Having trouble checking off your to-do list this summer? Try these [three] tips to be more productive. There are a lot of things to love about summer — backyard barbecues, trips to the lake, family vacations. Summer seems to be non-stop. Which is awesome. Except when you’re trying to work!
How can we get our to-do list checked off with all the summer distractions?
1. Figure out your spaces.
We can’t work unless we have a time and a place to do it in. For many of us, our spaces change during the summer. This is especially true if you have kids who are normally in school. Even if you don’t have kids in school, though, the summer still provides endless distractions and changes in our schedules. And when our routines change, it can take a while to adjust if we are not intentional about creating new routines.
If you’re struggling to find time to work, you might need to sit down and look at your calendar and figure out when and where you can create space in your schedule for creative work.
Start by looking for regular intervals of time. If you have consistent days and times when you can work, this makes it easier to build summer work habits, which will help you get more done in less time. Are there times during the week when the kids are out of the house? Or napping? Are there activities you were involved in during the spring that are off during the summer? If you don’t have enough time currently available, you might need to think of ways to give (or buy or barter) yourself more time.
2. Give yourself the power of small wins on your to-do list.
Don’t just look for big consistent chunks of available time. Check your calendar at the beginning of every week to see what small spaces you might have available.
Then, give yourself the power of small wins by breaking your project into small chunks that you can complete in your small spaces.
Having a big project can sometimes be frustrating. If your only goal is “get the whole thing done,” you probably won’t feel much of a sense of accomplishment until the whole thing is done. And if you’re working for weeks at a time without feeling a sense of marked accomplishment, this can be demoralizing.
But if you break up your project into smaller sub-goals, you can more easily measure your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment each time you complete a small goal. And feeling a sense of accomplishment every day helps keep us motivated to keep going.
Try breaking up your larger projects by asking yourself, ‘What can I get done during my available block of time?’ Here’s how I’m doing this in my current block of time: Right now my toddler is taking a nap and my -year-old is playing at a friend’s house. That gives me about an hour to work (hopefully). I know that this isn’t enough time for me to come up with an idea, write a draft, edit, find a photo, format, and publish. So, publishing my post is not my goal.
However, just because I can’t complete my entire goal now doesn’t mean I can’t have a sub-goal to aim for during this block of time. My goal during the next hour is just to sort out my ideas and write a rough draft. It’ll be messy and have typos, but that’s okay because my goal is not to have a perfect post; my goal is to have a draft of the ideas for my post. When I get another chunk of time, I’ll edit it, find a photo, and format and publish it. Those will be my sub-goals then. Which means that I don’t need to worry about them now.
3. Schedule your priorities; don’t prioritize your schedule.
We want to give ourselves the power of small wins, but we also want to be mindful of what those wins are. There are a lot of unimportant things you could get done in an hour. The goal isn’t just to get stuff done. The goal is to make measurable progress on what’s important to you. Don’t just ask yourself “What can I get done in an hour?” Ask, “What can I get done on my project in an hour?”
Having small goals can help us stay on task. Small goals seem less daunting and more doable than large goals, so we are less likely to procrastinate. It’s easy to get distracted by little, unimportant things that we could put on our list just to feel good by checking them off, so this requires a little bit of planning. Think about what your larger meaningful goals are and then break them down into smaller chunks. Then do those smaller chunks in the little blocks of time you have available.
If you really want to be more productive, set a timer and don’t let yourself do anything except work on your small goal until the timer goes off. This is especially important when we have little blocks of time. If you’re not mindful, you can end up wasting your whole chunk of work time checking email and Facebook. (Don’t ask how I know.)
The Benefit of Small Wins During the Summer
One big benefit of small wins during the summer is that it can help you switch gears more easily because it gives you a sense of completion. That sense of completion can help you move on to the next thing.
I’ve almost completed my small goal of finishing this draft. This means that once my little one wakes up from his nap, I’ll be able to focus attention on my kids because I won’t feel like I have unfinished work hanging over my head. My small work-win can lead to a big win for my kids!
By giving yourself the power of small wins, you can get done what you want to get done without letting work take over your summer or letting your summer take over your work.
How about you?
What are your goals for the summer? How can you find space to work? How can you break up your larger goal into smaller sub-goals?