the day when I want to go to bed
- Jumping from one chore to another as I notice it
Each of these things uses up precious time in tiny increments. They seem harmless in the moment, but they can cause you to look back on the day wondering why you didn’t have time to do the things you love!
3. Make a weekly plan to address those issues.
Now you know what you NEED to do and what you WANT to do. You also know what stresses you and how you’ve been wasting time. Now make a plan to fix those areas!
Ask yourself: “What can I do to solve these problems?” As I asked this question, it led me to my weekly plans. I have a weekly plan for laundry, cleaning, fitness and meals (breakfast, lunch AND dinner). Planning takes work on the front end, but brings peace in the long run. I was stressing myself out by doing everything at once, or impulsively doing chores as I saw them. By assigning tasks to each day ahead of time, I don’t even have to think about what I need to do; I just look at my plan.
As you saw in my stressor and sucker lists, I was struggling to find time to clean, do dishes, and make meals. Yet somehow I found time to wander around my closet and check my friends’ Facebook feeds. To stop these problems, divide the bigger tasks over the course of the week. Perhaps assign your meal planning and preparation to Sundays. Do all your cleaning on Monday nights, or break it up into a daily cleaning task (that’s what I do). Find ways that work for you, but make a plan and write it down.
4. Outline your schedule and pull it all together.
Go back to those tasks you can do before or after school and work. Now decide when you’ll get up each morning and when you plan to do those tasks! Remember: By doing the tasks when scheduled, even if you don’t feel like it, you free yourself up for the things you love. Doing the hard thing is worth it!
I like to get up at 6 a.m., work out, then make breakfast, shower and put on my makeup. Since I work from home and have a daughter, I also take care of her in the mornings—but have scheduled my cleaning, laundry and work tasks so our evenings are free to do whatever we like. Scheduling brings freedom!
5. Write each day’s tasks in your planner.
Now that you have a plan, you need a place to reference it! You also can help yourself achieve your goals by setting things out the night before. As part of my evening routine, I lay several things on the kitchen table for the next morning: my Bible, journal and my planner—open to the next day. On each day of my planner I have written:
- My workout (legs, arms/abs/full body or a run)
- The cleaning assignment (living room, kitchen, etc.)
- My allotted Bible reading (I’m reading chronologically through the Word)
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- The laundry assignment
Then I plug these tasks into my daily routine.
6. Pick a time for a weekly planning session.
Choose one day each week to plan for the days ahead. This will keep you ahead of the curve and keep you from being overwhelmed. And as usual, be realistic with the demands of your life and remember that planning reduces stress; it doesn’t add to it. Make a plan that works for you and you’ll find your productivity far more effective!