I often get the question, “How do you do it all?” in regards to working a full-time job, managing Lipstick & Ink and my career advising services, all while trying to write a book. And the answer is that it all comes down to maximizing my productivity.
If you too are trying to juggle and balance a lot at once, then this is the post for you. I’m sharing my best tips for how to be more productive while balancing work and home and how to get more out of your day. Take a peek below!
Tip #1: Combine Digital Work & Personal Calendars
As I’m sure you can relate, my work and life have become more and more integrated over the years. Because of that, I decided to merge my work and personal Google calendars into one. I have my personal to-do’s, social events, L&I projects and meetings, all within my work calendar. This helps me to see everything at a glance and determine when my schedule is getting to be too full or where I can add pockets of time to work on projects or check off some of my personal to-do’s.
Tip #2: Time Block Your Weeks Ahead of Time
With my calendar showcasing everything going on in my life, it’s easier for me to see what I have planned for the upcoming weeks ahead. Each week, I look at my next week to see what my priorities are and find pockets of time to block my calendar off before it gets full with endless work meetings. I categorize by color what each block of time will be used for (whether it’s time to work on a project, a random to-do, or to work out). For example, all of my work meetings are in blue, time dedicated to working on projects are in yellow, appointments and social events are in green, and anything related to L&I and my book is in pink. Sometimes, I’ll just put random holds on my calendar to use that time anyway I want. This way of planning ensures I get what I want done accomplished, but also makes me feel like I’m in control of my calendar, versus it controlling me (which helps combat my anxiety).
Tip #3: Organize Your Tasks
After I time block my calendar, I begin to add my week’s to-dos into To-Doist, which is a to-do list task manager that allows you to streamline your work and personal life more effectively. It’s available both on app and web, but I prefer the web version as I keep the tab open in my browser as a reminder to check in each day. To-Doist allows you to create “Projects” so you can categorize your work and life in terms of buckets. You can set timing against your to-do’s to ensure you never miss or forget anything. To-Doist also sends out emails as a reminder to share with you what you have planned for the day ahead or when things are “overdue.” I personally use To-Doist more for L&I so I stay organized since there are so many pieces to my side hustle. For some inspo, here is a screenshot of my To-Doist and how I’ve bucketed my projects:
Tip #4: Write Out Daily To-Do’s
Can you tell I love my to-do lists? To keep me on track each day, I write out my top three to-do’s. Often, we can get overwhelmed by how much we feel we have to do, which is why I limit it to three. While I do have To-Doist to guide me and keep me organized as a whole, my written out to-do list keeps me focused. Plus, there’s way more satisfaction in crossing something off the list vs. digitally checking it off, am I right?!
Tip #5: Multitask — Within Reason
So most experts would disagree with this tip of mine. It’s been said that we actually are less productive when we multitask, and to an extent, I do agree with that. In the past, I used to try and multi-task with everything that I did and I realized last year especially I was doing myself a disservice because it ended up making me feel scatterbrained and unfocused. But I do believe there are some circumstances where multitasking can come in handy.
You can use your commute to listen to a podcast or to catch up on email if you’re not driving. You can use outdoor walks as a chance to not only get fresh air but to call up loved ones and friends to catch up (one of my favorites!). Or, let’s say you have a work conference call or webinar you’re tuning into that you won’t be expected to speak in. Use that time to get up and move around, whether it’s a walk around your office or doing household chores if you’re working from home.
Tip #6: Turn Off App Notifications
I mentioned this in my post about how to unplug from technology, but I’ll say it again – turning off my app notifications has been a game-changer for me. I turned them all off on my phone a few years ago and I haven’t looked back since. I found that by having them on, I was in a constant state of anxiousness and always felt an incessant urge to be looking at my phone. Nowadays, my phone is less of a distraction and I only check in on my apps when I want to, especially when I need to focus on work or write my book.
Tip #7: Minimize Distractions
Going along with the tip above, when you really need to focus on a task, it’s super important to minimize those distractions. Our phones are a big part of that, which is why I mentioned shutting off the app notifications. Another thing I do is leave my phone in another room or turn it on airplane mode when I need to get in the zone. If I’m working on my computer, I’ll close out distracting tabs (such as work chats and my email inbox) so I can better focus.
Tip #8: Take More Breaks
I used to think I needed to go, go, go at every minute of every day. What 2020 taught me was that breaks are crucial to maximizing your productivity. Don’t believe me? Check out this article! Time away from work and “doing” all of the time is absolutely needed. Make sure you are taking breaks to get outside, to exercise, to relax. This will ensure you don’t exhaust yourself and get into a burnout situation (tips for combating burnout are here).
Tip #9: Create a Morning & Night Routine
Starting and ending the day on the right note for you will set you up for success. Not all routines are created equal, so do what works best for you!
For me, upon waking, I first like to make the bed, brush my teeth, drink a cup of water, and write my morning pages (a new habit I’m starting this year). Before going to bed, my best nights are when I do my full skin routine, read a few pages of a book, and write in my gratitude journal. I do my best to go to bed at a reasonable time (which admittedly isn’t always the case – #nightowlproblems) and fall asleep to the ocean waves on my Hatch sound machine. Which leads me to…
Tip #10: Prioritize Sleep
When people find out how much I do in a day, they say, “certainly you don’t sleep.” But I actually do make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night! I genuinely believe that sleep is a non-negotiable. We need our sleep to perform our best and be as productive as we can be the next day. That’s how I’m personally able to get up each morning, ready to tackle the day!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, speaker, career advisor, and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. In addition, she works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, SheFactor, and Six Degrees Society. She is also in the process of writing her first book.