How to be more productive and get more done

5 ways to be more productive and get more done

Do you ever have days where it feels like you’ve been really busy but you’re not sure what you’ve actually got done?

Come on, I know it’s not just me that this happens to!

As parents we have so many things on our minds, so many things we’re juggling that it can be really hard to even know where to start some days.  There are a few tricks that I want to start using more though, to actually get stuff ticked off my to-do list.

If you could do with some help in that area too, then here are 5 interesting ideas of things you can try to be more productive and get more done each week.

 

Go into aeroplane mode

One of the biggest reasons I don’t get as much done as I could is that I’m always being distracted by notifications popping up on my phone.

I have all sorts of things set up to push notifications through, from Twitter and Facebook to emails and Instagram.  And then there’s things like ClassDojo and texts from the school keeping me up to date with various things.

When you need to put your head down and focus sometimes the best thing you can do is switch your phone to aeroplane mode.

This basically turns off your phone service and disconnects you from wifi.  So you won’t receive any calls or text messages and no pesky notifications will come through either.

 

If you want you can take this a step further and really drop off the grid for a bit.

Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign up on your door.  Shut down all unnecessary windows on your computer so you don’t see any notifications of new emails or Facebook posts.  Go as low-tech as you can and crack on with that to-do list.

 

Schedule in a power hour

This is just where you set aside an hour to focus on something.  To go at it with all your energy and just get. it. done.

Lots of people do this with cleaning their homes.  Pick an hour, put on some music and just whizz round getting as many cleaning jobs done as possible.  Don’t let anything side track you, just stay focused and crack on.

 

You can also use this power hour idea to get on top of all those niggly jobs that never seem to get done.

This is something that Gretchen Rubin has written about and I love the idea of it.  What you do is schedule in one hour each week to work through your list of jobs that need doing but have no real deadline to them.  Those little annoying jobs that need to be done but don’t NEED to be done so they end up, well, not being done.

You know the types of things I mean.

Jobs like actually taking that bag of clothes and books to the charity shop.  Sewing that button back on that fell off weeks ago.  Ordering prints and putting them in a family photo album.

Pick an hour a week, pick a job or two from that list and get them done.

 

Use the ‘one touch’ rule

This is something I learnt about in a random course I did when I worked an office job.  And while I don’t always stick to it, I know that it does make an impact on how productive I am when I do follow it.

The rule is this – only touch things once.

When the post arrives, sort through it and deal with each item there and then.  File anything you need to keep straight away.  Recycle junk mail immediately.  Respond to anything that needs a response there and then.  Don’t look through the pile and then put bits to one side to deal with later.  Touch it once, deal with it straight away.

The same goes for emails and text messages.

If you read them, respond to them at the same time.  If you know you can’t reply straight away then don’t read them yet.

When you read an email, then leave it to reply to later it sits in the back of your mind.  Draining your energy and taking a little bit of focus away from the other things you’re trying to do. So make an effort to only touch things once, either physically or metaphorically.  Deal with things there and then so you can put them out of your mind and move on to the next job.

 

Try narrating your life

This one is a bit more out there.

If you want to be more focused and, as a result, more productive then try narrating your day.  The idea is that you think ahead to how things are likely to go in your day, then pay attention and note to yourself how things actually go.

Studies have shown that people who do this are more focused and more likely to pick up on things that are out of the ordinary and react accordingly.

 

Get things out of your head

One of my favourite ways to get focused and tick more things off my to-do list is to do a brain dump of everything I need/want to get done.

Grab some paper and a pen and write down everything that is swirling around in your head.  All the jobs you need to get done, all the little things you’re keeping in your head to try and remember and keep on top of.

Once it’s all out of your head you’ll be able to think more clearly, process what’s important and urgent to get done and it’ll be much easier to actually do something productive and tick things off that list.

 

Which of these tips do you think will help you most with being more productive and getting more done?
Do you do any of these things already?
This post is linked up with KCACOLS.
How nature can boost our health and wellbeing

The easiest way to boost your health and wellbeing

We’d all like a quick-fix way to boost our health and wellbeing, wouldn’t we.

It’s why we buy multivitamins and sign up for the last fitness craze that promises us the results we’ve always wanted in record time.

When it comes to our physical health, mental health and overall sense of wellbeing though, there is something really easy that we can do to get huge benefits.

 

Spend time in nature.

It’s that simple.

Spending time in nature has been found over and over again to have huge benefits to all aspects of our health.

 

It really all comes down to the fact that being in nature relaxes our minds.

And studies have found that when our minds are relaxed then our immune systems get a boost.  So spending time outside in nature can help us calm anxious thoughts and feel less stressed.

This in turn boosts our immune systems which has positive effects on all sorts of things from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to high blood pressure.

It makes sense really, when we’re in nature, looking at trees and flowers and all the other beautiful natural features of the world then we do feel more relaxed.  Our busy minds start to quiet down. And when this happens our body uses its resources to boost our immune systems, instead of trying to deal with our usual anxieties and stresses.

 

We can get even more benefits by exercising outdoors in nature.

A yoga class on the beach, a gentle walk through the park, a fast-paced hike in the hills.  Whatever type of exercise you do you’ll see more benefits to your health and wellbeing if you do it out in nature.

The beauty of it is that you can get the benefits no matter your age or fitness levels.

Cycling for example is something that the whole family can do.

Little ones can hitch a ride on the back of your bike, or get all cosy in a trailer behind you.  Older children can ride their own bikes with stabilisers until they’re ready to move on to a bike without them.

And for grown ups who don’t feel steady on a standard bike you can get amazing tricycles, like these from Jorvik Tricycles so you can keep up with the rest of the family.

 

Exercise is renowned for doing wonders for our wellbeing.

As well as boosting our physical health, making us fitter and stronger, it also reduces stress, makes us feel happier, and boosts creativity and productivity.

So combining that with the wonderful power of nature is a really simple way to boost our health and wellbeing.

The key to making this work for you though is to find something you enjoy doing out in nature, so you make the effort to do it on a regular basis.

Have a look around where you live to find the green spaces you can access easily.  See if there are walking trails near you that you could try out.  Find a yoga group that does classes out in nature and go check them out.

Take some time to find a way to connect with nature that makes you feel relaxed and calm and you’ll start to reap the benefits before you know it.

 

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post

Hobbies to make you smarter

5 hobbies to make you smarter

There’s something about the new school year that makes a lot of us want to make a fresh start.

To try something new.

If you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby, then here are 5 ideas for things you can try that will let you learn something new, and help make you smarter too.

1. Learn a new language

If your children are learning another language at school this year, then think about having a go at learning it too.

You can go to classes, find a conversation group to join or study online.

Learning a new language is a great way to boost your brain health.   A study carried out by Dr Thomas Bak, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh found that people who spoke two or more languages showed significantly higher levels of cognitive abilities than they would expect from their baseline tests.

And the age at which you learn a second language doesn’t seem to matter, the benefits are the same.

 

2. Read more

Make a decision to switch off Netflix an hour before bedtime and read something instead.

Reading is a great way to reduce stress, and is the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day, away from the blue light of screens.

If you read a mix of different types of books, from fiction to biographies to poetry to non-fiction you’ll learn so much about different subjects that you might never otherwise come across.  You’ll pick up a much more varied vocabulary and open up your world to different views and opinions.

 

3. Take up a sport

There are so many benefits of regular exercise, including lower stress and better sleep.  But taking up a sport can also help boost your brain power.

Playing sports regularly helps to improve our coordination, confidence and responsiveness.  It also makes our brains more flexible and boosts our overall brain health.

And if you’re really not up for playing sports yourself, you can still get some benefits from watching it from the sidelines.  Watching sports has been shown to engage different parts of our brains, as we learn new sport-related vocabulary and game rules.  All of which leads to increased brain function.

 

4. Pick up a musical instrument

If you’ve not played a musical instrument since you learnt 3 blind mice on the recorder at school, then it might be time to give the whole thing another go.

Whether you decide to go with the guitar, the piano or the drums, you can either find a local teacher to have lessons with or teach yourself with the help of YouTube tutorials.

Studies have found that playing musical instruments increases our memory capacity, teaches us perseverance and improves our concentration.

 

5. Join a quiz team

Or get your friends together and start a new one, and head along to your local pub quiz night.

Testing your brain with quizzes is a great way to keep you sharp and boost your mental abilities.

If quiz nights aren’t really your thing then you can get the same benefits from doing things like crosswords, word searches, sudoku, and word puzzles at home.  These kind of activities help our brains to form new pathways, test our memories and improve our problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

 

Which of these hobbies do you think you might take up this year?

Do you find that the new school year makes you want to branch out and learn something new?

Small changes to boost health

Small changes to improve your health

Summer is on its way out, and for many people this means getting back into the swing of a healthier lifestyle. Being healthy isn’t just about what you eat, there are other aspects that can make a big difference to improving the quality of your lifestyle.

I know how difficult it can be to make big changes, so why not start with little things that will improve your lifestyle without you having to think too much about it? I’ve teamed up with Greensleeves to put together a blog post for some small changes you can make to improve your health.

Keep reading for some of the ways you can change your lifestyle!

Gardening

Gardening can help you lead a healthier lifestyle in many ways. It can act as a great form of working out without having to force yourself to exercise! Depending on what exactly you’re doing and how long you do it for, a simple hour long gardening session could see you burning around 300 calories. Whether you don’t want to go to the gym, or you’re looking for something to go alongside your usual workouts, gardening can be great for your health. 

Gardening is good for your health in more ways than one. If you choose to grow fruits and vegetables in your garden you can improve the way you eat while also burning calories from the physical activity, so it’s a win win! There is also research that suggests gardening is good for your mental health, making it great for an all round healthier lifestyle.

Walk more

Do you find yourself taking public transport or driving your car distances that you could be walking instead? Walking is great for your health, burning calories, increasing muscle strength and improving your cardiovascular fitness levels. It is a pretty moderate activity, so you’ll easily be able to do it as a commute and arrive at your location looking and feeling great. Try and walk for about 30 minutes a day to help live a healthier lifestyle. You’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint, which is a great added benefit. 

Delicious fruity snacks

Snacking can be one of the hardest things to change when you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. There’s no need to cut out your snacking completely as it is important to eat the right amount of food to support your body, but instead replace unhealthy food with something a bit more fruity. This can just be some fresh fruit, but if you are looking to try something a bit more exciting then you can create some yummy fruit snacks. One idea I love is to get some yoghurt, mix it with the fruit of my choice, pop it in an ice lolly mould and stick them in the freezer. This creates a delicious, refreshing fruity snacks for you to enjoy!

Drink more water

Drinking water is very important when it comes to improving your health. There are so many health benefits that come from drinking water, as well as it being essential for our survival. The human body is made up of around 60% water, and when your input doesn’t match up with your output you can become dehydrated and unwell. Many people would say they don’t drink enough water, which is really easy to change!

Set yourself a goal for how many glasses of water you want to drink a day and stick to it, the change will be easier than you think.

 

So there are just a few things you can change to live a healthier lifestyle. What small changes will you be making to improve your health? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Fit exercise into your life

10 reasons to fit exercise into your life

In my pre-children days I used to exercise loads.

I would do classes at the gym, jog along the seafront and do various workout dvds at home.  Then I had Rhys and it all basically stopped.  I’ve made more of an effort to start exercising again in the last year or so though.

Time is a huge factor for me, so when I do exercise now it’s with one of my trusty old dvds.  The 30 day shred is one of my favourites because the workouts are a little over 20 minutes long, but they are really effective.

I do have to fight with myself to keep at it though.  My motivation to do it is nowhere near what it used to be 10 years ago.

If you’re like me, and are looking for that little extra push to get you moving, here are 10 amazing reasons you should fit regular exercise into your life.

 

1. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety

Studies have shown that all levels of exercise work to reduce our stress and anxiety levels.  So even a gentle stroll around the block can help if you’re feeling anxious.

One study in particular though, by Cox et .al 2004 found that people who exercise at a higher intensity level experience the biggest reduction in feelings of anxiety.

What’s interesting though is that exercise of any kind seems to have a long lasting effect on anxiety levels, so you get the benefits long after you’ve finished your gym session.

 

2. It can help with depression

As well as reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, regular exercise can also help with depression.

Loads of studies have been carried out in this area.  A review of 39 of these studies found that, as a general rule, exercise can give moderate relief from depression.

 

3. You’ll get some self-control

It’s not a long-lasting thing, but studies have shown that short bursts of exercise can give us an immediate boost in self-control.

Worth bearing in mind next time you’re feeling tempted by something that you know you shouldn’t do.  See if a quick set of push ups and star jumps gives you the self-control you need to resist it!

 

4. You’ll sleep better

This is another one that’s not a miracle, immediate cure.

But if you stick with exercise and get active on a regular basis then, studies have shown, you should see an improvement in how much you sleep, and the quality of your sleep.

 

5. It makes you happier

A study by Thayer et. al 1994 found that exercise was the most effective way of getting a happiness boost.

This is thanks to all the feel-good hormones that our bodies produce when we work out.

 

6. You can get some relief from migraines

If you suffer with migraines then it might be worth taking a look at this study by Varkey et. al 2011, that found that people who worked out 3 times a week for 3 months, experienced improvements that were equivalent to taking anti-migraine drugs.

 

7. It can improve your memory

A study by McMorris et al. 2011 found that people’s working memory improves after half an hour of exercise.

So if you’re studying for a test, or working on something that takes a lot of concentration, it could be worth going for a 30 minute run or doing a half hour class at the gym before sitting down to work.

 

8. You’ll be more productive…

Exercise increases blood flow to our brains, making us more alert and more on the ball.  This then naturally leads to us being more productive both at work and at home.

Research carried out with dental health workers found that those who exercised regularly were more productive and had more energy than those who didn’t get as much exercise.

 

9. …and more creative

As well as boosting productivity, regular exercise can also boost our creativity.

If you’re feeling uninspired then try going for a relatively high intensity workout, which can increase creativity for up to 2 hours afterwards.  And if you do something like go for a run outside, you’ll get the added benefits from being out in nature.

 

10. It can boost your brain power

As well as increasing blood flow to our brains, regular exercise can also go a step further and help new brain cells to grow.

Exercise has also been found to improve executive function, which basically covers all sorts of things like our ability to filter out distractions, make plans, and effectively switch from one task to another.

 

Now if none of that will motivate you to get moving, I don’t know what will!

things to try when you're stressed

3 things to try when you’re feeling stressed

When we feel stressed out or anxious it can be really easy to get caught up in our thoughts.

Quite often the best thing to do is get out of our heads, and bring our focus to our bodies instead.

Here are 3 things you can try to shift the focus to your physical body to help calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

 

Move your body

Getting some physical exercise is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed.

When we move our bodies we get a rush of all sorts of feel-good hormones that makes us happier and more relaxed.  There’s also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself a bit and knowing you’re getting physically stronger.

If you can get out and exercise in the fresh air then you’ll get even more benefits.

The natural light and surroundings of your local park for example have been shown time and time again to give us a boost and lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

 

Stand still

If you’re in a situation where you can’t just go for a walk in the park or head to the gym, then try standing still instead.

Find a quiet spot where you can stand still and just focus on something.  It might be that you clench and unclench your fists, focusing on how it feels to tighten and relax your muscles.  Or you could try focusing on your feet.  Notice how they feel in the shoes you’re wearing, or how the ground feels underneath them.

When you focus fully on something like this, there’s no space for your mind to worry and you should feel less stressed.

 

Check yourself

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just a bit ‘off’ but you’re not sure why, then check in with yourself.

Are you hungry or thirsty?  It might be as simple as your body needing a glass of water to start feeling better.

It could also be that you’re tired and need a rest, or possibly actually in need of physical activity if you’ve been sat at your desk all day.

Take a bit of time and check in with your basic needs to make sure they’re being met.  If they’re not then do what you can to eat well, rehydrate and get enough sleep.

 

What do you tend to do to help yourself when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? 

Please do let me know by leaving me a comment.

 

Be more productive

Try this trick to be more productive all day

You know those days where you have a never-ending to-do list and yet you can’t seem to get going?

Those times when you get to the end of the day and know you could’ve been so much more productive, but just couldn’t quite get going.

I know I’ve had quite a few days like that, and so I love learning about different techniques and tricks to try to be more productive.

Here’s one thing you can try that just takes a few minutes, but can make a big difference to how productive you are all day.

 

First thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, do something active.

 

You could do push ups, sit ups, star jumps, or just jog on the spot.  Just move your body in some way, for at least a minute.

If you’re looking to get fit then you might want to do a longer workout, but to get a productivity boost all you need is about a minute.

 

No matter how busy your morning is, you should be able to squeeze in just one minute of physical activity.

And that short burst of exercise will be enough to get your body releasing feel-good endorphins that make you feel happier and energised.  That boost first thing in the morning will then carry through to the rest of the day, giving you the energy to make you much more productive all day long.

Starting your day with a rush of endorphins really does set you up for a better day all round.

 

The beauty of this trick is that it is so easy.

It doesn’t require much effort or time but the impact it can have on your day can be huge.  And if you commit to doing this on a daily basis then it can transform your whole lifestyle.

You don’t have to do the same thing every day.  You can mix it up as much as you like.  The key thing is to move your body, in whatever way you feel like each day.

 

On those days when you’re snug and comfy in bed, and really don’t want to get up and get active, then try Mel Robbins’ trick of counting down from 5.  When you get to 1, just get up.

Just do it.

Count down, then go, before you give your mind the chance to come up with more excuses and talk you out of it.

So, what will you do tomorrow morning to get moving and boost your productivity?