I often get asked how do I manage to get so many things done. I must admit, I find it challenging to juggle my roles as a wife, mother of five, a daughter, and as a boss running multiple businesses. At times, carrying these responsibilities can be overwhelming but the rewards have always been wonderful.
Of course, I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day so I can get more things done. Time, in a practical sense, is finite and is not something we can control. We can, however, control our actions and approach to productivity. Paying close attention to how I spend my time is vital to getting more things done.
Here’s how I do it. Some of these tips may work for you, some may not. They do wonders for me and I hope they can be beneficial to you, too.
1. Wake up early and exercise in the morning
Growing up, my parents were very strict about waking up early in the morning. My late mother woke up as early as 4 am every day to prepare breakfast for the whole family and got the kids ready for school. Without much help, she got a lot of things done by getting the most out of her mornings, something I have been modelling after my whole life. Early risers have the advantage of getting the most important things done first and they don’t get bogged down with the stress and anxiety of work piling up as the day go by. That’s why you’ll notice they are generally happier and more optimistic about things.
My morning yoga starts at 6:30 am. My strength exercises start early, too. Research has shown that when you exercise, your brain releases dopamine – the happiness chemical that regulates your mood. Besides, exercising increases your blood flow and energises your body. When your mood is on track and your body is full of energy, you can focus on the problems of the day with a sharp mind.
2. Use a to-do list and complete the most difficult tasks first
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so they say. For me, I go back to basics, I just list down things that I need to do. The to-do list can be for a particular project and delegated to my team or a list of things I need to get done for the day or the week. I’ve worked with so many bright minds but some of them often unnecessarily complicate things because they are cognitively very messy. I prefer the old-fashioned way of listing things down and I try to break the work into micro tasks so that they are more manageable. From daily chores to the bigger goals and my most ambitious ideas, I note them all down.
The most difficult and least enjoyable tasks always feel the heaviest on my head and shoulders. So, what I do is get those dreaded tasks out of the way first. Once I feel lighter, I can be more productive because things get easier for the rest of the day and I can relax my mind a bit more.
3. Clear your space and set up systems
Out of sight, out of mind. To have the clarity of mind, I need clean and uncluttered spaces. Just today alone I took 15 minutes to clear off my desk and declutter my workspace, and sometimes, things around the whole office. When you want to focus at work, you need to avoid distractions. The bits and bobs left cluttering up the desk or the shelf can be a source of distraction, which will lead to procrastination. My rule is, bin what you don’t need and file what is important.
It is impossible to be able to do what I do without proper systems. I am not just talking about having domestic helpers and personal assistants and chauffeurs. Systems can also be the tools, apps, paperwork and processes that require training and quite a bit of handholding at first. When you are starting a new system or onboarding someone new in an existing system, it can feel like a lot of work and you might ask why am I paying someone if I have to handhold that person every step of the way. With proper guidance and commitment to maintaining and improving the system, you will have better control of what you do and prioritise what is the most important things at the time.
4. Focus on one thing at a time and eliminate unnecessary meetings
I am a big fan of finishing one thing before moving to the next project. I multitask only after the work path is properly set up for me and I can rely on the systems around me to deliver what I need. Though sometimes, the different work paths cross and become in conflict with each other. To keep things simple and in focus, I usually divide my day into morning and afternoon. For example, morning for attending to requests from Kabinet Privé international clients that came in the night before, and afternoon for Rasa Rosz product development, marketing planning and sales meetings. Many organisational behaviour experts that I follow advise against multitasking, which can take a toll on your productivity. You can wear many different hats, but one at a time.
Face-to-face communications are vital in the workplace but some organisations put too much emphasis on meetings. I find endlessly long meetings that do not resolve problems and translate ideas into actions truly a waste of time. I only organise meetings when necessary and if what I plan to discuss cannot be done by email or by phone. For most meetings, I allocate 30 minutes if possible but most of the times they overrun. Most of my meetings are often back to back and I only do work meetings during the day.
5. Make 60-second decisions
Fast and furious, that’s how I would describe my decision-making style. Perhaps, more fast than furious. If you want to get more done during your day so you can spend an uninterrupted night with your loved ones, you’ve got to work fast. Decision making can be one of the most time-consuming and energy-draining parts of your daily life. There are so many decisions I have to make from which brand of baby diapers, what type of milk for my kids, which grocery items to restock; to how to chart our business expansion overseas, what price to set for which product, which vendors to work with; to what is it for dinner tonight with my husband?
As a woman, I have so many decisions to make and most of them are not even for myself. So for me not to lose my mind getting defeated by indecision, I have to cut down the number of decisions I have to make and I do it fast. Most of the times, your intuition and subconscious already know the decision and you will likely arrive at the same decision if you spend 60 seconds or 60 minutes to make it.