Staying on Top of Work | 2015

Staying on Top of it All

Whether you're going back to school, helping your kids catch the bus, or eagerly awaiting the new fashions, fall is right around the corner and with it comes the nostalgia for cooler temps and a drive to hunker down, and get back to work. It's no surprise that I (Emily, here!) have headed back to school for my next semester filled with unfortunate adventures and countless hours of working. Teaching yoga five days a week, owning my own business, and going to school full time has definitely allowed me to fine-tune my ability to stay on top of work, so I thought I'd share my three no-fail tips with you. It's important to stay organized, keep a healthy time mentality, and make time for yourself. Let's get to it ...

write it down

Master list.

This piece of paper or a Word page or a folder in Evernote (more on my favorite apps to use later) has every single to-do item. Crazy right? Nope. It's life changing. Organize them into subheaders - i.e. dreams, home, work, etc - and start adding everything and anything under them. Writing down all of those "oh! I wish/need/could do that" will help with the endless cycle of what you need to get done, what you have gotten done, and what you hope to accomplish. I have a list that's several pages long but includes things I want to do ten years from now (like owning my own home - dream!).

Weekly list.

Your master list has been created. Do not and I repeat, do not, fold up that master list and start each day gawking at how much you want to do and how much you've yet to do. Que the failure. Instead, at the beginning of each week - Sundays work for most people - sit down with your master list and make your weekly to-do list. On this baby, include things like what immediately needs to get done, meals you want to have for the week, any exercise plans, social events, etc. Pull from your master list, but don't expect to get through it all in a week. Try to be realistic with what you can accomplish. If on your master list you have "Write a Book" but you've yet to write a single page, break it up into manageable pieces like, "research publication mediums, write bio, draft outline, etc". Small tasks allow for an undaunted approach to your goals.

Daily list.

This is where you take that weekly list and turn it into your daily task sheet. Take five minutes the night before to plan out your daily list. I use the 5-3-1 formula. Five big ticket tasks, 3 small steps, and one to two personal self-care items.

For example, my daily list two days ago looked like:

+ 5 Big-Ticket Items - draft Yoga for Basketball Philosophy outline, finalize and post Foods I Take to Wake: First Edition, meet with Beth and Mason, go to Class, and start Staying on Top of Work Post.

+ 3 Small Steps: emails - reply to the athletic trainer, email my past econ professor, and send my outline to Dana; purchase my textbook for German; purchase a gift.

+ Personal Self-care: take a Barre3 class and work on wall hanging - art project.

On this list you'll also see my meals for the day - or at least where I'm eating and at what time.

I love the thrill of crossing things out or checking things off, so by the end of the day, my list normally looks like a black hole - paper copy - or all green - online app. Cross it off your weekly list too! Annnnnd if you hit something on your master list, you guessed it, cross it off! You did it! Woohoo!

Every couple of weeks or every month, sit down and review your master list: cross off things you've missed, maybe take off items in which you no longer have interest, or add even more. It's a constant process, but one that keeps your life rooted in action rather than fear.


50 minutes of work followed by ten minutes of stretching your fingers, shaking your booty, checking out a cool blog, or sipping on some tea. Gauge your time frame of productive ability, and remember that each day is different. Some days, I operate on a 30/15 focus, while other days I can hammer out work at a 55/5 pace. It's amazing how when you listen to your mind's ability to focus, and don't force it to do anything crazy like work for three hours with only a five minute break, you can maximize productivity and cross off everything on your daily list.

self care

So you've planned your life down to a T, and you've maximized productivity in the blocks you've allotted for yourself. It's time to make time for rest and self-care too. Without it, you get sick, fall back on work, lose your drive, and end up right where you began. Burning the candle on both ends might make a bright and beautiful light, but pretty soon the light fizzles out, and there isn't anything left.

Personal self-care items can be: read a book, call a friend, or take a bubble bath. They are meant as ways of rejuvenating your system.

Still don't think it's important? Imagine if you never rubbed the belly of a service dog or let them take a nap but made them work all of the time. Think they would be the loving, capable, and incredible animals we hear about or see every day? I certainly don't think so. Self-care = most important part.

And remember it's all a process! Some days it works amazingly, and other days you throw your plan to the wind, get under the covers, and watch four seasons of a great show on Netflix. It happens. But now you have the tools to get back on track.

So there you have it! My three, go-to tips for staying on top of work. I'm sure I'll be rereading my own words when I get too stressed to think, but that's life, eh? Just remember:

  1. Write it all down.
  2. Block it out.
  3. Don't forget self-care.

+ Do these seem doable? What are your go-to productivity tips?