The number one clue that I’m feeling totally overwhelmed is that I start talking about cleaning, organization and efficiency.
Please note that this week’s newsletter (that’s a link to it, for anyone who has been on the fence about signing up) was filled with spring cleaning tips and that this week’s first blog post is dedicated to efficiency.
Perfect, I am not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few tricks up my sleeve that might help my partners in imperfection.
Below is a list of six tools I rely on heavily when I’m trying to get my shit together.
1) Timer app on my phone
This one sounds kind of silly at first, but it is, without a doubt, my number one tool. When left to my own devices, I’m always distracted by shiny, pretty things. I wander—whether around my house or around the internet—and get sucked down rabbit holes until I’m left staring blankly and wondering what the hell it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place.
Then there’s the magical timer technique. There’s something about setting a timer that makes me sit down and concentrate on the task at hand. I don’t allow myself to get distracted because there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If I do my job, I’ll be done when the timer goes off and I’ll be free to lose myself however I want (if I’m smart—and let’s be real, I’m not always smart—I’ll use a timer for that too before I hit my next to-do).
By the way, if you’re trying to accomplish something when there’s the constant threat of interruption (ie an army of little people clawing at you 24/7), the pause button will become your BFF.
I swear by this method. I’m infinitely more productive when I do things this way—and, more importantly, I’m infinitely less stressed.
This is another crucial app in my life. With the ability to take notes, make lists, collect information and share any of it easily and from anywhere, Evernote is my little right hand woman. The assistant I could never afford to pay.
I love that you can separate notes into notebooks to keep projects organized. I also love the ability to clip articles from the internet or take pictures of important information or inspiration and incorporate them into your notes.
I use Evernote for everything including making long-term to-do lists, brainstorming, writing rough drafts on the go, and collecting a list of books I want to read. I love that no matter where I am I can add or subtract notes, edit pieces I’m working on, or jot down brilliant sparks of inspiration and know that they’re not going to get lost like all of the scraps of paper I shove into my purse.
Without this app I’m pretty sure I would never make it to any function. Working with both Google calendar and iOS calendar, this is the mother of all calendars. I’m a big fan of its clean look and simplicity—it proves that powerful doesn’t have to mean complicated. I also love that I can set reminders so that my phone literally tells me that I need to be somewhere at a certain time. I need that kind of hand holding.
I guess the best endorsement I can give is by telling you that the Queen of Cheap (that would be my) paid to upgrade to the pro version.
I still use a paper planner to map out my blog scheduling (I like being able to shift Post-It notes around for that) and an Excel spreadsheet for scheduling out social media shares, but CalenMob is the only thing I use to keep track of our family’s schedule.
Feedly is my favorite way to blog stalk. Admittedly, I don’t get to use it as often as I’d like because I’ve been so busy lately. But when I’m looking for a little jolt of inspiration or some fun posts to share with my Facebook followers or just to keep up with my favorite blogs, Feedly is where I go. I know I’ll see all of their posts (unlike when I follow them on Facebook) and it forces me to be in a very specific zone. I’ve learned that working in batches is so much more efficient for me (which is why my timer method works so well). When my brain is focused on one specific thing at a time, I work way better. Feedly puts me into Information Soak Up mode (a very technical term). I love it.
OK, so maybe this isn’t a standard “tool” and it might sound like it’s pulling you away from efficiency, but hear me out.
Sometimes I get way too overstimulated. There are too many pretty things and ideas and Dos and Don’ts flying at me and it all gets jumbled into an incoherent blob. I’m left feeling confused and totally off course and just wanting to take a nap.
Exercise not only clears my head, but it produces feel-good chemical reactions in my body to help slay all of that negativity. Being nice to your body absolutely puts your mind in a better place and positively influences everything else in your life—from your work to your relationships to your creativity.
I’m a Jillian Michaels addict (this DVD is my current favorite), but sometimes—especially after a really long winter—it’s nice to get outside and just go for a walk (if you’re local, I’ve got a post up on Wee Westchester about my favorite spot for a walk). Clear your brain, soak in some sunshine, breathe. You’d be surprised at how many awesome ideas will come to you when you’re not trying so hard.