You can be superwoman – how to maximise productivity

Prioritising high value tasks to make you work smarter not harder
Prioritising high value tasks to make you work smarter not harder. hoto by INPIVIC family // CC BY 2.0

Starting a family can sometimes spell disaster for your career, but it needn’t. Of course having little ones running around is going to make an enormous change to your lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to define you. Working parents need to learn to work smarter, not harder. Stress, fatigue and eventually burnout aren’t good for you or your family, so focus on manifesting these healthy habits, to see both your career and your home-life improve.

Get Some Sleep!

This is number one on the list for a good reason, because it tends to be the first thing to go out the window when we’re bogged down with work. Sleep is so important, it gives us time to recover from the mental stresses of the day, store the knowledge that we’ve accumulated and most importantly, physically re-energise. Of course there’ll be days when nightmares or tantrums will wake you up in the night, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a nap in the afternoon. Whichever way you do it, try to get your 7-8 hours, you’ll feel better for it and your work and family will thank you for it.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When thinking about all the things you have to accomplish today, do you find your mind swimming in a fog of annoying little chores? For so many of us the answer will be a resounding yes, but it needn’t be. Start the day by completing your highest value activity. If you struggle to decide what that might be then perhaps you need to spend some time working on your decision making skills. Decision making is such an all encompassing skill that it seems almost crazy to be making it a top priority. How can something we do all of the time be explained to us in a way that we’ve not thought of before? Liv Boeree demystifies decision making beautifully, explaining that most circumstances can be boiled down to probability.

So once you’ve nailed decision making, a list like this, will seem far less daunting: buy new plug for kitchen sink, write final 100 words of assignment, book dog in at the groomers, hoover spare bedroom, buy fabric spray from the telly, work on moving up the career ladder. There are clearly two work related tasks here, but one is specific, easily accomplished and achievable in a short period of time. The other however, is ambiguous and shouldn’t be taking up valuable brain space. The rest of them should slot into the gaps between the main chunks of your day. Think of it as the rocks, stones and sand experiment, the rocks are the important things, the pebbles are your daily chores and the sand is all of the little tasks that really, if we’re honest, can wait.

Pomodoro Technique

Photo by Open Democracy // CC BY SA 2.0
Invest in a timer and perfect your pomodoro technique

For those who have heard of the Pomodoro technique – great work, put it into use! For those who haven’t, this might just revolutionise your productivity. This technique works in its most basic way, by breaking time up into 25 minute chunks, 20 minutes to work uninterrupted on a task and 5 minutes break. Of course with a family this can be difficult, if we worked in this way for an 8 hour work day, we could probably get a whole week’s work done in one go. However, think about how often you get 20 minutes of uninterrupted time? Not very.

In order to make this technique work as a mum, it is essential to work out your high value tasks first. If you can get just 2 solid Pomodoro sessions out of a full day, then its guaranteed you’ll see the benefits of working in this way. No distractions mean you can work more quickly, with more purpose and therefore much more efficiently on the task at hand. You’ll be flying through those goals in no time. Just remember, no phone, no tv, no internet and no interruptions. Nap time, or even that quiet hour when the kids have gone to bed are a brilliant time to capitalise on the quiet and get some work done.

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