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I get a lot of questions about time management and tips that will help people be more productive with the time they have. Now, I’m not an expert—at all—but I do effectively handle a pretty full plate most of the time. I homeschool my kids, run our farm, own multiple websites, have two podcasts, and have published several books.
And I haven’t pulled my hair out. Mostly.
I know you have many things you want to do. You want to clean your house. You want to read a book. You want to write a book or a blog or start a YouTube channel. You want to work out. You want to finish the project you started six months ago.
Now, raise your hand if you feel like you don’t have enough time to be more productive and accomplish those awesome things you want to do.
Because, Life. Right?
You’ve got goals. I’m not talking about all the things everyone else wants you to do. I’m talking about your goals. And you need time in order to accomplish those goals.
But maybe not as much time as you think.
Wait. What? How can I be more productive when I don’t have a lot of time to be productive with?
It’s ingrained in many of us that we need huge chunks of time—blocks of hours upon hours—to be productive with something. We’re also led to believe that spending, say, 10 minutes on something isn’t really committing to that something.
One would think that if you have more time available, you can be more productive you can be with that thing you want to do.
And as much as my logical side wants to believe that’s true, it has absolutely not been true in my experience.
Let me explain.
Every year my husband and sons take a week-long trip north to the cabin. When my kids were younger, I looked forward to this time in a serious way. A whole week where no one could bug me? A whole week to focus on the things I wanted to get done? I could write all the words. I could clean all the things. I could declutter. I could read two or three books. You guys, a whole week? I was going to get it all done and then some.
But this magical burst of productivity I was planning on? This I’m gonna be more productive and do all the things explosion? It didn’t happen. It never happened.
Let me be honest with you, because I’m all about being real. Ready? More time means more rabbit trails. It means getting distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter. It means you have time to overthink things and spend too much time on stuff that you wouldn’t if you didn’t have the extra time.
I never got lost on internet rabbit trails or overthinking when the boys were home and I was trying to write or clean or plan my next adventure. Nope. There wasn’t time to get lost.
Here’s another example. Have you ever had a get-together canceled and secretly thought, “Great! I’ll have more time to get XYZ done!”
But then 4 pm arrives—the time the get-together would have been done—and you still haven’t managed to accomplish XYZ?
Yeah. Me, too.
History has shown me—without fail—that I accomplish more when I know my time is limited than when I carve out ginormous blocks of time with the intention of doing all. the. things.
Be more productive. It’s not how much time you have, it’s how you use it.
Tasks seem to have a supernatural way of expanding to fill the time that’s available to do them in. Which is to say that the thing that normally takes you an hour to accomplish might take you an hour because you have an hour to devote to it.
Of course that’s not true for everything—I mean, you can’t change the fact it takes an hour to bake a pie—but there are many things that don’t actually require a set amount of time. There are things that we can, with focus, do faster. Which means in less time.
People who write blog posts or knit sweaters or declutter their house don’t necessarily have more time. Those people just really know how to use the time they have.
Don’t have a lot of time? You can totally do the thing.
In order to be more productive, let’s start thinking about our available time in a different way.
Can we look at carving out just ten minutes? After all, ten minutes is a long time.
Wait. You don’t think so? Try to hold your breath for 10 minutes. Or listen to someone with a different political view tell you why you’re wrong about life. Try listening to your kid say mom. Mom. Mommy. Mama. Mother. MOM.
Get my point? It’s never just 10 minutes.
Your 5 step plan to be more productive with less time:
1) Decide what you want to do.
This all works best when you have a goal in mind. Do you want to declutter the living room? Write a blog post? Create things for your etsy shop? Read a book? Go through your kid’s closet and find what doesn’t fit? Make a YouTube video?
2) Look at your schedule and figure out where you can carve out time for the thing you want to get done.
There are many pockets of time hiding throughout your day. I remember the first time someone looked at the way I was approaching my day and suggested I could be way more productive. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but after I got over myself, I realized they were totally right.
3) Do the thing for ten minutes.
Just attack it. Like a boss. Like a total beast.
4) Take a break.
This is an important part, and it’s a built in benefit of not having huge chunks of time available in the first place. Studies vary on the actual amounts, but it’s common to hear that after a certain amount of time spent on a task, our mind starts to wander and our brain starts to search for distraction.
Take a break. It’s beneficial to what you’re trying to accomplish.
5) At some point, find another ten minutes and work on the thing again.
And repeat the process until you’ve accomplished your goal. And then? Move on to your next goal.
Pro Tip: Pat Flynn (who is basically my spirit animal because of his love for post it notes) makes use of something he calls the “Triple Ten” method to be super productive when planning out online courses, books, or blog posts. He brainstorms for ten minutes (on post it notes), takes a ten minute break, and then brainstorms further for ten more minutes.
Then he gets to work with a usually pretty complete plan—created without rabbit trails or overthinking.
I won’t lie—I have modified that trick to help with so many things, both inside and outside of my office. And hey. If you don’t have 30 minutes, try 3 sets of five minutes of work instead.
(You can listen to Pat’s explanation of the Triple Ten Method in his podcast.)
The truth of the matter is that very few people have huge chunks of time available. Big things—like reaching your goal—are made up of lots of little steps. Make sure you’re not ignoring the little steps.
Side note—because I know some of you want to be more productive and right now you’re yelling at your screen.
Some of you will read this and say, “Yeah, that’s great. But the reality of my life is…”
And I get it. There are seasons to life and some seasons or life situations won’t provide you with many pockets of free time—or those pockets of free time are just meant for nappin’. Trust me—I wasn’t doing all the things I’m doing now when I had a new baby and a 13 month old. I feel you, girl.
Stay tuned for a blog post on that truth and how it fits into the reality of productivity.