Get your ZZZs for Productivity #atozchallenge

We did it!  We’ve completed the A-to-Z challenge of 2015 and boy am I tired!

It’s the perfect time to talk about Z. a-to-z HEADER [2015] - april


Sleep. It’s like a gift from the gods. And you need to make sure you get enough in order to stay on track.  You don’t need me to tell you how awful it feels when you aren’t getting enough sleep.

I know many people who pride themselves on how little they sleep. While there are few who actually don’t need a lot of sleep, they are in the minority. Science is always examining the value of sleep on brain development, healing, immune systems, emotional health… It’s all connected.

So, to close out the month of a-to-z, I’d like to challenge you to get more sleep.

Your health deserves it.

Your goals deserve it.

You deserve it.


Say Yes! for Productivity #atozchallenge


a-to-z HEADER [2015] - aprilThere’s a saying that goes: If you want help getting things done, ask a busy person. And there is something to that. Its easy to get things done when you’re going and going all the time. But it’s also easy to get overwhelmed, which makes you want to say No.

There’s a lot of advice about learning how to say NO to things. As a former yesser, I know how easy it can be to get overwhelmed by all the things you add to your day. But the answer to being overwhelmed by Yes isn’t to blanket everything with No.

You can be mindful about this. And you should seek balance in this, as in all things.

Here is where your goal-setting can really help you make a difference in your productivity, your desire, and the ease with which you achieve your goals.

Say Yes When it Helps with Goals

Check out your master list of goals for the year. Don’t have one yet? That’s ok. Take a minute and think about three things you want to achieve by this time next year.

Now, think about the invitations, requests, activities, classes, and jobs you’re interested in or that are coming up. Think about activities you can join that you’ve been on the fence about. Think about people you know who are involved with these things. Identify the things that align with your goals and say yes to those things first.

There is a fabulous synergy that comes when a lot of your time is spent in the areas of your life outlined in your goals. You gain clarity this way and can dig deeper into the things you’ve chosen to spend your time on.

Saying Yes can help you stay real

But what if no matter what you do, you can’t align your Yes time with your goals? You’re mindful of the yes things, and trying to stay focused, but nothing is working. It doesn’t feel right.

That’s a tough one when it happens, and it takes a bit of perspective, I think. We move through seasons in our lives, and things are always changing. Sometimes, we want to achieve certain things that aren’t feasible or realistic at this point on our life. Kids are born, jobs change, illness strikes, family needs you, life happens…

Here’s where you allow yourself to pivot and adjust. Maybe some of your goals need to be put off a while. Maybe you need to break a goal into smaller goals and focus on the piece that is realistic for you at this stage.

The important thing here is to check in with yourself and allow yourself permission to shift.  Don’t give up, make way.


Visibility, Want, and (no) eXcuses! The #atozchallenge on Productivity

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - april

We’re in the home stretch of the a-to-z and today we’ve got a 3-fer!

V for Keep Your Goals Visible

All this talk about writing your goals down and making sure you keep track of your next actionable steps would amount to nothing if you filed your to-do list away. I’m re-reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done (newly updated and re-released 2015) and I’m reminded that this of one of the main tenets of his system. The key to identifying your optimal method of capturing your do-do lists will depend on how you manage your day. If a paper notebook is the tool that you’ll be sure to look at and use, then that’s the one for you. I use Evernote for details and Nozbe for quick to-dos. And I access these apps all day long. Keeping your goals and action items where you’ll see them is key.

W for You Have to Want It

It doesn’t matter how many different productivity and organizing tips and tricks you employ on your journey through life if you don’t have that underlying desire to make it happen.  Staying organized so you can be productive takes effort. You have to want it. But the key is to find the tools that require the least effort for you, so you’ll stick with them. If you get caught up in a complicated system that requires more effort to use than the tasks you’re tracking… you need to reevaluate. So, experiment and try new things. And as always, keep what works, toss the rest.

X for No eXcuses!

On the heels of our W above. If you want it… then it’s on you to make it happen. Don’t make excuses. Just go for it. Stay positive. Plan for slow days. Allow setbacks. But most of all… keep moving forward. One of my favorite things I learned in the past year was one I shared earlier this month and it bears repeating. It’s Tim Grahl‘s idea of having an Experimental Mindset.  You know that inspirational quote that asks what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Well, let go of that fear. Reframe the idea of failure and success into the notion that you’re out there trying all kinds of things, and you’re just going to see what works. It’s all a great experiment. It’s exciting. And it’s gratifying. So, no excuses. Just go.


Productivity Unicorns #atozchallenge

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - april

Over the course of this month I’ve been sharing all these tidbits and tips to help with productivity, each time tempering the tool with a dose of reality.

It’s important to maintain perspective when you’re making changes in your habits, because perfection in this, as with most things, is a myth.

More importantly, don’t give up if things go off the rails. Just start over and try again, stick with what works and ignore the things that don’t feel natural to you.

Productivity Perfection is like a Unicorn

It’s fitting that I’m posting today’s U post two days late. I had my idea for today’s post noted and ready to go, but I just couldn’t get it written. And that’s just how it goes sometimes.

Like all things, when you’re taking on new practices in an attempt to get organized, remember that it isn’t going to be perfect. And that’s ok.

I pride myself in being able to get stuff done and keep organized, but I’d be lying if I said it was always smooth sailing. Some days, I just can’t get it together. Other days, I feel like I have missed the mark completely.  Some says, I just need a break.

But then there’s those days when I feel like I can take on the world! Those are the times I am inspired and have clarity. My goal is to have as many of those as possible.


How do you approach the missteps in your progress? 

Use a Timer for Productivity #atozchallenge

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - april

I Love Timers!

Let’s see a show of hands: How many of you find yourself getting more done when you’re up against the wire on a deadline? *raises hand*

The sense of a ticking clock, peeling away the minutes you have left to get your stuff done is an incredible motivator. Writers use timers all the time for “sprints” where we blaze through and get the words down. I use a timer at home for working, cleaning, and even napping.

The Timer is the Most-Used App on my Phone.

For example, today, I am plotting a new book, writing this blog post, then I need to do some laundry lest my people wander the world in unclean duds, give the kitchen a once-over, and get ready for a meeting. Not to mention the everyday things like email and phone calls and social media and texts.

So… when I am at my desk writing and plotting, I use the pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes and take a five minute break. When I’m cleaning, I set my timer for 15 minutes and give myself permission to move on to a different chore when the timer goes off.

Using a Timer has Several Benefits:

  • It keeps you focused on your task
  • It helps you see the end of your work time
  • It helps you gain momentum

Time yourself Using Small Increments

We’re all working under a great cosmic timer… that universal clock that’s ticking away the moments we have left here on earth. But that’s too huge for us to grasp or be motivated by. So when you use a timer, set it for small blocks. You give yourself a check in the win column each time your timer goes off and you reset it to start again.

I can do anything for fifteen minutes–and I bet you can too. You’d be a amazed how much you can squeeze into a fifteen or twenty-five minute block when you set a timer. You might also be surprised at how easy it is to focus when you know you only have to do it for a little while.

Do you employ a timer?