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Category: Productivity

How to Identify the Most Important Thing in Your Day

How to Identify the Most Important Thing in Your Day

I love to read about productivity plans and to play with them in my own routine. However, a lot of them talk about choosing your most important task of the day. When I first read that I thought, “One!? I can’t choose only one!” Then after reading about it multiple times, I decided to start an experiment and to my surprise, it was very helpful. Here are a few questions I ask myself to figure out my most important task of the day.

Are there deadlines coming up?

This is probably the easiest way to pinpoint your most important task. If you have something due tomorrow, do it today. Also, if there is something you’ve been putting off, but it really needs to get done, make it your most important thing. This might be where you stop, but if you have nothing that is imminently due or behind, then you should continue on to the other questions.

What will be the most satisfying to complete?

I use this qualifier more often than not. There are some things you have going on that will just be very satisfying to finish or get caught up on. This is especially true for things you aren’t very keen on doing. Get it out of the way first, then your day will have a satisfying ending.

What will you be disappointed tomorrow?

I try to be nice to tomorrow me and you should, too. If it’s going to be a hassle to finish a project tomorrow, try to get it done today. The worst thing is waking up in the morning and realizing that you have a huge project to complete that you should have worked on the day before.

What do you have time for?

My most open days are Monday and Friday right now. I know that I can stick my larger projects on those days and not feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, Wednesdays are my busiest days currently. I try to be gentle with myself and have simple goals on that day since I know that I won’t have as much time. Always be kind to yourself as much as you can.

Even at the end of these questions, I still sometimes have more than one most important task. I split my tasks into personal and work items and that usually helps me. It also helps to have a hierarchy of importance, so there is a list of 3-5 of my most important tasks in each category. How do you decide which tasks are the most important?

How to Make a Morning Routine

How to Make a Morning Routine

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Mornings can be hard, for everyone, even those of us who like to wake up early. We can stumble around in the morning putting out fires as we go and just barely making it through the rest of our day. A bad morning can change our whole day. There is a cure for this and it’s called a morning routine! In this post, I’ll go through the steps to making a morning routine that will work for you.

What Things Can Happen The Night Before?

Last week, I made a post about How to Make an Evening Routine. There is a reason that it came first. There are so many things that you can do the night before to make your morning easier. A few of those are setting clothes out for the next day or planning your breakfast. It depends on what will make your morning easier. Make a list of things that tend to throw you off in the morning and see if any of them can be done the night before.

What Are The Most Important Things?

This question goes two-fold. One is the things you need to do in the morning and the other is the things that are truly important to you. Ask yourself what your important things are. Make a list of all the things that have to happen. I need a shower every morning; it’s my number one priority. Then make a list of the important things in your life. For me, having time to eat breakfast and relax before my day begins is important. For you, it might be quiet time before your kids get up.

What Are the Least Important Things?

Maybe it’s your season of life or your priorities, but there are things that simply aren’t important to do right now. Take those things out of your morning routine. It might be to move them to a different part of your day or it’s a bad habit that shouldn’t be in your life anyways. If you are a parent of little children, having time to read might be something to plan for when they take their nap, not in the morning when they wake up early. You might have the tendency to snooze your alarm a lot. Working on a way to limit this is an important part of the routine.

Create a Realistic Morning Routine

Write out the typical routine that you are doing right now. Use the things you’ve just read to either alter your routine or make a completely new one. Move the appropriate things to your nighttime routine, star the things that need to happen every morning even if you are running late, and evaluate anything that doesn’t need to be there anymore. I can’t tell you the right routine to make, but think about how you work and what you will be willing to do. The point of this is to make a routine completely unique to you.

Be Gentle

This is a rundown of my current routine. I know that I need to have simple mornings and trying to do a lot of intense things right away is only going to make me resentful. I get my tea and breakfast ready the morning before and since I work from home, setting out my clothes isn’t necessary (though it might be for you.) Remember that this is the first draft. If you are noticing that the routine isn’t working, go ahead and tweak it. And if you fall off the wagon, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are never going to be perfect, you can only do your best.

If you want a more in-depth way to create a morning routine, please check out Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course. I loved the course and it informed this post. Tell me how your routine benefits you! What are some ways you have improved your mornings? What secrets do you have to combat hard mornings?

How to Make an Evening Routine

How to Make an Evening Routine

This post contains affiliate links. Please read our affiliate policy.

We all find trouble with our evening routines. We get to sleep too late or stay up tossing and turning. Sometimes we wake up and the entire morning feels like a challenge. It happens to the best of us. But if this is happening on a daily basis, you are in need of an evening routine change. Here are a few simple steps to help you create a routine to work for you. You’ll need a writing utensil and some paper.

What Are the Problems with Your Current Routine?

If you are looking to make a new evening routine, there is probably something wrong with your current routine. I want you to write down all of the things that bother you about your evenings now. This is completely subjective. Out of the list you’ve made, pick one or two major problems. For me, I wasn’t getting to sleep at a decent time and getting up in the morning was difficult. Hold on to those problems for later.

Prepping for Tomorrow

The biggest thing you can do to make your evening better is to use it to prepare for the morning. Mornings are hard for pretty much everyone. There are plenty of things you can do at night to start out on the right foot. A few examples could be setting your coffee maker to automatically brew or laying out your outfit for tomorrow. Brainstorm things you could do to make your morning easier and write them down. It might be making your schedule for tomorrow or laying out your breakfast utensils. It’ll make your mornings so much easier to manage.

Identify What Is Important

This is the last list I’ll ask you to make before making your plan. Write a list of what is important to you at this stage in your life. It might be your kids, working on your business, or reading the Bible. Think of as many as you can. Now, split this list between “want to” and “need to” do. You need to get your kids to bed; you want to read a book. Your “need tos” have to make it into your evening routine and hopefully, you can fit a few of your “want tos” on there as well.

Create Your Routine

This is the fun part: actually creating the routine. This can be in a variety of formats. You can schedule it out by hours or half hours. You can start it at 5:00 or 9:00. The only important thing is that you are creating a routine that you will be able to follow. Using a static time, like eating at 6:00 every night or putting your kids to bed at 8:00, to start with is helpful. Here is my nightly routine:


Be Gentle On Yourself

As you can see, my routine is pretty simple. That’s what I need to actually be able to follow it. Even so, sometimes I don’t follow it. Keep this in mind with your own routine. It’s going to work a lot of the time, but not all of it. There will be days where you get in late or you’re late on a deadline and you can’t complete your routine. Just do the need-to items on your list. It’s not going to be perfect all the time, roll with life.

If you want a more detailed way to create an evening checklist, please use Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Evening. I’ve used it a few times and it is much more in-depth than this post. I loved using it to make my own routine. What are some of the things in your routine? Do you have any pointers to maintaining a routine?

Bullet Journal with No Rules

Bullet Journal with No Rules

When I first got into the bullet journal, it felt stifling. Between making weekly checklists, remembering to migrate tasks, and trying to update redundant lists, I started to lose a lot of steam for this truly useful to-do list technique. My whole bullet journal experience changed when I decided to stop following the rules word for word and instead adapt the most useful methods to what I needed. I imagine that a lot of people feel this way about their bullet journal and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to bullet journal with only the rules you need! Or to make up your own.

Decide What’s Right For You

Take a look at your bullet journal. What are your favorite parts of it? What are your least favorite parts? I really love having daily task lists, but I really hate feeling like I have to migrate tasks. So, I stopped migrating tasks. If a task didn’t get done that day, I scratched it off. I have a master to-do list in OmniFocus for all of my recurring tasks, so I know that no important tasks are going to get through the cracks. Take your number one least favorite part and figure out how you can stop doing it. Some things are as easy as just stopping them (like adding decoration to pages), but others might require some thought (like getting rid of the index).

Experiment

If you aren’t sure of how a particular piece impacts you, do an experiment. I thought that habit trackers were an awesome idea, so I gave it a try. Almost immediately I got behind and was trying to remember what I had completed three days before. It didn’t work. It’s an awesome idea, but it doesn’t work for me! I also tried different sizes of notebooks and realized that the type of notebook they recommend really is the best (even if it costs an arm and a leg.) You never know what is going to help you, so try all kinds of different things and don’t sweat the things that don’t work.

Bullet journals are really awesome resources! I absolutely love mine, even if it isn’t exactly what they show on the official website. You can love yours too if you take the time to figure out what you do and do not like. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to the Bullet Journal, I’m always adding new stuff so check it out for more ideas. Remember that the bullet journal’s job is to make your life easier!

Do you have any tips or tricks for using the bullet journal? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of it?

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How I Schedule My Day as a Virtual Assistant

How I Schedule My Day as a Virtual Assistant

One of the joys of being a virtual assistant is that I don’t have a boss. There is no one looking over my shoulder as I go about my days, I’m in charge of my own time. I’m going to tell you the way I spend my days as a virtual assistant.

Morning

I’m usually out of bed by 8:00. I’ll usually shower, eat breakfast, and plan out my day. I use three things to structure my day. First, I look at my to-dos in my OmniFocus. Then I add the things I want to get done into my bullet journal so I can see them all on one page. Then I use Google Calendar to map out how long I want things to take throughout my day. This also reminds me of any appointments I might have. Usually, this step takes me about 10 to 15 minutes.

Business Work

I use the first hour of my day, from 9-10, to work on my own business. I’m still in the process of finding clients, so it’s important I prioritize this, which is why it’s the first thing in my day. I usually check my email and send any emails I need to. I also source clients and brainstorm improvements I can make to my current business plan. Once I have the number of clients I want, I’ll move this to later in the day or make it fewer days in the week. Until then, it will continue to be in the most important slot in my day.

Client Work

I then do client work. The duration of this is different every day depending on what I currently need to accomplish for my clients and potential clients. It’s hard to generalize since each day is different, but I prioritize based on deadlines and work hard during my client’s time. I want to get the most amount of work done while I’m on their dime.

Other Work

During the remaining part of the day, I get my odds and ends done. I usually spend time working on my proofreading course and on this blog. I also babysit three days a week, so I spend time with a baby most afternoons. These odds and ends are less important to get done, so I put them later in the day.

Fun

Around 4 or 5 I usually complete my day and then I can do things purely because I like them (though I do enjoy my job quite a bit.) Usually, that means crocheting in front of the TV (the show I’m watching right now is NCIS.) I also enjoy baking and hanging out with my friends. It’s whatever I want to do. Since I don’t have set hours in an office, I need to make sure I’m not always hustling and have time to relax.

Nightime

I start my bedtime routine around 9:00. I have a pretty strict evening routine. I shut down my computer, tidy my house, layout my breakfast for the morning, and brush my teeth. I usually get to sleep around 10 or 11. I know that I need a lot of sleep so I try to get to bed as early as I can.

This is a general idea for my day. Every day is a little different and I can bend this day however I need to, would like, which is one of the greatest perks of being a virtual assistant. If becoming a virtual assistant is something you want to look into check out this article by Gina Horkey. If you have any questions, just leave a comment. I always respond.

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How to Organize Your Desk

How to Organize Your Desk

I had a desk in my bedroom growing up. It was cheap, faux wood with a single cupboard on the right side. It always had a ton of clutter on the top. In fact, I cannot remember a time that I actually sat at the desk and used it. Do you feel this way about your desk sometimes? It’s really easy to get too much stuff on your desk to the point that you can’t really use it. I have a quick and easy guide on how to conquer your desk, so you can use it to aid your productivity.

What Do You Use Your Desk For?

The work you do on your desk shows you how you should organize it. I use mine as a space for my computer, so most of my time at my desk is computer time. Therefore, I can have a lot on my desk, because I rarely need to use physical space for my work. I have a friend who is going to grad school, so she uses her desk for school work. She needs plenty of open space, so she has room for her textbooks and notebooks. Figure out what you use your desk for and make sure that space is favorable for that.

Take Off Everything That Doesn’t Belong

If you are anything like me, you tend to get stuff on your desk that just doesn’t belong. For me, it’s most often notebooks, but for you, it could be paper piles or art project from your kids. For now, take all of the things off your desk that isn’t related to your desk’s purpose. Either put them away where they go or set them aside for the moment. This should leave you with a clear desk. I only have my computer and its accessories (and a cat window seat, but that isn’t actually ON the desk, so it doesn’t count.)

Give Your Clutter A Home

No matter what clutter ends up on your desk there is always a way to give it a home. If you have a lot of pens on your desk, buy a pen holder and put it in a prominent spot (mine is a pot my mom’s friend made.) I struggled with notebook clutter, so I got an inbox for my desk. At the end of the day, I put all of my notebooks and other clutter in it and I clean it out once a week to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.  Whatever your clutter is, there is a way to manage it. Brainstorm a way that fits into your work style.

Set a Reminder

Now that you have your desk a little more organized. Set to-dos for the future to revisit it. Try a week, a month, and two months from now. At the three month mark, reevaluate your process and identify any systems that aren’t working. You know how you need to use your desk space! Make sure that you are keeping your desk in line with that process.

I hope your desk is easy to use now! I know I always feel better after I organize my desk. It makes it a lot easier for me to give my full attention to my work. How do you use your desk? How does organization help you to feel more productive? What tips do you have to keep an organized workspace?

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10 Things That Make Me Happy Right Now

10 Things That Make Me Happy Right Now

Sometimes, things get hard. We get lost in the things we have to do and how much time we have left to do them. It’s tough when things don’t go the way we expect. I invite you to put those things aside and let yourself have a quiet moment to think of ten things that make you happy right now. Here are the ten I came up with.

  1. My Cat Hazel
  2. Birds on my Feeder
  3. Hiking
  4. Crocheting
  5. Axel
  6. Reading Helpful Blogs
  7. Ed Sheeran Pandora Radio
  8. Podcasts (my favorite podcast is My Favorite Murder)
  9. Running
  10. Plants

Even this little activity can help you to remember that everything in life isn’t hard and not everything is life makes you mad either. Some things are just there to make you happy.

What is your list of ten?

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One Small Thing is Better Than Nothing

One Small Thing is Better Than Nothing

Sometimes I let things fall behind. I forget to clean out my email for weeks or I haven’t worked on my online course in months. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything, even things I think are fun. It’s so easy to get into a rut and so hard to find a way out. But I’ve found something that helps take the edge off of the times where doing anything is too much.

From Scratch Paper Studio

One small thing is better than nothing. It’s an amazingly simple concept: do something, no matter how small it is, even doing one thing is way better than doing nothing.

When my email gets overwhelming, I tell myself to delete the ones that are obviously spam. I do that one thing, that takes me less than five minutes, and the next time I open my email box it seems that much less daunting.

For my online class, I set a timer for five minutes in the morning and do what work I can in that time. It’s very slow going, but it is preferable to making no progress.

Your small steps might be smaller or larger than mine, but they still count for something. Look around and find your ruts. Do one small thing to make them that much easier.

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Organize Your Cleaning Schedule

Organize Your Cleaning Schedule

Ever since I was a kid I had trouble keeping up with cleaning. It resulted in a lot of fights with my parents and my first apartment got pretty gross. I like cleanliness a lot, but I have a serious problem with actually cleaning. Then I came up with a cleaning schedule and it changed everything! Suddenly I was actually keeping up with my cleaning tasks and I was able to keep my home up to the level I wanted it. If you feel the same way about cleaning, here are the steps I use to create my cleaning schedule.

Step One: Brainstorm

It’s time to brainstorm a list of all the cleaning activities you want to incorporate into your schedule. You can divide them in a number of ways including daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I tend to go to each room of my house and list all the different cleaning activities that need to be done, then I divide them up by the frequency they need to be done. You structure this in whatever way makes sense to you.

Step Two: Incorporate It Into Your Schedule

Set up a time that you are going to clean. I schedule a few weekly tasks each day and do them right after I’m done with work. Another way of doing this is doing all the tasks on one day, like on Sunday or the last weekend of the month is the weekend you clean.  It all depends on your schedule and season of life. But picking a certain time to do it will help you to remain accountable to yourself and after a few weeks it will seem like second nature to clean then. If you have kids, give them tasks or have them help with yours, as their age allows. It shows them that they are a part of the household. It was the way I learned to do laundry!

Step Three: Make Incentives

I know that a surefire way to make me do anything is to give myself a reason. This can be anything really, watching a movie you really like, or going out to dinner, or getting a sticker. Whatever works to motivate you. And if you have kids, this can be a good way to motivate them as well and it can teach them to be proud of their work! Once it becomes routine, you can stop using incentives (or keep going).

My Cleaning Schedule

In case you wanted an example, here is my current cleaning schedule.

Daily

Clean Dishes, Squeegee Shower Doors after Shower, Organize Rooms Before Bed (basically I walk around and straighten things up)

Weekly

Monday: Scoop Cat Box, Clean Shower, Clean Bathroom Mirror, Counter, Sink, and Toilet

Tuesday: Vacuum Living Room and Bedroom, Sweep and Mop Bathroom and Kitchen (I also go grocery shopping this day)

Wednesday: Scoop Cat Box, Clean Kitchen Counter, Stove, Sink, Microwave, and Fridge

Thursday: Laundry, Clean Shower Doors, Empty Garbages, Empty Recycling

Friday: Scoop Cat Box, Water Plants, Fill Birdseed, Sweep Balcony (I also do my banking on this day)

Saturday and Sunday: Off Days! I use that time to travel!

I keep my cleaning schedule as simple as I can and it keeps my house at the cleanliness level that I maintain best. Remember, this schedule is supposed to make your life easier, play with it until it feels like the right fit for you and your season in life. Please tell me what you think of this step-by-step and tell me what your schedule looks like! Happy cleaning!

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4 Reasons to Set Goals for Yourself

4 Reasons to Set Goals for Yourself

I have a lot of goals in my life. Some are related to being a virtual assistant others are related to this blog and still others are in my personal life. I am a very goal orientated person. Not everyone is this way, and for a while, I wasn’t either. Having dreams and plans doesn’t mean they are going to be accomplished; I realized that I needed goals in place to help me stay on the path to all I wanted to do. Not everyone has gotten to the point where they realize they need to make real and actionable goals. Here are a few reasons why you should.


Goals Give You Direction

I know that when I think of all the things I want to get done in my life I go into panic mode. There are so many things I would like to accomplish and simply not enough time to get them done, at least not all at once. Setting up specific and actionable goals for yourself fights this feeling of panic. You have a list of the goals you want to concentrate on and, hopefully, a plan to get them done.

Helps You Plan

By writing down the goals you want to concentrate on, you are creating a plan. It may be as simple as when you feel like working on one of them, you do. It could also be as complicated as writing very specific steps to accomplishing those goals. It doesn’t matter which end of this spectrum you fall closest to, it matters that you can see the end goal and you work towards it. It’s one of the great things about creating goals and accomplishing them.

Moves You to a Better Life

Goals often start out as dreams. They can be little or large, but they are something you want to accomplish to make your life better. This is a huge motivator and can push you to devote more time to the goals that are most important in this stage of your life.

Shows You What is Important

The best thing that goal setting can do is show you the most important things in your life. By sifting through all the things you want to be doing and picking just a few to work on at the moment, you are showing yourself what is truly a priority in your life. I know that is something that always makes me feel better.

Achieving a lot of the things you want in life is completely possible. I won’t lie and say that I don’t have days where I feel crushed by the huge number goals I have, but I do feel more grounded when I can look at my goals and know which ones I’m concentrating on. Take some time today to think of what’s attainable for you now and what you want to work towards.

 

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