I've gotten asked quite a few times is how I manage to "do it all." The short answer is: I don't.
But I know that's not what you're really asking. I do manage to juggle a lot. I have a full-time job, a blog, podcast, and business. I create new content every day and I'm always working on new projects and products. I'm also married, have an amazing group of friends, and prioritize making time for myself. I sleep 8 hours a night, have a nourishing daily practice, and cook almost all of my food from scratch. This isn't to brag (although that's good too!), but just to say that I get it if my schedule seems impossible. Sometimes it feels impossible.
But you can do it too.
This year I made a conscious decision that I was going to stop talking about what I wanted and actually do it. No excuses. I was going to intentionally design my days and go balls-to-the-wall after my big dreams. And I now get more done in a day than I used to achieve in a month when it comes to my passion projects and goals.
This isn't magic. It takes hard work, dedication, and determination. But these aren't qualities I always possessed. I learned them. And doing so has massively influenced not only my productivity but also my confidence. I feel so much better about myself being living in alignment with my values and intentions.
Today I'm outlining the strategies and tools I use to juggle 15 projects at once while still having fun, so that you can use them to get more of what you want. Plus I've created a checklist that breaks this all down into easy to follow steps. You can download it at the end of this post.
First Off, I Understand Myself
There are a million strategies and so much conflicting information out there when it comes to goal setting, productivity, and forming habits.
The difficult truth is that there is no one-sized solution or this whole life thing would be a whole lot easier. We'd all know the formula to eat healthfully, work out daily, give up our vices, and make scads of money. But the fact is, what works for one person might not work for us.
That's why it's so important to know how you tick. Your personality will play a big role in terms of what works for you.
Gretchen Ruben has created a metric called The Four Tendencies that divides people into four categories based on our relationship to habits. Of course, none of us will ever fit perfectly into any box but I've found the information that this quiz provides to be extremely useful.
For example, I'm a questioner, which means that I'm working towards a goal or forming a new habit, I need to keep the reasons for doing it very clear in my mind. I need to understand why the strategies I'm using are useful in order to actually apply them.
There are many ways to get to know yourself a little bit better. I'm a big fan of journaling. Take The Four Tendencies quiz and then write about your results. What does this assessment mean for how you should tackle achieving your goals and creating new habits? Think back to a time when you were successful in achieving your goal. What factors helped lead to this success? What about a time when you were unsuccessful?
There are many other personality assessments that are useful for gaining information that will make us more productive and successful. I've included a list of my favourites in the resources list that's available at the end of this post.
I Schedule Everything
What doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. It's that simple.
I'm a big fan of lists. They're a great way for me to dump everything onto the page and see what needs to get done.
But lots of people skip the next step: figuring out how long each task will take and when they're going to complete them.
It might surprise you to learn that millionaires don't use to-do lists but this is precisely why. To-do lists don't account for time. They don't clearly distinguish between what's urgent and important. And they actually lead to stress because uncompleted task leads to intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts. A to-do list just becomes an ever-growing mountain of tasks without a clear plan of how to complete them.
This is why I LOVE my Passion Planner (enter to win one here!) It gives me space to break down my goals into the tasks that need to be completed and then schedule them into my week so that I know when I'm going to get them done.
This also helps me stay on track. I do one short planning session per week and then I know what I need to do each day. I don't need to waste time figuring out what to do. I just get on with it.
I Bulk Tasks Together When Possible
Whenever we switch tasks, it takes (on average) 25 minutes for our brain to really get into it. That means that we're more productive when we batch tasks together and complete them in dedicated bursts, rather than repeating the same things each day.
For example, I spend 1-2 hours on Sunday prepping my breakfasts and lunches for the week. Getting this much cooking done in one go saves me time throughout the week and also means that I'm prepared with healthy foods in case things get busier than I expected.
I also use the same strategy for scheduling my social media. I used to piddle around every day looking for content to share and inevitably getting lost in a Twitter/blog hopping hole. By spending 30-60 minutes schedule posts for the entire week, I avoid this and can just spend short spurts of time on social media actually engaging with people every day. This process is made super simple using Buffer's Awesome Plan. I'ma big fan of their service. Similarly, there's Latergramme for editing and writing all of your Instagram posts, and then you'll get a reminder when it's time to click the button and send one out into the world.
This doesn't work for me for every task. For example, I need space to reflect and ruminate on writing projects. I tend to dedicate chunks of time to these every day but leave space in between to allow my ideas to percolate and to get some perspective on what I've written. But for the ones that it does, batching tasks saves a lot of time and is any easy way to be more efficient.
I Have Accountability Partners
Almost all personality types will benefit from having accountability systems in place to keep us on track.
For some of us, we need the external accountability because we struggle with meeting internal expectations.
For some of us, it's enough to set our own expectations but we need a strategy for keeping ourselves accountable, such as using the Seinfeld Method and marking an X on the calendar every day that you stick with it.
For others, it's helps to have someone to check in with, to bounce ideas off of, and to cheerlead us on daysthat we're struggling.
Whatever the reason, telling someone about your goals and asking them to check in with you about your progress is a proven way to help ensure your success.
I have accountability partners for both personal and business dreams. We check in with each other, often daily via email and Facebook, and we'll meet up regularly to discuss how things are going.
If you don't know anyone working on a similar dream as you, try looking in a Facebook group to it.. Or you can use an app like Pact, which will charge you a small fee every time you miss a work out you've scheduled for yourself.
I Educate Myself
For a long time, when it came to chasing my dreams, I was basically throwing spaghetti at the wall. I'd try anything I could in hopes that something would stick.
Of course this wasted a lot of time. I was investing myself in strategies that weren't working and I was spending a lot of time researching tactics.
The solution was to take courses that would show me the proven steps I could take that would actually work.
When it comes to my business, the single best investment I've made was in Your First 1K. It laid out exactly what I needed to do in order to grow my audience and start making money from my business. It's taken a lot of work to actually implement all of the information but it told me exactly what I needed to do and in what order, so that I could stop guessing and start getting results.
The key is to find one educationaltool - whether it's a book, or course, or blog post. Fully absorb and implement that information before you move on to another one, otherwise you're still just throwing spaghetti at the wall.
I Say No When I Need (/Want!) To
Part of getting to know yourself requires that you are clear on what you want your life to look like and what your priorities are.
For example, my girl gang is incredibly important to me. They inspire me, push me forward, and fill me up. But I also know that when I have too many social commitments I feel frazzled. I prioritize seeing my girls once or twice a week but I don't usually take on more social commitments than that. I know that when I do, I feel pressed for time, dragged away from my passion projects, and I won't be the best company. I still check in with my friends on the daily, but I'm definitely not going out every night of the week.
Sometimes this means turning down really alluring invites but I make no excuses for it. I simply say, "I don't have time" or "It's really important for me to have some me time that day."
I know that striking this balance is key to my happiness and productivity.
On the other hand, I have some friends who are always out at the best events, trying new restaurants, and generally gallivanting around town. Our priorities are no better or worse than the other's; we're just designing different lives based on what makes us happy. Remember what I said at the beginning: you can't do it all, at least not all of the time.
So get really clear on what you want and what you need to do to attain it. Then prioritize your time accordingly and say no when you need to.
If saying "no" makes you really uncomfortable, Alex Franzen wrote a great article abouthow to say "no" to everything ever. You can totally do it with grace and kindness!
I Have Places for Ongoing Notes & Brainstorming
Your best ideas are not necessarily going to come up when you sit down to work on a project. They're likely to jump out at you in the shower, when you're taking a walk, during a delicious glass of wine, or when you're doing something completely unrelated. You need to be prepared to capture them.
I love Evernote for this. I have a "notebook" for each of my projects and within each I have lists of ideas, to-do-lists, drafts of articles, resources, research, and anything else I need to keep track of.
Being able to quickly jot down ideas quickly, but they're also fairly well organized when I need to use them for a project.
I Develop Routines & Habits
We are the things that we do consistently. That's why I have routines and habits that support all of my projects.
My morning routine includes exercise, meditation, healthy food, writing, and goal setting. First thing I'm dedicating my time to the things that are important to me. I'm in the routine of writing on my lunch break and prepping my meals every weekend.
My husband and I celebrate "Taco Tuesday" every week. It's a silly way to set aside time for each other and do something we love: try new foods. We're on a mission to experiment with every kind of taco fusion we can dream up and it's a fun part of our week.
Habits and routines remove the choice. Instead of deciding to exercise, write, or take some time for yourself, you just do it.
I Plan & Reflect
I credit my weekly planning and reflection ritual as one of the things that has been most powerful in allowing me to get more done and move forward so much this year.
I've written a full article about this, but put simply: I sit down every week to reflect on what I've done to move closer to my goal, assess what I could have done better, identify what steps I can take the next week that will move me forward the most, and schedule each of them into my calendar.
If you want to download the exact questions I use to reflect and plan my week, you can download them here.
And again, a Passion Planner is the perfect tool for creating this ritual. It leads you through a weekly planning session and there are reflection questions at the end of each month (you can enter to win one here!)
I Take Care of Myself
In the hustle and bustle of managing a busy schedule, taking care of ourselves is often the first thing to slip. But when we do this, our well will run dry and we'll find we have nothing left to give.
There are a few foundational habits that will make everything else easier and leave you with the energy and mental clarity you need to be a dream chasing machine. Exercise, a healthy diet, drinking enough water, and getting a good night's sleep are all habits that will set you up for success.
But it's also important to spend some dedicated time on self-care each week. Make sure you actually schedule that shit in and check in with yourself to figure out what you need. Your personal projects and the people around you will all benefit from this.
Phew! I know this sounds like a lot of information and it might make managing your projects seem more overwhelming instead of less. I've broken it all down to a checklist of easy steps and combined it with a list of my favourite tools and resources for getting more done. Just enter your email address below and you'll be able to download it right away.
As simple as it sounds, most of this comes down to getting really clear on your priorities and then acting on them. It's definitely possible to design a life where you get more done while still feeling good. It's about working smarter, not harder and these strategies will help you do just that.
And don't forget, you have until 12:00am GMT on 30 August 2015 to enter to win The Daydream Revolution Passion Planner bundle valued at over $200!