I wrote this note about productivity for my email list a few months ago, at the beginning of the summer. At that point things were fairly calm in my work/travel life but about to get crazy with kid stuff, family trips, and company coming to visit. Now we are through most of that, but staring down the barrel of the beginning of the school year and everything associated with that, plus I have no less than six domestic and two international trips in the next 3.5 months.
I am having major anxiety about the amount of stuff that has to get done before December.
Does it feel like as business travelers we are constantly rushing to get everything done before we leave? After packing, last minute meetings, trying to prep those at home for my absence, and the guilt I feel about leaving, a little sense of relief always trickles in as I drive away toward the airport. Whatever’s done is done, and now I can focus on one thing, my trip, versus all the things.
Alas, all the things are still there when I get home.
My favorite business coach Rachel Rodgers recently focused one of her Million Dollar Badass podcasts on productivity and getting things done. There were SO many nuggets in there, and if you struggle with finding time for everything between trips I highly recommend you take a listen. Yes, her podcast is targeted at entrepreneurs, but business travelers are also crazy busy and so many of her suggestions are applicable to us.
The big takeaways to increase your productivity: say no, prioritize, and get help.
In society we feel pressure as women to do everything, and be the best at it. Perfect mom? Perfect employee? Perfect homemaker? Perfect wife? Perfect sister/friend/committee member? Yep. I feel pressure and those are only some of the many hats I wear. My instinct is to say yes, I would love to do XYZ thing, and therefore for most of my life I’ve been SO BUSY. After a panic attack from overwhelm a few years ago I knew something had to change.
It took time and a lot of retraining my brain, but I went from saying yes without a second thought to saying, “Let me think about it.” That doesn’t sound like a big change but to me it was ENORMOUS. It gave me enough time to think: Do I really want to do this? Do I really have time? What am I willing to sacrifice? Because at this point there isn’t enough time for everything, so adding one thing would mean sacrificing time with my kids, time with friends, time with my husband, maybe sleep (!!)….
Some of the things that I prioritize are time with my kids, going to school events, dropping my kids off at school most mornings, an hour with my husband to unwind at the end of the day, at least six hours of sleep every night, opportunities to help women develop themselves, and of course my job and business.
Here are some of the things I’ve said no to, or have sacrificed (for the time being!): serving on most committees, always sending lunch from home for my kids, knitting (sob), basically anything creative, getting my hair done every few months, daily yoga, complicated meals, doing some of the cosmetic updates to our house (for now!), seeing my friends weekly, and singing in choir.
Each of these things is something I enjoy doing and miss, but during this time of my life with small kids, a very busy job, and frequent travel, I’ve got to drop a few balls intentionally or else they will all fall.
Being productive doesn’t mean doing everything. It means doing the most important things.
And you know what, you don’t have to do every darn thing yourself! We have a housekeeper that comes every few weeks to deep clean and help with laundry. Sometimes that laundry doesn’t get put up after she leaves but a least it’s clean and folded. We get things delivered by Amazon all the time. Could we go to the store and buy those things? Probably, but we need the time. We also frequently get our groceries delivered or do curbside pickup.
Speaking of food… Rachel Rodgers will have Hello Fresh kits delivered and her nanny will cook them. That’s not quite in our budget, but we do a lot of super easy, low-prep crock pot meals. The kids buy lunch at school a lot of the time. I have friends who love to create adorable bento-box lunches for their kids every day complete with cookie cutters and adorable designs. I really enjoy looking at those on Pinterest but don’t have time to make them right now.
In the past during busy times my parents have paid people, typically college students, to run errands for them–dry cleaning, oil changes for their car, etc. Plenty of working people go beyond that and have a personal assistant for a few hours a week. I’m hoping next year I can do that–we’ll see!
All this being said, sometimes things are crazy and it’s all I can do to hang for dear life. At that point, as long everybody is clothed, fed, and (mostly) clean I feel like I’m doing okay.
Readers, what are your productivity secrets? How do you get everything done?
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