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I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask. I was convinced that the more I juggled at once, the more I would get done. I’d constantly flip flop between task.

On the surface, I looked productive — but it was all a facade. At the end of the day I felt tired, but I couldn’t seem to make a dent in my big projects.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m now a productivity machine! I’m whipping through my to-do list at lightening speed. My workdays feel more focused and relaxed.The shift has been mind blowing.

This represents a major paradigm shift for me — relaxed productivity! I always equated productivity with stress.

Want to know how to reach this state of productivity nirvana? They key to productivity success is PLANNING, PRIORITIZING, TIME BLOCKING, FOCUSING and REVIEWING.

Time blocking is a way of organizing your workday into dedicated chunks.

Here’s how the system works…

PLANNING

Make a 3 Month Plan

This is the part that takes the most work. Sit down and map out the major tasks you want to accomplish during the next 3 months. Don’t worry about the fine details to start. Once you have this list, put them in order of importance. This is your big picture list.

Take each major task and break it down into manageable steps.

PRIORITIZING

Plan Your Week

At the beginning of each week, revisit your big picture list and decide on the tasks you will complete during the week. These tasks should move you towards your goals. I map them out like this.

3-5 Super important tasks – these are things I absolutely must finish during the week.
3-5 Kinda important tasks – these are the things that I would love to get done, but I won’t die if they get pushed to next week.
3-5 Bonus tasks – These are things that would be icing on the cake, but not a major priority.

TIME BLOCKING

Time Block Your Day

Now, you are going to do the same breakdown on a daily level. Make a list of 5 tasks you will tackle during the day. You should aim to break your tasks down into chunks that can be completed in 2.5 hours or less. It should look something like this…

1 – Super important task
2-3 – Kinda important tasks
4-5 – Bonus tasks

Work on Your Tasks in Order

Start with your number 1 task and don’t move on to the second task until you are finished. Work your way through the list systematically. Don’t stress out if you don’t make it all the way through the list. If you can get through the first 3 tasks, you are golden. The rest is just gravy.

Working in this way may seem counter-intuitive. You may feel like you are doing less, but you will likely accomplish more. It is amazing how much you can get done if you aren’t trying to juggle 5 things at once.

FOCUS

In order to make this system work, you have to train yourself to stay on task. This might be hard at first. You might have to take drastic measures, like putting your phone in a different room or locking yourself in a room away from distractions.

One of the best tools for training yourself to focus is the Pomodoro Technique. It sounds fancy, but it is really simple.

Here is how it works…

Set a Timer for 25 Minutes

While the timer is running, focus on one task. If you get distracted from the task, you have to reset the timer and start again. This will train you to stay on task for 25 minute blocks.

Take a 5 Minute Break

After 25 minutes, take a break. Get some water, stretch, get some tea…or check your instagram. Whatever feels like a break to you.

Take a 15 Minute Break, Periodically

It’s best to give yourself a longer break after a few work cycles. Your cycles should look like this…

  • 25 minutes work
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes work
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes work
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes work
  • 5 minute break
  • 25 minute break
  • 15 minutes break

The easiest way to get into the Pomodoro workflow is to use one of the FREE timer apps that are available online. They will alert you when it is time to take a break or to start work again. You don’t even have to think about it! I use this one for Apple.

REVIEWING

Productivity Planner

To stay on top of my productivity plan, I use a Productivity Planner. It combines time blocking and Pomodoros in one neat, organized notebook. You can use a regular old, notebook…but I like the convenience of having everything all laid out for me.

productivity-planner

It also has plenty of space for notes and weekly progress reviews. Love it!

Recording and reviewing your work week is an important step because it helps you plan the next week and monitor your progress.
There you have it, the secret to relaxed productivity — PLANNING, PRIORITIZING, TIME BLOCKING, FOCUSING and RECORDING.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this system has revolutionized my workdays. I’m no longer scrambling to get things done and my work doesn’t bleed over into the weekend. I even have time for yoga 3x a week. Aww yeah!

Give it a try!

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