3 game changing productivity tips

:: by Lizzie






Paper Clips  |  Diamond Tray  |  Fittonia Plant available in store at SMUG  |  Habits Journal

APNTD Notepad  |  Seize the Day Notepad  |  Gold and Powder Pen  |  Brass Index Clips



1.  M E A S U R E  W H A T ‘ S  U R G E N T  &  W H A T ‘ S  I M P O R T A N T

When I heard this system quoted on Jess Lively’s podcast it really struck a chord with me. It’s from the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Dr Stephen R Covey and focuses on helping us work out how we spend our time and how to better prioritise it in order to be more productive. Let me explain. Covey splits the combinations of urgent and important tasks into 4 quadrants. Quadrant 1 is both Urgent and Important. A good example would be, your house is burning down and you need to put the fire out. It’s urgent because it’s happening that second and it’s obviously important – people could get hurt, your home and belongings could be lost.


Quadrant 2 is Not Urgent but it is Important. An example for this would be exercise. It’s important we all take care of our bodies by exercising and eating well but it’s not urgent. However, not taking care of ourselves now could lead to an urgent health problem later, ending up in Quadrant 1. Quadrant 3 is where the majority of people spend most of their time. Urgent but Not Important. This is the stuff that’s happening right now and drawing our attention but that isn’t actually important. Constant emails pinging at you, phone alerts, text messages, phone calls that you feel you must answer but that might be a distraction from what’s actually important. And then the final Quadrant is 4, where things are Not Urgent and Not Important. Hopefully you’re not spending too much time in that one.




What really hit home with me is that most of us spend the majority of our working lives in Quadrants 1 and 3 when actually Quadrant 2 is the place to really push the needle and be most productive. As someone running their own business, this realisation has been a huge game changer. I can get so bogged down with the day-to-day running and admin of SMUG along with ‘urgent’ requests from press, suppliers and customers that I don’t get anything like enough time to focus on the things that would take SMUG to the next level. The tasks that fall into Quadrant 2 can feel like vanity projects – designing a pattern collection, writing a book proposal, taking time to design more complex window displays in advance, spending time developing content for the blog on a regular basis, styling in-house photo shoots at SMUG – but these are the things that actually develop SMUG and push what I’m doing forward. It’s so easy to stagnate in Quadrants 1 and 3 when Quadrant 2 is where we can actually flood new life and energy into what we do and make leaps and bounds forwards, towards our goals and in our productivity. I’m feeling pretty excited about this. Can you tell?



2.  P R I O R I T I S E  Y O U R  T O – D O S  &  S T I C K  T O  T H E M

I love lists. I’m pretty well organised when it comes to making them but when it comes to ticking everything off of them, I do sometimes struggle. There are a few problems I come up against regularly: Firstly my list for the day tends to be unrealistically long. This means I never get to the end of my to-dos, so jobs are always being pushed over to the next day and I miss out on that sense of achievement in finishing everything off. Another problem is that I’ve often started with the easy/fun items on the list and put off the ‘big’ or ‘hard’ jobs till later which can foster a bit of an uncomfortable feeling of doom overhead, until those bigger jobs are ticked off. Also, with lists in ‘Notes’ on my iPhone, it’s so easy to copy and paste tasks to the next day and generally move things around, that my to-do lists just weren’t fixed enough and were leading to me not feeling much sense of achievement for clearing a list of jobs.


So my new system is to make a hand written list in my notepad everyday (with tick boxes!) of around 5 – 8 tasks (no more) and most importantly, I write them in order of priority. This way I force myself to start with the most important task which leads to a real sense of achievement when I’ve finished that job (and can tick it off!) and it tends to really give me a boost to get on with the next item on the list. Of course, because of the nature of my job, things get added to the list during the day in order for me to support my team and deal with the happenings of the day at SMUG. But this way my day essentially gets easier as it goes on and every task is a little more simple and quicker to complete than the last. Genius no?



3.  C R E A T E  A  M O R N I N G  &  E V E N I N G  R O U T I N E

I find that I’m at my most productive when I have a structure and am actually taking pleasure in what I’m doing. I really benefit from having both morning and evening routines. My morning routine is designed to help me get up and out of bed, feeling positive and ready for the day. If I start the day with intention, using a routine that makes me happy, I am absolutely more productive that day. Little things like starting the day with a big glass of water and a skincare routine that makes me feel pampered, give me the kind of structure that helps me get out of bed happy and with purpose. If I’m able to go for a run or a swim or do a bit of yoga as part of my morning routine, I feel so proud of myself that I make better choices throughout the rest of the day. I like to have ingredients for a yummy and healthy breakfast at hand to keep things simple but keep my tastebuds interested in the morning. You can read my blog post on healthy breakfast inspiration here.


My evening routine helps me wind down from work, ready for a good nights sleep. Taking off my makeup, lighting a scented candle, prepping my hot water bottle, doing a face mask, painting my nails or reading a book, all help with me feeling rested and ready for bedtime. This in turns helps me get an excellent nights sleep so I wake up revived and ready for the day the following morning. These choices to take pleasure in and give purpose to my down time, genuinely make a huge difference to my productivity and general wellbeing. I’m often too busy and rushed off my feet but focussing on the above in my work life, taking Sunday as a day off with my husband (and the comforting structure of belonging to a church and the peace I find in prayer when I remember to do it) makes me feel happy, blessed, productive and on the way to getting that work-life balance people talk about.