Finding ways to be more productive is a goal I think we all have in our busy lives. Whether we have to get ourselves to work, the kids to school, or if we just have a long to~do list, trying to be more productive and checking items off our list is a high priority. How do we make better use of the 24 hours that we are all given? Actually, it’s not 24 ~ it’s 16 because I don’t know about you, but I need a good 8 hours of sleep or I’m just not on my A game. I have literally been typing on the computer with my head bobbing up and down and my eyes fluttering. That doesn’t make for stellar posting content or positive productivity!
As an empty nester who works from home on this blog, my time is my own, sort of. I have volunteer hours, meetings, tennis drills and soon league will start, errands and shopping in addition to the hours that I put in working from home. I still want (and need) to complete daily and weekly tasks. Meet a girlfriend for lunch. Friends will tell you they would like to be more productive like me. But I’ve had this dirty little secret. All summer, I’ve felt I wasn’t getting as much done as usual. It seemed as if I were behind all the time, playing catch up. Getting dinner on the table seemed to be harder and later (By 7:00, Sweet Shark was getting hungry and asking when was I going to start dinner.) I couldn’t figure out what the problem was.
Then the morning 2 weeks ago when I woke up in my own bed after returning home from Haven Conference, I realized what had been sucking up my time and making me lose my usual productivity. I was so tempted to lay in bed (a long travel day with a delayed plane will do that to you) and then just follow my normal routine. But I was so excited about all the things that I learned at Haven and ready to make use of every ounce of new blogging information that I did 1 thing differently to change my routine. That was 2 weeks ago and I can’t tell you how much that 1 thing has helped me be more productive.
The 1 Easy Thing I Did to be More Productive
First let me share what my usual morning routine has been, with a caveat: I am not a morning person. I’m a night owl. I like to be in bed by 10:00, but then I like to read as long as I can stay awake. I try for lights out between 10:30 and 11:00. I usually wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. For years, I’ve had a daily devotional that I spend 10 minutes on, then I might read my book for another 15 minutes. And I was up, dressed, bed made, and ready to go by 7:45, 8 at the latest. A bowl of cereal, and if I didn’t have tennis drills or anything to get me out of the house, I went straight to my office.
But something changed this past spring. I started bringing my iPad to bed at night. And I would do a final search through Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook, and then check email one more time. When I was ready to read my book, it would already be 11:00 or 11:30, which meant I was turning out the lights at midnight. In the morning, I would do the same thing with my iPad. After an hour or 2 of being on the iPad, I’d get sleepy and close my eyes for awhile, and then open the iPad again. This sometimes went on until 10 or 11:00 (unless I had tennis or a meeting), and became my routine 4 or 5 days a week. Then I’d jump out of bed, get hurriedly dressed and start working on whatever needed to be done for a project or a blog post.
It didn’t dawn on me that after a few weeks I had established a new routine. I told myself that I was “just working” in bed, checking emails and social media. In early summer, I realized that I had not even read my devotional for 2 months. It was June and my bookmark was on April 2. I said a few “forgive me” prayers, but didn’t change my routine. It was as if my iPad had become an addiction. I went to bed with it and woke up with it. Even when we went almost 3 weeks straight with one or 2 grandkids visiting, I was on my iPad when they would come in our bedroom in the morning for a hug.
Then on July 15, my grandson and I flew to Atlanta. I was going to spend several days with my girls before Haven started on July 20th. So my normal routine was halted for 10 days. Back to the night I returned home. It was 11:00 PM by the time we got home from the airport. I was so tired all I did was wash my face, brush my teeth and fall into bed. The next morning, I woke up and, like a bad habit, reached for my iPad on the nightstand, but it wasn’t there. After a moment of panic, I realized it was still in my carry~on tote bag. Well, it was 7:00 so I got up, got dressed, unpacked my suitcase, had a bowl of cereal and then went into my office, where the tote bag sat where I had left it the nght before. I took it out of the bag and the battery was dead so I plugged it in, sat down at my desk and started working on my Mac. I read through all my notes from Haven. I organized all the business cards I had collected at Haven. I started writing working on a post for the next week. By 12:00, I couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished. I left the house, got a bite to eat, went to the grocery store and the cleaners, put in another couple of hours of work and at 5:00 left my office. By the time Sweet Shark got home around 6:o0, I had started dinner. To say that he was surprised is an understatement. We had an early dinner ~ for us ~ and watched a T.V. show. While Sweet Shark got ready for bed ~he’s the early to bed type ~ I went back in my office and worked for about an hour. Around 9:30, I turned the lights out. I was so tempted to pick up my iPad and take it back to the bedroom with me ~ but I didn’t.
I got ready for bed, read for about 15 minutes and turned out the lights. The next morning, with no iPad on the nightstand, I read my daily devotional, then my book, and was up and dressed and in my office by 8:00. Same routine that day and that night. Again, I was tempted to take the iPad to bed, but left it in my office. Another day with early tennis practice, so no time for any iPad in the morning. By the following Monday, almost a week after changing my routine, I consciously realized for the first time what the problem had been for the past 6 months. It was taking my iPad to bed and working on it at night and again first thing in the morning.
The iPad Addiction
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, the 1 thing I did to be more productive was not to bring the iPad in the bedroom with me at night. You may be wondering, don’t you have an iPhone? Yes, of course, but I can’t read it very well without my contacts or glasses and I’ve just never been one to work on my phone much. I will if I’m out of the house, but not when I’m at home. No, it was my iPad that I was addicted to. For 1 thing, I don’t need my contacts or glasses to read my iPad. I have a keyboard so I can type on it. I can schedule social media, write and return emails, sign up for things, shop, order, even write or edit posts if I have to. It was just too easy to open it up at night or in the morning and spend hours getting lost in it.
Changing 1 Bad Habit to be More Productive
Don’t get me wrong: I still love my iPad. It will still go with me when I travel. But, after 2 weeks of leaving it in the office at night, I realize how much better I’m sleeping, how much more alert I am during the day, how much more productive I am, and Sweet Shark is happy that he is eating dinner at 7 rather than 8 or 8:30. I feel like I’ve added 4 hours to my work day. And maybe best of all ~ I’m reading my daily devotionals again and feeling like I’m back in a better place with God. And I’m reading my books more.
So, if you are feeling not as productive as you want to be, step back and see if your habits have changed. Are you watching more TV than you used to? Texting more? Playing games on your phone? Whatever you find is a negative time drain for you, taking productivity away from what is important in your family, your health or your work, you just have to make a conscious effort to be more productive by changing your routine. I remember hearing that you have to do something 7 times before it becomes a habit. It’s been 2 weeks on my “iPad~free” routine. I think it’s going to stick.
You can do it. I did.
In case, you would like to be more productive, here’s some good reading material ~ just don’t read it in bed!
- 16 Habits of Highly Productive People ~ especially, heed #4 and #12
- 12 Habits of the Most Productive People ~ great article, #5 pertains to my productivity dilemma
- 8 Habits of Highly Productive People ~ focuses on the definition of productivity: “true productivity is the ability to create a lot of high impact work in a short span of time.”