The busy woman’s secrets to productivity: accomplish what really matters

We all aspire to be more productive in our lives. As any busy modern woman can attest, there is simply too much to do and too little time!

The rise of the productivity movement is evident in the influx of articles, books, and time management tools over the past two decades. But while you would expect to see a new abundance of spare time acquired through all of our productivity efforts, it seems that the more productive you become, the more additional obligations find their way to your to-do list.

James Clear, author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits, states, “Productivity is a measure of efficiency of a person completing a task. We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.” 

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So how can modern women keep up in today’s fast-moving world while focusing on what is most important? With a balance of practical organization, prioritization of your time and needs, and setting boundaries, you can achieve a new level of productivity for the things that really matter in your life.  

1. Streamline and create repeatable processes

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Ask yourself what aspects of your life cause you the most stress on a routine basis. Is it digging to find your child’s (dirty) soccer uniform in the bottom of the hamper? Or figuring out if you have all the ingredients you need to make dinner that night? How about sending your aunt’s birthday card a week late again this year?

What can you do to make these tasks more manageable and repeatable in the future? Create a solution to each of these challenges by streamlining in advance to avoid frustration in the future. 

One easy way to streamline routines in your personal and professional life is by using templates and schedules. I love this approach because it’s a no-brainer —after setting it up the first time, all you have to do is pick it up the next time you need it.

  • Dirty laundry woes? Create a weekly laundry routine to ensure you never show up with grass stains on that soccer uniform again. 
  • Always forgetting your toothbrush when you travel? Create a packing checklist that you can print out and check off before every trip.
  • Struggling to manage your never-ending task list? Use an organization tool such as ClickUp to keep an inventory of all the things. 
  • Tired of the dreaded “what’s for dinner” conversation? Do a weekly meal planning session and plan out your grocery shopping simultaneously. (Sign up for my free meal planner below!)
  • Constantly forgetting birthdays? Enter all important people’s birthdays in your calendar and set up an automatic email reminder to mail them a card one week before their special day.
  • Always stressed about the upcoming holiday season? Make a holiday budget and gift tracker in a spreadsheet to get a jump on shopping every fall.

The opportunities for streamlining routines are endless. Just take the time once to develop a system, and you will save so much time to focus on other productive goals.

My biggest stressor every week is deciding what to make for dinner that everyone will eat and ensuring we have all the ingredients in stock. After too many last-minute trips to the grocery store or to pick up pizza, I decided I had to get organized to make the best use of my time. Now I do weekly meal planning and prepare a grocery shopping list each week. It’s amazing how much other stuff I can accomplish every afternoon without having to do a dinner scramble in the eleventh hour!

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2. Choose priority management over time management

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Time is your most valuable resource —it is the one thing in life that you can never get more of. By prioritizing how you spend your time instead of just micro-managing it, you will feel much more productive and satisfied with your efforts.

Take a look at your weekly to-do list. Categorize the must-do’s and the want-to-do’s, then evaluate everything else for opportunities to eliminate tasks or enlist help from others. Be honest with yourself about any unnecessary time-wasters eating into your precious hours that could be better spent doing something meaningful (I’m looking at you, Candy Crush).

  • Do you have to be the one to take your daughter to ballet? No, but you choose to do so because it matters to you.
  • Are you the only one who can run that TPS report at work every Friday? Absolutely not, and you hate it anyway! Ask your co-workers if you can take turns doing specific tasks.
  • Is it necessary to scroll Instagram for a half hour every night instead of having an actual conversation with your spouse? Maybe you need that time to unwind some nights by yourself, but some nights you want to make time for your loved ones.
  • Don’t have time to do a complete deep clean of your house every week by yourself? Look to hire a cleaning service to lighten your load or assign weekly cleaning chores for everyone in the house to share the work. (Seems fair, they live there too!)

The truth is you cannot do it all, and you need to stop trying. Focus on what matters the most to you, and eliminate, cut back, or outsource the other stuff. You’ll end up being much more productive with the time you have!

3. Claim your magic time

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Some days, you can quickly get into the flow of a new project, tackling that task list like a boss. And then, some days … not so much.

Everyone has their unique rhythm and preferences to be productive —so why not work with your natural flow rather than against it? By understanding when you feel inspired and motivated to get stuff done, you can complete important tasks when you are most efficient and maximize your productivity.

Instead of allowing others to dictate your schedule, block out time on your calendar during your magic time for top-priority tasks that require your full focus. Guard this time like the precious treasure it is! 

Create a time-blocking system and integrate your calendar with your ClickUp task list to plan your magic time wisely. Not only will you be able to accomplish so much more in a shorter amount of time, but your mind will be free to tackle the easier stuff without that nagging feeling of being behind lurking in the background.

Sure, some days you will need to compromise and relinquish control over how you spend your prime time hours. It happens. But if you make it a habit of prioritizing your magic time more often than not, I guarantee you will see a boost in overall productivity.

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Have you tried it yet?

4. Prioritize self-care

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When you feel good, you function well —no doubt about it. And with the counterproductive and harmful health impacts resulting from trying to do too much (aka toxic productivity!), there is now even more reason to make self-care a priority in your life.

One of the biggest (and most neglected) aspects of self-care is getting quality sleep. Most of us have good intentions to get to bed at a decent hour every night, but it’s just so tempting to stay up just a little bit longer to watch that next episode on Netflix.  Unfortunately, lack of sleep impairs our cognitive abilities—our capacity to learn new things, our memory, and how quickly we can process information. Not to mention that fatigue results in general grumpiness, which can negatively influence your relationships and increase your risk of depression.

We all know our diet can both negatively and positively impact our overall health, but did you know certain foods, such as leafy greens and berries, have powerhouse capabilities for your mental functions? And that consistent exercise has proven to improve your efficacy in the workplace?

The last vital piece of any solid self-care regime is prioritizing your emotional and mental health. This means staying in tune with yourself, managing stress appropriately, and finding healthy emotional outlets to manage your feelings. When you are overwhelmed, you take a break. When you are upset, you talk to someone or spend some time journaling. You make a point to listen to what your mind and body are telling you. 

People who feel happy and healthy tend to be more productive than those who are not, as a notable study from Warwick University indicates. Ignoring your needs will always backfire, leaving you burnt out, exhausted, and therefore unproductive. So, if you want to get more done, make the time to take care of yourself and tend to your personal needs.

5. Strive for progress in any quantity

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As James Clear states, productivity simply means making progress. However, he notably doesn’t specify how much progress is actually required to be productive.

We often feel we must accomplish these big tasks or tick everything off our to-do list to reward ourselves with the prestigious “productive” badge of honor. But the fact is, some days you will be able to accomplish more than others —and you need to learn to be okay with that.

Try breaking up more significant goals and projects into smaller bite-size tasks. Set a timeline and give yourself an achievable daily or weekly goal to keep yourself on track for long-term progress. On days when you feel inspired and motivated, use that momentum to knock out as much as you want. On other days, just do your one small task. Either way, you’re still making progress toward your goals.

This philosophy can be easily applied in all realms of life, from keeping your house clean to finishing your home renovation project to finally submitting the application to renew your passport. By focusing on baby steps and what you can accommodate at any given time, you ensure you are making some form of progress every day. And before you know it, you’ll be hitting those big milestones.

The secret to productivity

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I admit I have been a productivity-seeker (and resulting workaholic) since I was about 16. I have hustled for 25 years since then, constantly trying to prove that I could keep up with everything on my plate and take on the next big thing that came my way. Until one day, I couldn’t keep up anymore —or maybe I was just tired of trying.

The problem with this elusive concept of productivity is that you constantly try to one-up yourself and others by doing more. But it never ends, resulting in burnout and exhaustion. 

Now, I view productivity a little differently. I’ve discovered a few hacks to make life more manageable in our chaotic house. I’ve found the time and circumstances that allow me to be most motivated and efficient to get things done. I’ve learned that sometimes I just need to give myself the night off and get some rest to be more productive in the morning. But most importantly, I have realized that the most productive and fulfilling aspects of my life have little to do with my to-do list.

Find your balance

So what’s the secret to that glorious productivity we’re all clamoring to achieve? Balance.

Balancing your home and work life for efficiency. Balancing your priorities to make the best use of your time. Balancing your personal needs with the needs of others. And finally, balancing your expectation of productivity at any given time.

Within the balance is where you will finally achieve the productivity and happiness that makes all your efforts worthwhile.


What habits and tricks do you use to maximize your productivity? Share with us in the comments!

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8 Comments

  1. Good post and I love the quote from Atomic Habits.

    A key for me is keeping my to do list doable. If i add to much and have to keep moving tasks to another day it loses its importance.

    And making time for me- I schedule a hike at whatever point in the day is going to be nicest. It’s great for clearing the mind.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one Carolyn! I completely agree, sometimes we have to say no to things in order to take care of ourself. Ultimately, I think it makes you more productive and happy!

  2. Thank you for this great post! Streamlining processes is such a great tip! I created email reminders in my phone for people’s birthdays and love it, though now you’ve inspired me to make those reminders a week early so I can make the card. And I love the idea of celebrating any progress, that’s something I really struggle with being a perfectionist.

    1. It’s so hard to remember to celebrate the baby steps Christine! But a lot of little wins equal big progress over time. Thanks for the note!

  3. Great post! I find myself often needing to take a step back and re-prioritize – loved the points you made here for how to be more efficient and find your balance. Definitely pinning this!

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