Home Personal development The Best Laid Plans and 7 Productivity hacks

The Best Laid Plans and 7 Productivity hacks

by Vidya Sury May 1, 2012 21 comments
7 productivity hacks that turned my life around instantly

Do not always go awry. What did you think? That I would say “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? No chance. I expected last week to go rather differently from how it went–and I am happy to say it went much better than I foresaw. And I am also glad to report that my time-management strategies are working. Somewhat.  And I have productivity hacks to offer, too!

Sometimes, all it takes is action.

ha, ha

Here’s the background

It is funny how we can be busy throughout the day and yet, when we take stock at the end of the day, there are still a lot of unchecked items on the to-do list. Quite frustrating.  My list has a tendency to continue to grow. When a few things get checked off, twice the number of things get added. Don’t ask me to show it to you. You’d laugh. I am a bit paranoid about forgetting stuff and have the habit of writing every little thing down. What’s hilarious is the fact that I’ve got an amazing memory – even if I say so myself.

I am not blowing the proverbial trumpet. Far from it. But as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the go-to person, find it person, recall details person, find the solution person in the family. I even remember what someone was wearing when I met them for the first time. I can also border on the OCD sometimes. My wardrobe is a cool sight. Open it and you’ll see everything arranged according to color. Yes. So what if I am colorblind? When I buy something, I ask my folks what color it is, and register it in my mind and remember.

So, what is my point?

You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it. 
Charles Bruxton

However, folks, my time management has been less than perfect for a while.  I was not as organized as I am used to being.  You see, each morning, I have a standard routine. Here’s what I did: At around 8.30 am I’d log in to check email, with the intention of putting in a few hours of work until 2 pm, before I went to pick Vidur up from school. Of late, that wasn’t happening. Yet I was busy, busy.  I did make a weekly and daily list and prioritized, but didn’t get everything done as I wanted.  I found I got distracted easily and could not focus. Okay, so my clients weren’t suffering. But there’s more to life than work. And slowly I got frustrated. Stressed out.

I remember my Mom even more during these times, and wish she would magically appear and talk to me. Sigh. She often advised me to just sit for ten minutes and cool down. Easier said than done, because the items on my list played havoc inside my mind when I sat still. It is like I am incapable of doing nothing.

Okay, so things generally came to a head, and I got disgusted to see my list growing longer and longer. If it was new stuff all the way that would be okay. But I found I was carrying over stuff way too often during the last two three months.  And oh boy, does the guilt build up! So I decided to revamp my routine before things got worse. And hoped I’d feel less stressed as I progressed.

Getting mad is not my way of tackling tough situations. So here are some of the things I did to become more productive:

7 productivity hacks that changed my life instantly #productivitytips #personaldevelopment #mindfulness #lifehacks

7 productivity hacks that turned my life around instantly

  1. I stopped chatting.  Online I mean. I just signed out of chat.  Because even a legit “hello” can disrupt a perfectly good focus sometimes. Because the hello will lead to a conversation. Which I could do without as I wanted to take advantage of a quiet house in the morning to meet my writing deadlines.
  2. I put my cell phone on “silent”. (Is that a proper sentence? I like it) My folks know how to reach me. And I don’t get client calls. My best friend calls on my landline.  So no prob with that. What did I achieve with a silent phone? I didn’t have to refuse a credit card loan, investments…and no answering “wrong number”. Phew. I couldn’t avoid the doorbell though. But that was okay. I looked at it as exercise – walking to and from the door. Plus my courier delivery fella is a nice chap and smiles quite sweetly.
  3. I set myself specific times to check email.  Ten minutes at a time. Quick skim through the subject lines – two minutes. And if I had to reply, another five minutes. If it took longer, I’d star it and move it to the action folder.
  4. I use Hootsuite to schedule some tweets – because I subscribe to a big bunch of blogs I love and I like to share my favorite bloggers’ posts. I get the posts in my mailbox. If it is an RSS update, I read it in my Google Reader. What about post summaries, you’re wondering. Hehe. Google Reader has a nifty little plugin that lets you read the whole post.  Then how do I tweet, you’re wondering. 😀 I remember the twitter handle of all those I interact with regularly. Really. Crazy, I know. But it takes me ten minutes to schedule my regular tweets. Other stuff I just share on the go. If I browsed around and tweeted, imagine the time that’d take. So I schedule some and share some on the go. Clever, no?
  5. I plan meals. One week ahead. I make a list of menus for the lunch box, actual lunch at home, dinner and desserts for the week, Monday through Saturday. Oh yes, we do eat on Sundays too. So – we have a standard menu for Sunday. I cook most of my stuff from scratch so I really have to ensure all ingredients are available. This helps me plan my grocery and veg shopping, which I do Monday mornings. Very convenient to do it at 8.30 am on the way back from school, as the store has fresh stuff, they play my favorite radio channel and best of all, there’s no queue to wait in to pay my bill. Bliss.  Earlier I would shop at random but now, I do it twice a week. One day for veg, fruits and dairy and the second for groceries. It is working. This also means better budgeting.
  6. I enjoy unlimited broadband, but when I do my writing work, I disconnect from the internet. Not that I cannot reconnect – but reconnecting needs that extra step which will make me stop and think.  And connect only if I need to.
  7. For some of my tasks, I set a timer.  This is an idea my Mom introduced to me long ago. I also sometimes listen to music and complete portions of my work based on the length of the song. But that only works for routine stuff.

For exercise, I tackle housework, cleaning, dusting. I take the stairs. I walk. And I like to think I am fit. Physically.

What about mentally? My Mom was pretty big on meditation and she would keep urging me to practice it too. But I find that I fall asleep if I sit still for more than ten minutes. So I found other ways – music, reading, cleaning – all of which I find quite therapeutic.

I enjoy savoring the magic of the moment. And I know the choice is mine.


The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.
Stephen R. Covey

Why tackle stress?

But let me tell you folks, with all that we do these days, stress is unavoidable. And letting it build up is inviting a whole host of health problems. At the point when I thought I was reaching the end of my tether, I received some great news. My friend Angela of Powered By Intuition, an intuition coach, informed me she was launching a guided meditation program. Naturally I was keen to know more. I know about meditation. But guided meditation? I was curious.

On Thursday, May 3, I’ll tell you what guided meditation is all about. And also share my experience with Angela’s product, The Reawakening, which I’ve been using for a few weeks now. I have to admit I feel fantastic. I asked her if I could interview her and she graciously agreed. Please stay tuned for the next post!

Now, question for you:

What time management methods do you use to get your day’s work done? Please share!

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Terri Sonoda May 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Excellent, uplifting and informative post. I’m amazed at your energy and always-positive focus. If I could clone you to help me with those things, I sure would. Thanks for sharing with us Vidya!

Vidya Sury May 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

🙂 Oh Terri, hugs to you. I really wish we had to secret to cloning. Then I’d bring you here and keep your clone in Vegas. 😀 Sometimes managing time is so challenging. And for me self-motivation is the best way. I am pretty big on self-talk :D. I am always happy to see you here.

vanita May 2, 2012 at 5:56 am

i love this! I’m gonna copy this sucker and make it work for me. thank u darlin!

Vidya Sury May 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Enjoy, Vanita! 😀 And if you come up with some cool tips, let me know!

vanita May 2, 2012 at 5:57 am

not sure if my comment went through, but want you to know i loved this post! will be printing your steps and making them work for me

Vidya Sury May 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm

🙂 It is because I moderate, Vanita. I hope they work for you as they do for me 😀 We have to keep improvising though. Hugs!

Aileen May 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

LOVE that quote! “You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”

Time management is one of my biggest challenges – mostly because there’s just more on the list than can be accomplished in an 19 hour day.

I literally have timers going off and a calender that has tasks scheduled – but too often the tasks take longer than the time I allotted them. Friends laugh at me when they want to get together and I have to put them in my calender a few weeks out. I remind myself it’s just temporary!!
Meditation helps a lot! I’ve got morning, afternoon and evening – the afternoon is using Angela’s guided meditation LOVE IT!!


Vidya Sury May 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Yes, Aileen, I’ve realized that we have to make time. I also tend to think i can fit in just one more thing. The worst is when something takes longer than estimated – and then comes back for editing, for no fault of mine :D. I agree with you on putting things on the calendar. With the way schedules are, it ensures nothing is missed. I love Angela’s guided meditation too! Thank you for coming by!

Paige | simple mindfulness May 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Exactly! My best laid plans generally go sideways. I start each day with my to do list on a post-it next to my computer. I have great intentions. I tell myself that I’ll just check email for a minute to make sure there’s nothing urgent waiting for me……Three hours later I finally extracate myself and start on the first thing on the list. Kids, phone calls, cleaning, hunger – they all distract me throughout the day. Then it’s dinner time and I have no idea what I’m going to make.Focus is my issue. I’ve tried many of the ideas you’ve mentioned as well as many others (I actually offer a free ebook/workbook on this). Some days work like magic as I check off the last thing on my list for the day. And many others don’t. Tomorrow is a new day. Thanks for the renewed inspiration, Vidya! I know I can do it!

Vidya Sury May 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Ah tell me about it, Paige. You know, today morning fully went off in phone calls. 🙂 I couldn’t avoid them because they were from friends I love and haven’t spoken to for a while. So, my list for today is one happy untouched thing. I am not allowing that to get me down, however. And will simply start anew. Obviously. Coz I can’t turn the clock back.

I agree that focus is the issue. First, I used to think it is social media, email, etc. But now I’ve realized that it is our minds. Sigh. Yes, I know we can do it 😀

Emily May 2, 2012 at 9:26 pm

These all sound like great time management strategies. And I can’t wait to read the interview. Guided meditation sounds interesting!

Vidya Sury May 4, 2012 at 6:02 am

Yes, Emily – I am thrilled with the guided meditation program. I love it. The interview is up (and yes, I am a lazy butt for replying late to these comments 😀

Thank you, dear friend!

My Inner Chick May 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm

–You know how I visulize you, Vidya?

As a very wise beautiful woman sitting on a mountain top sitting zen like…& people visiting you to recieve words of wisdom.

sort of like a guru teacher. Xxx Love Love Love.

Are you? do you live on a Mountain Top?!!
What part of India do you live in?

Vidya Sury May 4, 2012 at 6:06 am

Oh Kim – that’s such a hilarious visual to me. You really know how to make me feel on top of the world. And I love you.

I live in Bangalore, Kim. And funnily enough, our apartment complex is named “Everest” – the tallest peak in the world in the Himalayas. What a connection!

You always uplift my spirits, Kim, Hugs! I appreciate your support. Always.

Bill Dorman May 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I have a schedule and make myself stick to it as much as possible; doesn’t always work for me as ’emergencies in flight’ happen. I usually accomplish more when I can stick w/ a schedule……..

Vidya Sury May 4, 2012 at 6:08 am

Ah, Bill, I know about those emergencies. Of late, I’ve been living from one emergency to the other. But I am slowly trying to change that. I am a big list freak and it always works for me. Just that there are days when things just build up if one thing takes a lot longer than expected, to finish.

Thank you for coming by, Bill. I always value your input. And of course, I am in love with your blog.

Evelyn Lim May 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

It takes a great deal of discipline to stay focused. There can be so many distractions. That is why I never make myself available for chat. I only chat if it is a client call. I also check my emails an average of once or twice a day. I also put my handphone to silent sometimes. It is just impossible to get any work done if I am on social media all the time too. So I usually check in and out quickly.

I enjoyed reading how you organize your time. It definitely helps especially for the woman who wears multiple hats 🙂 Kudos to you!

Vidya Sury May 4, 2012 at 6:11 am

Dear Evelyn – Hugs to you for coming by. Oh yes, these days i am falling short on the ‘discipline’ front. It is weird how health issues can also be distracting, especially when it is for someone who is close. Sigh. Still, I try my best to accomplish all I can. I am not bad at prioritizing and that keeps me sane.

I am glad you came by, Evelyn. Thank you for your kind words! Love, Vidya

My Inner Chick May 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I knew you lived HIGH above the rest of us, my dear, Vidya!

Xxxxxxx btw, did you just see Oprah in India? FABULOUS! Oh My. The caste system. I’d love to learn more.

Have you read “The God of Small Things?” Love Always.

Vidya Sury May 5, 2012 at 4:48 am

Aww, Kim. Missed Oprah. My folks are into the IPL (Cricket) season right now – and I usually don’t watch TV on my own.

The caste system – oh yes. It is intriguing. As it is, we have so many languages – and then there are distinct regional differences in customs, culture, cuisine. As an Indian, I still do not know a lot of things about my own country, which I am slowly remedying, thanks to Vidur who has a lot of interest in these things. Gosh, i am ashamed to say I have the “The God of small things” but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have a list of must-reads that I plan to tackle very soon. Hugs, Kim. Some day we will meet and talk for hours and hours. Love to you!

Tara May 6, 2012 at 4:08 am

You’ve got some great time saving tips! I am horrible at getting sidetracked while online. I need to re-arrange my priorities! House and personal things first, then free time to do what I want (blog, tweet, facebook, etc) I use to plan my meals weekly. I’ve slowly stopped. Now, I just look in the pantry and throw something together. I think it is time I grabbed the bull by the horns and take action. I like being organized much better. Life seems to go more smoothly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips. I’ll be using them.


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