I love this time of year for many reasons (not just the pumpkin spice!) One of the things I love most is getting back into a routine. Summer schedules are always sporadic with vacations and events, but Fall feels like a refresh button. As I’ve been thinking about how to get into better working routines this Fall, I thought I’d share my 5 tips for an organized and productive week.
P.S. Have you seen our newly released paper supplies on lilyandval.com. There’s something about the back-to-school season that screams “new paper supplies!” (Regardless of going back to school or not! 😉 ) There are a lot of organization helpers in this new collection.
Tip 1: Write Our Your “Big List”.
I have three sets of lists that I use regularly. 1. My daily “to-do” list (lives in my planner) 2. My weekly “to-do” list (lives on my weekly notepad) and 3. The BIG list (lives in a dedicated notebook.) The “Big List” is reserved for absolutely EVERYTHING that I need to accomplish and goals I’m working toward. This list helps me make sure that nothing is forgotten. It’s my catch-all for big tasks, small tasks, and everything in between.
Every time I start to feel overwhelmed or that nagging feeling of forgetting something, you can usually bet it’s because my big list is not up-to-date. When I take a few minutes to sit down and update this list, my anxiety lessens. My brain can release those things. To-do lists aren’t as scary written as they are being juggled in your head.
Starting your week with an up-to-date Big List will help you make better, informed decisions on how to spend your time. You can then transfer the priorities to a weekly list.
Tip 2. Be realistic with your daily to-dos.
Something I struggled with for a long time is the concept of “done.” Laundry drives me crazy because it’s never done! Even if you wash and dry every load, the clothes you are wearing will cause your feeling to be short-lived. I realized that sticking with only a “Big List” or even a weekly list was a mistake. I would never completely tackle that list and I would just feel defeated. My days weren’t feeling accomplished regardless of how hard I worked.
That’s when I started transferring items from my weekly list into action items for my daily to-dos. It’s tempting to load up that daily list, but be realistic. I like to ask myself “what are my top 3 priorities for the day?” Then, when I check those things off, it feels like a great sense of accomplishment. This method has reframed my concept of “done.”
Tip 3. Do the hard things first.
We often find ourselves saying “I don’t have enough time,” but what we really mean is, “I don’t have enough energy.” Energy is just as valuable a resource as our time and arguably, what we should pay closer attention to when we’re organizing our day for effectiveness. When we are completely spent at the end of a day (or in the middle of the afternoon), it doesn’t matter how much actual time we have, we’re not going to be productive.
Each decision, each task, each action depletes your limited energy bank. Structuring your day to do the hard things first (when you haven’t yet depleted your energy reserves) is a great way to set up a productive day! Also, when you start your day with a “win” it propels you to have more wins!
Side note: Starting is always the hardest part, especially when it is something that seems daunting. When this is the case, I trick myself. For example, I’ll tell myself “you just have to get to X point then you can stop.” More often than not, I keep going past that point because I’m now in a working rhythm.
Tip 4: Build in breaks.
As I mentioned in tip 3, we all have a limited energy reserve. When we spend our working days doing nothing but depleting those reserves, we’re not going to have anything left mentally at the end of the day and completing our tasks will be a struggle. Instead, think about how you can structure your daily routines to build in time for breaks. Maybe that means a coffee break at a certain time or a pause to read your favorite magazine.
This is especially needed after a taxing project or period of intense concentration. When I have a lot on my plate, I tend to get stuck in a “pushing through” mentality. Instead, if I pause to take a break, my energy is renewed and I’m more effective at tackling the project when I come back to it.
Tip 5: Set yourself up for the next day.
It’s hard to leave work at work, but something that helps is to pre-plan the next day. First, pause for a few moments to recognize the day’s accomplishments. Give yourself a mental pat on the back! Then, determine tomorrow’s priorities and action items so they’re ready to go in the morning. It also helps to tidy your workspace a bit so you’re walking into a fresh desk or office.
Recently, I read an article about being good to your future self. Asking “what will my future self appreciate?” has helped me become more organized and self-aware of my actions in the present.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Here’s to a refreshed, productive, and meaningful Fall season!