7 Tips for Getting Things Done

As I was sitting in front of my computer yesterday morning watching the live stream of the Boston Marathon, I realized that I really, really did not have time to watch all morning, but I just couldn’t pull myself away from the screen. I indulged myself though, and watched the women’s and men’s winners cross before starting my work. MISTAKE. I quickly got overwhelmed when I realized there was not enough time to get everything done I needed to for the day because I had “lost” two hours of valuable work time. Although, let’s face it. It’s the Boston marathon. It definitely not wasted time, but for the purposes of this post, just go with it. If I had remembered that the marathon was that morning (I know, I’m ashamed to call myself a runner), I could have planned for it. Instead I found myself behind. I really really wanted to get a haircut but it had to be something I “dropped” for the day. It was either that or getting groceries, so even though my hair sadly looks like a lion’s mane, we have to eat.

This of course got me thinking about all the other days and times I end up with way too many things to do and not enough time to do them in….Which is sometimes multiple days a week. When I get overwhelmed and not sure where to start I end up procrastinating so it’s a vicious cycle. Today I wanted to provide you with a few tidbits I have learned along the way to help you maximize your time and get things done. Let’s get after it!

Get things done

1.) Don’t over commit:

The first step to getting things done actually occurs before the day even begins. If you overcommit to things, you are already setting yourself up for failure. I know especially here in the south it’s hard to say no to people, activities, and opportunities. We are just so dang nice, yall. Bless it. Sometimes though, it’s just not worth it. I have had to back off of some of my work because I was simply getting too overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired. I started taking it out on my family and it wasn’t pretty. No amount of money is worth that, my friends! Take a step back and look at your week, or have someone impartial look with you to help identify if you have too much going on, and if something can be passed off to someone else. When asked to do a project or participate in something, don’t immediately say yes. It’s ok to say “let me get back to you,” or even “sorry I can’t this time!”

2.) Choose you work environment carefully:

This is one of the ones I really have problems with. My “office” is upstairs in the bonus room, it’s a mess, and it’s just not a sunny cheery place. Now, I typically work at the kitchen table, which is super klassy with a “k”. I know, you all had this grand illusion of me sitting at my computer desk, with my race medals and mickey mouse ears hanging from a lamp shade, surrounded by files and notepads full of amazing blog ideas. Heh. No no, I work at the kitchen table hand me down from when I was 4 years old, surrounded by baby toys, pens with no ink in them, and sticky notes that I can’t even read because my handwriting is THAT bad. Ok, we are getting off track ere… This has pros  (I can multi task, watch the baby, etc.), and cons (I can turn on the TV and get easily distracted, I see all the things that I can piddle with in the kitchen and living room, gives me a divided mind).

3.) Plan/schedule in advance:

I use a combination of a paper planner and my Google calendar. I put important deadlines and appointments in the Google calendar which sends alerts to my phone, and every day type things like “go to grocery store” in my paper planner. I am also a big fan of daily lists, they help keep me on track and knock out the big stuff I need to get done that day.  My brain can only hold so many things before something falls out of it. I have learned that just because I say “I will remember xyz” does not mean it will actually happen. This has gotten exponentially worse since having my child. Mom brain is a real thing. I actually left my groceries in the car after I came home last week. I hang my head in shame. Oh, and I promise my April calendar doesn’t really look like this. Oh how I wish. This is just an old picture.

lorna jane diary

4.) Plan breaks:

This is not only for your mental health but for your physical health. I spend a lot of time in front of the computer writing, so I need stretch/walk breaks just as much as mental breaks. I tend to do short bursts of work then move on to something else. For instance, I will put on a load of laundry, wash some dishes, then sit down at the computer and catch up on emails. Then it’s switch the laundry over, take out the dog, and do some squats before getting back on the computer and writing my next blog post. If it’s a day when the baby is home then I really, really take a lot of “breaks” to do things with her. I’m constantly jumping around because my attention span is like that of a gnat. The only problem is sometimes my “breaks” end up being too long and I tend to flutter to too many flowers and not really get anything done. Thanks Facebook.

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Another reason I get nothing done? You are looking at her.

5.) Discover how you work best:

Sit down and take a few minutes thinking about how you personally work best. Some prefer background noise, while someone else may need complete silence. You may work best in big chunks of time, knocking something out while your spouse works best in little spurts before moving on to something else. Figure out your work “style”, and then do everything you can to make it happen. If you work in an office cubicle, you may need to wear some headphones to drown out noise. If you are at home with kids, prioritize the things you can get done while they are awake, and then save the things you really need to focus on for naptime.

6.) Prioritize:

Again, make a list, make a list, MAKE A LIST! There is something so satisfying about crossing something off of a list isn’t there? Pick the three to five most important things that MUST GET DONE TODAY and put those in bold letters at the top of your list. Then add a few more things underneath in regular lettering that you would love to get done, but if you don’t it’s not the end of the world. Groceries and picking up the baby from daycare fall under the MUST DO. Note to self.

7.) Reward yourself…after your work is done:

Plan a reward for getting your list completed, but be careful to not reward yourself until AFTER you get your work done. It can be something like stopping at Starbucks on the way home from work, taking a bubble bath or a long walk by yourself, a pedicure, or picking up your favorite take out for dinner. Or, you can wait and reward yourself on the weekend if you make it through all five days of getting everything done that you were supposed to that week. I try to stay away from food related rewards, but something they are necessary. Smile

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QOTD: What would you add to this list? What works for you?

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  1. The planning one is really tough for me. I just committed to working 25 hours/week for a new role, and my baby didn’t nap for a minute yesterday and the sitter canceled for this afternoon. Which means I was up until 11:30 working last night and probably will be again tonight ahhh.

    Also rearrange your bonus room and create a comfy work space! I find it so much easier to be productive in my office because it’s a “get things done” zone. 😉

    • sadly there is not a lot we can do, it’s 1/2 the size of of old bonus room so it’s chock full of furniture etc. that won’t fit anywhere else in our house. It only has one window and I love me some natural light. THe “pro” to it is it’s all open/one room to the living room so I can see the baby if shes up but still be on the computer doing a few things.

  2. Great tips! I tend to get caught up in the procrastination vortex. I put off my least favorite tasks, and then I dread them even more because they’ve piled up. I really need to work on this!!

  3. Great post! I have lots of lists but am so easily distracted…especially when it comes to social media. Planning is key in my world.

  4. I started making lists in high school when things got overwhelming. The school year was broken up into 4 terms, and the 3rd term not only had no holidays, but that’s when all the major projects were due each year. When I got overwhelmed the first year, my mom suggested making lists of things I needed to get done, and then crossing them off. Crossing items off feels SO good.

  5. Making lists definitely helps to keep me focused. It also helps me to prioritize what needs to get done.

  6. I am so guilty of over-committing or putting WAY too much on my to-do list! In my head, I will plan to get three or four HUGE projects done, when I know that one could take all day, then I feel disappointed! I need to be more realistic!

  7. Yes, yes and yes to all seven tips! If only everybody followed them, this world would be a better place to live in 🙂

  8. I’ve got like 10 planners around the house!!! That motivates me to stay on task and get work DONEEEE! I loveeee crossing things off the list 😉

  9. these are truly helpful tips!! i HATE running behind but find myself in that position often, usually thanks to unforeseen circumstances. thanks for the wise words!!

  10. These are great tips for getting things done. For me the most important thing to do is always prioritize what needs to get done first as the priority!

  11. I’m getting better at my schedule planning, but I still need to work on my meal planning. I completely suck at that! Things are getting busier these days and I have to get more strict about my scheduling and time keeping or I can’t get things done. I am going to try out using pomodoro timers to break up tasks so I can get things done! It’s so easy to get distracted when I’m working and blogging on the internet

  12. These are great tips, Heather! Excellent job taking running lessons and applying them to running and beyond!

    Apparently great minds think alike, because just yesterday I finished creating a document called “10 Practical Strategies for Accomplishing Big Goals from a (Former) non-Runner” as a thank you for people who subscribe to my e-list. We were thinking along similar lines at the same time! 🙂

  13. Great tips! Making a list is a big one for me. Without a plan, my days just don’t flow.

Mentioned elsewhere:

  1. runningwithsass says:

    7 Tips for Getting Things Done

    As I was sitting in front of my computer yesterday morning watching the live stream of the Boston Marathon

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