The internet is full of self-help productivity advice.
Experts give their tips. Successful people share their secrets. Article after article offers a new trick to overcome procrastination, fatigue, and listlessness.
Sometimes it’s tempting to write it all off as hocus-pocus or shallow marketing – and a lot of it is.
But, then the day to day happens to us. We fly by the seat of our pants, taking each day as it comes, until so many days have come and we can’t even keep count. We don’t know where we are or what we’re doing; we’re just surviving.
Perhaps productivity is not the secret sauce we need. Productivity is for worker bees who need to churn out more widgets. Productivity is efficiency.
Babies, toddlers, and even teens are never efficient.
Efficiency tactics, productivity secrets do not translate into parenting very well.
But that doesn’t mean we get to throw off all planning advice and be blown by each day’s whims.
Efficiency is not what we need. We need effectiveness.
Effectiveness keeps priorities in mind. Effectiveness puts people first because people matter more. Effectiveness is intentional, purposeful, and active.
When we neglect planning, we end up directionless and reactive – responding to needs, but never leading the way. We put out fires and that’s all we can manage.
If we take a step back, though, we can certainly manage more.
These 5 effectiveness habits will cultivate intentional, purposeful action.
1. Create focused plans
Trying to focus on big picture goals that are too far out in the future is too much guesswork for moms with growing families and changing needs. We can think about our long-term direction, but God often has different ideas that unfold in unexpected ways. We can’t try to extend control too far into the future in fear of what it might hold, but we also can’t sit back and simply react to what happens without taking measured, considered, wise, self-controlled steps in the way we should go.
We should plan with the end in mind, while not trying to control the future.
We should work out short-term goals with intention through interval planning.
With short-term planning, like interval planning, we give ourselves the motivation of a looming deadline and also the commitment to work out a plan for a manageable chunk. Then, when the interval is over, we can reevaluate and adjust. This stops us from changing our plan after the first difficult day and also from procrastinating because there’s so much time.
Learn more about interval planning and how it can save your sanity and move your goals and habit-formation forward in this podcast season and this video workshop.
- Interval Planning for Growth
- Plan with the End in Mind
- 12 Week Year – my primary inspiration for interval planning along with Agile Planning
2. Find regular solitary focus time for clearing mental clutter.
In my own planning scheme, a break week is not about having a vacation with a week off of work, it’s about finding a regularly scheduled time to clear the mental clutter in my head and make sure the bits and pieces scattered about both the house and my subconscious are gathered up and put away.
The first step toward decluttering our heads – which often need as much or more decluttering than our homes – is a brain dump. Whenever you start to feel crazy inside, grab a piece of paper and a pencil and do a brain dump. Write down everything that’s swirling in your head and look at it objectively on paper rather than letting it all peck at your mind at random.
When we regularly have guarded times for clearing the mental clutter and reviewing the upcoming needs, we’ll find a more calm and clear approach to handling it all. We’ll be able to deal with life proactively rather than reactively.
- You need a brain dump (free guide).
- Break week planning
- The secret to not being overwhelmed by Jennifer Fulwiler
3. Pursue a creative outlet.
Life is not about go-go-go all the time. Our aim should not be to figure out how to keep in high gear all the time. Humans are for more than getting things done. We’re for pursuing what is True, Good, and Beautiful. We will feel most satisfied and connected when we invest in relationships and in creativity – because these are things we find within God Himself. When we pursue relationship & creativity, we are imaging God, as we were created to be and do.
- Leisure Pursuits by Personality Type
- Why you should make something.
* Creativity goes beyond by Leila Lawler
4. Take a technology Sabbath weekly and unwired vacations.
Having laptops, tablets, and phones always on, always around, changes the way we interact with the world and even with our own thoughts.
We don’t need to forsake technology to stop this change, we just need to be in charge of it rather than being a slave to it. We take charge by turning it off at regularly scheduled interludes.
Look at your patterns and choose some technology-free zones in your days, weeks, and year. Take a walk without your phone, maybe, or turn it off and leave it in your purse when you go to visit a friend. Try to make Sunday a day of rest from digital accessories.
We need regularly schedules times to think clearly and linearly, to relate spatially and tangibly, to observe naturally and closely.
5. Know your personality, your social role, your strengths, and work with them.
It’s so easy as women to fall into the comparison trap. We look at what other people seem to be doing or how they seem to be living, and think we fall short.
Envy, comparison, guilt – these are not good motivators. They are not healthy.
We need to keep our eyes on our own business and our own path. What should we be doing, given our circumstances and responsibilities?
What are we good at? How does our personality inform our choices, our style, our roles? When we know and understand our own personality, we by extension start understanding others, as well. Differences can become complementary instead of competition when we see that none of us are complete, but only partial pictures of what’s possible and what’s important.
What are we called to? I organize around my vocations – the roles and responsibilities I am clearly given. If one vocation is full-up, I know I can’t say yes to that new opportunity. If one vocation is neglected, I need to adjust. If an opportunity comes up that doesn’t fit my focus and the focus of our family, I can say no without angst.
Accepting our limits and not judging ourselves by others or others by ourselves brings peace and freedom.
- Choose the right to-do list for your personality
- Know your vocations.
- A Heart Spring-Cleaning by Nancy Wilson
Why do we pursue effectiveness?
We do these things for God’s kingdom and not our own.
That means we are working intentionally in order to turn a profit on what we have been given, as we are commanded. We are offering ourselves up as a living, whole sacrifice. We focus on building up God’s people and not to make them into our own image.
We are living a life of service, not of selfish glory-seeking.
Want community support and insightful coaching as you put these habits into practice in your own life? Want to join a community that gets this?
Work the Plan is all about setting up and actually using your plan to live a life of service strategically and intentionally.
The Work the Plan Interval Intensive, from August 18-September 29, 2017, included in Work the Plan Premium, will involve bonus coaching through extra checklists, workshops, text reminders, and more! Participate in the group momentum of the Interval Intensive! Find out more about Work the Plan before we begin so you can join our community of likeminded women, all doing the best with what they have where they are.