Change Your Thoughts, Increase Your Productivity

Next week is the one-year anniversary of when our state when into quarantine because the first COVID infected person was detected. I could write a whole book about how hard this last year has been. I’m sure many of you could as well.

However, I received many blessings in 2020 when in normal times, I probably wouldn’t have received those blessings.

One of the blessings of 2020 was the ability to slow down in life and focus more on the present. I was able to think more clearly and be more open to learning new things.

I participated in a couple of groups last year where I learned more about mindset and how having a positive growth-oriented mindset is key to a happy and productive life. I also discovered that despite my best efforts to have a positive mindset, I can easily be pulled to the negative side of situations and circumstances. There have also been times when it has been hard for me to see a solution in areas where I’ve felt stuck because I hung onto past limiting beliefs that kept me from doing things a different way.

One of the areas I have struggled with a lot is in managing my time. I know, I’m The Planning Woman, so I should have a grip on this, right?

Well, it’s not so much that I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, it’s that my schedule became such that I rarely had the same amount of hours each week to do the things I needed to do. It has been a struggle for me because I am such a lover of routine and predictability. It is hard for me to not be able to do my work for The Planning Woman at the same time each week.

What started this is literally the day the first COVID case was found in my state, my mom woke up saying she couldn’t walk without the help of her walker. Looking back we now know that she was depressed and anxious about life. (Nothing related to COVID.) So that set off a period of time where I was literally on call to help her out. 

I finally set some boundaries around my time and we came up with some solutions to where I could help her out and she could take care of what she could around her home. But until that happened, I could never plan anything because I didn’t know when she’d need me.

Then, this fall, we put our house up for sale. So since mid-October, I’ve had to be prepared to show our home at a moment’s notice. Sometimes I have a day to prepare, other times it’s just a couple of hours. So, again, it became very hard to plan out my week knowing those plans might change at a moment’s notice.

Needless, to say, both of these situations made me look negatively at time management. I wanted a predictable schedule and neither of these situations would make that possible. I mean, how was I supposed to get all the things on my to-do list done? When would I find the time to grow The Planning Woman business?

So, drawing on what I learned from having a positive growth-oriented mindset, I decided to look at my circumstances in a different way. I think what I discovered will help you if you are in a similar situation where your schedule is not always the same on a week-to-week basis.

The main discovery I made was this:

Managing your time well starts in the mind and not with your to-do list. 

This is what I did based on that discovery:

I determined I would make the best use of the time I had instead of lamenting over the time I didn’t have.

It’s such a subtle yet powerful shift to begin to view time as using it to the best of our ability versus focusing on all the time that would be taken up doing something else. I realized that while I may not have control over every aspect of my schedule, I did have the power to use the time I had available productively and meaningfully. I could choose to use the time to move forward on my goals. Or I could waste it on things like social media, binge-watching TV shows, or procrastinating important work.

I whittled down my to-do list to just the important tasks.

Often we plan our time based on what we have on our to-do lists. Making the conscious choice of choosing to limit our lists to the most important tasks gives us breathing room especially in the weeks where we don’t have a lot of flexibility.

As I planned for March, I knew my time would be limited due to events I knew would be happening. I crossed off one of my 1st quarter goals and moving it to later in the year because I knew I would not have time to work on it. This goal is important, yet is also one that I just want to complete by the end of the year. So moving it was not a big deal.

As I mentioned in my post about brain dumps, the most effective way to pare down your to-do list is to delete, delegate, and defer. Get your to-do list down to the most important things that only you can do.

I now plan day by day instead of planning out the whole week at one time.

In an ideal world, I would be able to plan out my whole week in my Live It Out Planner. I would fill in the exact times and days I would work on specific tasks and projects. Because my schedule can change at a moment’s notice, I’ve decided planning the night before works better for me.

This way I see what I didn’t get done the day before and what should be done the next day. It also keeps the frustration at bay when my schedule is interrupted.

I choose 1-3 end results to accomplish each day.

Instead of focusing on one huge to-do list each day, I choose 1-3 things I want to accomplish that day. I look at the end results I want to see. I don’t list out every single step I need to do.

For instance, when writing a blog post, there are several steps involved. Instead of making this huge to-do list, I block off a couple of hours to finish the whole project. Another example is laundry. I write down laundry in my planner. However, the end result I want to see is all the laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away. I don’t list out all of those steps.

In essence, I choose to make peace with the fact that my schedule is unpredictable and ever-changing. This mindset shift helps me to let go of the unnecessary and focus on the most important. I encourage you to think about how your mindset affects the way you manage your time. Do you need a mindset shift?

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  1. My life is no longer chaotic or busy–my husband died of Covid in Oct and I cannot seem to focus on any one task to completion. I don’t want to do much any more. How do I get passed this attitude? I am still teaching a ladies class at church and have my family to a full meal from time to time, but I don’t feel much.

    1. Fran,
      I understand how hard it is to get going after a loved one passes away. I love that you are interacting with people. I’m wondering if meeting with a counselor or a life coach may help you get past this season of not being able to focus. I know from my own experience that having a trusted professional to talk to can help produce significant breakthroughs. JB

  2. Thanks, Jennifer you are most correct. In handling my grief, I wrote a “book” about my husband and how accomplished he was. it was to enlighten our three sons on aspects of Bill’s life they didn’t have knowledge of. It has been a great way to express my love for Bill without being maudlin. it is a positive approach to Bill and his llife. this is the redeeming activity in my life at present.
    Some of my problem, I discovered, was medications interactions. Now I feel much better.

    1. That is so wonderful, Fran! I hope that your kids appreciated your efforts. I’m glad you discovered the source of some of your problem. I’ll pray you continue to get better and find joy in life.

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