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 a mother of nine, homemaker, business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), and most importantly, a Wemmick loved by the Woodcarver.

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  1. I love this post. Thanks for sharing. I love #5. My husband and I both joke the kitchen gets cleaned so well when we’re on the phone! With constant interruptions the “little by little'” is crucial.

  2. Your tips are wonderful and great reminders. Being intentional in our tasks and also having a plan will truly help get more done, which helps moms feel value and self worth rather than an overwhelming sense of being behind! Picking a few top tasks that must get done and doing those first help me stay successful – it is always a challenge though.

  3. One of my favorite jobs to do while talking on the phone is cleaning my stove top. It can get messy really fast and I don’t like cleaning it, but when I’m talking on the phone it keeps me busy and productive and the time cleaning goes by a lot quicker. :-)

  4. While I agree that u want to honor God by taking care of my family and my house I do agree with the previous poster about Martha mentality. Rest is do important and more than just on Sunday. Why are some of these things unproductive? I read for pleasure and this shows my daughter that reading is fun, I chat with someone on the phone to nuture a resltionshop BC people are more important. I post a scripture or connect with long distance friends on Facebook. Sometimes I watch a tv show for fun, to laugh or relax. These things are important too. My house is not perfect or close by its clean with good food and a happy family that is not burnt out.

  5. HI there, I just found this blog. What a great post! Very encouraging for those of us who become easily overwhelmed with daily house hold tasks. I have no kids yet (one on the way!!) and I know even for me I can become bogged down with a never ending to do list. Thank you for these practical steps to making the most of each day!

  6. I agree with what some other have said… I need that time to do the distractions. If I go, go, go all day and be extremely productive continuously without time to relax I usually make it about 4 days and then crash where I become the most unproductive person because I am tired and just feel really out of touch with myself. I usually give myself 30 minutes in the morning, after my devotions, before I get ready for the day, to catch up with people online or reading a magazine I got, or a “fun” book. I also give myself some time in the evening before I my prayer time and bed time. I use this time to usually watch a TV show off the DVR. This time allows me to unwind. This is my “rest” time and I believe God is ok with this. God and Jesus both rested and they called us to rest as well. “Resting” was something I struggled with for along time. I never allowed myself the chance to rest… I became bitter, burnt out, and just unpleasant. And sometimes…. I do get work done during my rest time… while on facebook maybe a friend mentions a devotional she just finished and said was useful… I will note it down so I can see if I want to get it. Or while reading through my magazines I might find a recipe to try on a future menu. Or while watching a TV show, I might file some papers. But I am still resting. I am allowing myself to relax and reconnect with myself so that during my “work”times I can focus on the people and the needs around me. If you don’t allow yourself to take a step back from the busyness and relax you will start to lose sight of what you are really trying to do.

  7. This post is really encouraging. Thank you for writing it. I’ve been working on cleaning up my house as its a disaster and its affecting my productivity, energy and joy. My house got to be a mess in my first trimester, so now its clean up time (I am 24 weeks now). Today my husband and I worked on the basement and its much better, about 80% done. Little steps and I will get there.

  8. Amen to “REST” being an important foundation, that we teach our kids but often forget to work it into the pace of our own lives. It’s no mistake the Jewish day BEGAN with sundown – rest is the foundation for a day with God. :)

  9. I have to respond to Bobbi’s comment. I’m glad you brought up the point that life is about God and we have to be careful not to get caught up in making life about the to-do list. I know many women have that temptation, but I was more like Joanna – in those early years I was incredibly lazy and turned to food (not God) to get my needs met.

    Now I’m at the point where life is about God, and I want to get completely organized because I think my lack of organization sometimes gets in the way of loving God and others well.

    I write Bible studies (I wrote one on emotional eating), and the more smoothly my house runs, the more my mind is freed up to write and teach.

  10. @Bobbi M- I don’t see this as a Martha mentality at all- when I take care of what God has given me, whether that is my husband, children, home, or myself, that IS praising Him. “Actions speak louder than words”.

  11. What a blessing this post was. I’ve been finding these truths on my own, slowly, but to see them summed up here tidied up my outlook :) Just this evening I was overwhelmed, reminded myself that I have to stay faithful in the little things (in this case, taking good care of the house God has blessed me with), closed my eyes and thought “I don’t feel like I can do this right now, but Lord please give me the energy” and before I knew it, several chores were done. Perfect example of “Just do the next thing”!
    Thank you Lord for this blog post and the fellowship that I so sorely needed! You know everything I need before I do and have shown me You can provide for all these needs if I just reach out to You.

  12. Thank you so much for this post. A previous poster was talking about how this is a Martha mentality post – but the problem isn’t that we are sitting a the feet of Jesus with our time. We are using that time, as you said, to catch up on facebook, watching TV, shopping, or talking on the phone. I NEED posts like this as I tend to have the sin of gluttony. God called me to be a stay at home mom who educates her children at home. I cannot do my best at what He has called me to do unless I can REACH the materials needed! Right now I can’t even find half the school supplies we use each day because I am not doing these 7 steps. Thank you again for posting this, I NEEDED it today. I had set my goal of picking up my upstairs, at least, and I was getting discouraged and unmotivated so I took a break to read a few blogs. This will get me up and going again!

  13. I keep my kids’ bath crayons handy for those moments in the shower when I remember something important or think of an idea or something. I write it on the wall and when I get out, I grab my notebook and write it down in there, then wipe the crayon off the wall!

    Great post!

  14. Excellent post Natalie. Great tips…..stuff we ALL need to do. :-)

  15. Party-pooper moment: I’m starting to feel like this blog is encouraging the Martha mentality, not the Mary mentality. Is busy-ness synonymous with Godliness? Does everything we do need to have a purpose, or can we rest in the fact that God’s greater purpose for our lives is simply to praise Him. Praise Him in our messy houses. Praise Him in our disorganization. The church’s mentality these days seems to be encouraging Martha behaviour instead of just sitting at the feet of Jesus like Mary. It would be great to see more posts on disorganization and imperfection and how God can still use us in the midst of those things.

    • @Bobbi M, It’s a hard balance to find. I didn’t write this particular post, but I appreciate it, because if I were to write it at this very moment, it would probably be more about disorganization and imperfection and how God still works in the midst of it all. :)

      I want to do my best to honor Him with how I spend my time and make the most of the days that He has given me. And yet you’re right… life is messy and not even close to perfect and there is much grace for that. How we balance it all and encourage one another is something I’m still learning. I think in some seasons we need someone to come alongside of us and just embrace us in the messiness and the struggle and speak truth over us. Other times, I think we need to be challenged and given tools and inspiration from those who are finding balance and productivity, and we can learn from them, imperfect as we (and they) may still be. Personally, I need a mix of both in my life.

      I appreciate your “party-pooper” thoughts. :) Truly. We need all of these perspectives, and while some women may have needed this post today, others may have needed your comment instead. Thanks for sharing.

      • My 2 cents: I think I have had different seasons of my life. Sometimes I needed what Bobbi said and sometimes I needed the post. I think God comforts us and helps us find whatever we need for the season of life we are in. Sometimes I didn’t need ways to be more productive. I needed peace and comfort that I am alright the way I am. I also think God gives us what we ask for. If we ask for help in getting the house cleaner, some of the things in this post might be what he brings to our attention. If I need comfort, then I ask for that. :) I also agree with Bobbi that God definitely encourages me to rest more than alot of people do!
        Stephanie-What you wrote above is truly well said!

  16. There is SO MUCH to absorb here, awesome tips! Thank you!

  17. Oh, thanks for sharing! It is so nice to *meet* you! I look forward to visiting your blog and hearing more from you!

    Thanks for some good, much needed reminders. I try to be diligent about starting my day out with Him first. I do NOT always succeed (kids wake up too early, etc). But I sure do pray for more opportunities with Him! It sure does make my day better!

  18. As always, Natalie, an excellent word!

  19. i absolutely loved and needed this post! i was nodding along to every word :)

  20. I just visited your soap site for the first time… Wow!! What an incredible looking product! I’m so excited to pick some out for Christmas gifts! So glad I stumbled upon it!!!

  21. I’ve found that in order to stay productive, I really NEED that downtime you talked about in #2. Just 10 or 15 minutes on FB or texting a friend while my DS is sleeping really lets me regroup and get motivated again. I only have one son, so I’m sure it’s changes as you have more kids, but for me right now it helps to have a little break after a good “work” session.

  22. Thanks for the post! I couldn’t agree with you more about getting started the night before. We have clean up as part of the bed time routine, I come downstairs after putting our son to bed and get our oatmeal ready to soak in yogurt and raw milk over night, then head to bed by 10. Having struggled with insomnia in the past, my sleep schedule is the most important part of my routine. A solid, full-night’s sleep is one of the best things I can do for me, and my family.

  23. Thanks! All of that is so practical. I’ve found myself letting the kids slide on their housework as their school work has become a little more difficult and demanding. But I realize I’m burning myself out. We have food allergies and sensitivities that require me to make just about everything from scratch. I love all that time in the kitchen, but as you can imagine, the rest of my the house suffers. Time to get everyone back on track!

  24. This is a great post – thanks. I’m planning to get a whiteboard for my ongoing list! I had two systems that really helped me out when I was homeschooling my kids: First, I had each kid cook one dinner a week, including the five year old! She cooked chicken breasts with barbecue sauce and baked potatoes and canned beans – same meal every week. We did this for probably six years. Since I had four kids, I only had to cook three meals and the kids became really great cooks and all still enjoy it (my oldest is 24 now). It was a little hard at first to teach them to cook. We just stuck with the same meals for the little kids the first few weeks until they mastered them. But they all felt proud of their skills.

    The second thing I did was have all the kids do their own laundry. They put whites and darks together and it turned out fine. You just have to be careful about washing anything new separately. The five year old could manage that easily as well.

    Oops – i just thought of one more thing. We also had checklists for each kids schoolwork so they could be in charge of their own school work unless they needed help. We had little stickers to put on the chart each time they finished a subject.

    The kids have become very self-sufficient adults. Good at managing their school work in college, etc. I miss those younger years (I only have one at home now), but it’s nice to think of all you guys out there homeschooling and being great moms! I appreciate you!

  25. Thanks for this post. I am someone who regularly gets overwhelmed by the amount that needs doing. Today is one of those days & I gave up & sat down to look at the blogs I follow. I needed this post. Off to get organised & get some work done.


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