Years ago I was standing in my cluttered basement [Related: Basement Before and After]. As I was standing around boxes and piles of thoughtless purchases and random items I had moved across the province, I mourned for the life I had been living. I could see it was so far from the life I desired for myself. Even if I didn’t know what ‘that life’ looked like just yet.
I was struck with how I had never really taken control, responsibility and initiative for the life I wanted to live. I had lived on autopilot and it was costing me my space, my health, my parenting, my marriage. I knew I didn’t want to keep living this way.
What did I want?
I wanted to enjoy my parenting, I wanted a better marriage, I wanted to improve my health, I wanted to be a better friend.
I wanted more than clutter in my home, in my heart, and in my life.
Living my life ON PURPOSE has been a journey I have been on for many years now. I spent a lot of time envisioning the life I want but putting it all into action has been a challenge for me to learn.
I was challenged with not just putting into action the big projects I wanted to tackle, but also the little daily habits I felt were important to the life I wanted to live. For instance, I struggled to get motivated to do the dishes, or make important phone calls, or work out.
I think for moms, being ‘productive’ isn’t always about being a #bossbabe or building up a side hustle. It is managing our time and efforts so we get to the end of the day feeling like we did our job well. [Related: Productivity Needs A Purpose].
Not only are we trying to avoid feeling like we unproductive, but we are also want to move towards taking more action in our day on the things that we want to get done. When we don’t get things done we feel overwhelmed, things are left unfinished, we feel like our house is messier than we want. We carry this mental burden of to-do lists and errands. It clutters up our brain and our time.
I won’t be speaking to time management in this post. I do want to talk about getting the motivation and getting our bodies in motion to get things done. I have tried many strategies to ‘trick’ myself into taking action, I have had years of trial and error. And from that, here are my insights into HOW TO BE A PERSON WHO GETS STUFF DONE
What about the kids?
First I should address the big elephant in the room (aka the pack of wild goats asking you for snacks and fighting over toys). Because, maybe you are reading this and wondering how it all even matters if you have toddlers dismantling everything you do or babies who cry the second you put them down to go run to the bathroom. I feel you. I have been there. If you are in a demanding season of motherhood, then maybe all of this doesn’t fit into your life just yet. Maybe you just take a couple things from this and the rest comes as your babies become a bit more independent.
It is important to honour the season you are in and maybe this is a season where you are napping every chance you get and feeding everyone toast for every meal.
I will say this to challenge you a little though. If you are beyond the baby stage, then there is something I have learned that I want to share. I have learned that I was putting things on hold when I really didn’t need to. I was waiting until they were asleep or I was alone to tackle things I wanted to do. Which turned out to be a bummer – to be spending all my solo time doing chores. [Related: I stopped calling myself a lazy mom].
Slowly, I saw that I could just do things with them around.
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Five years, even three years ago, I would have a lot of reasons to not do ‘things’ with a toddler around. I thought there was no space for moms to have hobbies or get chores done with kids underfoot. I thought I couldn’t manage it all at once because I like things to run smoothly, but I’ve been realizing that this is really restricting – for me and my kids. This is an exciting generation in which to be a woman and mom. There is this freedom we have in how we get to live, mother, wife, work, dream, learn, and love. The gates have been swung open by the women before us and we are all scanning the terrain for the next steps we want to take. For me, I find myself reflecting back on how my grandparents lived and parented. I think I can overcomplicate simple things like teaching myself to sew, or reading a book, or making dinner. So now I want to ‘just do’. Sure, things will get messy, the kids might (will) whine – but everyone will find their footing and we can carry on. And who knows, maybe in another five years I will actually be able to understand my sewing machine ? #shawnalearnstosew #sorta
Sometimes it meant bringing them alongside me and it all getting done a LOT slower.
Sometimes it meant just letting them play on the floor while I spent five minutes putting the dishes away.
Sometimes it meant setting up some craft on one end of the table while I worked on the other end.
I was learning that I had believed that I couldn’t ‘get things done’ while the kids were around. But, I could. Of course, it wasn’t always how I wanted it or I got interrupted, but we learned to start working on this process together.
15 Practical Tips to Get Stuff Done in Your Day
1. Choose one method of planning
Decide how you will manage your calendar and to-do lists. It can be paper, an app, evernote, calendars, planners, bullet journalling. There is no magic system that works for everyone but the magic in making ANY system work is sticking with it. [Related: How to Get Started with Bullet Journalling]
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Last March I started bullet journaling (a mash up of calendars, to do lists and all your random notes). I’ve finally maxed out this book and am ready to start this new one. One thing I have learned about bullet journaling is that there is no right or wrong way, you just have to start and try different formats and find what you like. I’m excited to start out this new one with templates that I know will work best for me. #ladynerd #listsofmylists
2. Identify your life on purpose
Before you fill your day with tasks, understand how they play into the bigger picture. You can’t just be productive for the sake of productivity, as outlined in this blog post, it needs to serve the bigger vision that you have for your home and your life. A great tool to help you do this is the Life on Purpose Workbook
3. Make a schedule
This should be your first step for the week or the day. Put in everything that has to get done. And here is where you can schedule in the things you want to get done (coffee with friends, time to sit and read, hang up some family photos, whatever is important to you this season).
As moms, we all know the power of routine. When we can rely on a routine we know what will happen and where we have room for extra. Some people thrive on setting a weekly routine, some just make a plan that morning. It doesn’t matter how you lay out your schedule as long as you put some kind of structure together. Because there can be freedom in a schedule whether it is loose or detailed.
4. Outline some plans
I don’t mean plan out your life, but plan what makes life easier. Maybe that means planning out meals, or outfits, or activities, or workout routines. Whatever you can plan in advance that you don’t have to think about when the time comes to use said plan, will make your life easier. [Related: A Simple Meal Planning Hack]
5. Do a brain dump
I love a good brain dump. It is essentially getting everything swirling around your brain out onto paper. [Related: Do Life Better with the Brain Dump]. If you do a brain dump every morning or every night, for a week you will see it has the power to help you mentally declutter. Get down all the tasks, to-dos and ideas on how you could fill up your day/week.
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When I feel busy, my brain feels full, and I’m kinda just frozen in the middle of the kitchen wondering what to do next… I do a brain dump. Getting everything out of my head and giving it a home in planners and spreadsheets. Now I don’t feel busy in my brain. I have space to fill it back up with random song lyrics and waffle recipes ???? I’ve been thinking for a while that moms need ‘office hours’ because some parts of momming need a lot of admin work? I wrote about brain dumps, if you’re interested in them: www.simpleonpurpose.ca/brain-dump/ #braindump #momofficehours #makesomelists
6. Prioritize the brain dump
This can be the tricky part. We can make this big brain dump and feel totally overwhelmed by it all. Or we can start tackling it and then feel disappointed we didn’t get it all done. These feelings are junk, throw them in the trash and give yourself some grace. We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.
This brain dump list is to help unload your brain, not to burden your life.
Pick only a few things you want to get done today and focus only on those. The rest of the list is for ‘and if there is time and I’m standing in the kitchen eating ketchup chips over the sink wondering how to spend the next 27 minutes’. Then you can go back to the list and tackle a bit more.
Pick a few things that would make you feel great/productive/purposeful today.
7. Fuel your body
There were many years in motherhood where I ate protein bars, toast and coffee for the majority of my day. Then the afternoon came and I started emotionally eating all the pantry while the kids napped. Pretty soon I had this diet of carbs and sugar and caffeine. By 4pm I was hangry as my gang of toddlers and wondering why we were all spiralling into a desperate state of pre-dinner drama.
As I paid more attention to what I was eating and how it was making me feel, I saw that I had the ability to make changes that helped me show up better in my day. There has been a slow transition over the years of moving towards food and drinks that sustain me rather than cause this big crash that throws my emotions overboard.
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“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” -Shauna Niequist in Bread in Wine. Everyday I’m learning a little more about feeding myself and others. I’ve been noticing that I spend my afternoon waiting for dinner feeling hungry and sluggish because I’m not taking the time to feed myself a proper lunch (apparently waffles don’t count?). So today I made a real lunch, one that nourishes me and satisfies me. I slowed everything down, chopped and grated and drizzled and took my lunch onto the porch and gave time to each bite. Food nourishes more than just our bodies. #breadandwine #momlunch
8. Start small
There are a couple of things that ‘starting small’ can help you with. For instance, that big overwhelming task you don’t know how to tackle, like decluttering a room pack with ‘stuff’, start with one box. Or when you have had your #fikabreak and you are ready to camouflage into the couch instead of do some housework – start with one little task.
I have talked about minimum baseline on the podcast [Related: Simple Saturdays Episode 3]. It is doing something so small and simple you can’t say no to it. For me it would be putting away one dish, or doing one squat. Once you are there, you will most often just keep going. If not, at least you have a little something done.
9. Start moving to stay in motion
Last year I was getting up early in the morning for life coaching calls. To my husband’s disbelief, once I was done these calls I would shower and get the kids to school. However, if I would sleep in one morning and have a slow breakfast, some days I didn’t start my workday until 10am. (All of this was on my husband’s week off, btw, I work on his days off).
What I was realizing was something I’m sure we know exists but we don’t ever harness. Objects in motion stay in motion. It takes a whole lot more mental and physical energy for me to get started that for me to keep going. If I can start out the day with a simple way of being engaged and active, then it is so easy to transition to the next things and use the perpetual motion.
10. Reward your ears
I love feeling like my life has a soundtrack. We have music playing almost all day and it can be such a mood changer to put on something fun to get stuff done, or slow to enjoy dinner, or soulful to chill out, or funky to have a dance party….. Yes, I’m ‘funky dance party’-years-old.
I think music can be a great motivator. But, if the kids are busy or not around then I will usually have a podcast going.
11. Put on sneakers
This whole post was actually written because I wanted to share this one tip with my Simple Saturdays newsletter [sign up at the bottom of this page]. I read this years ago from the FlyLady: put on some sneakers in your house.
This simple little trick is a game changer for me. Maybe because it forces me out of my full double-layer of fuzzy socks and sweats and blankets. When I have sneakers on, I don’t curl up on the couch. When I have sneakers on, I do more. It is bizarre but it goes to show that maybe Stacy and Clinton were onto something when they said ‘dress for the person you want to be’.
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This is gonna sound ridiculous, but this simple tip has changed my homemaking game ? It is so simple, that is why it is ridiculous. I heard about it years ago from the FlyLady and just started doing it this year. Wearing sneakers indoors. Right, like our friends to the south who wear their shoes in the home (dear US friends, all the Canadians leave their shoes at the front door) but – like, special indoor shoes, so you change into them from your outdoor shoes, like Mr. Rogers! I often opt for layers of fuzzy socks and slippers. They make me feel cozy and I curl up on the couch with some coffee and watch Masterchef. It is glorious and worthwhile….but nothing gets done. There is no housekeeper taking care of things while I sit there and admire how Gordon Ramsay gives hugs and tough love all in one glorious episode! But when I put on these old sneaks. I AM Gordon Ramsay (I don’t know, I’m assuming he’s a guy who gets stuff done). I do not curl up on the couch. I feel a need to be in motion. Conclusion: You dress for your productivity. And if your productivity looks like cuddling babies or resting on the couch for the day, then get cozy. If you want your productivity to look like checking things off your list then try out some sneakers. (I wrote a giant blog post with all my tips on how to GET THINGS DONE for moms. Stay tuned in the Simple Saturdays email where I will share it first! Not on the email list? Sign up on the website) #gettingthingsdone #momsbelike #Ihaveatodolist #butialsohavenetflixandfuzzysocks
12. Keep track of your progress
Maybe it is the 1st grade in me, but I love checking things off. When I was working hard on shifting some of my habits over the years I found so much value in a habit tracker. [Related: This one trick can help you change your habits].
Whatever you need help getting motivated to do, try a tracking system. Use an app or track it in a calendar, or put a 30-day grid on the fridge. It all serves as a reminder of the things that you have decided, ahead of time, are important to you doing to build up the life you want.
13. Participate in a challenge
Anytime you can be accountable to others, you are much more likely to get stuff done. Once we commit to something and there are witnesses, we need to work extra hard to back out.
Challenges are a great way to harness some group accountability. And they don’t have to be online, or mega to be worthwhile. For instance, I had a text thread going with two of my momfriends about doing ten squats each day while we cooked dinner or watched tv or whatever.
14. Get motivated, or not
Everyone who watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up most likely purged or organized something in their house that week. This is because we can use external sources to motivate us. Find ways to get motivated to do those things you want to do (magazines, podcasts, pinterest boards, talk to a friend, hire a life coach).
We are conditioned to rely on motivation to get us moving. And there is nothing wrong with that. But in any case when the motivation isn’t there, sometimes we need to suck it up and do the thing anyway.
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Your feelings cannot be your motivation. If they are, you will not succeed in moving forward because we feel so many feelings so many times, we can’t rely on them for this job of getting ISH DONE! Real progress means doing things EVEN WHEN you don’t feel like it! This doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings, it means KNOWING there will be times when you feel uncomfortable, or frustrated, or scared and planning to DO THE WORK anyways. We can’t let our feelings run the show, they are often our brain looking for ways to avoid discomfort and change. We need to let our values and commitment run the show. → To learn more about life coaching check out https://simpleonpurpose.ca/life-coaching-program/
15. Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self
Yes! I am so excited that this phrase works here. I might even need to get this printed and hung in my living room. Because to me, it means being MINDFUL. And mindfulness is what really helps us change and grow as people and moms and women and wives.
In the context of getting things done, check in with yourself about the stories you tell yourself. Do you think you are ‘lazy’, ‘unmotivated’, ‘horrible at housework’? If you think these things, they will always come true. I explain it in detail in this post: What We Say About Ourselves (and why it matters).
So, before you start tomorrow believing some lies about who you are and what you are capable of, check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.
Want to dig deeper?
If you want to do the big picture work and identify your life on purpose, buy the Life on Purpose workbook. It sets out how to identify your personal values, set out vision for the nine areas of your life, and helps you tackle new goals and habits in manageable steps.
If you want someone to walk you through this process, then schedule a Q+A call to see what life coaching is all about and if I might be the right coach for you.