The key to productivity at home

One of the reasons I create so many plans and processes for our home and family is so I can be productive. Productivity can have different meanings to people and I have changed my thoughts on what productivity means over the recent years.

For a long time, I thought productivity was just about how well I managed my time. I would work out the most efficient way to do things and do them that way, I would find short cuts or hacks and implement them at home. But what I learnt when I reached the point of burn out at the end of 2014 is that these type of time management tips only get you so far.

Productivity is much more than time management and I think it is best summed up by this diagram from the Oakland University in the US.


There are three key elements to productivity:

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Attention

When I reached burnout in 2014, it wasn’t caused purely by my time management, rather that I wasn’t managing my energy or attention well.

The key to productivity at home (or anywhere else!) is managing all three elements well so you fall somewhere in the intersection of these three areas. For example if you have the time and energy but not attention (that is you are lacking in focus) you are likely to be easily distracted and spend time on things that do not give you a return for the time invested.

If you have time and attention, you know what you are wanting to work on, but you are tired, what ever work you do is most likely going to take you twice as long or be of a lower quality.

Being aware of these three elements is essential for you to be able to analyse your productivity and work out what is missing. Only through this can you really achieve substantial gains in productivity.

Managing your attention

The first step I took in addressing my productivity was looking at the element of attention. I knew my focus was all over the place and had to work on this if I was going to improve the way I was feeling. And I had a significant driver for wanting to increase my productivity – I wanted to spend more time with my family when I was feeling calm and relaxed.

I have always set yearly goals thinking this would help with focus, but the problem was I was setting too many goals, fracturing my attention and making hard for myself to work out exactly where I should be spending my time.

So for the last couple of years I have set one single goal for my business and personal life and it has made a huge difference to my focus. I craft my goal into a statement and this statement becomes my guiding force for the year.

For 2016 it is to “Create space in my life for creativity and calm“. A single goal creates a decision making framework for me – when opportunities or invites come my way, I use my goal statement as a filter – will it allow me to create space in my life for creativity and calm? If the answer is no, then I answer no to that opportunity or invite.

This does mean that sometimes I say no to things I would have previously said yes to and things that in a perfect world I would love to do. The reality of family life is that you will never be able to do all the things you want to do. Having a single goal keeps me focused on what is most important to me and helps me harness my attention in the right direction.

Managing your energy

As mums it is very easy for us to put others needs before our own or to simply keep adding to our to do list and working until we have all the items ticked off. This can result in our energy stores being depleted and us running on empty. This tends happen because of one or more of the following:

  • Exercise – for many mums exercise is dropped to fit something else in. Done for a long enough period, it starts to have a detrimental impact on energy levels. For years research studies have shown that exercise gives you more energy to exert yourself physically and more recently it has also shown that exercise means more energy for your brain and helps increase productivity as well. To maintain our energy to undertake both the physical and mental work of looking after a family, we need to make exercise a priority. And it doesn’t mean hard core sessions; 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise three times has been studied to be enough.
  • Nutrition – it is hard to feel full of energy if we aren’t fuelled well. This is the reason why I take a few hours out each week to undertake some weekly food prep sessions for my lunches for the next week. How many of us have reached 3pm in the afternoon to realise that we haven’t had lunch or have just quickly shoved down something to fend off the hunger but haven’t truly refuelled? We need to eat well to ensure we have the energy to look after ourselves and our family the way we want to.
  • Balance – this had been an area that I had struggled with for many years. Balance is about getting enough sleep and time to relax and recharge. To fit everything in with my scattered focus of previous years, I would sacrifice sleep, something I know many other mums do too. What I have learnt from prioritising sleep over the last couple of years is that it of course gives me more energy, but more importantly I can complete tasks much quicker and procrastinate significantly less when I am not tired – meaning I am more productive. Sacrificing sleep is a false trade off that eventually catches up on you.

Managing your time

I am always working on ways to manage my time better modifying my existing plans and creating new plans to make sure that I use my energy and attention most effectively. My over arching plan for doing this is my weekly schedule. Prior to taking a planned approach at how I used my time across the week, I could waste so much time thinking about what to do and procrastinating over what task to start with.

My weekly schedule takes the decision making out of it and I can just get to work around the house. I know for example, that a number of mornings a week, I need to make dinner so it is ready when we come in late from after school activities that night. I know some days I must do a load of washing so that everyone will have clean uniforms for school. I know on the weekend I do a food prep session so the kids and I have nutritious lunches for the week.

Our brains love routine and the more we do these tasks at the same time, they become embedded as positive habits in our week, which make our life easier.

Managing my time, energy and attention is always a work in progress. There are still times when I can start to feel fatigued or disorganised, but instead of just trying to push through it, I will stop and look and see which element is out of whack, then work on addresses it. Knowledge is powerful and understanding these three elements are the key to productivity at home, will give you a much greater chance of being more productive and having more time to enjoy family life.

Want to increase your productivity at home, so you can spend more time with the family?

The changes I have made to the way I approach family life over the last two years has had a huge impact on my happiness and the harmony of our family life.  So much so that I wanted a way to collate not only my key recent learnings but also my project management experience from my work life and my love of productivity to share with other mums, so they can receive the benefit of taking a planned approach to family life.

The result is Planned & Present! A seven week e-course to take you from feeling our of control and overwhelmed to feeling planned and present. It is a step-by-step guide on how to organise the chaos of family life while still leaving space to enjoy it.

With the drive of wanting to be organised it can be easy to forget why we want to be organised – to be able to spend more time enjoying our family. The course teaches you how to establish plans and processes for those repetitive tasks of family life, allowing you to be more effective and efficient with your time, so you can be more present with your family.

Planned and Present includes seven in-depth lessons, for you to work through. And with lifetime access to the course, it’s okay if you fall behind.

To find out more about Planned & Present and sign up for the course head here – Planned & Present.