Do you ever look at your mile-long to-do list and feel down when you realize you can’t possibly check everything off today?
You wonder, “How can I move things around so that I can do everything?” and you become more frustrated when a task you thought would only take a couple of hours takes twice as long.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Sabine Gedeon on her podcast, She Leads Now, to talk about strategies for productivity and crushing your to-do lists on Ep. 039: The Art of Time Management and Productivity.
Let’s jump into our discussion!
Time Management vs. Productivity
Time management and productivity are used interchangeably, but they are different. They work well together, but you can’t have productivity without time management.
Time management is making intentional decisions about how you will spend your time. It is the act of allocating your time to different activities.
Productivity is the act of producing – whether it’s blog posts, reports, or whatever. Productivity means cranking things out.
Time management is about HOW you will use your time, whereas productivity is about using that time efficiently.
Strategies for Productivity
If you want to feel accomplished at the end of the day, there are a few strategies you can use.
1. 2 To-Do Lists
First, have at least 2 to-do lists. The first is your Primary List (or your master list, your big list, etc.) and it’s your bank of all the things in your head that you know you need to do at some point.
The second list is your Today List. These are just the things you’re planning to do today.
This gives you the opportunity to do two things:
- You get to separate out those high-priority tasks – the things that must be done today – from everything else. When we see all of the other things, our brain thinks we have to do ALL of the items on the list. It’s difficult to visually prioritize which items need to be done first when you are looking at a huge swamp of to-dos.
- When you have a Today List, you’re able to just focus on those items that need to be done today – whether they’re deadline-oriented, scheduled, or it’s a self-care habit you need to carve out time to do (like working on your vision!)
2. Time Blocking
Then, when you need to actually DO the things on our Today List, that’s where time blocking comes in.
THIS is where you pull out your calendar and look at the meetings and obligations you already planned. You find the open spots that are on your calendar and decide which tasks on your Today List you can do during those open times.
So, for instance, let’s say I have 11 AM – 3 PM open on my calendar. I know I have to edit a podcast episode and that’ll take about an hour. I’ll schedule a hour-long editing block on my calendar – like a meeting with myself.
Creating these time blocks on your calendar will give you a realistic picture of what you can actually accomplish… because if you can’t make the things on your to-do list fit in your calendar or planner, they’re definitely not going to fit into your life.
You must time block with the planning fallacy in mind, which states that we are terrible at estimating how much time things take.
So if you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’m just not good at knowing how much time things will take,” then friend, you’re not alone – it’s all of us!
But when you KNOW the planning fallacy is a thing, you can combat it by giving yourself just a little more time. So if you think it’ll take you an hour to edit that podcast episode, you might want to tack on 15 more minutes.
This might mean shuffling your priorities or putting some things on your Today List back onto your Primary List. That way, your Today List is realistic.
Since the She Leads Now podcast is for women in leadership, we couldn’t leave without discussing leadership philosophy!
I believe that leadership is incredibly personal to you and your personality. We are all so different and unique, and our skills and strengths should be honored.
Get to know yourself, and play up to your strengths – don’t feel like you have to copy and paste someone else’s leadership style.
My first and top book recommendation for women in leadership is The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. This book changed my life and opened my eyes to the concept of having ownership of your time and life. It helped me see that prioritizing your time adds up little by little to allow you to live your vision and create a life without regrets… which is what we all want!