36 tips for productivity in the home

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

pro•duc•tive: (adj) Having the power to produce readily and abundantly; generative; creative.

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Photo by bitporters

We home managers have a lot to do. What are ways we can increase our productivity without hiring a staff? Here are a few tips.

1. Determine your specific goals and desired results. Do you want a perfectly labeled pantry? Then take the time to do it well. But if your goal is simply to clean the kitchen, don’t get sidetracked by that nonessential job. You’ll never finish cleaning the kitchen.

2. Monitor your time management. Find out how much time you really are spending on certain tasks. There are lots of great online time management tools for free, such as Toggl. It’ll probably be eye-opening.

3. Limit your TV time. Seriously cut it back. I’ve been floored at how much more I’m able to get done now that we almost never watch it.

4. Write things down. If you’re like me, then managing a home, parenting, and working part-time means my brain cells are devoted to a myriad of things – and if I don’t write things down, I will forget it. Keep something handy with you at all times to write down things you don’t want to forget, be it big or small. This is the foundation of the popular Getting Things Done system. (I’m working on devising a GTD plan for home managers – but more on that later…)

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Photo by Uros Petrovic

5. Know yourself. Notice when you’re most alert and when you’re most distracted. Do you need coffee at 1 p.m. to make it to bedtime? Make sure and get that cuppa joe. Does music really help you clean better and faster? Then turn it up.

6. Expend your energy logically. In congruence with the hack above – if you know you’re an early bird, yet your energy really slumps in the afternoon, then assign your tasks accordingly. Focus on jobs that require the most physical or mental energy in the morning, such as managing your budget or weeding the garden. Then in the afternoon, fold your laundry or make that your blog-reading time.

7. Turn off computer software you’re not using. If you really need to figure out your online bank statements, then close out other websites for the moment. If you need to write a long email that requires your full concentration, why not close out your email client and/or the internet, and use a text writer until the email is written? That way, a “ding!” saying you have new email won’t distract you.

8. Get enough sleep. You know this one already – you feel a lot better and get so much more done when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Those days when you were up way too late the night before – well, you know how it is the next day.

9. Don’t try to do everything perfectly. This is an essential one for a perfectionist like myself. I’ve never been good at gardening, so I don’t try to do more than the basics (and even that doesn’t always work). Instead, I focus on those tasks I’m better suited for, like home decor. I still try my hand at gardening, but I don’t stress over it.

10. Eat simply. It’s fun to try a new recipe from time to time, but when your goal is a productive day, stick to what you know well. Simple recipes tend to be quicker, and can often be healthier.

11. Don’t bring distractions inside the house. If there’s a celebrity magazine that sucks you in and causes you to sit all day on the couch, then don’t even bring it through the door. If you have a habit of thinking you’ll fix or remodel a garage sale purchase, but the poor toaster sits for months untouched, then maybe get rid of it and buy one that actually works.

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Photo by always canadian

12. Go outside. We stay-at-home and work-from-home moms can easily spend all day inside the four walls of our houses. If you’re lethargic and overwhelmed, go outside for a bit. Sit on the back porch with some iced tea, a notebook, and a pen, and gather your thoughts. Being in the sunlight will renew your energy.

13. Exercise. It increases your energy, and therefore your productivity.

14. Do what you love, and do it well. If there’s an area of home management where you’re particularly gifted, it’s okay to focus more time and energy on it. You’ll actually feel more productive because you’re doing something well, and you know how to do it. Sewing takes more time than running to Target, but if you truly love sewing and are pretty good at it, then maybe it’s worth the extra time to make your own curtains. They’ll be exactly how you want them, and at the end of the day, you’ll go to bed knowing you’ve accomplished something. You can’t do this every day, but every now and then, it’s perfectly reasonable to devote several hours to your craft.

15. Read the Bible. Pray. In the morning is ideal.

16. Clean as you go. A little clutter pick-up every few hours is easier than a major overhaul at the end of the day when you’re exhausted. Either strategically make piles, or put something where it belongs from the get-go.

17. Stop clutter before it starts. I know that’s not always realistic with little kiddos, but you can do it with your own clutter. It really is much easier to throw away junk mail as soon as you get it, instead of letting it pile up. This concept is what I’m trying to do with cleaning up after each meal.

18. Make something. Even if you don’t think you’re creative, you’d be surprised at how doing a craft for an hour with your preschooler will revive your spirits.

19. Read only worthwhile blogs. There’s so many good blogs out there, and you’ll never truly benefit from them if you’re also trying to read 75 blogs that don’t really do much for you. Be ruthless and slash them out of your RSS reader. If Simple Mom isn’t blessing your life, then by all means, delete it. Seriously.

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Photo by kelly

20. Organize logically. Put cooking tools that you use while you’re using the stove near – well, the stove. Toss your bills near the area that’s best for bill paying. Put items you don’t mind your little ones playing with at their arm’s reach, so they can get them themselves. Likewise, if you really don’t want your kids touching something, then put it where little hands can’t get at it.

21. Cut down on clothing. You’ve heard it before – if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. I prefer to have fewer clothes that are more well-made and fit better. I can wear them again and again for years while they retain their quality. This means less clutter and more closet space. Less clutter means more productivity, because your home will be easier to maintain, and it will be more functional. (And yes, oftentimes quality clothing is more expensive, which is why I hit the Goodwill in the nicest neighborhood in town before I go to a regular shop. 9 times out of 10 I find what I need at the Goodwill.)

22. Be unproductive in a deliberate way. We all need down time, and it’s not necessary to always have productivity on the brain. So when you’re unproductive, do it well. Read books that are about something you’ve always wanted to learn, instead of a random book that had a pretty cover at a garage sale. Turn on the TV when there’s a show you hate to miss, instead of having twaddle blare in the background while you space out. When you surf the internet, use tools that help you find stuff you’re genuinely interested in, like Stumble Upon or Kirtsy.

23. Delegate. Moms tend to think they wear a cape and mask, but it’s mutually beneficial when everybody in the family pitches in around the house. Kids can clean their own rooms, and even littles can start learning.

24. Encourage productivity. Don’t nag, but do be a cheerleader as your family completes tasks. Use music if it helps, make a game out of it, or do something fun as a family when the jobs are done.

25. At the same time, give everyone (and yourself) some grace. If you push yourself to be productive too much of the time, you’ll burn out and then get nothing done.

26. Ask, “How can this be done better?” If you pay your bills with paper checks and envelopes, just because that’s how you’ve always done them, maybe online bill pay would be more efficient. Instead of making pasta sauce every time you make spaghetti for dinner, consider making a ton of it at once and freezing it for later.

27. Multitask. We moms are great at this. Clean the bathroom while your little ones are in the tub. File your nails while you’re on the phone. Chop up all the veggies for the pizza toppings while the dough for the crust is rising.

28. Singletask. But sometimes, certain things need all our attention, and they’re done more thoroughly and efficiently when we don’t focus on anything else. Don’t try to organize your office supplies and alphabetize your files while you’re sitting at the desk to empty your email inbox. It will take you hours longer, and you’ll only be halfway engaged.

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Photo by Grace and Alice Schnebly

29. Cultivate a hobby. Don’t get lethargic about life! Take up something you’ve always wanted to do, like running or knitting. It’ll increase your mental (and sometimes physical) stamina, and more stamina means more energy. We need energy to be productive.

30. Drink water all day long.

31. Use social bookmarking sites to find what you need on the web. Google is great, yes, but sometimes if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, social bookmarking can really come in handy. If you’re looking for an easy shoulder bag pattern, and you see one on del.icio.us that’s been bookmarked 318 times, maybe that’s one worth looking into.

32. Make a weekly schedule and stick to it. If one entire Laundry Day works well for you, then assign a day for it and devote yourself to the task. Or if you’re like me, and prefer to do a little laundry every day, then pick a good time of day to do it, and make yourself a short daily appointment with the washing machine.

33. Make a to-do list that works well for you. The Daily Docket might be a good option.

34. Put that to-do list in a Home Management Notebook.

35. Have a small home. 1,200 square feet is quicker to clean and usually easier to manage than a 3,000 square foot house.

36. Change your definition of productivity. Maybe you’re expecting too much out of yourself, so you feel unproductive when the 30 items on your to-do list don’t happen. Instead, like using the Daily Docket, make a deliberate decision to plan out what you’ll be satisfied at accomplishing by the end of the day.

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before. “ Franz Kafka

What has been your experience? What increases your productivity as your manage your home? Have any to add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Can’t wait to read them in the comments section.

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Comments

  1. With three preschoolers, time management is big for me. One of the best tips I was ever given is when I’m about to put off something that needs doing, to ask myself “How long will it really take?” Often the job I am procrastinating on can be done in under five minutes, and I always have that much time to spare.

    Angela Fehrs last blog post..Guided by Chocolate: Because Parents and In-Laws Don’t Give Us Enough Advice.

  2. @Angela – Isn’t that the truth? I find that to be especially true with dishes. I hate doing them so much, but really, doing them right after the meal is so much easier and quicker than later, when they’ve crustified and they’re piled up. Great reminder; thanks for sharing. I might put that question above my kitchen sink. ;)

  3. Hi Simple Mom! I love your blog. I have been reading it faithfully for a couple months now, and it is such a blessing to me. Thank you for your clear and helpful ideas.
    Have a small home, less stuff, simple meals. I’m constantly nodding my head as I read your posts.
    I just started a new blog called flipflops and applesauce. I have about a million questions about how you do your blog because I love your style and I am very inspired by you!

    chrissies last blog post..Strawberry Lemonade

  4. @Chrissie – Aw, thanks! Look forward to reading more on your blog. And regarding your million questions – I hope to announce something in the near future about answering some of your blogging questions. Stay tuned…

  5. Great List! (Have I mentioned how much I love lists?)
    Number 14 jumped out at me. Sometimes when I feel worn down, when I’m on a “losing streak” — a voice inside my head says: “You need a win.” And it IS so rejuvenating to take time to do what you are best at. To do what makes you feel like a winner.

    Jills last blog post..Today She Paints With Water

  6. A lot of things from the list I do intuitivly, but I have never wrote them down: great list. One point perhaps to add: do one thing after the other. Do not start the next work until you have not finshed the first one. I take the laundry from the cellar to the kitchen. I place the laundry basket somewhere and start cleaning the fridge. The phone is ringing. Now I am in a trouble which is only because of my missing organisation. Better to bring the basket into the sleeping room, put the clothes in the wardrobe and then go down, clean the fridge while phoning…

    sevenjobss last blog post..Guter Vorsatz der Woche: früher schlafen gehen

  7. @Jill – That’s so true. When I look outside and look at my dead plants, it helps me to bake brownies. I’m good at that. :)

    @sevenjobs – I agree – that’s sorta like singletasking. Keep on keeping on until it’s DONE. It is so darn easy to get distracted at home, especially with kids around.

  8. I wouldn’t consider for a second deleting your blog – you have been a HUGE blessing. Thanks!

    Denises last blog post..sunday sports court four square fun

  9. I’ve tried all sorts of to-do lists, flylady, etc., and nothing has seemed to work for me because everything I’ve read about or tried is so detailed and complicated (which I am already by nature – I don’t need help making a chore harder than it needs to be!), but I LOVE how generic your site is with SIMPLE tips and ideas rather than a regime to follow! With young children in the house that go through phases and schedule changes like they go through shoes, it’s nice to have flexibility to be productive without getting burned out on “doing” – I have enjoyed much more “being” as I go into each day with a designated set of small goals/tasks from my Big-Ol-To-Do List and once they’re accomplished, I stop. I don’t keep going through my long to-do list. I just enjoy the day, my kids, a hobby, whatever.

    Lauras last blog post..Piece of the Sky Title Inspiration

  10. Thanks for the great reminders. I am so much more focused and get so much more done when I make a list. At one time, I did have a cleaning schedule, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside. I need to work on that. I do still manage to keep the house in order and clean, it just seems so much more haphazard with out a schedule/routine. Also, I have found I like to be “routine” more than have a “schedule”. A routine keeps in order in my life. A schedule made me feel like a slave. Does that make sense?Anyway, again thanks for the great reminders. There were quite a few in your list that I need to work on!

    Also, you had recently done a post on Dave Ramsey. I mentioned in a comment that I had checked out a lot of his stuff from the library. I just thought I’d mention that again. He has several DVD’s out, and other people might want to check their libraries for those. It’s really good stuff! The most recent post on my blog is about something I read in his book, More Than Enough. Suprisingly, it’s not about finances though. His wisdom exceeds beyond just finances.

    Okay. Off to make my list :)

    Kats last blog post..Wisdom from Dave

  11. SimpleMom I love twittering with you and become a bigger fan of your blog with each passing day. If you develop a GTD for Home Managers you could easily become more popular than what’s her name Lady.

  12. Very helpful list of increasing productivity. Can really related with what you say about opening too many windows on your PC screen. Yes it can be very distracting.

  13. Boy did I need this today-thank you! Especially with my new experiement in getting myself organized (see my blog if you’re oh so curious) :)

    Sarah Maes last blog post..31 Days To Clean!

  14. I landed on your blog last night for the first time. It’s wonderful! This was just the encouragement I needed for this cloudy Monday. I think I need to put these tips somewhere that I can read them all the time!

    Jane Annes last blog post..Tips for Productivity at Home

  15. Hey Simple Mom,

    I would just like to commend you on posting such a fabulous blog entry! These tips are fantastic, and I love the little pictures you accompanied with them. It was a wonderful read, and I especially loved your points on taking the time to breathe, and maybe go outside to clear your head. Life as a WAHM can get stressful! I think your tips will really help.

    Now, I’m an official Microsoft ambassador and right now we’re really trying to scale up our connections with influential bloggers like yourself. I’d love to share with you some of the stuff we’ve been doing in the last couple months to help women entrepreneurs; we’re really committed to providing all the necessary resources to help women start, grow and expand their business.

    We just wrapped up a women’s entrepreneurial tour across the US called “Vision To Venture;” the response and turn-out was great!
    I’d really love your take on these offerings we have right now; I would have contacted you via email but I didn’t know which was the best way to reach you.

    Thank you so much, I hope I didn’t overstep my bounds by directly contacting you. Definitely get back to me if I’ve piqued your interest– I’d love to share more info with you.

    Best,
    Kimberly
    Official Microsoft Ambassador
    k-rosenberg@live.com

  16. i thank you for your continued faithfulness in providing great tools and direction to better equip me at home. God has given you an incredible gift and thank you for sharing it with us.

    karis last blog post..feeling overwhelmed…(sigh)

  17. Awesome tips and explanations today. I especially like tip 28 about singletasking. All too often as women and mothers we try to do too many things at once and then end up not finishing any of them or at least not finishing them well. There have been a number of studies recently that show that multitasking can be very bad for productivity. That is mostly because we pick the wrong things to multi-task.

    Anything that requires the mind to think and concentrate should not be tied to another thing that requires the same type of brain power. So, listening to a teleconference recording while cleaning out your email is not only going to slow you down, but will likely make you miss something important.

    On the other hand, I have a coffee heating game that I play with myself that helps me eliminate procrastination. You see, it takes me about 1 minute to reheat my coffee. While it is reheating I try to do as much in that minute as possible. I will empty (or fill) the dishwasher, put clothes in the washer/dryer, make my son’s lunch for the next day, etc. That kind of multi-tasking works great for me.

    Or, here is one that I do a lot too. Washing the bathroom floors by hand is one of my least favorite jobs, but when I pair it with listening to one of my favorite marketing gurus on mp3, then the time flys by and I get both done. I don’t have to focus mentally on the floor, so I can keep my focus on the mp3, but since I don’t sit still well, cleaning the floor complements my fidgiting.

  18. Awesome tips and explanations today. I especially like tip 28 about single-tasking. All too often as women and mothers we try to do too many things at once and then end up not finishing any of them or at least not finishing them well. There have been a number of studies recently that show that multitasking can be very bad for productivity. That is mostly because we pick the wrong things to multi-task.

    Anything that requires the mind to think and concentrate should not be tied to another thing that requires the same type of brain power. So, listening to a teleconference recording while cleaning out your email is not only going to slow you down, but will likely make you miss something important.

    On the other hand, I have a coffee heating game that I play with myself that helps me eliminate procrastination. You see, it takes me about 1 minute to reheat my coffee. While it is reheating I try to do as much in that minute as possible. I will empty (or fill) the dishwasher, put clothes in the washer/dryer, make my son’s lunch for the next day, etc. That kind of multi-tasking works great for me.

    Or, here is one that I do a lot too. Washing the bathroom floors by hand is one of my least favorite jobs, but when I pair it with listening to one of my favorite marketing gurus on mp3, then the time flies by and I get both done. I don’t have to focus mentally on the floor, so I can keep my focus on the mp3, but since I don’t sit still well, cleaning the floor complements my fidgeting.

    Stephanie LH Calahans last blog post..Save Money – Work from Home – but be Ready for Mobile Challenges

  19. Great tips! Many thanks for sharing!

    Have a great day,
    Jenny

    LobotoMEs last blog post..{ healthy grocery shopping tips }

  20. “Don’t try to do everything perfectly.”
    This is a really important one, and one I’ve been struggling with.
    I’m getting better at not trying to be so darn perfect all the time, but it’s still a struggle.

    Vereds last blog post..Not Sure I Am Ready To Be 37

  21. Great comments, everyone!

    @Laura – Thanks for your kind words! Generic and simple are what I do best. ;)

    @Kat – Glad you’re enjoying Dave Ramsey. If you haven’t yet looked into FPU, do. I think you’d really like it. It’s on his website.

    @Jessica – I like Twittering with you, too! Hmm, you’ve given me food for thought…

    @Jane Anne – Welcome! Glad you’ve found this place.

    @Kari – Thank you so much. I’ve always wanted to write. I hope God gets the glory here.

    @Stephanie – AWESOME explanation on multitasking vs. singletasking! Thanks so much for sharing that.

    I love all my readers, you know that? You guys are the best.

  22. Awesome tips thanks so much!

    Kelseys last blog post..::No More Lobotomys With a Dull Knife::

  23. I agree with Denise… I wouldn’t for a second consider not reading your blog (I haven’t figured out the RSS feeder thing). It really is just so inspirational and even though I fail at most of the things on the list, you at least inspire me to try. I am trying though… that counts, right?

  24. Hi there – I just came to your blog for the first time tonight, and I really, REALLY needed to read this post. I’m going to bookmark it so I can read it again tomorrow, and let it sink in.

    Jenis last blog post..Vacation Suggestions

  25. What a fantastic list!

    Org Junkies last blog post..Menu Plan Monday ~ June 9th

  26. Great post! My first time here. I really like all your ideas – I need all the help I can get!

    Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolatess last blog post..Tea for Two-sday ~ Mug or Cup?

  27. Wow I am not doing so many things on the list specially when you say getting distracted while cleaning the kitchen. Although I have been working on that. What I do is just attempt to clean one drawer or shelf at a time when I get the chance so it does not remain incomplete by the time my kids are up from their naps or back from a playdate. But I love your blog this is so much fun.

    zobarss last blog post..A bag, a message

  28. Fantastic list!

    Just after I left the last comment here I came across this contest over at Daily Blog Tips and thought of you for some reason:
    http://www.dailyblogtips.com/blogging-idol-contest-accepting-sponsors-and-applications/

    You should consider entering! I think you could do really well, and I’d be great to have a mom blogger in the running. :)

    Jennifer (Et Tu?)s last blog post..HBTT: Fear of suffering and the culture of death

  29. Wonderful job! I love the last one about changing your definition of productivity; this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I like to split my to-do list into “must do” items and “eh, eventually” items.

    Saras last blog post..Stop “Developing” and Start Living

  30. I just discovered your blog and the first thing I noticed was the picture of the felted knitting bag. I am just learning to knit and love that bag. Where did you get the picture? Would you know where I could get a pattern for that?

    Thanks!

  31. @Gay B – I get all photos on this site on Flickr’s creative commons selection. Just click on the link of the photo’s photographer, and it should take you to their profile, where you can hopefully find more information. Hope that helps!

  32. Those are some great ideas. Thanks. I needed that.

    Curts last blog post..Perot Charts

  33. Super helpful ideas. I think my contribution would be FOCUS. I try to accomplish one task in about 20 minutes, without getting distracted. It’s actually a challenge when there’s a toddler in the house, but I find I can get more done throughout the day if I try to do one thing at a time.

    Julies last blog post..It’s me to a T!

  34. Great ideas. I should print it out for a nice reminder.
    I live in a small house and some days I want a bigger house, but some days I am thankful for the simple small house.

    blogversarys last blog post..7 months (son)

  35. Hi I wish I knew you in real life and you could come over to my house with my three little ones and help me get started… I don’t know where to start, and I get discouraged having to stop to do this or that. I don’t feel like I complete a task. My kids are little and need so much of my time.
    Thank you for your great ideas and encouragement.

    a sad mom,
    Candy

  36. I’ve learned things the hard way a lot of times in my life, and I was forced to do things simple…otherwise I can’t do it.

    I agree with pretty much everything on that list SimpleMom… especially only going to the sites we find useful…otherwise it’s wasting time. There is so much pulling at us when on line, that I had to say enough is enough…there’s too much on here…I have to be selective.

    The same with television…my family got a Tivo to record anything we want to watch…which has made me extremely selective in what I watch now. I only have one show I watch religiously.

    I think smaller homes are so much more cozy. We can only be in one room at a time, and it is less to clean up. Same is true for having a lot of clothes or excessive stuff. It’s easier to decide what to wear if the selection is kept to a minimum.

    You’re singing my song. Keep it up!

    “Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic”

  37. Your tips are right in line with the things I’ve come to realize. I do double duty on some things like empty the dishwasher while I wait on my morning coffee, but probably the best tip you’ve given is to look at tasks and see if you can be more efficient. I have one friend who moves laundry to the main room, sorts, moves it to the laundry room, washes, moves it to the bedroom, and then folds and moves to put it away. Putting all her tasks in one room really saved on the walking.

    Scarlett´s last blog post…A brilliant stroke of the pen!

  38. I just skimmed your post, and I’ll definitely read it through later. It looks great! I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. Thanks for posting about it.

    Susan (A Happy Heart at Home)´s last blog post…WFMW – Crocs shoes and a giveaway

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