For over a year now, I’ve kept a daily planner on my desk. There it sat, in all its beautiful unopened glory. Blank pages staring back at me. Waiting for me to get my act together.
Ironically, my ongoing excuse—however legitimate it may have been—was that I didn’t have time to open the planner and make my life more efficient. I was too busy running around like a headless chicken to stop and make sense of it all.
I was chasing a toddler and infant, running errands, cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning the house, volunteering at church, and doing freelance work. I was a multitasking maven. And I was failing.
Generally speaking, multitasking is considered a good thing, right? In some cases, yes. But in my case, it was a big fat no. I was prioritizing quantity (task accomplishment) over quality time. My attention was divided. My focus was misplaced.
And it was my 3-year-old daughter that called me out on it all.
“Mommy, put your phone down and come here and play.”
Ouch. The text could wait. The birthday wishes on Facebook could wait. The grocery list could wait. My daughter wanted 100 percent of my attention—and she deserved to get it.
When I finally cracked open my planner, my life began to be gloriously more efficient and fulfilling. I may not have been accomplishing as many things as before, but I was being more intentional and focused with my time—giving each task 100 percent of my focus.
Before, when I thought I was being super productive, I was really only giving half of my attention to the actual task at hand. The other half of me was being reactionary to things—such as texting on my phone, cleaning up around the house, and so forth.
All of that misplaced, erratic energy was actually draining me and leaving me unfulfilled. My so-called productivity was sucking the life out of me—and others.
But here’s the beauty, my friends. When you start to harness your energy and ignore the distractions instead of reacting to them, you begin to have a “stop and smell the roses” approach to life that leads to greater peace and fulfillment. When you assign value to each task or moment, you can actually…wait for it…enjoy the moment AND be productive.
I know. Maybe I’m the only one late to the party on this one. Perhaps you’ve already had this epiphany. Like the time I went shopping at Target with a family member—who shall remain unnamed—and as we park the car and get out, she stops and looks up at their famous red and white ringed logo and says, “Oh my gosh…I get it!”
“Get what?” I answered.
“It’s a bulls-eye. A target,” she replied.
All of sudden, the clouds parted, the angels sang, the sun beamed down, and she could finally see what perhaps was obvious to everyone else long before. Target, using a target, or bulls-eye logo, to reinforce their name.
This is my Target moment. This is me finally figuring out after…eh hem…thirty-ish years or so…that life is about being present and in the moment.
The challenge is not to do more necessarily, but to do things with purpose, intentionality and your full focus.
So here are five guidelines I’ve started living by that I believe will help bring more purpose, productivity and positivity into your daily routine. Keep in mind these are just guidelines—not hard and fast rules. Crisis happens. Emergencies come up. Mothers of young tots understand that sometimes your focus will be divided by necessity. That’s ok. Strive to be focused, but give grace to yourself when it is needed.
Don’t multitask—monotask. Do one thing at a time until it’s completed or until your allotted time for said task is over. Then move on to the next.
Limit your daily priorities. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t try and accomplish more than is realistic—you’ll only end up frustrated.
When in doubt, choose people over projects. Projects and work—as my former boss used to say—will ALWAYS be there. Relationships matter, so make the most of them.
Put the phone down. If you’re spending quality time with others, then give them quality time. Don’t allow social media, texting, and the like to hijack your focus away from others.
Rest. Make sure you give yourself time to relax and have some quiet moments of reflection. If possible, go to bed early. Rest is key to restoring your mind and body and giving you energy to tackle the day.
I don’t know about you, but I’m often guilty of making my life a lot more complicated—and chaotic—that it needs to be. Thankfully, I have a husband, family, and great friends who help bring balance when and where it is needed most.
If that’s you too, then get your tribe and community on board to help—and let’s begin to live life in a way that brings fulfillment and joy to both you and others.
When I finally sat down with my daughter to do one of her favorite puzzles and gave her 100 percent of my time and attention, it was magical. I focused in on her joy, her lovely 3-year-old antics, and the precious beauty and fun of the moment. It was time well spent.
So go grab a planner, type your notes into your phone, or write your schedule and tasks down using pen and paper. Whatever way works best for you, do it. Life is short. Time is valuable. Let’s make the most of it!
You can do this.