Would you like to learn the secret to becoming insanely productive?
Productivity and organization go hand-in-hand. When we get busy or face times of stress, it’s easy to let things slide. And before you know it, your desk and habits are in disarray. “Time blocking” is a method that just might help you avoid those moments of chaos, and keep your mind and office clear.
Abby Lawson is a successful entrepreneur and creator of the blog Just A Girl And Her Blog, where she offers advice on how to keep a beautiful home, life and business. She earns over half a million dollars a year from this home-based business, so she knows a thing or two about staying productive. I recently interviewed Abby for the LEADx podcast to discuss the secrets behind her success. (The interview below has been edited lightly for space and clarity)
Kevin Kruse: Can you tell us about a time when you may have failed as a leader, and what you learned from it?
Lawson: Sure. Well I haven't thought of one instance where I did something wrong and everything blew up. I would say as far as starting my blog and kind of leading it. My husband and I both do it together now, but I was the one that kind of spearheaded it and started it. The thing that kind of held me back, and that kind of I would consider a failure, maybe looking back on it was that I just I let fear get in the way. And I didn't pursue the things that I wanted to pursue, and I wasn't brave enough, or have enough confidence myself when I first set out to start my blog and business–to really go for it. I think that probably delayed things by a lot. It all worked out fine now, but I'm still constantly learning daily to kind of try to push fear aside, and be bigger than the fear, and really go for it. I think both in leadership and in business that it can just be binding if you're willing to give into that.
Kruse: One of your most popular blog posts is titled, “The simple technique that helps me be insanely productive every single day.” What is that technique?
Lawson: It's called, “Time blocking.” It's really simple. Basically, the way I do it is I write out my to-do list. I have a to-do list for our home, for my business, and kind of for our family, and things that I need to do for my kids and things like that. I write down all my tasks that I need to do in a day, and then once I have that list I schedule each of those tasks into a time slot on my calendar. I plan out exactly, like, “From 9 to 10, I'm going to check email. From 10 to 11, I'm going to answer comments on my blog,” or whatever it is that particular day. I plan out pretty much every minute of the day, what's going to be happening.
It rarely goes exactly how I have it planned, but what it does for me is it gives me kind of deadlines, and times during the day that I have to meet and be done with this certain task. It keeps me on task, and a lot less likely to go down the Facebook rabbit hole, or get distracted by something else because I know that if I take too much time on this task, it pushes the rest of my schedule back, and I won't complete everything that I set out to do that day.
Kruse: You mention that there was one little nighttime habit that you said was literally “Life changing.” What's that habit?
Lawson: Yeah, so instead of plugging in my phone right beside my bed, I started plugging it in across the room over night. That was life changing just because while I wasn't tempted to go on and surf right before bed, or right when I woke up. Also, I use the alarm on my phone. When my alarm went off, I was forced to get up immediately, and walk across the room to turn it off. I wasn't tempted to just like push snooze and roll over because I was already up on my feet, and already moving. It’s just that one little thing changed a lot for me.
Kruse: What's your advice about evening routines?
Lawson: In the evening for our family… after dinner, we try to straighten up the house. My husband actually does the dishes, yay for him. Then my boys and I work on straightening up the living room area, and kind of the common areas so that when we come down the next morning everything is all situated, and ready to go. Then we put the boys to bed. Then I usually finish off any last minute loose ends, whether that's business-wise or home-wise that I was doing, and then I make my time blocking to-do list for the next day, and plan out what my days are going to look like. Then I might read a little bit, plug that phone in across the room, and then head to bed.
Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to get at least one percent better every single day. What's something specific you want to challenge them to do today?
Lawson: I would just say to set some clear defined goals for yourself. I think so many times our productivity, and our motivation stems from goals that we have set, and how excited we are to go through our day, and to greet our day. If we don't have anything that we're shooting for, we just tend to go through the motions and be more lethargic. I would say if you haven't yet, either for the year, or even for your week, or for your day, set some clear goals for yourself that you're working toward.
That's kind of what I'm doing with time blocking: I'm setting goals for what I want to accomplish, and giving myself deadlines for those. I have found that when I do that, when I'm excited about what I'm working toward, and have those goals that I'm trying to reach, I'm a lot more productive and I feel a lot more motivated.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.