12 Tips For A Productive Life

by - June 12, 2014

How do you live a productive life? How do you find the time to do the things you want to do? How do you manage time constructively? Is there any such thing as work-life balance? Though I do not have clear cut answers to these questions asked by many, I do have some tips to share:

1. Wake up early
Waking up early not only has a religious importance in my life as a Muslim, it also gives me a lot of quite time before my children are up. I’ve noticed that whatever task I give myself to do can be finished easily in the early morning. I find it easier to write and easier to cook healthy breakfasts and lunchbox meals when I've had the time to go through my morning routine calmly. When I wake up late, I feel groggy and rushed. Do note that to wake up early, you have to sleep early as well. 

2. Eat Healthy, Move More, Sleep well
The kind of food we eat affects our mood and energy. Going for a walk even if for 20 minutes daily can do wonders to your creative energy. A sleep deprived body can never work to it's full potential. (Easier said than done, ha?)

3. Make lists
No, I am not talking about mental lists. They don’t work. Write down your goals – short or long term. Get it off your head and dump them on a piece of paper.

4. Make a daily schedule
Recently when I felt overwhelmed with ideas and schedules running through my head, I sat down and made a daily schedule on MS Excel. I simply divided each day in two parts – one before Talha got home from school and one after. I gave time for everything I felt was important - meal preps, work (packing orders, admin work etc), social media, blogging, work outs etc. It worked, beautifully! 

I’am not exaggerating when I say I felt like I got few extra hours! I found chunks of time at unexpected places and this helped me in finishing some important projects on time. Although I do not follow the schedule religiously any more, I've come into the habit of getting important work done in the morning and keeping evenings aside for family. In short, schedules make life hassle free. 

5. Get rid of distractions – TV
When we moved to this apartment last year, we decided to not get any cable connection. I can’t tell you how much time this decision has saved my family and I. I could write a blog post only about it. Our evenings are much more wholesome now with evenings spent together as a family. We have a lot more conversations than we did before. If you cannot get rid of your TV completely, start by reducing screen time. Start small, with baby steps. 

6. Get rid of distractions – Internet
Social media is a big part of our lives now. We are able to keep in touch with family and friends and if you have a business, social media is becoming more and more vital. However, how much time do we actually spent on the internet productively? Whenever I feel I am getting more and more distracted and glued to my phone, I would take a social media break.

I have removed Facebook, Twitter and many other apps from my phone. I access them only from my desktop. No apps on phone means no constant notifications. I've also left many Facebook and Whatsapp groups when I felt they were draining my time unnecessarily.  I use my iPad strictly for reading with no access to games or social media. I am also trying to teach myself to reply to emails or messages within 24 hours instead of 'right away'.

7. Create a support system
The main reason I am able to juggle many things without going mental is because I've a good support system in my husband and family. Ma sha Allah. J helps me by taking care of our children when I have to step out.  I also ask help from my Mother and Sister whenever I need an extra pair of hands. 

We have to give up the ‘I can do it all’ attitude as it is not only physically impossible but also mentally unhealthy. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. Most often our friends or family members are more than happy to lend a helping hand. If they are unavailable, try to get hired help even if for couple hours a day. 

8. Learn to say No
I do not mean saying a resounding, impolite NO to someone who asked for your help or assistance. I mean saying No to projects or events or even relationships that are not doing you any good. We cannot be everywhere all the time. Remember what your priorities are and stick with them.

9. Reward yourself
Whether it is a chocolate bar or a day at the spa, reward yourself when you finish a task. No matter how 'grown up' we think we are, a reward still excites us like a school kid who received a 'star' or 'smiley' from his/her teacher. 

10. Stop making excuses
Really, just stop. Stop blaming your children or your husband or the weather. If there is anyone stopping you from doing anything, it is you. (Sorry to sound like a school headmistress)

11. Forgive yourself
Okay, I know we all start with good intentions but life gets in the way. There will be unforeseen, uncontrollable interruptions in our lives and it is okay if we need to let go of something. Do not beat yourself up and never feel guilty about your choices. When bad times come, simply pick yourself up and start again. 

12. Give back
I personally feel that giving back to the community is an important part of living a productive life. It could be monetary help or giving your time for something. Often my friends would get in touch with me asking for an opinion or suggestion and I make sure I answer them in the best possible way. This not only helps me feel part of a community but also opens me to different perspectives. Teaching is also one of the best ways to give back and hone your skills. 

Side note:
I am often asked how do I manage family, work and hobbies so well. 'How do you do it all Neelu?', is a recurring question. My friends think I've a full grasp on my life and I am perfect at handling it. But the truth is, I am not. Yes, the above tips help me keep things in check but I do not believe I can do it all. I cannot. It is the simplest truth. I am always making choices and when I choose one, I lose out another. For example, when I participate in a craft fair (that usually happens on Fridays), I miss time with my children. When I am at Talha's school for a Family Day, I miss important work meetings. I am constantly choosing. I am constantly losing out on something. But, as a working mother, I am okay with that. My work makes me happy and I want my children to have a happy mother. I want them to see me as some one who is ready to follow her dreams and work hard. For now, that's all that matters. 

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  1. That is one excellent post! :) Kinda left me motivated to get back to being organized more.. Good one, Neelu! :)

  2. This post has come at the right time for me. I'm feeling really confused and messed up and when I think about Ramadan that's just around the corner, I almost pull out my hair!! Thank you for these tips, Neelu. I'm due for some serious thinking about my goals and priorities.

    1. You are welcome Fabi! I'am sure you will come through the situation with flying colours. <3

  3. Nice tips Nielouphar. Such an inspiring post and I agree eith waking up early to finishing off the tasks or writing posts for the blog. I have a toddler who is 2.5 yrs old and still doesn't go to school so all my time and energy goes behind him during the whole day. Luckily he wakes up late on the morning and that us the only time I get to write posts. I am goinf to work out on getting rid of internet which I feel control my whole life.
    I think ill keep coming back to this post for lot of inspiration.

    1. Oh and I am sorry for lot of typos in this comment :(

    2. Thank you Tasneem. Blogging with a toddler can be difficult but you are already on the right track and doing really well. No worries about typos. <3

  4. Wise words indeed Neelu. It's taken me a long time to say no - especially if people are persistent. I'm getting there.

  5. great list. I just moved to San Diego and have been feeling so overwhelmed. I need to stop and do some of these things!

  6. " I am also trying to teach myself to reply to emails or messages within 24 hours instead of 'right away'." I don't have the reference anymore, but I recall a blogger who talked about a strategy to do this. At the end of the day, he opened his emails folder, put all the emails received today in a separate folder. The next day, he would process only the emails placed in the folder. He said he felt much better, because he knew exactly how many he had to process.

    1. That's a really good way to handle emails. Thank you for sharing. :)

  7. Thank you so much for the inspiration...!!

  8. Nice read Neelu Ahmed!!! How i wish to control that TV time, will try baby steps!! When we were newly married (2004) we had a TV and no cable, i bet you that was best part of our lives till date. Had lot of time in hand to do various things, now with so much tech around i sometimes feel how handicapped we have become with these things!!!

    1. Yes, staying connected all the time can take away a lot of our precious time. Happy to know you enjoyed reading this post. :)


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