My Favorite Instruments for Intentional Productivity


I’ve been thinking a lot about instruments– I was going to write a little about the instruments I’ve used during my training but, honestly, I’m a little over writing about running at the moment. Then I realized I have several favorite instruments for intentional productivity that I’d just love to share about and that have helped me during training but aren’t directly related to running. So I’m sharing them here. Keep in mind: they’re only instruments though- they need you to play them or they are not worth much. I could have the greatest tool for productivity in the world, but if I let it sit in the box waiting for the perfect time to use it or waiting for me to become perfect at using it.. that tool (aka instrument) would not be worth much. So here are the instruments I use on a daily or weekly basis to be sure I’m not just spinning my wheels but actually moving toward my big picture goals.

*Daily planner: I won’t lie, receiving my 2023 planner is actually what inspired me to pivot this post to instruments of intentional productivity. My daily planner is something I check in with first thing almost every morning. I use a layout that has morning, afternoon, and evening daily spots instead of hour by hour planning and that gives me the flexibility I need as a stay at home mom who occasionally freelances aka lots of things to juggle but not as many precisely timed meetings. I have a weekly routine that has worked for me for years now of making sure I use my planner not only to keep track of doctors appointments and daily tasks, (bonus if I get to use some stickers with it…)but also to ensure I use it in a very intentional way alongside my Powersheets. Speaking of…

*Powersheets: I can’t believe that it is almost that time of year to start thinking about Powersheets prep. I LOVE doing my prep work at the end of November or early December so that I have a month to really think about and reflect on my work before setting my goals for the year ahead. It feels much more grounded and intentional than rushing to make goals that are similar to last minute resolutions during the last week of the year. Each year I have a moment where I questions if I really need to do the new prep work since I have been using Powersheets since late 2016 at this point, but each year the work surprises me and making myself take the time to really think about the past year, how I’ve changed, if I have the same ideas about my long term goals, etc. is so wonderful and important. It has been really exciting to see some friends join me over the years and reflect and think bout their goals in a new way too. Some really incredible conversations have come out of discussing our prep work or words of the year together and I’m extra excited to start this process for the new year- actually ordered both the traditional full year Powersheets this year as well as the new 90 day version to see which one I’ll enjoy using more moving forward!

*Notebooks: Just like I have remained old fashioned with my planner instead of using a Google calendar, there is something about pen to paper for so many tasks that just suits my brain better than its technological counterpart. I use all kinds of notebooks to keep me intentionally productive. I use special notebooks for long term lists and plans like house project lists or “birthday list” goals. For other things like to do lists or brain dumping or all sorts of other random tasks, I switch back and forth from extra sturdy or pretty notebooks to the cheapest notebooks I can find during back to school shopping. They both work equally- but sometimes I just need a little boost of motivation and I won’t lie, the back to school cheapies DO start falling apart about halfway through my using them because I drag my to-do lists around in my purse. Once again, why do I do this instead of using an app in my phone? Because it helps my brain to write stuff down, and also because I get a HUGE serotonin boost from crossing off an item on my list instead of just hitting a button on my phone…

an OLD SCHOOL picture from our MFA days… we would have coffee together on what we deemed the “Love Seat Of Knowledge” which we sadly left behind in Virginia…

*Coffee: Similar to the notebooks, sometimes we drink fancy coffee, especially if we were gifted it or found a great deal. Sometimes we drink whatever fits our budget and is sold at Costco because we really go through way too much coffee to go get 1 lb bags on a regular basis. I wouldn’t consider myself a coffee snob, but there are brands I just don’t enjoy as much and coffee is such a lovely ritual that helps my sanity and keeps me awake and productive that it is worth getting something I enjoy! I’m not even sure how much about the coffee is the caffeine and how much is the pavlovian response in my brain that this is something I do for me and therefore I associate it with happiness and productivity. (True story- my husband won me over by having hot coffee ready for me each morning before our grad school classes and rehearsals. I’d tell him I had no time to see him/was too focused on school to date and he’d say “well just come get some coffee to help you study” and before you knew it we were madly in love…)

*iPhone alarms (could also use an egg timer!): This is an area where technology really wins the day for me- I LOVE setting alarms on my iPhone… I mean, ok, I don’t always love them (looking at you 3:30-4AM running alarms) but they are SUCH an amazing instrument for keeping me on task. Sometimes I use the alarm function on my phone and instead of just saying what the alarm is for I include an encouraging message. Other times I use the actual timer function to motivate myself to just set everything else aside and give myself ten minutes to enjoy coffee while it is still hot, or I promise my kids screen free quality time for a predetermined amount of time, or if I feel like I have nothing to blog about I make myself sit in front of my computer for a set amount of time and just start writing nonsense. One of those times I truly spent twenty out of the thirty minutes: “I have nothing to say this week. Maybe I should stop blogging” over and over and then in those last ten minutes a post finally came into my brain! Other times I set a stopwatch and see if I can do things like beat my previous record for how quickly I can fold a load of laundry (I also use this “game” for the kids to do various cleaning tasks… only my oldest has caught on to it not actually being a game and he’s smart enough to keep that to himself for now…) (Also, We are debating upgrading to a more visual timer for the kids…)

*Page protectors + dry erase markers: This is my favorite hack that has saved me from making the same repetitive lists over and over. I use this instead of my laminator to make the kids’ to-do lists or after school routines. Simply print whatever repetitive things need to be checked off for the week (or maybe the month/year if its something like cleaning routines you know will stay more or less the same) on a piece of paper, slip the paper inside a page protector, then keep a dry erase marker handy to check stuff off and when the end of the day/week/month comes wipe that sucker off and use it again. I learned this from my son’s first grade teacher and it has been really helpful. I’ve also used this trick for packing lists- I have a basic list of things like toiletries and electronic devices I take on almost every trip, and then I leave blank spaces for me to write in specific items for specific trips. I’ve seen people use this method for weekly gratitude lists or compliments as well!

I hope that one or more of these is helpful or resonates with you! What are your favorite instruments for a happy, productive week?


2 thoughts on “My Favorite Instruments for Intentional Productivity

  1. I love the page protector and whiteboard marker idea! We may have to steal one that now that we have so many different travel packing lists (is it a day trip with our toddler? an overnight? is one of us going somewhere solo?).

    I really like setting timers for things that I don’t want to have to just remember, like bringing the dumpsters down to the curb. That was my job growing up and I’d never remember until the sound of the garbage truck coming down the street in the morning — now I have a weekly alarm reminding me to put out the dumpsters and it’s just not an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

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