Work Smart, Not Hard: Be More Productive by Spending Less Time in Front of Your Computer

Self on 07.18.11
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Photo: R.L. Hyde / Creative Commons

The other day, I watched the Real-Deal Time Management That Works for Busy Moms video class. While I was watching it, I don't think I absorbed the importance of what Lisa Byrne was saying. But the very next day, her advice presented itself to me in the way of real life experience, like it was a gift tied up with a pretty bow.

Here's the Situation

Our babysitter is coming a few days a week to help me take care of my one-year-old daughter. I plan to fund this extra help by pursuing my passion, writing. This means that I need to blog up a storm.

Until now, I've only been writing a post or two per week, which doesn't move the financial needle. My new childcare arrangement forces a radical shift in the time and attention I give to my writing so that I can pay the babysitter.

The Formula: Write Like a Maniac

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I've willingly put myself under a ton of pressure. For each hour that the babysitter is here, I have to meet goals in terms of the number of posts I write to avoid losing money.

At first, everything was going great. The first day, I got a couple pieces written. The next day, I got up in the morning and banged out an article in record time. I thought to myself, "This is a piece of cake! I love this! This is so easy."

Then I wondered what I would write about next. I began desperately searching the web for ideas, but I was totally tapped out. I had absolutely no thoughts on what to write next, and I started to panic.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me

My panic was interrupted briefly when my cell phone blipped at me. It was a text message from Verizon telling me that if I didn't return a defective phone to them, they were going to charge me in excess of $500. Now I was even more panicked.

I had to drive to the mall where there was a Verizon store so that I could straighten out an error made by an employee to avoid this charge. For the whole drive over to the mall, I thought about how this time out of my writing schedule was the last thing I needed.

How was I supposed to write and keep up my financial obligations if I'm dealing with nonsense interruptions?


After straightening everything out with Verizon, I needed a breather in order to collect myself. I decided to wander into a department store to take a few quiet moments while I browsed the racks. And then out of nowhere, my next story idea hit me. What a relief! I finally calmed down.

As I left the store and walked to my car, I had another idea. On the drive home, another.

What Does This Have to Do With Time Management?

Ms. Byrne tells us that the way we can be more effective is by bolstering ourselves with self care. The way it related to my own experience is that I expected to just sit there all day and beat content out of myself. That's the opposite of self care.

I was looking at blogging almost as a punishment, even though it's something I love to do. But I was going about it all wrong. I thought that if I had to write this certain number of posts, that the only way to do that was to glue my butt to my desk chair until it was done. I wasn't letting myself take any breaks.

The truth is, when I allowed myself a moment of quiet, even though it was in a place I normally kind of hate (the mall), it was still time out for self care. So I was able to return to my task more productive than ever.

Apply the Lesson to Your Own Life

The next time you feel yourself running ragged, when your nerves are shot and you are vaguely aware that you're not at your best - whether that's with parenting or at work - resist the urge to try harder. Instead, be sensitive to the fact you need to take care of yourself.

Do you need to sit down and have a glass of water? Do you need to go outside and take a deep breath? Do you want to smell some flowers while you water a plant? Are you hungry? Maybe you just want to sit on the floor with your feet in front of you so you can have a nice stretch. These are very small things that don't take much time, but they do have restorative power.

The Gold Nugget

In the meantime, don't blow your own fuse. Make sure you are well-fed, hydrated and have sufficient rest. Throughout your day, take time to listen to yourself and your own needs. It's conter-intuitive because it's a time investment away from what you feel like you should be doing. But you will be able to accomplish more in less time when you recharge your batteries.

When you take care of yourself, you're at your best. When you're more effective and efficient, then you can naturally manage time better, which means you are better able to take care of the activities and people you love. Spend a little bit of time on yourself to be faster and more focused on the things you need to get done.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

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