How I Get Things Done

One question I get asked often is how do I do it? Namely have a full time job while also running this blog, my photography blog, commenting, taking the manual approach to Twitter, writing tons of guest posts all over the place, and working on extra-curricular projects. So I’d like to take this time to share with you how I do things.

But first, I want you to know that my system is not without its flaws. I get behind sometimes. So don’t look at this as a guide to productivity. It’s more like an inside look at what I do to get things done and keep my life somewhat balanced.

1. Get up early!

Probably the most important change I have made in the last month that has really increased my productivity by a ridiculous amount is getting up earlier every day. I used to get up, go to work, and then cram everything I had to do in the evenings, and once I started my photo site, that was no longer going to work.

Enter an awesome eBook by Steven Aitchison entitled How to Become an Advanced Early Riser (aff link). When he almost lost his job because he was routinely late due to oversleeping, he started training himself to wake up one hour earlier every day. Soon he was getting an extra four hours a day to get things done, just by getting up earlier.

While I haven’t gotten down to only getting five hours of sleep just yet, I am doing pretty good on somewhere between five to six hours of sleep, using the extra time for commenting and other blogging work I need to accomplish before my day job begins. It has made a HUGE difference!

2. Go with the creative flow.

Some would consider juggling multiple projects as a bad thing, but I like to look at it as having the freedom to do what I’m in the mood for when I’m in the mood to do it. So when I’m tired of writing about one topic, I can move onto another one. If I’m tired of writing, I can process some photos. And if I’m tired of being in front of the computer, I can go take some photos. All in all, having so many things going on is a great fit for my scanner personality!

3. Set early reminders in Google Calendar.

I haven’t been on top of this one lately, but I figured by writing about it, it would get me into the groove of actually doing it. Any time I have a new due date, whether it’s an article, guest post, advertising expiration, etc., I add it to my Google Calendar.

What I’ve found works for me is to set two reminders – one three days ahead of the due date, and then one day ahead of the due date. I’m making it a habit to look at my calendar on a daily basis, but if for whatever reason I don’t, I still have the email backup reminders.

4. Write and schedule posts ahead of time.

Whenever I’m in the mood to write, I just do it. This way, I have a little stockpile of posts that I can schedule for my site anytime I need them. I especially like to have my main site and photo posts for the week ready to go by Sunday evening, that way I can spend the week focusing on comments and social media, plus any guest posts that are coming up.

5. Get organized.

A big part of productivity is organization. I keep the blogs I want to comment on, for example, organized in Google Reader. It makes is easy to scan through my list to see who has new posts and who doesn’t.

I do my best to continually create new filters in Gmail to sort incoming emails into appropriate labels to keep my inbox as decluttered as possible. In fact, I love the new feature where you can set your labels to only show if there are unread items – this way I can see labels when there is something new to read in them, or hide them so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have somewhere around 300 labels to choose from.

6. Keep a “rewards” board.

As much as I like to write, I have to admit one of my goals is to earn some extra income for a bevy of items I have on my wishlist. But keeping the wishlist on Amazon isn’t so motivating if you don’t have it open on your computer all the time. That’s why I have all the items I want on my “Wanted” board near my desk, also known as a less creative version of a vision board. Whenever I get discouraged or demotivated, taking a look at that helps boost my spirits!

7. Don’t neglect your health.

No one should be glued to their computer 90% of their waking hours. I like to mix up my routine with some workouts and especially tennis – this way I don’t feel like I’m always working, working, working. Staying healthy is important – if you get too stressed or too worn out, your immunity goes down, and if you get sick, you’ll lose a LOT of productivity time.

8. Don’t neglect your loved ones.

As much as we’d like to think so sometimes, we’re not going to live forever. The Last Post is a reminder that you don’t want to live with regrets, and you don’t want to miss out on time with those you care about most. No amount of money or things in this world will make up for precious moments with your family, friends, or pets.

Your Guide to Productivity

So those are the things I do to keep motivated, productive, and somewhat organized while also keeping my life as balanced as possible. Now I’d like to hear your thoughts about how you keep up with everything, including blogging!





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Comments

  1. says

    Hey Kristi,

    Wonderful insight where you have honesty revealed your working pattern. I am pretty much just like you. If there were no Google calendar, labels on emails and reminder/to-do list addons on my browser, I could easily collapse.

    My productivity is at its peak when I go on a pre-planned day. Not just waking up and then plan what to do for the day – I plan the previous night and get my next day’s to-do list ready.

    I liked your last point very much and I am lagging on that. Recently I spend a lot of time before the computer and my loved ones already miss me, even though they don’t complain about it. I should make room for them too! Thanks for the nice reminder.

    Cheers,
    Jane.
    Jane just posted Top 5 ways of building effective backlinks for your blog

  2. says

    Whew, I really need things done like you do! I mean, time management is not my forte. I tried having a day to day calendar and a planner as well. But things always don’t go as planned. I think I have to rethink what kind of planning and time management I have to do to become a more productive person I want for my self.
    RonLeyba just posted Macy’s 4th Of July Fireworks 2011

    • says

      Time management really isn’t mine either Ron. A lot of this stuff I am just starting to implement in the last month or two really. Thought it might help others to share. :)

  3. says

    Well, kristi I loved your honesty & also your determination towards your job, blog & loved ones. I’m really amazed that you do all of the things & too run all of that smoothly with only 5 to 6 hours of sleep. What I heard that 8 hours sleep is essential for a normal person?

    I’m also doing job but can’t think of matching with you. Getting up early is essential to finish your incomplete work. I don’t use calendar because never written my to do list which I need to. Yes, creating labels is one of the best feature from gmail to organize our mail.

    After being tired you can move to photography which is the best way to change your mood but I’m not into photography & therefore looking to hook up into something.

    And yes, wanting you to know that I receive your post in my mail after 2 to 3 hours. Is is right? I think once you published it should automatically to be sent in our mail.

    Thanks for such wonderful post.
    hyderali just posted Super Sunday – Funny Videos

    • says

      There’s a study out somewhere that says that 8 hours of sleep might actually be bad for you Hyderali. To be honest, I feel more awake through the main part of the day now that I’m getting a little less, but I also had a lot of issues with insomnia so trying to get 8 hours was often very frustrating.

      As far as Feedburner, I have it setup to send every night between a certain time frame. Usually I like to pad that between when I hit live just so I can give it a final once over and fix any problems before it gets sent via email. :)

  4. says

    I’m the same way on waking up early — I reset about a year ago to waking up between 3.30 and 4.30 in the morning… not to increase productivity but actually after reading a book on sleep quality… the idea was that if you’re waking up feeling tired, try setting your clock 45 minutes earlier to see if you feel better… worked for me… all the way back to 3.30. Isn’t always possible but when I do it, I feel great and have a full day of work done while everyone around me are still scratching their tummies and blinking.

    • says

      Yeah, some days you have to give in and sleep a bit more Sean. I went to bed an hour and a half earlier than usual last night just because my body said hey, I need a little extra rest tonight. Feels fantastic today!

  5. says

    Hi kristi,

    I really inspired your post that you’ve done your job smoothly and clearly, I really want to do like what you had do..I’ve learned this passage to you: No amount of money or things in this world will make up for precious moments with your family and friends,..wow, that’s really true..thank you kristi.

  6. says

    Excellent tips on keeping and staying organized. I am a lot like you in that I manage many things all at once and need to keep a very detailed calendar to keep me on track. Not neglecting family, #8, is very important as well as not neglecting your health, #7. I get up early each day to catch up on my blogging, get my workout in and then start my day.
    Bodynsoil just posted Beginner Fitness- Your Questions Answered

    • says

      I should really move my workout to the start of my day, but there are so many things that are just mission critical in the AM hours, and the workout in the PM seems to suit the rest of my schedule.

  7. says

    I have to agree that organisation is the most important thing.
    Set a rough timetable for certain tasks,but be flexible.
    Remember to write those inspirational flashes down and save them for the day when struggling to write or be creative.
    Really like the getting up early tip too. I have to admit that i also get a load done before starting my ‘real’ job.

    • says

      I always try to be flexible in my routine Mark. That way if I don’t finish my “usual” list of things at one time, I’m not stressed about it – I know I can just rearrange a few other things to work it out later.

  8. says

    Ah, the old productivity strategy. Once upon a time, I was productive. =) Sometimes I wonder if I’m not going to have to wait a few years until I can work again and be happy with myself; I’m pretty much a workaholic and am happiest when I’m being productive. The intangible isn’t nearly as satisfying, however. Being able to work on what I choose to work on is a glorious luxury!

    Delena
    Delena Silverfox just posted epc Lisburn

  9. says

    It was interesting to read your Guide to Productivity. I do much of the same as you do to increase my productivity. I use feed-demon to organize my feeds, I use gmail filters, and I try to schedule posts.. I also have a yahoo pipe feed featuring 10 top blogs in one feed(including yours off cause)
    I think there is a lot more that can speed up the productivity, so it is a constant battle.. Sometimes spending a little time figuring out the best way to do thinks can save a lot of time in the long run.
    A real productivity boost to me can be a offshore job instead of a regular job.(I am considering a internal application right now..) If I start using offshore I can work 2 weeks on a platform and 4 weeks off..
    Bjorn just posted link building strategy using dofollow blogs

  10. says

    The items in my to-do-list aren’t arranged in numerical order but are rather grouped to different groups depending on their priority. This gives me several tasks to choose from allowing me to focus on a task based on what I feel like doing at the moment.

    I’m more of a night owl though instead of an early bird when it comes to trying to get caught up with work. But I do want to try becoming an early riser to see if it will work out for me.

    • says

      I like to keep my schedule a bit open like that too Dan, that way I’m always working on something I’m in the mood for!

  11. says

    You are one of my most prolific friends, Kristi. Your productivity is indeed amazing. I think beyond organization, it takes a great deal of skill and you have developed that skill and proficiency in all the things that you do – in your blogging world and I bet also in your full-time job. I am very, very impressed that you are still keeping it all going. Great, great tips here! Thank you for sharing your secrets to productivity.
    Farnoosh just posted 51 Reasons Why Entrepreneurship Is My Path to Fulfillment

    • says

      I’m just going to piggy-back off of what Farnoosh said here Kristi. You’re ‘prolific’ in your ability to get many things done and juggle life without losing your mind. Organization is one thing, but I think you also forgot you have a sheer will and determination that many people simply don’t have.

      Thanks for discussing this Kristi, it was great.

      Marcus

      • says

        True Marcus. Without determination, you probably won’t care enough to be productive. I think that’s where my rewards board comes in – definitely a motivator! :)

    • says

      Hi Jamie. When I write ahead, I try to do posts that are relevant anytime I post them. But I leave lots of room to do those topics that are hot right now so I can jump onto trends as well. :)

    • says

      Good point about making it seasonal John. I’ll have to see if that makes a difference, although in AZ we have a few less seasons. :)

    • says

      Thanks John! Yes, sometimes I stop and wonder why I’m working my a$$ sometimes, and having that friendly reminder pinned near my desk definitely helps!

  12. says

    Hi Kristi,
    These are great tips! Rising earlier does make a big difference, it’s amazing what can be accomplished in those quiet early morning hours! I’m up a few times a night with my baby so I haven’t been getting up early lately but I do know how valuable it is.

    I also like to have posts scheduled and waiting. I have quite a few posts in progress just waiting to be finished which is helpful for times when I’m less than inspired for a new topic.

    I need to look into Google Calendar. Does it email you reminders? That would really be helpful! :)
    Stacy just posted 20 Tips for Writing Posts When You Feel Uninspired

    • says

      Google Calendar gives you two options for alerts Stacy. One is via email and the other is with a pop-up reminder when you login to your Google account. I like the emails because you can leave them in your inbox until you have finished the task. Plus the nice thing with Google Calendar is you can setup more than one reminder, so if you want to have a week in advance and then a day in advance, you can have both instead of having to choose.

  13. says

    I like this post. The best tip I would say you gave was to write when you are in the mood. For me, when I’m struggling to write something it always ends up much lower quality than when I’m really interested in writing.

  14. says

    Hi Kristi

    This is amazing to see how you get things done with the tools you have. I love posts on productivity, and you hit the nail on the head with this. I am not good at writing posts ahead of time as I have so many other projects, but obviously getting up early, being organized, Google Calendar are my staples.

    Thanks for featuring my ebook, I really appreciate it and glad you found it useful.

    • says

      I would say that most of my newfound productivity has come from reading your book Steven. Definitely a lifesaver in terms of getting more done and feeling good doing it! :)

  15. says

    Totally wonderful!

    I think what helps boost my productivity more than anything is simply waking up early in the moring like you stated. When you do that you start your day out on top of time, Instead of feeling like your behind on things. It’s a great feeling when my alarm clock actually wakes me up and I wake up and do my morning jog. After that I know my day is off to a great start!

    You hit many pointers with this post. Scheduling some post ahead of time really helps keep stress off your shoulders. I try to keep post scheduled all the up to a month in advance, because if something happens in that month things will still be flowing smoothly. It also give me time to completely focus on other things. I make time to schedule more post, but I’m not having to rush it.

    Orginazation plays a very important role. When I get out of the bed in the morning I know exactly what i need to be doing. There is no time to waste so staying organized has to be a priority.

    I’m a first time vistor, happy i stopped by, and will most surely be back! ( :

    God bless,
    William Veasley
    William Tha Great just posted Are You Winning The Race

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed your first post here William. Yes it definitely feels good going to work every day knowing that I’ve already accomplished a lot of my personal stuff ahead of time, and don’t have to feel like I have so much piled up for me when I get home.

  16. says

    Really appreciated your post. The number one question I get is when do I sleep. I also keep a job, a blog, a business, and a couple of hobbies going. The one thing I never plan enough time for is success, and it seems to come to all of them in waves at the same time.
    A couple of years ago I finally discovered how remarkably helpful Excel worksheets are for making editorial and planning calendars. Couldn’t live without those and my DVR! ;-)
    MaAnna just posted An Intro to WordPress

    • says

      Thanks MaAnna! I love Excel, and the fact that if there is a show I’m dying to see most stations usually have replays on their site.

  17. says

    I don’t know how the folks that have little kids get things done. I don’t have kids and I never have enough time to do everything that I would like. When I get a little extra time I do write up posts ahead of time like you do. Sometimes I just scribble a thought or idea down, but it gives me something to go on if I have brain freeze or writer’s block. I’m not an early bird so getting up early is out for now anyway.

  18. says

    One of the things that allow me to do more is actually doing less. What I mean is multitasking. Doing many things at the same time actually slows down my productivity. I learned that doing only one thing at the time, helps me to put my focus on it and it helps me get it done quicker and get more things done. Also, splitting tasks during the day.

    • says

      I generally only do one thing at a time too Ricardo, but I like to flip flop between tasks. Sometimes I get stir crazy if I keep doing the same thing for hours on end.

  19. says

    Kristi,

    What a great series of tips. I love productivity and you have some really great tips here. Organizing, writing ahead and scheduling posts, keeping fit, writing when in a flow and giving small rewards are things I do.

    The getting up early is a great one. I need to try to do more of that and I have a lot of respect for you and all the people who are able to get by on 4-5 hours of sleep and get so much done before and after working a full day.

    Awesome productivity hints. Love them!

    -Steve
    Steve just posted 22 Quick Tasks that Increase Internet Income

  20. says

    We think a lot alike, however I’m thinking I should write the opposing view of this. How I don’t get things done. lol

    I’ve been heavy into two different activities lately, working out and practicing my bass. Both give me great stress relief, and hell, I’m getting pretty damn good at the old bass now. Just completed “Maybe I’m a Leo” by Deep Purple for the first time and now I’m working on refining the sound a bit. It’s a great distraction…in fact, I’m outta here now to do just that.

    Cheers!
    Wayne just posted The missed opportunity many blog commenters forget about- 3 way links

    • says

      Sounds like you are remembering to do the things you enjoy too Wayne! That makes a big difference in overall life satisfaction. :)

  21. says

    I always love your glimpse behind the curtain posts, Kristi. They always seem to spark an idea here or there on how I can incorporate what you’re doing in my own routines. Lately, I’ve been doing too much of my work late at night. I used to get up at 5am, and it made a world of difference. I felt like those old Army commercials that said they got more done by 9am than most people did all day. I’m going to have to readjust my sleep schedule so I can be all I can be (sorry, couldn’t resist). ;)
    Brad Harmon just posted How Do You Respond When Your Small Business is Attacked Online

    • says

      I’m trying to be all I can be too Brad. And I definitely am more productive in the first few hours of the day than I am in the last. :)

    • says

      I do work on eliminating the “noise” in life whenever I can Wim. Definitely makes a big difference, even down to the simple things like cleaning out your inbox. :)

  22. says

    I have noticed my productivity has increased since I started waking up early. I too schedule posts to my blogs. I recently got a dictation app on my iPhone, so on my way to work, I can just ramble out some blog posts and then edit them. It actually cuts down on my writing time by 50%
    jen just posted How to be a Good Girlfriend

  23. says

    Kristi,

    Your article really helped me become more productive.

    I am planning to get up early and hopefully be able to complete more tasks this way.

    A great read, as always. Thanks!

    Eugen

  24. says

    Kristi,

    Love this. I align specifically with what you said about not neglecting your health! It’s such a huge thing that if you don’t pay attention to.. and even enhance, it negatively effects everything else! (especially your ability to crank out awesome blog posts)

    SO.. I love the fact that you’re multifaceted, in that you have a full time job, and engage in a host of other things (including this rad blog). I’m that exactly. I do IT/networking, and am doing the entrepreneur thing (among other things). New fan *points to self*
    Ryan Critchett just posted Responsiveness Is King In A World Of Twitter

  25. says

    It really is amazing what getting up early can do. It’s so easy to sleep when you don’t really HAVE TO get up for anything. Really enjoyed this post. I think the key to productivity is different for everyone. You just have to try different things out and see what works best for you. You have laid out some great suggestions here!

    • says

      Yeah, once you have the motivation to get up early in the morning when you’re not normally a morning person (like me), that’s when you know you’re onto something you’re passionate about!

    • says

      I can’t wait till my internal clock gets set to do that Rohan. It seems to be at a natural 6am which is close though. :)

  26. says

    Wow, I really feel bad about complaining about being a full-time college student and having a part time job. After hearing everything that you have to get done, I am in amazement of how you have managed to maintain such high success. I used to be a very productive person, but overtime I let my workload get the best of me. Just like you I work best by getting up early, maintaining a schedule, and staying organized. If I can get back to practicing those habits I am positive it will help to improve all facets of my life.

    Thanks for all of the great info that you provide!
    Sabrina just posted Ways To Make And Save Money Online

    • says

      Don’t feel bad Sabrina. I have have my cranky days where I wonder why I do so much when I could just be lounging around watching some TV. Then I look at my rewards board and get motivated again! :)

  27. says

    Very interesting and informative post, Kristie.

    I love the way you “go with the creative flow”. Some people advise that you should kick off the day by:”eating the forg”. In other words, do the most task you absolutely hate very early on so you can lift its burden off your chest and enjoy the rest of your day.
    I love the idea of getting rid of what I hate early on but I’m don’t find “frogs” very tasty! What do you think?

  28. says

    Hi Kristi,

    Excellent tips you’re sharing here. I do most of the things you do as well. I like to be organised and stay on top of things :)

    I start work at 6am and plan my day the night before and this helps me a great deal.

    I need to reduce my time spent in front of the computer and spend more time with my loved ones as well. Thanks for the reminder ;)

    All the best,
    Mavis
    Mavis Nong just posted Ministry of Traffic Event Takes Traffic Generation To a Whole New Level!

  29. says

    Again a few great ideas I am going to use. Especially the rewards board. I will, of course, put it in a very visible spot, because that way hubby will see it and reward me without me even doing anything productive for my blog, lol, I am tricky like that :)

    I have a very bad habit of writing to do lists and never remembering to look at them. Same with calendars. But if I did the Google reader thing you wrote about and actually following it every day, I can do this too.

    The only thing that worries me is the sleeping hours. I think getting up early is a great idea. But the medical education I got in college definitely taught me that we need more than 5 or 6 hrs of sleep daily. Doesn’t this worry you, that you will develop fatigue over time? Or are there some secrets in the book you recommend?
    Brankica just posted 25 Bloggers Not Giving Advice on Blogging A Different Blog Interview

    • says

      Hi Brankica. I notice that I have one day a week where my body needs a little extra rest, so I’ll sleep in a few extra hours or go to bed a bit earlier. I find it’s just about listening to yourself – if it’s just a little sleepiness that you have to fight off, then that’s one thing that you have to get past. But if you’re just physically exhausted, you have to give yourself a bit of a break.

      I guess there are conflicting publications out there about sleep. Kind of like eggs – one year they’re good for you, then they are not. I’ve read journals that say you’re more likely to develop heard disease if you get less than 5 hours a sleep a night, and more likely to develop cancer if you get 8 hours or more. For me I think the 5 – 6 hour thing works because I’m a natural insomniac – if I tried to sleep 8 hours, I’d still only get about 6 because I wake up in the middle of the night or just wake up early anyway and lie there. So I might as well compact it and get something done instead.

      But most days, since I started doing this, I’ve noticed I have more energy throughout the day instead of being half awake the first half. I seem to have more immediate energy just cause I’m getting up and doing something I like right away, instead of just getting up and getting ready for work, taking the half hour commute, and spending the day thinking about everything I need to do when I get home. :)

      • Brankica says

        That makes a lot of sense, actually. I think that of course it is different for every person and we probably don’t know what will be best for us until we try it. Obviously you are doing it better with less sleep. I think I should try it, I do remember the time when I slept about 6 hrs a day and was so active my mom thought I would collapse somewhere. But I felt great. Now I sleep more and I am less active but don’t feel so great.

        OK, one more thing to add to the to do list. Or with my record, I better put a sticky note on my computer and next to my alarm clock so I don’t forget :)

  30. says

    You had made some very good points here and not only that you wrote an entire post just answer a question Kristi another thing i do to help me with more time for blogging is going to bed early and wake up when everyone is sleeping this gives me some valuable and interrupted time. Thanks for sharing
    lawmacs just posted Sunday Post Round Up 21

  31. says

    I love your thoughts near the end – in making time for your family. That’s really important for me. Blogging is a way to promote a product, benefit the lives of others AND to provide for the ones you love in some cases.

    You don’t want blogging to become something that takes you from them.

    Scheduling posts ahead of time has become the most important factor of becoming a more successful blogger for me. Without, I would be struggling in many, many ways.
    Christian Hollingsworth just posted The Wink In Leeks: #9



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