When the associate editor of State College Magazine interviewed me, he mused how many hours I have in my day. I didn’t tell him that my true “secret power” is having an amazing spouse who does more house chores than me. I highly recommend that you get one, too. 😛 I’m sorry I can’t help you find one, but I truly do have productivity tips I can offer to help you conquer all your most important goals and still have time for self-care.
1. Identify your core competencies (and outsource the rest)
We definitely don’t have indefinite hours to our day, but we certainly have enough time to fulfill everything that we prioritize. If we can’t fit something into our day, it simply means we don’t value it enough to make it a priority. I am very guilty of not fitting in exercise into my daily routine. And I’ll share with you another tip (# 3) to find the motivation for things you should value but currently don’t. But the first order of business to maximize your time is always to identify what your core competencies are – what do you love doing and do better than others? For example, my core competencies are nurturer (i.e. taking care of my kids, which simply cannot be replaced by someone else), educator, and photographer. Tasks that don’t align with these roles get outsourced (if possible). For house chores, I do laundry. My husband cooks. Pre-COVID, we outsourced cleaning. Now we share that task between us. When I was pregnant with Khai, my husband and I read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“. Today, we still credit her teaching for our tidy home.
2. Multitask the correct way
I am not a fan of multitasking. I like to be in the zone and focus on one task at hand. When a task gets my full attention, I finish it sooner and do a better job. Likewise, when I’m playing with my kids, my phone is in another room. There is, however, an efficient way to multitask. When you perform a task that doesn’t require much brain power, you can pair it with another task. For example, driving is pretty much a task that is on autopilot. When I drive, I love listening to podcasts or an audiobook. Wanna know what my favorite podcast is? Check out Khai’s Kid Corner. 😉 Beyond driving, going for a run or other forms of exercise can be paired with another task. I also brainstorm a lot of ideas in the shower. haha. You can also take advantage of alignment by pairing a boring task with something that interests you. For example, I don’t enjoy tidying up our basement (aka the kids’ playroom). I dread the task, especially when it’s something I do after trying to fit in work post-bedtime. In other words, I’m beyond exhausted before I get a chance to tidy up. However, it’s something that needs to be done. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to make it more enjoyable by tidying up with a podcast or an audiobook. Now I actually look forward to tidying the basement!
3. Know your why
This is the key to making sure your tasks get done. When you feel unmotivated, think back to your why. When you want to procrastinate, think back to your why. When you have a strong why, you will find it within you to complete the task. I mentioned earlier that I want to make exercising a habit. Why? Because I want to lose the baby weight. This is not a strong enough reason because I don’t place importance on physical appearance. So I need to dig deeper and come up with another why: to give myself more energy throughout the day to fulfill all my roles. Bingo.
4. Add important to-dos to your calendar
If you don’t schedule it, you won’t have a realistic understanding of how much time you have to do your tasks. Add your most important tasks first. Even if you’re not a morning person, the early hours in the day are when we’re most energized. So go for it and knock out the most important task. This will give you so much momentum and encouragement to tackle the rest of your to-do list. As the day goes on, your energy source will start to deplete. After all, this is a finite resource.
5. Gamify progress
The easiest way to keep momentum is to make it fun! Let’s go back to my desire of building an exercising habit. This habit was so hard to stick before because I wasn’t able to find a routine I love. And when I did, baby Khang kept interrupting my routine. I finally decided it’s worth it to purchase an exercise bike. That’s something I enjoy and Khang won’t be able to, for example, sit on top of me while I try to plank. haha. For any habit you wish to establish, you can gamify the process by keeping track of your progress. On a calendar, check off every date that you kept up with the habit. The game is to see how many days/weeks/months in a row you completed that task/habit.
Productivity starts the night before. Create a to-do list for the following day as part of your bedtime routine. This will allow you to assess what you got done and if there are carry-over tasks you need to add for tomorrow. When I was working on campus, I like to create my work to-do list right before I leave work. That way, I know exactly what I need to do when I come in the following morning.
I hope these productivity tips will help you live an enriching and fulfilling life! It can be done! I applied these tips from concepts discussed in 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam and Deep Work by Cal Newport. I highly recommend these books!