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Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you’ve been busy all day long, but you don’t feel like you’ve been productive?

Does it seem like you have to-do lists that just seem like they’re always never-ending?

And, after you think about how you haven’t been that productive, do you then go into shame and blame?

Not fun, is it?

This article is written for all the stressed and overwhelmed women who want to be their most productive self.

There are 3 “P’s” to remember when it comes to being productive:

  1. Prioritize
  2. Prepare
  3. Produce

Prioritize

When I was in graduate school (twice – for 2 different degrees), I had to be productive! Or, I’d flunk out!

Part of the curriculum included a class on time management. While I had been a mom of 3 for over a decade by then and was fairly adept at being productive as a mom, learning how to balance school would require new skills, as does working, fitting in friends and family, and so much more.

For a woman in particular, life is a balancing act that requires you to look carefully at what needs to be prioritized on any given day- or hour!

The time management course taught us to prioritize according to the colors of a stoplight.

Red – this color meant it was last on the list and was not a priority. It could wait.

Yellow – this color meant it was somewhat important but it could wait for other, more important tasks that were higher up the priority list.

Green – this is HIGH PRIORITY! This green color signifies go, go, go…! And this was a priority for the day.

What this course asked you to do is write a list of tasks for that day, either the night before or that morning before you started your day. Then go through the list and color-code the tasks according to red, yellow, or green.

Have no more than 3 green tasks in a day (so you can keep your sanity).

If you finished your green tasks, you can move on to yellow. And so on.

Prepare

You know what tasks you need to work and focus on first. Now, you need a plan and you need the items that will help you complete the task.

Let’s say you have to work on your taxes. That is a high priority task. You’ll need a plan to attack it (like gathering all your receipts and forms) and you’ll need all the items to complete the task. For example, forms, login information for specific websites, certain files, etc.

What do you need to complete this task?

What if you can’t complete the task all in one sitting? You put a time limit on it (for example, you’ll work on it for 2 hours, then move on to the next task), and you’ll put it on your list for tomorrow.

By the way, “prepare” can also mean the environment you’re in when you’re doing the task. Put on some nice music, get rid of distractions (silence your phone), light a candle- whatever you can think of to make the task more pleasant for yourself.

Produce

Produce is another way of saying “do it.” Take the action and get the task done.

You may want to consider when you’ll do certain tasks. Some people may want to do their “mind/brain work” in the morning where their mind is a lot more sharp and more focused.

So, if you want to be more productive, remember the 3 P’s: Prioritize, Prepare, and Produce.

Once you get into this habit, you’ll find that you’ll feel so much better and get more done. Turns out research has proven that checking things off a to-do list gives you a hit of feel-good endorphins. It feels good to check things off! Especially if they are things on your list you’ve been putting off, but are really priorities!

I had a client who put “donate clothes items in foyer” as one of her top priorities. Her donations, 2 giant trash bags, had been lurking on her mind for a few months. It was easy to ignore, but it still bothered her every time she went in and out of her home. When we went over her list, she put it as her 3rd highest task of the day. The following session with her, I could tell immediately she felt good about getting this seemingly small and insignificant task done. It frees up your brain for other tasks now, and you feel great about checking this off your list!

Another piece of advice: focus on one task at a time. Give your highest priorities your highest focus. You’ll do a better job and you’ll be way more productive.

And lastly, take breaks. Our brains aren’t meant to focus for long stretches of time. I like to go for 50-minutes at a time, then take a 10-minute break or so.

As the owner to 2 companies, the Executive Director of a non-profit, and busy wife and mother, I know all about being productive. But, sometimes I get out of my groove and I have days where it’s just like “Where did the time go? What the heck did I get done all day?”

Ever have one of those?

What helps you to be more productive? What helps you to NOT be productive? Leave a comment below.