This has been my most productive year yet (and it’s only June!). I have read 30 books over the past 5 months, I’ve written and designed an entire ebook, posted content to my personal blog as well as Waco Moms Blog, finished a Whole30, homeschooled my kindergarten daughter on Tuesday and Thursdays, intentionally invested in my husband and kids, established an early morning wakeup time before my kids are up, instituted better cleaning routines and rhythms for our days, and kept our household running smoothly (all with 4 young kids, 2 of which are in diapers!). I feel more purposeful and focused on my goals than ever, and fulfilled in living out the things that are truly important. All of this relates to habits, and I want to share the critical habits that have helped me along the way.
Habit 1: Rest. Truly Rest.
This seems counterintuitive but if you’re running on empty all the time, it’s going to backfire in the long run. So take care of yourself, pick a day for rest during the week, and fiercely protect that time. Cultivate rest further by establishing it into your daily routines, whether it is taking a break during your kid’s nap time or creating a “quiet hour” in the afternoon with peaceful activities for everyone. This is something that has really been important to our family over the past few years. We have been practicing a family sabbath day once a week where we take a break from screens, go to church, and intentionally connect as a family. More ideas on how we cultivate rest can be found here.
Habit 2: Make some concrete GOALS.
Sounds simple, right? But if you don’t know what you are actually heading towards, you’re not going to get there. So spend some time figuring out what you want to accomplish. Consider making very specific daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals lists. A great resource for this is “Make it Happen” by Lara Casey and her famous “Powersheets.” Further, Tim Challies’ book “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” might just change your life as well.
Habit 3: Refer to this goal list OFTEN.
Look it over. My goal list lives on my dresser, and I look it over almost every night. I check off things I have accomplished and use it to help make my list for the next day (see the next tip). This is a GAME CHANGER, folks. Look at your goals and you might actually reach them! Establish rhythms where you spend some time culling your lists, noting what did and didn’t get done, and planning for future days and weeks. Mystie Winkler is a great resource for this and even has some podcasts with great tips. Search for the “Simplified Organization Audio Blog” to listen to those! Learn what is tripping you up in accomplishing your goals, and look ahead to future events and tasks. This takes time, but is such a worthwhile habit to establish.
Habit 4: Make a NOTECARD every day.
A real notecard is key; a virtual to-do list does not have the same effect. Studies on productivity have shown that this simple trick will give you extra motivation to get things done. A pen, a notecard, that’s it. Cross things off as you accomplish them. Crazy as it sounds, there is a little mental reward from crossing off items, and it makes you want to put in the extra effort to accomplish all the things on your little list!
Habit 5: Wake up before your KIDS.
After many sleepless nights with young kids and newborns, this has been a tough habit to establish. But it is so critical for setting the tone of the day! A WONDERFUL resource on this topic is a free ebook from Kat Lee, who writes at hellomornings.com. She gives some insightful tips on getting your day started right and even has a download about your “3 minute morning routine.” Everyone can start with 3 minutes, right?! I have found that waking up early also has enabled me to get other helpful habits established, and has been a critical component of maximizing my productivity.
Habit 6: Give your brain a DUMP.
This is another concept I stole from Mystie. Get everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, out of your head and onto paper. The reason we FEEL so scattered is because we ARE so scattered. Our minds develop little thoughts that fly at us all the time. I take a walk through my house and see a chair I want to recover, paint that needs to be touched up, the birthday card I need to mail, and the clothes I need to store for next season. All these ideas assault me by simply walking through a couple rooms. And this just scratches the surface of all the thoughts, ideas, “should-dos” and to-dos that pass through my head on any given day. These thoughts need to LAND somewhere. This is the beauty of a brain dump. All these RANDOM ideas and thoughts get a place to stay. Get any random thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or a note in your phone), so that you can process them and rightly prioritize them.
Habit 7: Automize EVERYTHING.
Routines are the key. Make a schedule of when you do certain things and it will free up so much “brain space” to tackle the truly important things. I have established certain kitchen tasks that I do EVERY morning. I have tasks that I do every night as well, to “close down” the kitchen for the evening and prepare for the next morning. We have certain days that we go to the library, grocery shop, and schedule playdates (for the most part). Having these decisions made ahead of time not only ensures that they actually get done, but also makes you more efficient and able to tackle more tasks outside of what simply must be done. Certainly there is freedom to make adjustments (life happens and there are a multitude of interruptions to our plans!) but having a general plan gives us a basic framework to work with.
Habit 8: Ask yourself WHY you are floundering or procrastinating certain tasks.
If something is on your list and it regularly isn’t getting done, why is it? What is keeping you from tackling that project? Is there a simple fix that would make it more appealing? Take, for instance, this scenario I encountered a few months ago. I found myself putting off cleaning the bathrooms. I dug a little deeper and asked myself why I was avoiding this task. I realized that it seemed too “big” of a job. It seemed overwhelming to do all that work in one stretch of time, when I have 4 little kids at home and those large stretches of time are hard to come by. So, I switched up my cleaning routine. I clean toilets on Tuesday, and assign the rest of the bathroom cleaning to Wednesday’s task list. My bathrooms have been more pristine since this amendment to the schedule and I feel happier since I feel that I can actually achieve my cleaning goal.
Habit 9: Reassess your goals.
Don’t be afraid to scratch some things off your list. If you started out the year focusing on one area and you realize a whole different area of your life needs attention, make the switch. Don’t hang on to old goals if they aren’t what you are wanting NOW. On the flip side, don’t give up on goals just because you aren’t motivated. Set up some rewards to keep your motivation morale high!
Habit 10: Start a Goal Group.
Let me tell you, this is the BEST THING that has happened to me in 2017. One of my friends had the brilliant idea to start a “goal group” where we meet at the beginning of each month, sharing our goals with each other, and then follow up with each other the next month to share our progress. I cannot even tell you how MOTIVATING it is to share my specific goals this way! It’s really not for the approval of my friends (I know they love me no matter what goals I accomplish or fail to accomplish) but having the accountability in place to regularly SIT DOWN each month and write out my goals so I can share them with the group has been the most helpful habit to establish. We have fun together, too. It’s not all “business” but truly has allowed our friendships to blossom as we spend intentional time together. I am so thankful for the fruitfulness of our “goal group” time and I believe it has made ALL the difference in the world in my productivity this year!
I truly hope these habits can help you become more productive and purposeful in your life as a mom!