My Journey to Productivity and Effectiveness

July 25, 2019

Or How I Went from Being a Workaholic without boundaries, to an unstructured creative without systems, to a disciplined solopreneur with big dreams and the plans to back them up

If you know me at all, you know I talk a lot. Apparently my blog is no different. I sat down to write one post about how I set up my weekly schedule and cranked out four posts worth of content. Whoops! So as not to overwhelm you, I decided to break them down in to smaller posts. You’re welcome. 🙂 Today I’m sharing the different stages of my journey to productivity and effectiveness. Enjoy!

my journey to productivity and effectiveness

As a “solopreneur” working from home, it is often challenging to keep a disciplined, structured routine day-to-day. It seems like creative minds especially tend to work better in random bursts of energy rather than within the boundaries of a routine. I mean, that’s what “they” say, right?

I have a natural tendency to be straight up lazy. Without structure, I can waste an entire day without giving it a second thought. Or I can feel stressed out the entire day and feel overwhelmed by my to-do list and not be really sure if what I’m doing right now is actually what I should be doing.

I was a workaholic and I liked it

Before I got married and had someone else’s schedule to think about, the way I combated my laziness and procrastination was just to keep myself incredibly busy. In college I was a swim coach, photographer, and student. In graduate school, my studies got more intense. So I decided to throw piano teaching into the mix too. Makes sense, right?

There were a few summers where I was the head coach of a swim team, a pool manager and lifeguard of a completely separate pool, AND a piano teacher. I worked 12 hour days often and was regularly averaging 70-hours of work a week.

And the craziest part? I actually liked it that way. People thought I was crazy and asked, “wow, do you do everything?!” I said “Nah, I just don’t like to be bored!” And it’s true. All of my jobs brought their own unique joys. And since I was so busy I didn’t have time to sit around and ponder things that often make us depressed.

I didn’t have boundaries. If I wanted to work until 2AM I could. I was only affecting myself. If I wanted to take on other responsibilities at work I could. Because if I didn’t have the time I could make the time.

After marrying Matt, I knew there was absolutely no way I could continue like that. I mean, I wanted to spend time with him, for goodness sake! Not to mention I had to somehow fit new things like housework and cooking into my schedule. And we wanted to create a life that we were doing TOGETHER. He works a regular 9-5 job, and if had a completely different schedule than him, what would we be doing together? Something had to give. I gave up swim coaching the summer we got married and I gave up piano teaching when we moved to the other side of town. Soooo….now what?

I had no structure and I hated it

After marriage I went through an identity crisis of sorts. So many of the things that “defined” me (piano teacher, swim coach, lifeguard, student, etc.) didn’t apply anymore. I found myself with so much “free” time that I was somehow supposed to fill up myself. Most of the time I just felt like a 24-year-old retired housewife that was somehow supposed to find meaning in pursuing… what exactly??

Up until that point I fit in sessions and editing wherever I could cram it in my busy schedule. I didn’t have to think about things like setting up work hours, morning routines, marketing, networking, blogging, or so many things that “real” business owners do on a daily basis. I didn’t know the slightest thing about productivity and effectiveness. Why? Because I was so busy doing other things. The amount of clients I was getting strictly via word of mouth was more than enough for my already busy schedule. And if I wanted to edit a session at midnight I could. But as a wife? That’s not exactly helpful.

When I quit all of my jobs to solely focus on photography and other personal projects, I found myself STRESSED out. I didn’t know how to schedule my day and I didn’t know how to get stuff done. To do lists were NOT working for me. To do lists are inherently stress-inducing. Listing everything out and seeing what all needs to be done is OVERWHELMING. Sometimes I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that I did nothing. Because honestly, if I’m making my own schedule…. do I REALLY need to get work done? I would either spend the entire day doing nothing or the entire day stressed out by my to do list. So I knew I needed to make a change.

I created an inspiring, structured-yet-flexible schedule that worked for me and LOVED it.

That year I did some serious soul searching and meditation on who I actually am apart from my job titles. I wanted to answer the question, how do I know that I’m doing work that actually matters? And how do I accomplish it all without being stressed out? I prayed and journaled A LOT. Two of the most helpful resources to me in 2018 were my goal planner, the Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters, and the book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman.

I’ve mentioned my goal planner on my blog before, so check out that post if you want to hear more about it in detail. It’s all about setting cultivated, achievable goals and working towards things that matter. The book What’s Best Next is like putting legs to your goals. It’s about productivity and effectiveness. But it’s not just about getting a lot done. It’s about getting the RIGHT things done. It’s also the practical, nitty gritty stuff like prioritizing your roles, writing goal plans, organizing your ideas, and setting up your weekly schedule.

I highly recommend What’s Best Next! In 2018 I shifted to more project-based work. I was in charge of my own schedule and deadlines. Matt Perman’s book really helped me to find some structure and combat my lazy tendencies! And the systems he lays out help reduce stress and mental clutter. I tweaked his ideas to work for me, and next week I’ll share some with you!

Eventually I created a weekly schedule, and it really does inspire me. It’s color-coded, it’s structured but still flexible, and it makes me EXCITED to get to work. I first had to do the work of re-evaluating my purpose, solidifying my roles and callings, and creating cultivated goals. THEN I was able to take those big ideas and break it down. I made them into practical, repeatable patterns that eventually led to my weekly schedule.

The Spirit’s Work

I have a side note, and it’s an important one. I’m talking a lot about what I did to become a more disciplined person. But honestly, the kind of transformation I’ve gone through was only possible by the Holy Spirit. I’m not kidding when I say that without the Spirit’s work in my life, I would be a lazy sluggard wasting my days away. He’s working in me every day to help me GET OUT OF BED, fight laziness, and be effective in the Kingdom. I’m excited to share my journey with you, but I want you to know it’s not easy, I’m not perfect, and it’s a daily battle. Thanks so much for reading.

Stay tuned for next week’s post! I’ll share how I funneled my purpose all the way down to my daily schedule. After that, I’ll dive into the nitty gritty details of what my weekly schedule actually looks like. Then I’ll show you my system for achieving my goals. I can’t wait to dive in further!


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