5 Ways to Feel Crazy Productive Every Single Day

Do note that this piece isn’t called “5 ways to be crazy productive.”

This list of five wins will help you feel crazy productive every single day. And who doesn’t want to feel like they’re getting it all done?

5 Ways to Feel Crazy Productive Every Single Day

5 easy, simple, can’t-miss ways to feel crazy productive:

  1. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Seriously. It may seem unnecessary, but if you don’t get anything else done the rest of the day, at least you did that!
  2. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Put it on your to-do list, and relish crossing it off!
  3. Turn off notifications on your cell phone, tablet, and laptop for two hours every morning. You will be astounded – at least, I was – to see how much you get done without all those dings.
  4. As soon as you sit in your desk chair, pull out a sticky note or scrap of paper, and write at the top: The single most important thing for me to accomplish today is____. Then, do that thing! It seems simple, right? But how many times do you think, “It’s already 5:00, and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished!” This will ensure you have your Most Important Thing done!
  5. This last one’s a biggie and something I’ve only recently started. When I plot my day, I now estimate how long a task will take. I write that amount in pencil next to the task or meeting. Then, when I complete the task, I write down how long it actually took. Four days into this routine, and my eyes are open wide! I had my schedule all kinds of under- and over-estimated. Now, I’m honing in on a more accurate idea of what I can accomplish in a day. (By the way, I used almost one hour less time yesterday than anticipated. Hello, bonus nap!)

What about you? How do you set yourself up to feel good about your accomplishments each day? 

Confessions of a planner addict

Hi. My name is Maggie, and I’m a planner addict.

(This is a safe space for those sorts of confessions, yes?)

It’s all because I love setting goals. Okay. That isn’t entirely true. If we’re being confessional, I might as well let my Type-A, hyper-competitive colors shine: It’s not that I love setting goals. Nope. It’s that I love achieving goals.

But, you can’t achieve anything unless you’ve defined it first.

Hence, my planner addiction.

day planner
Yeah. That’s me. Hugging my planner.

This is on the top of my mind right now for two reasons. First, I recently joined a planning group on Facebook (yep, there are more of us!). Second, I start setting the next year’s goals in October. That gives me ample time to brainstorm and think everything through strategically. By the end of the current year, I have the entire next year mapped out.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how I goal plan:

Goals set for the whole year >> slated to be accomplished in specific months >> broken down into action items by week >> scheduled as “to dos” by day

Here’s a more detailed explanation of my process works: I start with scrap paper (I can’t have rough drafts in my pretty planner – final versions only!!) and jot down every single possible idea, project, partnership, and publication that I can imagine for my four main categories (freelance, OMD! blog, dogs, personal). This is a wide-open, no-judgement list. It doesn’t even have to be based in reality  (like, it’s perfect acceptable to write “Appear on Oprah,” even though her show is no longer – these are dreams). Reality comes next.

From there, I go category by category breaking the big ideas down into time frames: immediate, within the next year, within the next five years, and perhaps someday. I type up the five-year and someday goals.

Then, I tackle the immediate and year goals, breaking them down into individual projects. Like “Publish a Book” would be broken down into steps (come up with idea, research idea and other books on the market that are similar, craft an outline, research potential agents or publishers, and so on…), then I put a tentative date next to it. These dates are month only. Immediate projects get marked down for the first quarter. Longer term projects fill out the rest of the year.

If I need to rearrange or tweak anything, I do it here. Sometimes that includes eliminating projects or moving them from the year to the five-year sheet.

The end result is that all the projects I have slated for 2014 will be penciled into a month in my planner. When I approach each new month, I break those projects down into smaller action items by week then by day. I also have a list of dream projects that I can reference and add to as the year progresses.

Once all that is nailed down, I write it in my darling pretty planner!

And, of course, as the year progresses things change. But that’s what White-Out is for!

Are you a planner? What kind of system do you use to plan your year? Or, if you don’t use one, why not? 

What are your core values?

In her book Make a Name for Yourself, Robin Fisher Roffer writes, “Successful brands are built on core values and during their lifetimes constantly build on and reinforce their core values.”

I like to think I operate my business from a value-minded position, but the reality is that I never took the time with a notebook to write out my values. So I started thinking, and here’s what I came up with as my brand’s core values:

  • compassion
  • service
  • passion
  • community
  • initiative
  • eco-consciousness

I posted these on my blog for all to see and to make sure I’m accountable! And, as I prepare for my 2014 planning session, it’ll be so helpful to have these on hand so that I can assess every new project against these core values. If they don’t align with one (or more), then I won’t take on the project!

What about you? Have you taken the time to define your core values? If not, I strongly encourage the exercise. You might find that it’s incredibly revealing!

New year, new you? Bah, humbug!

I’m not one for resolutions.

It seems counterproductive to create resolutions that are so easy to break. Instead, I focus on goals. With a busy year ahead, I spent the last week putting my goals down on paper and making my 2012 plan binder. In it, I list all my goals along with their deadlines, action steps, and any data required to complete the goal.

I have tabs for my freelance work, my dog blog, the two writing courses I teach face-to-face, the business writing e-course that will launch in the fall, training plans for all three of my dogs, and personal goals.

Excessive? Maybe.

But I know exactly what I want to accomplish this year – and, most importantly, how to accomplish it all.

With my plan binder next to my laptop, I’m excited and ready for a year filled with exciting writing projects, teaching, blogging, and so much more! How about you? Ready for 2012?

Image via

Create a morning routine

What does your morning routine look like? Do you frantically search for your keys while downing a cup of coffee? Do you bolt out the door a few minutes late every day? Do you practice yoga or meditate? Hit the gym? Hit the snooze button?

morning coffee

I have never been a morning person. Ever. But recently I’ve found some serious value in a morning routine.

Why?

A morning routine sets up your day for success. And you don’t even have to be a “morning person” to take advantage of a routine. Once you adjust to a new way of doing things, it becomes easier to stay on task and on point.

There’s no “right” routine other than finding what’s best for you. (Lifehacker has some tips, though I’d never suggest giving up coffee! zen habits has a suggestion, too, though I can’t imagine waking up at 4:30 in the morning. But, again, it’s about finding what works for you.)

Here’s the loose outline of my morning routine:

  • 7 to 8: My ideal morning routine starts with a steaming mug of coffee between 7 and 8. I know many productivity gurus suggest not checking email first thing in the morning, but that causes me too much mental anguish. I spend that cup of coffee reading emails, checking my Google reader, updating Facebook and Twitter, and making the rounds through my favorite blogs.
  • 8 to 9: Once I’m caught up online, I head out for a dog walk. It usually takes about an hour to get the puppy tired, which is the amount of time it takes for me to wake up fully.
  • 9 to 12: After the walk, I sit down at my desk – with another cup of coffee and my breakfast – with a clear head, ready to tackle my day.

It’s so simple. Three steps, really. But this easy routine has doubled my before-noon productivity.

What about you? What does your typical morning look like? Have you tried to implement a routine?

Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz

Planning for the new year

Did you make any resolutions for 2011?

January’s almost over… How are you doing with those?

Several years ago, I realized a truth about myself: I can not keep resolutions.

Sweeping statements (I will lose weight! I will re-read all the classics! I will clean out my closets!) are the stuff of resolutions. Unfortunately, unspecific ideals aren’t achievable. At least not for me, and I’d wager not for the majority of us.

Why?

Because we’re human!

“I will lose weight” becomes “I’ll work out tomorrow,” which becomes “This weekend I will cook healthy food,” which becomes “Diet starts Monday.” By the time Monday rolls around, you feel like a failure.

Why set yourself up to feel bad?

Instead of resolutions, I recommend goals. These goals must be specific, bite-sized chunks that you can cross off your list (preferably with a flourish). Instead of “I will re-read the classics,” try “I will re-read Great Expectations in January and Moby Dick in February.” Plan all the books you want to read for the year, and cross each one off as you complete it. This type of goal-setting sets you up for success; you’ll feel so accomplished each time you cross a book off your list!

But the big question: What does any of this have to do with writing or running a small business?

To set achievable goals – and you do set goals, right? – the same principle applies. Instead of “I will get more clients and increase revenue,” set really specific goals like “I will meet one new potential client each month by attending a weekly networking breakfast.” Then break that goal into its individual steps: I will send a “nice to meet you” email to the new contact the very next day; I will send an industry-related news article the following week; I will invite her out to coffee at the end of the month. Or whatever fits your biz.

The idea is to break a big goal down into tiny steps. The act of crossing off each step not only will propel you forward, but what’s better than feeling like you’ve accomplished your goals?