FOCUS: My Two Favorite Productivity Methods

For the first part of my Focus series I want to talk about productivity, specifically the methods I use to keep myself on track and on task. Given the goals I’ve set for myself this year, getting things done is an absolute necessity. Productivity used to be a big downfall of mine. But over the past few months I’ve honed in on the ways that work best for me to accomplish things, and I wanted to share those with you!

My biggest downfall when it comes to productivity is that I am a serial over-planner; be it art, household DIY, chores, you name it. It used to be that I’d get a burst of inspiration, and one of two things would happen:
1. I’d make a huge, unrealistic lists of tasks to accomplish, not complete many of them, get discouraged, and ultimately not get much done. Or,
2. I’d start multiple projects at once, lose steam with them, and none of them get finished.

Not exactly productive. In fact, the opposite of productive. I knew I needed a change, and I started doing two simple things that truly changed the way I work.

lists - productivity

1. Allow Yourself to Overplan

I know you may be thinking, Ummm, how is that helpful?? But trust me,  it’s a crucial part of how I accomplish anything. I knew that I wasn’t just going to be able to STOP over-planning, so I bought two notebooks. The first is for art. In it I write down EVERY idea I have for an art project. Just to get it down. Even if I never look at it again, knowing that I have the idea is down is a comfort. The second is for projects, where I do the same thing; jot it all down. Just the act of writing it down somewhere calms the part of my brain that was exploding with inspiration; like I’ve tricked it into thinking I did something just by the act of putting it to paper. Give yourself the outlet to plan, plan, plan. From there, look over the lists and decide on what you truly want to focus on. Which leads me to my other top productivity tip:

2. Make A Daily Top 3 To-Do List

This is the game changer.
Instead of making a daily to-do list that includes everything I can think of, I pick the top three things I want to make sure I accomplish that day, whether it’s towards a specific goal or project, or just in general. I do not include daily or repeating tasks in this list (like dishes, grocery shopping, etc.); the Top 3 is for things outside of my normal routine. Even if you aren’t a serial over-planner, but just struggle with long to-do lists or feeling like you’re not getting enough done, I highly recommend trying this method out. I am not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed my productivity levels both in art and other projects. Sometimes I’ll plan out my Top 3 in advance, at the beginning of the week for each day. Other days, I write them in the morning of. But no matter when I make the list, it is so much easier to only focus on three tasks vs. trying to cram in every task I can think of. And be flexible with it! On days I know I’ll be really busy, I only have a Top 2. Make it work for you.

top 2 - productivity
An example from November of my Top 2 lists…that was a crazy week so I did Top 2 for the whole week, instead of Top 3! Side note: Awesome HP Planner by Ruskerville on Etsy.

I know they seem like simple methods. And they are simple methods. But they changed my productivity levels in such a positive manner. By allowing myself to be the crazy inspired over-planner but ultimately going about things in an organized, simple fashion, I stay focused on the things that matter, and end up getting more done each day.

What are your favorite methods for staying productive?

FOCUS is my One Little Word for 2016. This series shares the ways that I’m applying it each aspect of my life.


  • I love this idea! I have the same exact problem as you, where I’ll think an idea into oblivion and then lose steam with it. I love the idea of a “to accomplish today” list, because that way it’s easy to tell what you’ve been putting off. Great series!

    • Kay

      Thanks so much! I love how to put it: “Thinking an idea into oblivion”…YES! Such a great way to describe it! If you try it, I hope you enjoy the top 3 task method…it can be so helpful in overcoming that.

  • gamerwife

    Loving this series so far. I really need to get my ass back into gear. I love the idea of having a top 3 to-do list. I always get super overwhelmed because I put way too much in my list and get bummed if I don’t do it all and then feel like crap and do nothing the next day.

    • Kay

      Thanks, I hope you continue to enjoy it! And yes, your last sentence…you are describing me! That is exactly the problem I had (and occasionally, still do). I really recommend trying the top 3 task list…not only does it help me get things done, but mentally it makes me feel good because even if I do nothing else, I know I’ve gotten at least the three important things done.

  • Love this post! I finally found my way to stay productive mixing digital and paper.

    I usually write EVERY single event on Google Calendar, from University classes to gym lessons, date nights and more. Being able to see time blocks (color coordinated) really helps me to have the big picture of my week and month. Each Sunday, I look into my Google Calendar and I transfer all the appointments on my paper planner, then, each morning, I open it and I write my to-dos. If my to-do list is particularly long, I use the Wunderlist app on my phone, because my planner has a weekly layout and there isn’t so much space to write during those crazy days. Fortunately they happen just once in a while!

    • Kay

      What a great system! Productivity is definitely maxed when you find what works for you! I currently use only old fashioned pen & paper simply because I’m home more often than not. If I were out and about a lot more, I’d definitely include some digital organization in the mix!

  • Emma

    Great post 🙂 I’m a little list obsessed. I have a notebook that is just purely full of lists because, like you mentioned, one huge list can get daunting at times so I like splitting mine up into smaller chunks – blog post ideas, craft ideas, cosplay ideas, places I want to go, even things I want to watch or buy, and obviously, things I need to get done. I guess it’s more of an inspiration notebook, and handy to have around when you have those random amazing ideas on the train or while you’re in the supermarket.

    • Kay

      AH, yes!! Inspiration notebooks are essential. That’s exactly what my two notebooks are, I just like to keep them separated between art and other projects…for some reason my brain finds that easier. And I’m a bit list obsessed as well. I keep so many lists for different things, but I’ve found that for to-do lists, the top 3 task is the best one for me to focus on actually getting things done!

  • christine

    Wonderful post! I too am an obsessive list maker. I love the idea of getting ALL your creative ideas on paper, even if most of them never come to fruition. I tried this for a while, but darnit it that all my ideas come to me while I’m hands deep in dirt, washing dishes, or cooking and can’t/ don’t have time to write. I using voice recording on my phone right now, but reaaaally want a real voice recorder to carry around with me.

    I’m going to try the “top three” this weekend! 🙂

    • Kay

      A voice recorder would be brilliant! I definitely feel so much better writing down each creative idea, that way if I ever feel tapped for inspiration, I can page through it until something pops at me that I really want to work on!

      Let me know what you think of the top three!

  • Daily top threes are the best! I actually have three top threes in my planner (work, self, home) and I don’t make myself fill out all of them because it kind of shows me where my head and heart are at that day. It’s been super helpful. And amen to overplanning! My favorite activity! Once you separate yourself from the superhuman expectations and just let yourself free to have goals, it’s all gravy.

    • Kay

      Yes! All of this!

  • I really like the daily top 3 to-do list tip. I’m going to work on incorporating that in my planner. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kay

      You’re welcome, I hope it works for you!

  • Pingback: FOCUS: Productivity - An Addendum - My Open Sketchbook()


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