We're all busy. There's not one person I know whose time isn't incredibly valuable -- and in short supply. For me, managing my time carefully and consistently means I get more minutes with my daughter and have dinner with my husband, which is non-negotiable. So to balance all of my necessary business to-dos with my personal life, I set some rigorous rules. Sure, these get broken when work goes haywire or a surprise pops up, but more often than not, you'll find me sticking to these productivity hacks. See if they work for you and share if you have any ways to improve them!
1. Rinse and Repeat
I have the same schedule for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, as much as possible. I take breakfast and lunch meetings at the same place, so there's always just one option. I send the same six gifts -- things I really, really personally love and would want for myself -- for every shower, birthday, life milestone, and housewarming. (Because I want those gifts to be really thoughtful and creative, I would end up burning an hour poring over options.)
In other words, wherever I can, I make each choice once. Things get done easily and don't require my brainpower, so there's always a foundational layer of decisions that are off the table.
2. Don't Be a Slave to Your Calendar
Just because something's planned doesn't mean it has to happen. Every Sunday, I look at my schedule and decide what's the highest priority and most urgent -- and I rearrange my day based on that.
To be clear, this process is never impolite. It's not about canceling on people or blowing off appointments. My job is to get things done that are urgent, so I do a fresh sweep to make sure everything's in the right order -- and shuffle it once before the week gets frantic.
3. Take Your Checkups All at Once
Ninety percent of the time, my doctors' appointments happen in January. There are so many good reasons to do this: For one, January is a month that's all about your health, taking care of yourself, and starting the year off right. So I see my general physician, my eye doctor, my dentist, etc. Schedule appointments for your kids, too -- just get it done.
The second reason this hack works is that all of your bills come at one time so you don't miss any. Doctors' bills are some of the worst to miss, so this can be a financially healthy move.
4. Be Ready to Make a Run for It
I have a suitcase that's packed and ready to go. No, I'm not planning a last-minute getaway. This bag, which contains my toiletries and travel basics, is always stocked so that packing and unpacking is a cinch and makes work travel less stressful.
For everyday, I have essentials in two little leather pouches that just drop into whichever purse I need to grab before I go.
My wardrobe is standard and seasonal. In autumn months, it's jeans, a striped shirt, and tan pumps. In the spring and summer, it's a dress and those same pumps. Why? This morning was the perfect example: I got dressed in 10 seconds because I needed to get out the door. My reward was 10 minutes with my daughter, which is 100 times more important than spending time figuring out what to wear.
Minimize things that are low-value, unnecessary, or unsexy so you have the time and energy for the high-value parts of your life.
5. Make Exercise a No-Brainer
If you come to LearnVest and look in my office, you'll see me on a phone call pacing around my desk. It's not nervous energy. I take whatever chance I can to get up and get moving to get my steps in (my Fitbit is my favorite accessory).
I also combine hangouts with my best friends and workouts: So it's a coffee-and-walk catch-up or a fitness class with moms I miss.
Exercise is my biggest productivity hack: No matter what pocket of time you have, use it to sweat. It makes anyone better.
6. Travel Off-Peak
Whatever everyone else is doing, I do the inverse. That means traveling when no one else is. It's so much more efficient. For example, instead of taking a vacation from Friday to Sunday, I'll go out of my way to plan it for Saturday to Monday. It's not always possible, of course, but traveling when other people aren't saves a ton of time and headaches (not to mention money).
I do all this and yet I would still love more time in my week! Tell me about your favorite productivity tricks!