I was thinking about this recently because I know I’ve been pretty vocal about my passion for productivity and time management tools. I’m a huge fan of Laura Vanderkam, a well-known writer on time management. She offers a lot of great tips in her books and on her blog. The other day, a light bulb went off in my head. This matters to me because being productive and managing my time well means I have less stress. It’s all part of the overall wellness plan for me. This is why I’m always looking for ways to be more productive with my time and reduce distractions. I don’t have it all figured it out and I wish I could improve upon many bad habits that I have. But the tools I use that work for me seem to work really well for me. I know I’ve mentioned some of them before. I think I probably make them work because I need them to work for my own well-being and they are either things that were easy to utilize for one reason or another or they make such a difference that they are a big priority for me.
Todoist app: This app is a huge game changer for me. It’s a never-ending to-do list and I can input dates for different tasks. I use this for my personal life and for work. If I have a task for work that I really can’t forget, I will double up and put it into my Outlook calendar so I get the notification there and in the ToDoist app, but basic everyday tasks are put into the app. I prefer this app to the standard Apple Reminder function because I can organize it in a way that seems to help me. I also put basic tasks for work on a small notepad next to my computer at work because sometimes it is helpful to glance over and see something.
Do not disturb on my phone: My phone goes into DND mode from 9 pm until 4 am. I go to bed early and I hate when my phone dings, vibrates, any of it as I’m trying to go to sleep. I know I can’t control when others decide they want to send me a text or an email comes through or an app decides to randomly alert me to something, but I can choose if my phone needs to be in a mode to alert me or not.(Reduce what you get notification for, while you are at it!)
Hiding alerts on group text messages: Sometimes you are on a group text that takes on a life of its own. When the alerts get to be too much, you can hide them on an iPhone by going into the info for the group and selecting the “hide alerts” option. You can turn the alerts back on when it’s a better time. Or you can just ignore all the dinging until you are good and ready to deal with the 25 group text notifications you have. I know that’s not always easy, but there are tools on iPhones at least that can help with this. I’m sure other phone models have similar features.
Podcasts: Before Breakfast is a new podcast by the previously mentioned Laura Vanderkam. It’s generally between five and eight minutes long and it’s meant to be a quick tip to start your day. Every morning, after I’ve gotten out of the shower, put my clothes on and thrown some hair product in my hair, I hit play on the new episode. However long the episode is is how long I give myself to finish getting ready. Usually I’m ready to head out of the bathroom as the end acknowledgements and ads are playing. I can get lost in my thoughts as I’m getting ready in the morning, so this helps a lot.
I also love Laura’s “Best of Both Worlds” podcast, hosted with Sarah Hart-Unger, which talks about balancing parenting, career and your own life. Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” is also great for productivity tips, thought provoking happiness discussions, and other general life topics. She hosts it with her sister and they are a lot of fun. I love listening to podcasts on my way to work—I feel like I can conquer the world after listening to any of these!
Getting things ready the night before: I get as much as I can ready for the next day the night before: lunch packed, gym clothes out, work clothes out (or at least a few options ironed and ready if I’m debating because of weather), work bag packed with anything that I normally don’t take, travel coffee mug on the counter and ready for coffee if I’m taking some with me that day.
Doing laundry daily if possible: Less laundry on the weekends just makes me happier. I’d rather do a little each day than face a daunting pile on Saturday morning. Some people would like to do it all on the weekends, but that just makes me feel tied to my house for the weekend.
Calendars: I put everything that affects me into my personal Google Calendar—haircuts, manicures, appointments, girls nights, etc. We also have a family Google Calendar and everything for the boys—sports activities, doctor’s appointments, school activities—all of it goes there and the four of us can see it. It really reduces a lot of questions of whether something will work for us or when a kids has an orthodontist appointment.
Letting certain things go: The house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean. With two teenage boys, a husband who works from home and two shedding black dogs, I have realized I have to let certain things go. Certain things make me crazy (wipe the counter off, wipe off your damn placemat when you are done eating, wipe down the toilet once in a while), but I can’t clean like a fool every single night after work. I just can’t. I try to stay on top of clutter so that it doesn’t overwhelm me, but I do the best I can and we have a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks. It is what it is.
My point is that this all goes hand in hand. There are many areas in life where you have to take care to make sure you feel well and healthy. What good is exercising and meditating if little messes in my house send me right over the edge? What’s the point of listening to the local morning radio show on my way to work when I think the 40 something year-old hosts are sounding more and more like 20 somethings and I just want to yell at them from my car? At least with a podcast I’m feeling more rejuvenated when I get to work. Utilizing apps or tools on my phone can help with productivity and distractions. Taking the time to prep whatever I can beforehand leads to less stressful mornings. Think about what stresses you out regularly—what can you do to make it easier? If you can identify where you can utilize some new tools, I’m pretty sure your overall wellness will improve.
Let me know if you try any of these tools and what you think!