Priorities or How Productivity Can Fuck Up Your Whole Life

I am just like you…and Beyonce…with the same 24 hours in each day and the same long list of things that I want to cram into that same 24 hours. One of those things just happens to be a nap in my case, but you make your own list. No looking at my paper.

And just like you, if I can make those 24 hours look a little less like a Netflix marathon and more like Beyonce’s day, then I am happy. The good news is that you can. You can maximize every single minute of every single day. You can make sure that every minute of napping is optimized for maximum restfulness and rejuvenation! You can climb that mountain! You can eat that frog!

But after about a month or so you might look around and find yourself completely burned out. I mean completely on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Sure, you are eating healthy and getting the best sleep of your life and your boss/bank account love you because you are being super productive and getting shit done like the badass girl-boss that you are…

But.

Yeah, there’s a but. 

But, you are stretched too thin and this pace can only last for so long before something like… I don’t know, LIFE happens and then you find all the plates you had spinning begin to hit the floor with blinding speed and amazing accuracy. You stand there, being super productive, getting massive amounts of shit done, only to find your whole life is crumbling around you. You miss deadlines, or you miss sleep, or you miss both deadlines and sleep because the flu is a motherfucker that will not be denied.  And the hour-long power nap you had scheduled for some “me time” turns into a three day weekend spent in your pajamas.

In the end, all of the super healthy, uber-productive habits that you were forming slowly fall away and you give in to the siren call of Netflix and pizza because you’re too short to be Beyonce anyway. 

Sound familiar? Don’t act like it’s just me. 

Well, after a quick self-evaluation I realized that I was missing one key ingredient in this whole Oprah Winfrey-Beyonce Cocktail. 

Priorities.

You see, like many people, I am very good at setting really great, doable goals. I am awesome when it comes to creating schedules, and nobody handles a highlighter like me. I was literally cramming my days full of things that I want to do, or ought to do, or would love to one day accomplish. Since I gave up the habit of doing things I don’t like, I found that there wasn’t anything on my list of tasks that I wanted to get rid of. I wasn’t saying “no” to anything. All of my goals and plans were immediate. There was no wiggle room. Although I never double booked (thank you bullet journal) I was severely overcommitted.

One day this month I had more than twelve separate things on my daily to-do list and I had them scheduled back to back. I got through eight, which I think is amazing, but I remember collapsing into bed that night feeling like a loser because I wasn’t able to check two more boxes off of my list. It never occurred to me that the list was too damned long. 

So how do we prioritize the things that we love? 

So step one is to decide which activities you absolutely love and which ones you can let go of or delegate. I know several moms who have a cleaning lady come in once a week to do the windows, floors, and laundry so that these busy moms can spend more time with their kids. Do they like having clean homes? Yes! But they LOVE spending time with the kids. 

I like to get involved with environmental causes. Clean air and clean water and sustainable development fascinate me. However, I can’t do it all. I have to choose. When I looked at my schedule I found a lot of activities that I liked but didn’t love. I had to remind myself that it’s okay to simply donate, I don’t need to volunteer for everything. 

Step two is embracing the power of NO!

Saying no can make you feel guilty, or in my case, lazy. As a mom, I can get into the mindset of trying to be what everybody needs me to be. This is especially hard when what I’m being asked to do is something that I CAN do. 

Yes, I CAN bring snacks to the party. I CAN braid your hair. I CAN attend your meeting. 

I can.

I can.

I can.

But I’m not going to. WHY? Because if I do I will miss out on the rest, peace of mind, and relaxation that I NEED and DESERVE. 

Its okay to say you don’t want to do something. Give yourself permission to do that if you haven’t already. Its okay to simply say it’s not your scene, or you have something else you want to do. But what I am learning is that it’s also okay to say “I’d like to, but I won’t.”

No apologies. Be polite. Be honest. And be okay with safeguarding your time and your sanity. 

Step three is to fulfill your obligations first. When planning my day or my week I always put in the things that I MUST do first. These take the top spot on my list of things to do. Taking care of these obligations (contractual or otherwise) gives me peace of mind. 

Step four is to get specific. I am not one of those people who can use a weekly calendar. I need a daily agenda, preferably with a time tracker. I bust my day down to the bare bricks. Why? Because it’s easy to say “I have all day” when in reality you have about two hours of actual, usable time to accomplish your task. 

As a side note, it’s important to be realistic about how long things will actually take. Spend a week tracking how long it takes you to do things. This way, when you sit down to schedule blocks of time for different tasks, you can be more realistic about how long it will truly take. Also, don’t forget to give yourself some wriggle room. Life happens, remember!

I am sure to schedule family time (and yes the occasional nap) into my day. This way when I’m with my family they have me 100%. I’m not busy trying to get them situated so that I can run back and complete something else. These hours belong to them. I know because my schedule told me so. 

Step five is to downsize and declutter. Like your drawers, shelves, closets, and desk, your life can get mighty cluttered. One thing turns into two. Things that no longer benefit you become habits. Routines that used to work have stopped being optimal but you cling to them anyway. Take a good look at your life. What could you live without?

For me, it was the gym. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Going felt more like a chore. So I stopped going and started using the internet to find great at-home workout videos. This way I can blast fat at home in whatever spare time I have. 

DOn’t just declutter you schedule, declutter your physical space as well. Start with fifteen minutes a day, and simply throw away anything you haven’t used or needed in the last six months. Gather all of those holiday and birthday cards you saved and put them in one box. Get a storage bin for all of those keepsakes. Once you streamline your physical space you will begin to streamline your mind and schedule as well. 

Lastly, be sure to check in with yourself every once in a while. I like quarterly reviews, but do what works for you. If you need to change up the routine, do it. Being productive is about more than just getting a whole lot done, it’s about being able to work effectively and efficiently for the long haul. 

That last part is the part that I often forget, and I bet I’m not the only one. 

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