You know those days when your productivity tanks and you can’t seem to get anything completely done?
You start at the top of your to do list, but end up wandering around your house, picking up bits of lint?
And cleaning half your sink while looking at Facebook…
No one works with total productivity all the time!
But I found myself with a lot less time for unproductive puttering when I started homeschooling with three kids under the age of seven.
Like a diamond forged by pressure, I had to compress my personal tasks down to what would fit in the wee space left over after I met their needs.
And any ideas that helped me be productive in my homeschool, I started using for everything else in my life.
But you don’t have to fall down the rabbit hole of homeschooling to benefit from these five productivity hacks.
They’ll work anytime you find yourself a little directionless and distracted.
You can do it!
1. Stick to the Subject
In my homeschool, when it’s time for math, we just do… math! I don’t expect my kids to alternate solving a math problem with spelling a new word, and then going over to an easel to add a mark to their painting.
Before I homeschooled, I loved trying to tack on as many little extra tasks to my work as possible, because it made me feel more productive.
But constantly starting and stopping tiny, unrelated tasks uses more time and energy than you think. You keep doing it because there aren’t any real consequences — until you get to the end of your available time and realize you never completed your original goal.
The Hack: Focus on one area of life per pocket of time. Do only work that will move you forward in that area. Ignore all other tasks, even easy ones.
2. Make It Work (For Fun)
Speaking of math — my kids can only spend so much time each day on things that they don’t genuinely love. Once we hit that limit, we only get more stuff done when we switch to things they’re personally interested in, like sketching fashion and catching stinkbugs.
Before I homeschooled, I thought I should be able to power through any amount of work that I wasn’t super into, just because it was important. Now, when I’m really over that type of work, I allow myself to switch to something I’m more excited about.
Next time you’ve been working hard but then start to go around in circles, try it! Your interest in a fresh, personally rewarding topic will help you refocus. And then you’ll continue your productive streak for more of the day.
The Hack: Try to progress from work that’s less personal to work you’re more passionate and curious about as you tire. Use your natural interest to motivate yourself to work more that day.
3. Break for A Story
Being productive is not just about more and more work, of course! Taking breaks is an important part of being productive.
But before I homeschooled, my breaks were not that refreshing. Either I couldn’t stop thinking about the work I was supposed to be doing, or, worse, I would drift too far off and lose all momentum for the day.
So I don’t let my kids turn their homeschool breaks into free-for-alls. When I ask my children to choose a specific fun activity to complete during their break, they actually feel more refrehsed at the end.
That’s because even rest needs some structure to be satisfying. Think about how you will signal to yourself to relax, what you want to do during the break, and how you will know when you’re done resting.
The Hack: Stay engaged even when you’re taking a break. Give your break time a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like a satisfying story.
4. Order Less Chaos
Now that you have your time broken into three buckets — work, passions, and break — you can get all your materials organized for productivity, too.
Before I started homeschooling, I didn’t think it mattered much where I kept stuff, as long as I could find it eventually. But I found that whenever I had to go searching for something, I got distracted like a goldfish with five fresh fish flakes.
Now, when I sit down to homeschool my kids, I have everything I need at my fingertips in one room. If I have to get up and search three places for a pencil, we quickly lose all homeschool momentum. I even keep our workbooks arranged in the order we use them, so I can follow the sequence created by our supplies without having to think!
So as you work, make sure you’re collecting and keeping together the supplies that you need for that activity.
The Hack: Create a kit of supplies to support your work, eliminating all search and find missions. Put the items in the order you use them wherever possible to cue your work and get you into the flow.
5. Don’t Deflect, Reflect
Even when you sort out your time and your stuff like this, you’ll still feel unproductive at times. That’s because productive activity doesn’t always equal progress on the things that are most important to you.
Now that I’ve started homeschooling, I can see when I make the right choices for how we spend our school time. Some work really moves us forward; some just keeps us busy.
If you find yourself doing lots of work, but not achieving your vision, it’s time to reconsider how your work lines up with your goals.
So when you’re not satisfied even after a busy day, ask yourself what part you can change to get to a new outcome. And then get to work with the previous hacks pushing you in the right direction.
The Hack: Periodically reflect on the path your productivity is taking you down. Is this where you want to go? If not, figure out which part of the journey is under your control and change up what you are doing.
Hack This Way
Now you have a menu of frazzled homeschool mom-inspired hacks to test when you find yourself getting off track.
- Hack 1: Stop multitasking, and start focusing on strictly one project at a time.
- Hack 2: When you hit a wall, switch to something you’re excited about.
- Hack 3: Make the most of your breaks by following a plan for them.
- Hack 4: Get your stuff in an order that supports your work.
- Hack 5: Stop and ask: Is my productivity taking me someplace I want to go?
How do you incorporate these hacks into your day? Try focusing on important work first thing in the morning. Then experiment with a more structured break time before moving on to the work you’re excited to do. Spend ten minutes each day on organizing your stuff and reflecting on the results of your productivity. You will see improvement over time.
With these five hacks, you have the power to be productive!