EDIT: I thought it was important (and ironic) to let you know that I just had an epiphany: this post has taken me way too long to write 🤣 I have started and stopped it several times over the last few months. So just know that I am not a productivity expert - I am a work in progress - and I hope this will help anyone who is on the struggle bus with me!
I am a do-er. I thrive with a busy schedule and I don’t shy away from a challenge. I can hustle with the best of them. So why is it that I often feel utterly paralyzed by my to-do list? Instead of accomplishing something, I shut down and do nothing or I do anything but what I should be doing.
When I sit down and analyze the problem, I know the cause. Discomfort. I am not finding joy and pleasure with the tasks I need to accomplish or I don’t feel like I have the skillset to do what needs to be done. This happened to me in grad school when I had a difficult exam or a lengthy essay to write. This also happened as a full-time SLP when I had a stack of IEPs or MET reports to write. These things are hard. They require a lot of brain activity, time and focus. Most importantly, they require action. If I stop and think about what it is I need to do, the task becomes insurmountable and I go into avoidance mode. Rather than simply starting, I escape. Sometimes I shift gears and do something less painful…my house is always the cleanest when I have something really challenging to do. But sometimes I just sit there (mindlessly scrolling IG), frozen with anxiety about the growing list and doubting that I am even the right person for the job. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean I am not capable of doing it…it’s just hard! In my quest for improving my productivity and time management here are a couple of solutions that have really helped:
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but our team had no product management system until just a few months ago (and we have been in business for 4 years). While we have tried Asana in the past, as well as Trello, Monday, and BaseCamp, we never agreed on a system we all were willing to commit to, and honestly it just felt like more work than help. But last May we decided to try Asana again and really committed to using it. We didn’t dive in headfirst and learn everything there is to know about project management. We started simply - just adding our own personal tasks. I’m not sure why this time was different but I immediately felt a shift in my feelings about using a tool like this. I loved the ease in which I could log tasks as they came up and felt joy in being able to check them off! Because I am bossy I also liked assigning tasks - but delegation is a whole other topic :) I honestly don’t know how I have ever functioned before. I am better able to manage my time and prioritize tasks and I’m obsessed with that sense of completion every-time I get to check off a task.
This tool would have been a lifesaver when I was an SLP. Although I never missed a deadline (i.e. showing up to a meeting without a draft IEP in hand or completing a MET in the designated timeline) I was constantly scrambling to get everything done at the last minute. If I had planned and prepared a little bit more then it would have made my life so much easier. And here’s the deal…more and more districts are requiring a draft IEP to be written a week prior to the meeting. That means no more writing IEPs on the day of the meeting. You are going to have no choice but to organize your time better. Here is a quick video of how you can use Asana to plan for IEP/METs.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
I don’t know if I ever realized how critical my mornings were to how the rest of my day would go. When someone recommended the book Miracle Morning to me, I was like yeah yeah, I’m good. I like my unstructured morning routine just fine. But in my quest to improve my productivity I thought I might as well see what this book has to say. I was a believer immediately. The premise of the book is the idea that you should wake up early, brush your teeth, drink a large glass of water and then do these 6 things:
- silence (or meditation or prayer)
- scribing (in a journal or planner)
- reading (something you want to learn - even just a page or two)
This is very different than my old routine which included hitting the snooze button 3 times, laying in bed scrolling every social media feed and emails, and then frantically getting ready to get out the door. None of that led to any personal development, calmness or readiness for a new day! While I am not perfectly doing all of these things yet, I have noticed a difference in my focus and productivity when I start my day with the Miracle Morning routine.
Free to Focus
The newest book that I am reading is Free to Focus. I heard the author, Michael Hyatt, on Amy Porterfield’s podcast and it really resonated with me. Here’s the main idea: “The key to productivity today is not to try and squeeze in more stuff. Instead, you should be focused on getting the right things done in the face of 24/7 distractions and sidetracks. If you can start each day with clarity about your highest value priorities and then end each day with a feeling of accomplishment, you’ll be doing well.”
I have been so overwhelmed by the totality of my list that I wasn’t prioritizing anything and ended many of my days feeling exhausted and like I accomplished nothing. I just started using the Full Focus planner (this is what I am writing in for the ‘scribing’ part of the Miracle Morning) and it’s helping me to focus on my ‘highest value priorities’. Again, I just started this so check back with me to see if I actually stick to it :)
Here’s the deal: running a company is hard. Being a school-based SLP is hard. But I hope we can all agree regardless of which role we are playing that it’s totally rewarding and worthwhile! The key is to have some self-awareness, keep improving and do your damndest to ‘be your best’.