In her August 2014 article "The Best Productivity Trick of All: Do Less," Alex Cavoulacos, Founder of career advice website The Muse, encourages us to be more productive at work by crossing unnecessary items off of our to-do lists. Her advice, in summary, is to: Say no, delegate, eliminate the unnecessary, reassess the need for meetings, their format and length, and manage email more effectively.
Similarly, there are several ways in which we can be more productive - and happier - at home by reevaluating the tasks we undertake and how we approach them. In fact, some of Alex's advice can be directly applied:
1. Say no Saying no is just as hard for many of us in our personal lives as it is professionally - and it's at least as important to do so at home as it is at the office. Are you saying no to your kids enough? Doing so is good for your sanity and is a lesson in patience, discipline and moderation of your children.
Social "obligations," including dinner parties, babysitting and the PTA, are not mandatory. They're choices. Make them wisely and selectively.
2. Delegate There's no shame in delegating tasks to household members, including spouses and kids, as well as roommates or neighbors, or to hiring a professional to lighten your load.
3. Eliminate the unnecessary Attending to extraneous tasks at work can reduce productivity but doing so at home can reduce happiness. By cutting the fat from our personal to-do list, we free up time and energy for the things that are most important to us, including family time, friendships, health and personal growth.
In my experience as a professional organizer, there are two common causes of squandered time. The first is perfectionism. Women, in particular, are susceptible to societal messages that tell us we have to be super-people. If you're ironing your sheets because your neighbor does or home-making baby food because a magazine suggested that you do, consider letting these things go. Decide what's truly valuable in your life and eliminate the tasks that "others" are pressuring you to perform.
The second common cause of unnecessary to-do items is avoidance. Might you be artificially adding things to your list to avoid facing the really tough tasks? Instead of stocking up on cleaning supplies at the bulk store, sit down and start writing that book. Rather than reorganizing your shed this weekend, join your family for an outing. Dreading your first trip to the gym? Might as well face it now. It'll still be waiting for you after a wasted afternoon of unnecessary tasks. And if you are going to procrastinate, at least enjoy a good nap rather than wasting time on a made-up task.