For a little over a year now, my work day has been squished into the afternoon nap time slot.
Going from goldfish, blocks and boogers to fully focusing on branding a business is sometimes really difficult. I’m usually somewhere in between wanting to just sit on the couch in silence for the foreseeable future and feeling super stressed and overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to make happen that afternoon.
There are a few things that help me transition into a super productive work session and get the most out of the little time I have. When I remember to do them and remember that they are totally worth taking a few minutes away from just jumping straight in to work, they are always worth the time investment.
Things I do to get in work mode during nap time
Mental reset (meditation)
Coffee + water refill
Set the space
15 minute daily writing practice
No email/limited social
Goals + ‘ONE thing’
Time block + track time
Quick clean up
As soon as I shut the door after putting June down for a nap, I do a quick clean up of the house. Our 800 sq. ft. can cause some major overwhelm if there are toys and dishes out everywhere… but because it’s small it can also be tidied pretty quickly. If I can push past the desire to just sit down “for a minute” and go ahead and pick up our main living spaces, I never regret it.
Somewhere in between the cleaning and the calming for the next step, I have a few amazing squares of dark chocolate. I cannot overstate how much this moment is enjoyed. (Sometimes I sneak some before June goes down for a nap and you know I hide in the kitchen and keep it all to myself.)
Next I pop in my headphones, sit on the couch (like sit up on the each of the couch, not lounge… that’s too dangerous.) in the clean, calm space and do a 5-10 minute meditation on the Headspace app. This time used to be spent just sitting or stretching - eyes closed, not doing anything else - with a timer set for 5 minutes. I would pray or think or just listen to the silence. (That 5 minute reset was inspired by something Emily P. Freeman talked about on her podcast… sorry, I don’t remember the exact episode!) Either way, I never regret taking this 5 minutes to be still and (re)set my mind. This is the thing I skip most often because I’m itching to just get to work, but when I do take the time I always come away clearer - knowing exactly what I need to work on. I often remember things I had forgotten or come up with a great idea that saves me time later. Worth it.
Coffee, water, set the space
Then I make a cup of coffee, refill my water and head to my desk. Sometimes I literally bring my water pitcher in so I can keep working when I need more water.
My desk sits in the corner of our bedroom. This year I’ve finally made the grown up habit of making my bed and (usually) cleaning my room and, surprise surprise, it makes a huge difference in my focus while I’m working. And when I stay on top of it instead of letting things get messy, I can actually just get to work instead of having to add a ‘clean up room/desk’ step to this routine.
15 minutes of writing
The newest addition to my ‘get to work’ routine, and maybe my favorite, is my daily writing practice.
As soon as I sit down and open my laptop, I open a new note, (just in the Notes app, nothing fancy) set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. I write whatever comes out. It’s usually a mix of stream-of-consciousness style journaling, a thought download, list making, working out a problem, honest heart work, drafting emails or writing thoughts and ideas for posts. I’m actually writing this post right now during my daily writing practice. Meta.
This started because I realized that writing was something I’ve always told myself that I’m just not good at. It’s the thing that holds me up and causes a lot of self-doubt whether it’s writing an email, some marketing content, or a personal blog post. I finally decided to stop complaining to myself that I’m not good at it, and work on getting good at it.
It has been amazing. Not only does it help me get clutter out of my head before jumping into focused work, it kickstarts my creativity and I can immediately jump into creative work because I’m “warmed up”. I have also come up with great ideas and content because… well, I’m not trying. It feels like a safe space where I can be very imperfect. It turns out - that’s where magic can happen.
Then I actually get to work…
helpful habits –
to get more done with less time
Goals + ‘one thing’
The first thing I do is make sure I know what my “one thing” is for the day. The one thing that has to happen to move me closer to my big goals. A lot of the time this is the only thing that gets done so this is an important step. Sometimes I will take a minute to reorganize the other tasks on Asana in the order that I need to do them/on what day.
Here’s the rabbit trail of where this ‘one thing’ came from, if you’re interested:
First, I read listened to an interview with author of Essentialism on Allie Casazza’s podcast and then bought the book; loved it so much - it changed the way I will think about prioritizing my time forever. Then, I listened to an interview with one of the authors of The ONE Thing on Amy Porterfield’s podcast and knew I’d found the next step I was looking for. They talked about practical steps to figure out the one thing you should do next that will be the best thing you can do with that time. I’m working on reading that book now, but the worksheets they have on their website are amazingly helpful. This resource, “My Purpose”, was incredible.
No email/limited social
Then I check my email. Like all of these things, I’m not perfect at keeping my own rule, but I try to make this the first time I check email all day. It’s really the first time I’m able to send a clear and well thought out response back anyway. When I check it earlier in the day, it usually just causes unnecessary stress and takes my attention away from my time with June.
For social media… ugh.
This is kind of a side-note but I’ve yet to find a great system/solution for this but here’s where I’m at right now.
There are a lot of things I love about it. I love feeling connected to the friends and family we live so far away from; I love finding new people/brands; I love creating content and sharing June’s cuteness.
But, I rarely leave a scrolling session feeling more inspired/energized/clear. I usually snap out of it after going into a zombie trance and realize that June has been asking me something and I didn’t even hear her, or 20 minutes have gone by that felt like 2. And 20 minutes is a lot of time when you only have a few hours to get important work done!
For months I’ve been trying to figure out a good time to dedicate to social media and then commit to only spend that time, but I’ve honestly not found a time that couldn’t be better spent doing something else. So for now, I just don’t get on social media that much. (When I say social media, I really mean Instagram.) I use scheduling tools to plan posts outside of the app (I use both of the apps Planoly and Later) and have a limit set for 30 minutes and my phone locks the Instagram app after I’ve spent that amount of time in the app. (Here’s how to set that up on your iPhone!)
Time block/track time
The last thing that is hugely helpful to me for getting things done with a small amount of time, and cut down on that feeling of total overwhelm when a huge amount of work is looming, is planning out blocks of time and tracking how I’m spending my time.
The plan time blocks, I open my Google Calendar and literally create events for the blocks of time I know I’ll be able to work during the week and fill them with the most important task that I need to get done during that time. Being able to visualize how my work is in fact going to get done eases a lot of stress.
Then, when I’m actually working, I use Toggl to track my time! This adds a level of focus and accountability so I’m aware of what I’m doing instead of going down an internet rabbit trail and snapping out of it when June wakes up and work time is over! It is also helpful for the obvious reason of being able to know how long projects take so I can more accurately price my work in the future. Right now we’re using it to track the time we (Sarah + I) spend in ‘the test kitchen’ for The Business Bar creating all of the Brand and Website Mixes for our new online shop so we can make sure we’re splitting up the work evenly, and so we can make decisions about pricing and whether or not the test was successful and we should make it an official part of our business!
Those no nap days
June is 3 1/2 years old and still takes naps pretty consistently which I’m incredibly grateful for. On the days she doesn’t fall asleep or wakes up really early and I really need to get some work done, I try to get her to play by herself for a while. I pull out an activity box (just a box of toys) for her to play with, set her up with some art supplies, or turn on a tv show. I am not above letting the screen babysit for a little while when needed… which let’s be honest, is often. Ha!
I hope something in my routine inspires you and helps you get more important work done in a short time!
You’re a total boss and you’ve got this.