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Productivity Tips

For years people have asked me "how do you get so much done?" The bottom line is: I am a planner. There is an old Benjamin Franklin quote: "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." I guess you could say that is my life quote.

I still use pen and paper to plan things out. I put reminders in my phone and things of that sort but my calendar is still on paper. I have always loved nice pens and quality paper (it's known around our house not to touch my pens LOL). The visual of creating my color coded calendar on paper helps my mindset and it gets my head around what I have to get done. That visual in my mind helps keep me focused.

As you may know, I am big on meal planning and prepping. I believe it saves time, saves money, and keeps you on a healthy diet. The few minutes it takes each week to make my meal plan and curbside grocery order more than "pays" for itself each week. I feel the same way about the few minutes I spend each week planning out my calendar for the week ahead. I actually use that calendar to guide my meal plan. Busy game day and won't be home until 7:00? Slow cooker meal! A slower evening without much going on? Homemade lasagna!

My planner has monthly calendars where I note appointments and things like that. I usually spend a few minutes on Saturday mornings planning out the week ahead and making my meal plan. I use a "week at a glance" during this process and time block my week. I categorize things into have to-do, need to-do, and want to-do. Sometimes weeks are so busy that the wants don't make the calendar. That's okay. The stress and anxiety arises when we don't get the have to-dos complete. I begin the time-blocking process with my have to-dos that consist of things like the class I teach, meetings, and appointments. I also include time for getting ready, packing lunch boxes, etc in this process. Then, I add in my need to-dos that consist of things like workout classes, projects that are in process, yardwork, etc. Lastly, I add in my want to-dos such as lunch with friends, a massage, sewing time, etc. Once I have the weekly mapped out, I put it in my detailed daily agenda for the week.

The key to making time-blocking work is being realistic with how much time things take. For example, if an 8:00 workout class is scheduled, we just put it on our calendar for that hour from 8:00-9:00. This is where we begin setting ourselves up for failure from a time management perspective. I go to an 8:00 hour long barre class a few mornings a week. I need to get there a few minutes early to set up my mat, it takes about 12-15 minutes to drive there and since it is downtown I need to find somewhere to park. The class usually runs a few minutes over then I need to clean up, get to my car, and drive home. Therefore, I block out 7:30-9:30 on my calendar because it truly takes 2 hours for the entire process, not just 1. The class I am teaching this semester is from 2:00-3:00 each day so I block out 1:30-3:30 to give me drive time, set up, and pack up time. And if I have a meeting or doctor's appointment that I have no idea how long it will take, I always overestimate the time needed when I block out my calendar. The worst thing that is going to happen is that you end up having a free few minutes.

Some white space on the calendar is a good thing. Face it, life happens and something is going to come up. When you leave a little white space, you create space so that the pop up things don't overwhelm and cause stress. Your kids or spouse may have something come up or something may break and you have to wait for a repair person. When you leave some white space you can easily say "I got this!"

If you are like me, you get a lot of satisfaction from checking things off the to-do list. Have you ever added something to the to-do list that wasn't originally on it but you did it so you added it to the list just so you could check it off? Guilty as charged! The problem with that to-do list though is that if we don't get it all done then we get stressed out about it. The truth is, there is only so much we can physically do each day and also get proper sleep. The key is creating a realistic to-do list each day so that when you lay your head down on the pillow you are content with what you accomplished and you know you have a plan to tackle tomorrow. When you time-block and prioritize your to-do list, you are able to put needs and wants on days where they fit. The wants are often more fun than the haves and our natural nature is to procrastinate the things we don't want to do and the cycle of stress and overwhelm begins as soon as we prioritize a want to-do over a have to-do. Plus, when you get the have to-dos done first, the stress of them isn't weighing on your mind while you are enjoying the want to-dos!

If you are looking to revamp your planning, I highly recommend the planner I use. It is by Levenger and comes in a lot of great colors. It is clean and customizable. (I tried the cutesy planners but they just didn't have adequate planning space.) The disc system down the spine allows you to change out papers easily and add anything you need. (I add my meal planner template into it) I use their monthly and daily agenda papers and created a weekly one for my time-block planning. I also use several of their other papers so that I have meeting notes in my planner as well as space for jotting down ideas when I am out and about. I started using this system over 15 years ago when I began my CPA career and still find it to be the most thorough for planning. My days are different now than they were then but now that I serve on multiple boards, teach, have clients, and a family, I actually have much more planning to do to make my days work and get it all done!

If you have any planning questions, I'd be happy to help answer them! Just comment below or send me an email at

Be sure to also watch my You Tube video HERE

Last, but not least, here are links to my freebies and favorite products:

Week at a glance and meal planning templates HERE

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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