Seven Strategies for Having More Productive Days

 

Written by Natalie Klejwa, Contributing Writer

Ever wake up in the morning overwhelmed with all that needs to get done that day?  You want to pull those covers over your head and pretend those loads of laundry, that dirty kitchen, and those hungry children aren’t waiting for you.  I’ve been there too many times to count.

Other mornings I’ve had the experience of waking up rested and peace-filled, to a quiet house, a clean kitchen, and a manageable routine awaiting my oversight.  What makes the difference?  That’s what this post is all about!

1. Get a Good Start (Starting the Night Before!)

There are three keys to a great morning.

A good eight hours of sleep the night before

I’m pregnant with our ninth, so I’ve had many a sleepless night in the past 18 years.  You won’t always get to have #1 because it’s not in your control!  But there are other seasons of life when it is tempting to burn the midnight oil.  I always regret those late nights the very next day.  It’s so much better for our bodies, minds, and spirits to hit the sack by 10:00 at the latest. That sleep before midnight is the best, so grab it whenever you can.  By 6:00 the next morning, you’ll be feeling like a million bucks, and you’ll be able to energetically and enthusiastically accomplish so much more.  (And a cup of coffee doesn’t hurt either!)

A picked-up house

Make a “Whole House Pick Up” part of your children’s pre-bedtime routine each night.  You can assign “jurisdictions” for each child, OR you can all sweep through the house together as one big team, picking  up everything in sight like the Cat in the Hat.  It doesn’t take long…and boy, does it make a difference in the morning to come out to your main living area and be able to see the floor.  A good friend once shared this tip, “Your home can be dirty, but if your floor is clean and picked up…your home will LOOK clean and picked up.”

Time at the feet of Jesus

This is critical.  Women have told me, “That’s so legalistic.”  Is it legalistic to eat three meals a day?  No.  We do it because it keeps us alive and we crave it.  It’s part of life. Is it legalistic to regularly get together with your best friend and communicate your heart?  Of course not.  We do it because relationships are important to how God made us a human beings, and because we long for them.

If you are a Christian, your spirit needs to eat to thrive and stay healthy.  We feed on the Word.  Your spirit needs that relationship with its Creator.  We pray to exercise our faith and to have the mind of Christ Himself as we pray His Word into the lives of those we love.

Your joy will be in direct proportion to the time you invest in feeding your spirit and enjoying the King. We don’t “do it” because it’s “the rule”.  We do it because it is the way to ultimate inner joy and satisfaction.  It’s Christian hedonism!

This doesn’t mean that you will always be able to have chunks of uninterrupted time with the Lord.  There are seasons when we will need to “grab” moments here and there throughout the day…Bible open on the counter top…maybe a prayer guide ready and available.  I love those prayer guides especially when I’m post partum and my brain is mush from sleep deprivation.  The point is, spend some time with your Savior.  It is critical for a healthy life.

2. Eliminate Distractions

There are plenty of time wasters vying for your attention, just hoping to steal your precious time and drag you down.

  • Television
  • Internet surfing (the kind that lacks purpose)
  • Time on the telephone just “shooting the breeze” for no good reason
  • Shopping just for fun (this includes online browsing)
  • Absorbing “all the latest” trivialities on Facebook
  • Reading pablum (women’s mags, novels, other purposeless entertainment)
  • Fill in the blank here…because we could go on all day with this list

Big Caveat Here: We’ve all done these things.  We’re human.  And I’m not trying to be a kill joy…I’m just stating a fact.  If you spend portions of the 24 hours allotted to you in your day on these activities, you will have less time to be productive.  It’s a trade off.  It’s a simple choice: I either want A. or I want B.  Most of the time, I can’t have both.  Want more time to be productive?  Avoid time wasters.

So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

3. Plan to be Productive

Keep a running list of the things you want to accomplish.  It can be as simple as a notebook with a list that you cross off, or it can be as “serious” as an official planner where you have the weeks and months mapped out with your priorities and goals.

I do both.

I keep a running list on a white board where I write down anything and everything that comes to mind while I’m about my business.  (I’m 45…if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember it again.)  Then I have a detailed planner where I organize that list into the days/weeks/months ahead.

I am currently home educating 5 of my 8 children, running a home business, and facilitating a ministry blog.  It is necessary to plan ahead in order to accomplish the goals I have for those major responsibilities.  The more you plan to accomplish, the more you will accomplish.  No, you won’t always get to everything, but you’ve heard the saying, “the person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.”

4. Make a Routine Work for You

A routine is your best friend.  Everyone has their own unique groove.  Find yours and stick with it as much as possible.  I say “no” to a lot of “extra stuff” that other folks are doing.  Summers are the exception, but during the school year, we don’t do a lot of running around.

Not every day works out to be my “ideal”, but I strive to go to bed at 10:00, get up at 6:00, get ready for the day, head down to the laundry room to throw a load in (this is my secret to staying on top of laundry…do a load a day), have my time in the Word and in prayer, make breakfast, greet the children, hit the school books, make lunch, put littles down for naps, fill orders and do some writing, make dinner, oversee evening chores, put children to bed, get organized for the following day and answer e-mails, and then it’s back to bed at 10:00.

Fridays are special…my mom comes over to play with the children, and I take one of the kids with me to get groceries and eat out for lunch.  Then I have some time alone at Barnes and Noble to write.  (I’m there right now doing this post!)  Saturdays are chore/home project days.  Sundays are days of rest.  Sometimes we have a family from church over.

Simple, yet productive.

5. Little by Little

As homemakers, we find we are doing thousands of little things every day.  But it’s the little things that add up in the end!

  • If I’m going upstairs, I quick look around to see if there is anything that needs to be carried up there with me and put away.  There always is.  Same for traveling down stairs.
  • I never leave a room without doing one thing to make it look a little better.  Straighten the curtain.  Throw that underwear down the laundry chute, put the pillow back on the bed.
  • If I see a doo-dad on the floor, I pick it up.  I have a basket to collect doo-dads.  Do you?  The kids have to go and organize them later.
  • All my best ideas, reminders, and plans occur to me when I’m in the shower, making the bed, or stirring a pot of boiling water.  I write them down on the white board the first chance I get.  Then I put them out of my mind.  I hate a brain full of things swimming around taunting me, “You’re going to forget me…you’re going to forget me.”
  • If I am forced to make a phone call…I put away the dishes, fold laundry, or stir a pot of boiling water while talking.
  • The point is…if you keep moving…you will keep accomplishing things.  Remember Dorie in the hit Pixar movie, Finding Nemo?  “Just keep swimming, swimming swimming…”  Little by little…you’ll get there!

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.”    ~Thomas Jefferson

6. Recruit and Delegate

Hey, if you’ve got kids,  you’ve got a team!  Get them excited about being part of the family “game plan”.  They should have their own routine that includes cleaning, picking up, laundry, and organizing…every single day.  As they get older, they will be greater assets…and accustomed to these things as being a normal part of “life”.

Our kids have daily duties, weekly duties, and monthly duties.  Because we have so many of them at all different stages, I basically don’t do any house cleaning anymore.  This has freed me up to focus on other projects, thereby accomplishing even more! Start when they are little, and not only will you reap some wonderful benefits, but they will be ready for life on their own as disciplined, productive individuals.

7. Trouble-Shooting the “Bad Days”

There are seasons of life in which your “productivity” level will be sovereignly limited.  I’ve spent almost 2 years of my life on bedrest.  While I did not accomplish much by human standards, God used that time to teach me the value of contentment, quietness, and satisfaction in Him alone.

When you are pregnant or post-partum, you will not be able to achieve the same level of productivity.  Rather than bemoaning your very normal fate, why not embrace it as God’s perfect plan for your life right now?  Surrender and be at peace.  It’s so much more pleasant that wallowing in despair.  Don’t use it as an excuse to watch more television.  Use that time to sleep more, read more, sit with your children more, dream for the future more.  It’s a wonderful place to be!  It all depends on your choice of perspective.

When illness or tragedy strikes your family, that’s a time for hunkering down and doing the minimum.  Healing needs to take place, and that takes time and emotional and spiritual energy that can be very draining.  Whenever I am in a difficult place emotionally, and motivation to fulfill just the basic duties of life eludes me, I remember Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice: “Just do the next thing.”

By God’s grace and in His strength, I can do that.

What strategies help you to have more efficient and productive days?

About Natalie Klejwa

Natalie is wife to Joe and home educating mother to nine children ages 2-20. When she isn't teaching children, changing diapers, or cleaning the kitchen, she administrates the Visionary Womanhood blog and runs their family's cottage business, Apple Valley Natural Soap. Her latest book project is Three Decades of Fertility.

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Comments

  1. This writing is an answer to prayer! God is awesome to work such sound structure in your lifestyle, and for you to be able to share it with moms like me who are striving to achieve that sort of structure is such a blessing! Thank you so much!

  2. Cassi O. says:

    This was a great article, now it’s time to stop reading and start doing! :)

  3. I was wondering if you would mind if we put this article in our homeschool newsletter. You would of course be given credit.
    Either way, thank you so much for this. So encouraging and convicting! I’m getting off the computer now…I’ve got things to do! :)

  4. This was right on, thank you!

  5. Chevette says:

    Thank you for being an inspiration…I am a young new wife pregnant with our first child and feeling in a “I am such a bad wife” slump….your words were deffinately ones I needed to hear today.

  6. I am not a Christian, but the rest of this whole article about productivity put a new perspective into my mind about my days, and how to get the most out of them! I thank you very much for taking the time to write this. I am going to try harder. I’m only 19 and I have a lot of responsibilities for a 19 year old. I take care of an elderly man, who also lives with me (no relation), and I take care of my daughter and my fiance. I run this entire house and it’s very hard to keep track and to stay encouraged to do the housework every day when I feel so lethargic. But the house being messy is one of the biggest downers of all! So I just wanted to say thank you. I bet your household runs smoothly and that your house is beautifully clean. That’s how my mother kept ours, as well.

  7. I love your points of views and how you put them do be so simple!!!!!!! Thank you for these encouragements. I have 2 kiddos and going nuts and you are prego with the 9th Jesus, May God bless u more and more!!!!!!

  8. So much of this resonated with me. I love being efficient in life thanks to my mum who trained us to the ‘extreme’ and had us colouring or doing something crafty or creative even when watching TV or listening to her read. Even now, I can’t just sit and watch a movie without something in my hands!
    You have articulated things that I currently do to keep my head above water in managing a home & business, but also gently challenged on areas I could improve in! Love it, thanks!

  9. I just found your blog from pinterest, let me tell you, I just read it and it was just such a blessing to me. I had a baby 3 months ago, and also a 2 year old toddler and I feel so overwhelmed. But your advise had resonate in me, not to beat myself up for having such a messy house and to surrender to God even more.
    Thank you for blogging!!!

  10. I just found this on PINTREST and it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Going to bed early is probably the hardest thing on the list for me. I am a night owl, but that makes it tough in the morning when I wake up before 7pm to go to the gym 3 days a week and 2 days teach preschool, plus I have a 15 month old and I’m 7 mo. pregnant….TIRED!!! Duh, more sleep will help with that, I just need to be more on it. I am excited to find your blog and learn more from you.

  11. Fantastic, real-life advice. I so appreciate this post!

  12. Melissa W. says:

    I love your tips, but most of all I love #7. I am a postpartum mom who is recovering from postpartum depression and I feel so overwhelmed by all there is to do and frustrated by my lack of productivity. I wish women would talk even more about handling those bad days.

    Thanks for sharing your advice!

  13. Thank you for writing #7. I have a three month old and a three year old. I was on bed rest for two months before the little one came. We had just moved into our too small for us apartment a few months before that. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. My home reflects that. Starting now, I am going to do the next thing and know that it will get better and my energy will grow and most of all God is in control.

  14. So I came up with a housework schedule several years ago that keeps my house clean and gives me time with my two preschoolers.

    Monday – Menu and Market: I go through the ads, my freezer, and magazines to make our weekly menu and grocery lists. Then I hit the stores. I have a spreadsheet of most frequently shopped stores and a hyperlinked (to the recipe) menu that I will print out so everyone else knows what’s for dinner.
    Tuesday – Toilets, Tubs, Trash, and Towels: I clean the bathrooms, wash the towels and take off the trash to the dump and recycling center.
    Wednesday – Wash: Do all the laundry, fold/iron it, and put it away. ( I am really looking forward to the day my monkeys can help me more with this one. They already like to push all the buttons and shove stuff into the machines!)
    Thursday – Dust: I know. But I couldn’t think of a chore that alliterates with Thursday, but it still needs done!
    Friday – Floors: Vacuum and Mop

    The trick is to only do that day’s chore, and I am cleaning for no more than an hour and some change each day. Some days it’s less. We always pick up before we leave a room, and the kitchen is always being “freshened up” all day long. It works pretty well!

    Thanks for your post and the value you give to this work we do.

  15. Thank you so much for this helpful article. I am inspired to set some priorities and help our home run more smoothly! Thanks!

  16. My browsing on Pinterest finally paid off … I found this post, and this blog. I am so happy I did. This post completely spoke to me and was an answer to prayer for guidance. Thank you so much … you have a new reader!

  17. Great list! I use a “pert chart” for my daily list. I don’t know why it’s called a pert chart but it’s something my Mom did when I was growing up so I inherited it and throughout the day I check items off the list. It helps me to prioritize my day and it also lets me know when I’m getting distracted from what I’ve already written down as the most important things to get done that day. I can definitely feel the difference between when I’m working from a checklist and when I’m not. The day always seems more organized (and I always seem to have enough time to get everything done).

  18. Great list. I’m learning to make myself pick up the house before we go to bed–it really does make such a big difference waking up and feeling like you’re ahead of the game!

  19. Just a quick note to those who are concerned about being too much like Martha and not enough like Mary. : ) God loved both women…and created women to sit at His feet AND be productive. (Jesus and His followers would have missed dinner if Martha hadn’t prepared it. He could see her HEART…that she was petulant over Mary’s “seeming” laziness. This is what He was correcting. Not the fact that Martha was serving people.) These are BOTH important things to do with our lives. Sitting at His feet comes first, as I pointed out in this post…and then comes the wonderful productivity! There absolutely must be balance in our lives. Too much Martha, and we burn out. Too much Mary, and our lives and families and homes fall apart. This particular post had an emphasis on productivity. Other posts may discuss the devotional aspect of life. While still other (very long) posts may cover all the bases in one fell swoop! I think it goes without saying that we need balance in all these things, and I’m guessing the majority of the readers here were able to graciously grasp that fact. I’m so glad many of you were able to glean some helpful tips from my many years of bumbling through life. : )

  20. I must say that “mom of 4″ summed it up pretty well…. Its so much easier to sit down with a good book and truly relax when life is running smoothly and you are caught up and prepared for the next day. Having 5 kids in 6 years has taught me well that giving in to the mentality “I need and deserve some ME TIME” will only bring me more stress and frustration if I don’t put first my God-given responsibilities. Thanks Natalie for the great tips! Hearing from others who are in the same boat, facing the same storm and enjoying the adventure really bolsters my courage! :)

  21. This is something that I need to print out and keep in front of my face at all times! The biggest culprit for me are the things that suck time (e.g., Facebook, mindless browsing at stores, etc.). Of course I could also add to the list lack of sleep because I insisted on staying up trying to “get things done” and the failure to realize what is the most important on my to do list (e.g., finishing a craft project vs. getting sleep!).

    I have 2 requests:
    1) can you write a post on how to get young children to help out around the house (we have 4, ranging from 7 months to 5 years). I’ve tried setting a timer and getting them to clean up before it goes off or putting on music and getting them to clean a certain area before the song changes. These work for a little while and then they get bored (or maybe it’s me that gets bored!).
    2) Where does time connecting with your husband factor into the equation? Can you post something about this? Seems like all we’re doing is taking care of kids, cleaning up, making meals, etc. By the time is all said and done it’s time to go to bed and we’ve completely forgotten that we have a spouse!
    Thanks!

    • I thought the same thing when I read this post. She doesn’t mention time with her husband at all. I’m interested to see where that time comes in. Or is she single?

      • My hubby works during the day! Maybe someday I’ll write a post about how to have more productive NIGHTS. We’re expecting #9 in three weeks…so our nights are pretty productive. Then again…maybe I better not write about that…!!! ; )

        • Liz Long says:

          LOL! Perfect response!
          Thank you for this post. It is very encouraging even to one without kiddos yet. I strive to balance work and being a home maker for my husband and I am trying to establish healthy habits now before we are blessed with kids.

  22. Wow, what a timely post!

    I am 8 weeks pregnant with my fifth little one (in 7 years), I work part-time, and have a husband who works 50+ hours/weeks. I strive to keep my home organized and running smoothly, but this past week or so, between the nausea and fatigue and general business of life, I have certainly let things slide… And a quick glance around the house confirms it!

    My husband is out for the evening, I’ve tucked the littles into bed, and decided it is time to get things back on track while I’ve got nothing to distract me. It is amazing how much you can get done in a short, focused time.

    My kitchen is now tidy. My meal plan for the week is on the fridge. Meat is out in preparation for tomorrows dinner. My “to do list” for the week is made. And I feel like I’m on top of things once again. It is such a peaceful feeling to be one step ahead rather than racing to catch up.

    And now I’ll sit down with a book I’ve been wanting to read and relax in the quiet :-)

  23. I use the idea of a routine and try to stick to it. Also, I try to have at least one morning a week where we don’t GO anywhere other than getting my daughter out the door to school. We don’t schedule appt.’s or other things until after twelve and even then most of those days I try to just keep us home.

    I’ve also identified the things I truly enjoy: reading and writing. Those are the two things that I need to do to rejuvenate me as well as relax so any “down time” I get is focused on those things instead of a whole bunch of time suckers that I didn’t really enjoy anyway.

    I really appreciated this post!

  24. I love how relaxed I feel when the house is picked up. I need to hold on to that feeling to motivate me to maintain it better.
    What helps me most in the kitchen is meal planning. It makes my time prepping grocery lists more productive and financially sound.

  25. I love most of these tips but I have one note. If you have to make a phone call be careful of multitasking to the point where you aren’t paying attention to the person you are talking to. I understand if you are on hold or something but if you have to call someone to discuss something of importance or arrange a meeting it can be incredibly counterproductive to miss what the other person is saying. If you forget after the phone call whether you are supposed to be there at 1 or 1:30 and then have to either call back or contact someone another way that is a waste of time. Also, I find people can usually tell when you aren’t paying attention and it can be a little rude. The other person is taking time out of their day to talk to you too.

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