I have a productivity plan, y’all. It’s taken me years to make it, and it has really saved my sanity more than once, especially since I have a tendency to do all the things.
Original photo by Renáta-Adrienn
I have never had a healthy relationship with work. And I’m pretty sure that I became obsessed with work-life balance because it just seemed like something that didn’t exist. It wasn’t something that was modeled for me by my parents, and to this day, it’s the thing I struggle with the most.
So, there was a significant amount of time where I was straight up losing my mind. I couldn’t seem to say no to stuff. That’s how I found myself working at a publishing company as a full-time ghostwriter, going to grad school full-time, and freelancing for a local blog twice a week.
I had no sense of balance, and health was a thing for other people. Retrospectively, I can see that I was crazy to attempt that. But at the time, it felt like if I didn’t do all the things, I would be passed over.
Now I believe that what is meant for me can’t pass me by, and that has really enabled my ability to relax. Instead of feeling anxious about potential missed opportunities, I focus on what I really want, and try to choose that.
I will admit that ti’s super hard. And I relapse a lot.
Since developing this productivity plan, I think I’m in a better place when it comes to getting shit done and giving myself downtime. And if you want to see where I am in life right now, check out this video.
Today I’m sharing the 5 rules of my productivity plan.
The Productivity Plan
001: Always give yourself some leeway.
You’ve heard the old saying that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Well, I’m just going to tell you to plan to fail.
I know that sounds weird, but think about it. How often do you keep your schedule too tight for you to complete all the stuff you want to do? How often do you fail just because you’re human and your body won’t let you do what you want to do? How often do you catch yourself migrating tasks to another day just because you didn’t feel like completing them?
This is how I get around that. I refuse to let myself put too many things on my daily to do list. In essence, I’m planning on myself failing in some way.
(This is great during the spring months for me, because I know I’m going to have roughly 3 allergy-induced migraines a week. Also, It’s Wednesday and I’ve already had 2.)
So, if I have to go to work that day, I don’t put a bunch of time-consuming tasks on the agenda. Or, if I have a bunch of tasks to complete, I make sure they’re small and won’t burn me out half way through the first one.
Sometimes you don’t have the ability to do this, but if you do, make sure you take advantage of it. My productivity plan is always the most successful when I’m allowing myself to be human.
(This was a hard lesson learned after a year of using highlighters in the Passion Planner, and then moving to my bullet journal traveler’s notebook.)
002: Sometimes you can’t eat the frog and that’s okay.
Mark Twain once advocated doing the hardest thing on your to do list first. He said it’s best to eat the frog first thing in the morning.
But I disagree. MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS.
See, there are some days when it’s really tough to get up and get dressed, and nearly impossible to tackle anything on your to do list.
So eating the frog on those days? NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
Instead, I like to take some time and do the easiest tasks on the to do list. That might be something as simple as emptying the dishwasher or sending a text to check in on a project. This allows me to build some momentum.
I like feeling like I’m coasting downhill, and on days when it’s tough to just be a person, coasting is a good thing. Maybe the frog gets eaten once I’ve built up enough momentum, and maybe it doesn’t. But I don’t stall out completely because I’m not putting off the whole to do list in order to avoid the hardest thing.
If you’re interested in finding more information that doesn’t involve eating frogs, check out these time management and productivity resources from Life with Dee!
003: Self-compassion is more important than getting shit done.
You are so much more than a list of your accomplishments.
Remember when I was talking about giving yourself some leeway? Well, maybe it’s not leeway. Maybe it’s just showing yourself some compassion.
It’s easy to get bent out of shape when you don’t get all the things done. And it’s even easier to feel like you’ve failed and want to give up.
Don’t do that.
Instead, take it as a learning moment. Figure out why something didn’t get done, and then see if you can incorporate this nugget of wisdom into a new productivity plan.
I know I can come off as a “DO ALL THE THINGS AND GET SHIT DONE” sort of guru wannabe. I promise I’m not. (I mean, I am a guru wannabe. But there’s a lot of shit I don’t get done on a regular basis, and that’s totally okay.)
Instead of getting mad at yourself when you don’t mark all the check boxes, take a deep breath and realize the sun will rise and set tomorrow, just as it always has. Thank your body and brain for the work they’ve put in, and get after it tomorrow. And if you didn’t get any work in, revel in that day off. It’s good for you.
It will feel weird at first for sure. But it’s the best way to stop hating yourself and to allow yourself to move on.
004: If the work doesn’t nourish you, cut it out.
We live in the era of hustle porn. And while generally I am guilty of what some call hustle, it’s mostly because I love this blog. I love my YouTube channel. And I love the fiction I’m writing.
I do it all because it nourishes me in some way. I like having projects. This is the sort of downtime after a hard day of work that I want.
For this reason, I actually don’t have a TV in my apartment. It’s not that I’m making a political statement, or that I want to prove I’m better than anyone. It’s literally because I don’t regularly watch it. TV tends to make me feel depressed, and let’s be real: I’m a millennial and I watch things on my laptop.
I also haven’t had Netflix since November. I knew it would distract me during NaNoWriMo, so I said goodbye to it. And I haven’t reactivated it yet.
(Also, if you’ve never decorated a living room without having to focus everything around a TV, you’re missing out. Your life could be so much more feng shui.)
Because TV isn’t something that nourishes me, I don’t have it in my life. If the items on your to do list don’t nourish you, cut them out. That is, if you can. Paying taxes doesn’t nourish me, but I gotta do it. But you’ll never see optional activities on my to do list that I don’t want to do.
I cut them out.
005: Nobody gets a medal for being a martyr.
I know you know this. Everyone has to know this, right?
Except there are people out there who act like they’re going to get some sort of prize for putting themselves through a ton of stuff they don’t want to do. And that’s not how it works.
The only reward for overworking yourself and sacrificing your well-being is burn out. And to be clear, it’s not a very good reward. You’re not going to be named a saint, and no one is going to remember all the hard work you did. They will, however, talk about how crazy you were for doing it.
So, if you feel beholden to the to do list, know that it doesn’t really matter if it all gets done or not. Productivity is not the hill you want to die on. Instead, do what you want to do, and make space for downtime. That’s way better than burn out.
And I should know. I’ve written extensively about burn out.
Do You Have a Productivity Plan?
How do you make sure you get the most done and still keep your sanity? What’s the best way for you to show yourself some compassion when you don’t conquer that to do list? What non-nourishing activities have you cut out of your day?
So far this week I’ve been dead ass tired and irritable as all hell. Get shit done? Hahahaha. NO. I haven’t even wanted to go near my planner because I’m cranky. The to do list is pretty much non-existent and I am ok with this. I think in some ways we glorify busy (not productive…busy) to make ourselves seem more important and/or interesting than we really are. I’ve been accused of being a slacker (or lazy) because I recognize that some days I just need to sleep in and avoid all things adulty. Life happens. We’re all human. It’s ok to fricken stop and breathe once in awhile.
*steps off pedestal*
Totally agree. Down time is just as important as rest time. I’ve been getting at least 8.5 hours of sleep this week, and it’s been glorious.
I definitely need this right now. I’m in the midst of our annual community-wide music/art/film festival – AdaFest and have had to let a lot of things slide. But the festival is this coming weekend and after allowing myself a week to recover I’m going to be ready for a new productivity plan come September.
It’s so important to take some downtime after a big event. Glad you can take some recovery time!