Jill Levenhagen stock photography

My sweet little 4 year old daughter has a new way to express
her missing me when we are apart. She tells me that sometimes when she is at
school she gets an “I miss mommy bug” in her tummy. Well, break my heart why
don’t ya! We lay in bed in the evenings and cuddle and kiss to make those “bugs”
go away. I shut my computer at night to read her stories and pick out her
clothes for the next day. She’s my life.

Sometimes I get a bug in my tummy too. I call it the “I don’t
wanna” bug; or the “you can’t make me” bug. I’ve found I live my life in the
tension between my need for productivity, efficiency, and accomplishment, and
my even greater need for a nap and a moment of not being talked to or pawed at.
The struggle is real.
How do I keep it all together and organized? The answer is… I
do not. I barely make it out the house each morning fully dressed. If you’re
looking for house cleaning tips, you’ve got the wrong girl here. I’m simply
living for the day when I can hire someone to clean for me. Pure bliss.
Lest you think me a sloppy disaster of a person, I do in
fact have real, helpful tips to share here. While I struggle in the homemaking
department (my husband says I’m a professional dirty dish maker), I’ve figured
out some keys to managing my always chaotic work life with relative ease.
Do you find that you’re often losing, forgetting about, or
just plain missing important emails? Do you put off making decisions? Do you miss deadlines? Are you often late? Are you lacking boundaries between personal and work life
(this may be less clear to you and more to your coworkers)? Is your desk and
office a cluttered mess?
If you said “yes” to any of the above, or you want to avoid
those productivity pits, then let’s chat…
1. Control Your Inbox
I cannot tell you how many people I’ve communicated with
over the years who lack even basic control over their email inboxes. This is a
critical error for anyone in any field since email is the number one communication
method for most business.
I’ll admit… my personal email is a freaking mess. I just
cannot deal. I’ve clearly given up. There is no hope. But my professional email
accounts? Totally different story there, folks.
Important tips to managing your email:
  • Maintain a clean inbox – When emails build up in
    your inbox, you’re asking for trouble. My warning light goes off in my head
    when I can scroll in my inbox. That means that there are more than a handful of
    emails there and they’ve built up to the point that I must now use the
    scrolling function to look through my inbox. Don’t let emails just collect in
    the inbox. Let your inbox be for current emails for which you are working on
  • Use folders – Any decent email management system
    (I use Outlook and love it) will allow you to create folders for your own
    specific needs. When I am finished with an email from my inbox (in other words,
    I have dealt with that email, responded to it, and am now done with it) I move
    it to an appropriate folder to be stored in case I need to refer back to it.
  • Delete your crap – How hard is it to empty your
    email accounts trash and why do I even have to say this?
  • Check your stupid email – Read them. Do not file
    unread or unreturned emails into folders. That is where important emails go to
    die. Leave your un-answered emails in your inbox to mock you until you get the
    job done.
  • End the insanity (spam and email offers) – It is
    a big no-no to use your professional email addresses for personal junk mail.
    Don’t do it. Set up a junk email account and give that address to whoever wants
    it. That junk email is for your Panera card, your Starbucks gold points, your
    airline miles offers, and the daily sale emails from your favorite stores. Give
    everyone and their mama your junk email address, but protect your professional
    email account. Also be sure to use a good spam filter.

2. Write it Down

If you don’t maintain a task list, you’re not doing this
whole work thing right. The type of
list you keep is a matter of personal preference and work style, but the need
to have a list is universal… unless you never forget anything ever and do
everything perfectly all the time in which case I don’t know why you’re reading
this post.
Ways to make a task list:
  • Pen and paper – I used to love to type my to-do’s
    on Monday morning, print it out, then mark items off with a Sharpie marker
    throughout the week. I left space on the page to write in additions as needed.
    This worked really well for me. The feeling of crossing off a task with a black
    marker is oddly exhilarating.
  • Notes on your phone – I use my notes in my
    iPhone for all personal notes. My income and expenses for the month are tracked
    this way (high-tech, I know). I keep notes for blogging, shopping, and general
    to-do’s. This method is handy because I don’t need yet another app to manage
    these notes and I always have my phone with me. Just be sure that your notes
    are being backed up so you don’t lose info if you ever lose your phone or
    upgrade. (been there, done that)
  • Online programs – At work I use Asana and I love
    it! Other programs people like are Evernote, Wunderlist, Google Keep, and
    others. Many of these and similar programs also come with an app for easy
    management on the go.


3. Clean Your Desk
My work space vacillates between clean, cleanish, messy, and
call-the-hoarders-police-we-have-a-crisis messy. I’m not perfect… I make messes
and I never want to clean them. I want everything to be neat and perfect, but I
also hate the process of making it that way. Whatevs. It has to be done.
Under the piles of papers on your desk hide important notes
long since forgotten, missing receipts, and unfiled documents.
Schedule yourself some time once or twice a week to take a
walk around, get a cold (or hot) beverage, and then spend 15 minutes cleansing
the pigsty you call and office and gently corralling dust bunnies into the
Clarity, creativity, and productivity thrive in a clean, well appropriated


4. Take a Break
We cannot work continuously without pause for 8, 9, 10+
hours. Can Not. Our brains will betray us. Our bodies will become worn out and belligerent
like sleepy two year olds.
A quick Google search will instantly provide you with
reading material for days on the topic of frequent breaks and the connection to
productivity. We need to rest and
renew. A walk around the office, a watercooler conversation with coworkers, a
lunch break, a coffee break, even running an errand for a change of scenery…
these are all great ways to rest your brain and boost your work output during
the day.


5. Set Boundaries
Family comes first. I work to provide for my family. I occasionally
take a morning off work so I can perform the simple, but important to me, task
of taking my daughter to preschool. I smash my full-time work week into 4 days
so I can have most Fridays-Sundays with my family. But when at work, we have
To communicate with each other, my family and I use our cell
phones… only. We almost always communicate via less intrusive text message during the
work day. In the case of an emergency if I can’t be reached on my cell phone, my
family can call my office. This has never happened, thank God. I never call my
husband on his office line. The receptionist at his office is not his personal
answering service. On rare occasions we visit each other at work. Once or
twice my husband and I each have had to bring our daughter to our work for a
while because… well, that’s life! We are just careful to place priority on our
work while we are on the clock and not on a bunch of un-critical phone calls
with family.
On the flip side, work cannot be allowed to consume family
life. We look ahead on our calendars and pinpoint just a few important family
events in a year that are non-negotiable. This year it is Christmas,
Thanksgiving, and our daughters first ever dance recital. We will bend heaven
and earth to be present for these days. With proper communication and planning
far in advance, these types of important days should always be respected by
your employer. If your employer doesn’t recognize your right to basic personal and
family boundaries, you need to move on. Money and accomplishment are worthless
trash if you don’t know your own children.
There are specific jobs that deal with life and death where
you will have to work on holidays and may have little control over your
schedule. But usually with experience and seniority you can move from paying
your dues to a more reasonable schedule.


6. Think Ahead
Successful people plan ahead. Or they pay people to do that
for them.
Procrastination and last minute “ideas” are the murderers of
profit and momentum.
Stop your last minute nonsense. Plan a meeting, sit down
with the team, do not leave the table until you have a plan and all players are
clear on their specific area of responsibility to the tasks. If you are your team, then do the same with
Tools for thinking ahead:
  • Calendar
  • Event schedule
  • White board for mapping tasks, ideas, and goals
  • Pen and paper or a computer for notes
  • Computer for quick research
  • The budget
  • A list of goals to be accomplished by the end of
    your planning session – go over these goals before you finish to be sure you’ve
    met them all.


7. Be realistic
What can you actually do in the amount of time and with the
energy level you have?
In the past I have been the queen of jumping first then asking
questions later. That habit landed me in numerous stupidly busy seasons that
were too much for any one person to balance well. On the one hand, we have
stuff to do and sometimes we just have to make ourselves crazy for a season to
make things happen. Then we kick back and take it easy for a season. This is
normal. Welcome to life. Without busy times your many skills can atrophy and
you’ll appreciate the quieter times less. But on the other hand we have got to
stop piling on the projects like pancakes on a platter at an eating
competition. It’s just dumb. When you’re gearing up for a big event, have a key
staff member about to have a baby, are in the dreaded budget or audit month,
already have a pile of work to do that you’re behind on, are trying to hire new
staff… this is a bad time to say “hey, I have an idea! Let’s do [here insert
huge project that will give you/your staff heartburn]!” EERRR! Wrong answer!
If you have an awesome idea, it will still be awesome in 3
months when you’ve thought it through and scheduled time for you and your team
to work on the idea during a less busy season.
Be realistic. We all love the idea of a dreamer, but nobody
wants to work for the dreamer and their family probably wants to slap them.
Dream big then execute wisely.
With these keys to success I feel I can conquer my work
world.    I just need a nap first.



12 Comments on 7 Ways You’re Murdering Your Work Productivity

  1. HungryForGod (Andi)
    October 30, 2015 at 1:28 am (2 years ago)

    I wish I had known some of this stuff from when I was working….

  2. Adessa Holden
    October 30, 2015 at 1:43 am (2 years ago)

    The tips in this article are really great! Loved the email tips and the basic principle that you need to play to be successful at work. Thanks!

  3. Rhiannon Rae
    October 30, 2015 at 2:30 am (2 years ago)

    Such a great list and some ideas I really need to put into practice. It is easy to get sidetracked but this list sets things in perspective!

  4. Returning Remnant
    October 30, 2015 at 5:46 am (2 years ago)

    Carissa, you make me LOL. For real. You write like I talk. This post? Yeah, you're singing my song. I may have some OCD-type tendencies. Like a completely color-coded calendar. And I might have to sneak this post into my BFFs hot little hands somehow…



  5. Brianna George
    October 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm (2 years ago)

    I work from home and boy these are so true….

  6. Branson Merrill
    October 30, 2015 at 9:41 pm (2 years ago)

    This is a great post, Carissa! I have been slacking on writing things down lately and it has been holding me back for sure. I am SO easily distracted!

  7. Samantha
    October 31, 2015 at 11:12 am (2 years ago)

    This is so good + true — a part of me wishes that someone had told me this earlier, but the other part of me feels that learning these truths by experience was too precious a journey to want to trade away. Praying that the wisdom shared here will bless others!

  8. SugarNCurls
    October 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm (2 years ago)

    Great tips! I have to, have to write everything down, and I actually use all three methods you suggested! I'm really just learning to take a break and be realistic – but it's coming lol! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Danielle
    October 31, 2015 at 5:10 pm (2 years ago)

    Love it! i just did the organize your email one today! so many new smart mail boxes! great tips!

  10. Danielle Wells
    November 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm (2 years ago)

    I really appreciated this blog post! I want to share this in my weekly series called "Roll Out The Red Carpet Thursday" – I share bloggers' amazing posts that I've found during the week. I hope that' ok! Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  11. Megan Kelly
    February 17, 2016 at 4:23 pm (2 years ago)

    Great tips! Planning the next day and having a clean desk have been lifesavers.

  12. Savannah
    October 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm (1 year ago)

    Write it down. Ahhhhhhhh!!! Yes
    Omg, I am sooo awful at this, and I hate myself for it over and over again. I’ll think of an amazing blog idea, or something that I need to get done. And then, motherhood jumps in, and my mind is onto a poopy diaper or getting dinner on the table, and by the time I sit down again, the thought is loooong gone. Thanks for the reminder! <3


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