On Sunday night, Marshall and I went to Boise for our weekly-ish date. We got tacos from Tin Roof Tacos (I almost said “We got Tin Roof Tacos,” but we bought the food, not the restaurant) and ate them in one of the parks beside the Boise River. This shouldn’t surprise me, I guess, but most of the time we talked about the upcoming semester (Marshall’s senior year of college!!) and how we are going to juggle the hectic schedules of work and school and marriage and social life and making sure we have enough money and maintain our house and yard. It’s SO much sometimes, and it honestly feels a little overwhelming as we look ahead.
It got me thinking though, as we compared routines– what exactly do I do to stay productive and make good use of my time? I thought of three main inspirations right off the top of my head that have been a huge help to me.
The Lazy Genius
You’re probably aware of her already, but Kendra Adachi truly is a genius. She breaks down problems and things that need done into steps that are manageable. She is a pro at giving permission to let seasons of life be what they are.
My favorite tip from her is her first principle, “Name what matters.” Instead of feeling trapped and overwhelmed by a huge vague to-do list or mental block around… say… the yard work, she encourages the practice of naming what thing matters most, out of all the things. For us, in our yard, it is mostly keeping the lawn mowed and edged, and the weeds sort of controlled. That is MUCH less overwhelming than just a general “Keep up with the yard work.” The habit of breaking things down into tiny priorities has been life changing for me, and I recommend her wholeheartedly.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Cal Newport is an expert on time-management in a noisy, busy world. He has written multiple books, including A World Without Email and Digital Minimalism. His book Deep Work, however, was the most life-changing for me.
The biggest thing I learned from reading Deep Work is the concept of time blocking. He dives into how much better our brains work when they are doing only one thing at a time, instead of bouncing from task to task. Because of the deep work principle, I section my day into concentrated tasks, instead of just generally “working.” I usually schedule times for each task, as well. I find I am MUCH more effective at working if I know that from 9-9:45 AM I am writing one blog post and that is all. It helps me turn my phone off and focus and actually crank things out instead of feeling restless and aimless and only picking at my work.
Evie McLeod’s List System
Evie and her business partner Lindsey dive deep into the whole story of her four list system in this episode of the Heart and Hustle Podcast, but the main thing Evie taught me is to keep a dump list. A dump list is simply a list of ALL the things that you need to do in any given period of time– every little task that is in your head. If you put everything on a big list where you can see all of it, it makes prioritizing and breaking your priorities down into days of the week much more achievable. Once again, it’s about avoiding that general horror of the unnamed “So much to do.”
Evie’s system actually is a very practical implementation of many of the concepts in Deep Work. Listen to her podcast to learn more about it!
Maybe it’s an exaggeration to say that these three methods have saved my life—but they’ve definitely saved me time, and often my mental health. I hope they can do the same for you.