Jana Says

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Tag Archive: productivity

Waking at 5AM and other advice I ignore 

There’s a lot floating around the interwebz on how you can be more productive and use your time better. I find all that stuff fascinating and it’s why I read books about it, along with those articles and blog posts (and OMG, Pinterest. Holy shit is there a lot on Pinterest). I figure I can always do better, be better…self-improvement is never a bad thing. But what I’ve learned more than anything is that knowing yourself is better than following all the advice in the world. 

Knowing how you function, when you function best, what motivates you, what keeps you going…that’s the stuff that, at the end of the day, gets your shit done. However, without experimenting, there’s no way to know what works for you and what doesn’t. 

How do I know? Because I’ve tried. And what I’ve learned is that many of the go-to tips don’t work for me. For instance:

  1. Getting up at 5AM. Or some other ungodly hour. I tried to do that. To get up insanely early and be productive in those hours. It lasted about 4 days before I said fuck this and stayed in bed till a reasonable hour. I wound up not getting anything done because I was exhausted and my thoughts kept drifting back to my bed. So now I get up around 6:45 and work in the evenings instead.
  2. Weekly meal prep. I know many of you swear by it but it doesn’t work for me. By Wednesday I hate everything I’ve made or no one is in the mood for what’s prepared and have you ever tried to force feed a picky 10 year old with an attitude as big as she is? Peanut butter sandwiches only go so far and I can only fight so many battles. So I meal plan for the week and cook daily.
  3. Freezer meals. Not sure why so much revolves around food but here we are. I guess this falls under my dislike of weekly meal prep but I have done a few freezer meal sessions and OMG it is not worth the effort. Having a few is great in a pinch but I am not a freezer stocker. Not a big stockpiler, either, for what that’s worth. It’s a shit ton of effort and I always mess up something and the dishes. SO MANY DISHES. So, rather than freezer meals, I make sure there are leftovers or, if it’s a complicated recipe like stuffed shells that I’m making anyway, I double and freeze some of that.
  4. Gratitude journaling. At the risk of sounding like a bitchy asshat, I just can’t get into doing this. I’ve tried with pen and paper and with an app. I simply struggle with writing it down. I frequently reflect on what I’m grateful for but I am not, nor will I ever be, in the daily habit of writing it down. I get the benefits, especially the mental health benefits, but meh. Not for me.
  5. Eliminating TV. I actually wrote a post once listing a ton of things you can do while watching TV. Because I don’t think we need to demonize TV the way it is in many circles. It’s about striking a balance between how much and when and what else you’re doing but a show a night or a binge watch weekend? Nothing wrong with it at all. And honestly, I’m quite productive most days. That’s right. I watch TV AND I get shit done. Oh, and I read like 80 books a year, too, so you can do both.
  6. Eat the frog first. I wrote a whole post about this, too, but I don’t eat the frog first. I eat it last because for me, it’s more motivating to get the small, easy, simple, annoying tasks out of the way so I can clear my plate for the big one. Is it satisfying to get the major task done before everything else? Yes. Does it leave me with almost no energy for everything  else? Also yes.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m writing this on my phone because I’m too lazy open my laptop and also, you guys get the point. Not all the tips work for all the people so if you’re looking to improve, read all the things and then pick and choose what works for you. Experiment. Manipulate. Track how you feel when doing thing. Check progress and determine if what you’re doing really is worth it. Then make a plan or list and follow that. 

And know that if you don’t feel like getting up at 5AM, your day isn’t a waste, you’re not lazy, and sleep is a wonderful thing. 

What are some popular or conventional tips you forgo?

P.S. Next week I’ll talk about some advice I do follow. #balance

4 ways to use your smartphone for self-improvement

Some time last year, I posted a link to an article that talked about having a decluttered iPhone (I can’t find the link now. I’ll share it on Facebook when I do). I fell in love with that idea and when I got my new phone a few months ago, I decided to take the challenge. I realized that my phone was starting to take over my life 

While my phone isn’t as clutter free as it could be, it’s way better than it was. With the exception of Instagram and Goodreads, I removed all social media apps. Then I removed all news outlet apps (CNN, Huffington Post, etc), deactivated all push notifications, and set the do not disturb time frame. Next, I decided not to install any games except for a couple for my daughter. YouTube made the cut but that’s also more for my daughter’s sake than mine. I left Spotify because I’m borderline obsessed with it and I listen to music constantly, and a few other apps like MLB and my library and bank. Stuff I genuinely need and use.

Once I decided to declutter my phone, I also decided I would start using it for good instead of evil. So, when picking which other apps to add or keep, I felt that they needed to have a productive purpose. As in, stuff I can use to make me better instead of worse. To that end, here’s how I’m using my iPhone as a weapon for self-improvement instead of self-destruction:

smartphone self-improvement

Duolingo. If you want to learn a new language, Duolingo is the perfect place to start. I first heard about this app from my daughter’s Spanish teacher, which worked out well because I’d long been wanting to brush up on my French and I can do this for free, on my own time. You can choose from about 8 languages, how much you want to practice each day, it grades you instantly, the app tracks your progress, and even if you have zero knowledge of a language, you can use it. It has a game-type feel that makes it fun to learn and keep you interested.

Podcasts. Podcasts are sneaky little learning tools. My husband has long been a fan of them but they never did it for me. Then Serial happened and now I’m a fan. Rather than simply listening to entertainment-based ones, I’ve been trying to learn by downloading business-type podcasts from Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins, Book Riot’s podcast, and also Criminal, which is short, investigative reporting episodes, all related to crimes, old and relatively new. The criminal justice nerd in me rejoiced upon discovering this one. Not into criminal justice? I’ve seen one for self-improvement, science, money management and personal finance, religion, and dozens of others.

Exercising. Use your phone and create a gym in your pocket! (I’ve also written before how you can use your smartphone to achieve your fitness goals if you want more information on that). As someone who doesn’t love exercising, I’ve had to find ways to keep it interesting. After a 4 month lapse, I’ve started workingout again using my T25 videos but as an alternative, I downloaded a yoga app and a workouts app (literally. That’s what it’s called. Workouts. And Yoga). There’s a free and paid version for each. I recommend the paid version because you get more options and longer workouts. I use this in conjunction with my Couch 2 5K app (that’s more of a springtime app since my basement isn’t finished and it’s fucking cold down there) and with this combination, I barely miss my gym membership.

Gratitude journal. Lots of people recommend keeping one of these so I thought I’d give it a try since it seems like a simple enough effort to improve my mental health. After looking through lots and lots of apps, and not really wanting to pay for one, I settled on one called Grid Diary. What I like about it is that you can set up as many questions or prompts as you want, either by choosing from a library of questions or making up your own. It automatically reminds you at a set time every day to write in the journal so there’s no excuse not to. It’s a quick and easy, something you can do during a commercial. I think I might upgrade to a paid app at some point but for now, this one is just fine.

I’m also starting to use iBooks a bit more, particularly while I’m waiting on the school pick up line or for an appointment, and I have a few store cards loaded onto my phone. I have the Disney app on my phone that my sister and I are using to coordinate our vacation to Disney World this spring so we can be clandestine and surprise the kids. And finally, I’ve taught my mom, sister, and mother-in-law how to use the photo sharing option so we can trade pictures without sending 2340832 texts. 

I’m sure, if I wanted, I could pare down my phone even more but for now, I’m okay with the way it looks. And I can tell you that by removing many of the negative influences from my phone, it’s not only improved my state of mind but it keeps me more present and focused when I’m out and about. 

Which is really the most important thing.

How are you using your phone for self-improvement? What should I add to my arsenal?


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42 things to do while watching TV

tv things

The other day, while looking through Pinterest, I saw yet another post spouting off about how TV is awful and a waste of time and the only way to be productive and engaged is if you just turn it off (the superior attitude she gave in the post is a whole separate topic and rant. Honestly, if you don’t want to watch TV, good for you. But please don’t condescend to those of us who do). While there might be some merit to what the post author was saying, I respectfully disagree with her. In fact, I believe there are plenty of things you can do while watching TV so you’re not just idly sitting on the couch (and if all you want to do is sit on the couch, go ahead. It’s your time, your life and you can do whatever you choose with it).

For instance:

Bloggy things

  1. Comment on other blogs or respond to comments on yours
  2. Write a post or two
  3. Optimize posts for Pinterest or SEO
  4. Check for dead or broken links
  5. Create an editorial calendar
  6. Schedule tweets and/or Facebook updates
  7. Create a new header or blog button
  8. Participate in a Twitter chat
  9. Help a new blogger (not sure how? I know a great program you can get involved in)
  10. Revise or update old posts to make them fresh
  11. Give your blog a facelift
  12. Do invoices for sponsorships, freelance work, ads, or services
  13. Finally start that eBook

Pioneer things

  1. Crochet, knit, sew, or mend something
  2. Map your garden
  3. Make soap or candles
  4. Prepare food (ex., pickles, bread, applesauce in the crockpot)
  5. Wash dishes
  6. Research essential oils or some alternative medicines that pioneers used
  7. Make homemade cleaners


Personal things

  1. Exercise (there are tons of workouts you can do during commercials or while watching a show. Or invent your own)
  2. Pay bills
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Batch cook or menu plan
  5. Read a magazine, a book, or create a reading list on GoodReads (while you’re at it, put some books on hold at the library or borrow some from the Kindle store)
  6. Do some online shopping
  7. Look for coupons (I do this with the Target Cartwheel app)
  8. Make a vision board
  9. Organize your Pinterest boards or actually make a project you’ve pinned
  10. Write out goals or a bucket list
  11. Plan/organize a party or family get-together
  12. Write thank you cards or cards in general
  13. Play a game
  14. Do a puzzle
  15. Create a workout, commuting, or road trip playlist or four
  16. Organize pictures
  17. Groom yourself–mani/pedi, dye your hair, face mask, remove your mustache (no judging here. You need to do what you need to do)
  18. Play with your pet
  19. Text a friend during a particularly interesting show and share the experience
  20. Clean the room you’re in
  21. Purge your closet or drawers
  22. Watch something helpful/educational like a TED talk or documentary 

The pioneers, from what I can tell, valued being productive over being busy. But they also enjoyed some downtime, particularly after a hard day of work. They relaxed with music, storytelling, and games; many of us relax with a TV show or two. But if you’re finding you’re hard pressed to get everything done in a day you need or want to, why not get some of it done while you’re in front of the TV?

What would you add to the list?