Productivity: the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.
“workers boosted productivity by 20 percent” Synonym: efficiency
Did you ever play with those balsam wood airplanes? You know . . . the ones that were propelled by the force of a twisted rubber band?
I used to play with those planes all the time as a kid. I just knew that if I twisted that rubber band as tight as it would go that my plane would fly faster and farther than any of the other ones that my friends were playing with.
Well, friends might be an overstatement. Essentially, faster and farther than the plane my sister was playing with.
I loved those planes. Even though they broke easily [sometimes when I was putting them together!] and the rubber bands lasted for 2 or sometimes 3 flights before snapping in two, I could spend the time, however brief, imagining that I was piloting that that little plane through the backyard.
The plane would gracefully float through the air, sometimes narrowly missing the tetherball pole planted squarely in the yard and crash land near the evergreen trees. If the rubber band didn’t snap, then one of the wings might on landing.
Although I played with those planes for several years as a child, I didn’t seem to generalize the knowledge that when stretched tightly, beyond capacity, the rubber band would snap in two.
Unfortunately, as an adult I also have to keep learning that same lesson over and over again. This time when the rubber band in my life snaps there are more dire consequences than when the little plane wouldn’t fly and my mother had run out of rubber bands that fit the plane.
Producing good work . . . at home, in the office, at school or with our children . . . requires so much more than just one rubber band. Those rubber bands stay flexible when we work efficiently, experience quality sleep, eat foods that feed our body and not only our palate and drink plenty of clear water.
Working efficiently means you’ll be as efficient as you can be without sacrificing your children, your home and your mental health. And, like all things in life there are tricks or secrets that efficiency experts have found will reduce the amount of time it takes us to accomplish specific tasks, get more done in less time and improve our productivity quotient.
I love to be productive. I get a real feeling of satisfaction when I finally lay down at night to know that I accomplished the goals I set for myself that day without stress the children or sacrificing my own mental or emotional health.
But I have this huge flaw. Well, I think of it as something that may require change, while other members of my family tend to think of it as a major flaw. And, truth be told, it probably is a major flaw.
I overbook myself. I make too many plans. My list is longer than my arm. I NEVER finish my list for the day.
All things that industry experts tell you will make you crash and burn before you accomplish your goals.
Knowing this and realizing that there were other recommendations that would increase my productivity without sacrificing my end goals, I went on a hunt for the best tools and changes that I could make in my single mom life. These had to be realistic for my circumstances, work within my lifestyle and not require extra expense.
So, without further ado, here are the seven changes that I would recommend you make in the next few weeks. I have, and have seen some remarkable differences in what I get done and how much better I work.
- Sleep, Water and Nutrition. You had to expect this – so I won’t spend a lot of time here. Sleep 8 hours a night. Drink enough water to stay hydrated (so your pee is a light straw color) and eat a well-balanced diet that is low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will increase the release of insulin in your body, increase the inflammatory response and cause dips in your blood sugar which make you feel tired and sleepy. In order to be as productive as possible you have to keep both your mind and your body healthy.
- Blocks of Time. Productivity happens when you can complete tasks in a specific amount of time. That time period is one that you define. In order to be as productive as possible you’ll want to block out your time during the day for specific tasks. Create the habit of blocking your calendar to check email, write the report your boss needs, make dinner, doing homework with the kids and anything else that needs to be done during the day. Make sure you also include downtime each day. Without time to recover and recharge your batteries your productivity levels will plummet like a rock in water.
- Balance everything. You’ve heard it before, but you must balance your work and life together. Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? It’s also known as the 80/20 rule. It’s the theory that 80 percent of the results from a given situation is determined by 20 percent of your work. This means you must manage your time and not let your time manage you. Working in blocks of time, including down time and balancing your recreation, family and work is extremely important to improve your productivity.
- Set Boundaries. Can you say no? Most women have trouble saying no to their friends or when they’re asked to do something. But that’s not the only thing you have to say no to! You must also guard your blocks of time and set boundaries to what you will and won’t do. Don’t check emails, take phone calls or answer text messages when you are committed to a block of time to finish a project or work on homework with the children. Set your boundaries with your friends as well. If you have people who enjoy dropping by unannounced, it’s time to set new boundaries.
- Let’s do double time. Can you do two things at once? Although most women are great at multi-tasking, it’s not the best way to accomplish any task. It requires that you split your brain between two tasks and neither get your full attention. On the other hand, you can schedule a playdate with your children’s friends and spend time with the mother catching up and call it downtime. Or you can take your child to her playdate and sit at a local coffee shop and work on your computer. You’ll be without the distractions you usually have at home and can access any content that you save in the cloud, so you can work anywhere.
- Focus on one thing and finish it. As women, we often struggle with focusing on one task. There is a joke that talks about how a woman walks through the house. Her intention is to clean the bathroom. She picks up the dishes in the family room and delivers them to the kitchen. She loads the dishwasher and takes clothes out of the dryer. After folding the clothes and delivering them to her children’s room, she fixes their bed and dusts the bookshelves in their room. She empties the garbage can and ties up the kitchen garbage can. After taking out the garbage, she starts another load of laundry. While the machine is running, she walks into the bathroom and starts cleaning the mirror, which reminds her that the mirror in her bedroom is dirty and she heads in there to clean the glass. Once finished it’s time to start dinner, she hasn’t finished one project and she’s exhausted.
Focus on one thing and finish it. It doesn’t matter about the extraneous things. It doesn’t matter that there are clothes in the dryer or the kitchen is mess – if you need to clean the bathroom, write the report or organize your files – don’t leave until it’s done.
- Use the tools you need. There are several online tools that can help improve your productivity – whether it’s at home or at work.
Momentum: a Chrome extension that shows a beautiful picture and your to-do list each time you open a new tab in your browser.
Trello: Has both a free and paid version. You can develop projects with different lists and tasks associated with them. Share the project with your friends or virtual assistant.
Wunderlist: Has both a free and paid version. Develop project lists with tasks. You can share the list, email yourself information, set due dates, reminders, attach audio files and take notes. This is my favorite tool!
Take the time TODAY to make one change in your daily routine and work to make that change a habit. If you can make one change every two weeks, it won’t be long before you are productivity machine!