Extreme Productivity

by Katy on April 6, 2012 · 26 comments

I am both enamored and resentful of  Productivity Hacks. (It’s all bold because it’s the name of this week’s imaginary TV show.) I figure out mental tricks for getting myself to efficiently take care of life’s little tasks, and I pride myself in how much I’m able to get done in a 24-hour period. However, I also value downtime and time spent on the couch.

So what’s my secret to productivity/downtime balance?

Extreme Productivity!

Instead of taking all day to plod through a to-do list, I will often give myself a set period of time, say one hour or even two hours to do nothing but task related activities. I set a brisk pace and I make sure I’m doing something every. Single. Second.

I grew up taking dance classes, and one of the things that you learn as a dancer is that while you’re performing one move, you’re already thinking about what the next move is. And this is how I structure my Extreme Productivity.

As I’m assembling the recycling to take outside, I already know that my next move is to fold laundry. And as I’m folding laundry, I’m already thinking about how I’ll sweep the stairs or call the doctor for lab results. This way I completely lose the lag time between tasks. This may sound a bit insane, (which I’m okay with. 😉 ) but it’s ah-mayzing how much I can get accomplished when I employ this technique.

I’m not suggesting that a person spend all waking hours in this manner, as it would be a sure route to insanity. Instead this is a specific technique for short bursts of time.

And when I’m done my Extreme Productivity, I then have time to read a book, write this blog, have lunch with a friend or chat with a neighbor. After all, it’s better to make as many hours in  the day available for the activities that give me pleasure.

Do you have a productivity technique that works for you? Please share your tips in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz April 6, 2012 at 7:27 am

I have a set time of day I do my household chores. The chores vary according to what day of the week it is, but once the set time is over I am free to move on to more pleasurable things.

Works for me.


Katy April 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

My days vary so much, that this wouldn’t really work for me.



Marianne April 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

I clean my house in the same order so it becomes a routine. Bedroom, upstairs bath, dining room, kitchen, living room, downstairs bath. You get a rhythm going and just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. 🙂 I have found having the radio on can help too.


Alison April 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

I like to do the same thing that you do. But, not always…..


Carolyn April 6, 2012 at 9:31 am

Focusing on one thing at a time increases my productivity a lot. When I am overwhelmed with too many things to do I do a “brain dump” to prioritize the most important tasks.


Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry April 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

Setting the kitchen timer for 15 minutes helps me jump-start when I am lagging in motivation. Usually I continue past that, because the starting is the hardest part.

I treat my job as a stay at home mom like a full time job (plus weekends). Yes, I am still “on” in the evenings but I don’t pull out big projects or tasks in the evenings. I try to attack those during the days so I can have my evenings as quiet and restful as possible.


Megan April 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

Procrastinate? I know it will get done when it has to be done, well, because it has to. This is slowly getting better, but my 3 month old really could care less if I’m in the middle of doing something if he is hungry- he’s a great baby but not patient!!!. And my 3 year old is always interrupting for something or another. Their needs are more important than my productivity right now.

I do have a chore chart for me, and for my 3 yo son. Mine is weekly
and includes 1-2 household chores, plus supper menu each day. His we re-do his every day and includes “getting dressed”, “brushing teeth” as chores as well as a list of activities we want to do.

When I was working, I was much better at being productive. I used outlook for all of my tasks and priorities. I used to group them into categories (these customers need a call, these need paperwork completed, these need research, etc) My to-do list looked shorter if I just looked at those categories. Of course when I expanded the categories I saw the true list, lol!


Cate April 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

I do this, too! It really helps because then I’m not doing fun things and thinking about the non-fun things I need to do…but neither am I spending all day on the non-fun things.


Anna April 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I read about this technique one time, and it has worked for me. It is called the dot matrix system, and basically you work like one of those old dot matrix printers. Just as the printer did a few dots each time it crossed the page – finally making a whole document, I pick up one or two items that I see out of place as I walk from room to room in the house and then deposit them where they belong. On my way back to the other end of the house I do the same thing – just in the opposite direction. Just imagine how many empty handed steps you make each day walking from room to room and end to end of your house. By making each step count, if only a little bit, it adds up to a tidy home with minimal extra effort. This also makes it easier when it is time to tackle normal chores like vacuuming, wiping down counters, etc. as there is less clutter to clean up before you can get on with the task at hand.


Another Jackie April 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I do something similar to that. I walk around to each room in the house with a small laundry basket, picking up things and delivering them to the right room. After 2 trips through the house, everything should be back where it belongs, which makes the actual cleaning much easier.


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending April 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Here’s how this suggestion works for a non-multi-tasker like myself:

With a rare day off and a mile-long to-do list, I decide to try your advice. While at Trader Joe’s, while checking out I’m thinking about my next errand, rather than chatting with the checker like I’d normally do. While loading the bags into the trunk of my car, he comes out after me with my wallet. Which I left right there on the counter. 🙂


Katy April 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

You’re welcome. 😉



Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending April 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm



Valerie Heck April 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I set the timer for 30 minutes or 45 minutes and I get a lot more done when the timer is set!


Shannon April 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I love when I can get into the kind of flow you’re describing, but it’s hit-or-miss for me. Some days I’m on, and some days not so much.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land April 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I like to keep some short tasks near my desk, so while I’m waiting for something to download, or while I’m on hold, I can still do quick, easy things that I might’ve taken special time to do otherwise.


emmer April 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

we have stairs. lots of them. 32 stairs, in fact. we have deposit areas near each group of stairs. every trip up or down puts some things away.
some laundry done on the third floor needs to end up on the ironing board in the first floor sewing room. cat food and litter in the first floor storage room needs to go to the second floor kitchen or the third floor bath. (dh and i don’t need 3 bathrooms, so the 2 kitty boys have a litter box in an unused bathtub–contains the scatter pretty well.) the computer is in a room off the kitchen, so i can work there while something simmers on the stove that needs just an occasional eye and ear.


Jennifer April 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I love it! I will definitely use this – probably this weekend. Guests coming over Sunday, I don’t have a lot of time to clean tomorrow, so I have already been formulating what needs to be done. Figuring out the order and setting a time limit – with a reward of a chocolate truffle at the end – sounds like a great way to get it done quickly. Thanks!


Heidi April 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

It’s all about the kitchen timer for me. When I have a ton of stuff to do, I set it for 30-60 minutes and don’t allow myself to sit down. I just keep doing whatever comes to mind and by the end of the alloted time…a bunch of tasks have been complete. I occasionally jot down a “to-do” list before I set the timer…but not always!


Indigo April 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

For me it is all about setting things up so that maintaining them becomes a habit. Just as washing my face and brushing my teeth are morning rituals so is then using the washcloth with a bit of homemade cleaner (nicely stored in a spare soap dispenser on the counter) to wipe everything down before tossing it in the hamper. Because I take those few seconds everyday, the bathroom counter stays clean.

When I bring home groceries I set them into the back so that everything tends to get used up rather than forgotten since I’m faced with it all the time.

Having a place for everything is the biggest help though. No time wasted wondering where it goes. This is also a huge thing for me at work. I can tell the kids exactly where to put it back.


Practical Parsimony April 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I can no longer do as much or work as quickly. Fibromyalgia does that to you, BUT…

When I was younger, my family was amazed at what I accomplished. I kept three things going at once. One Halloween my sister was here and commented that she now knew she would never have children because of the way I did not sit down for about ten hours. Well, I folded clothes and went to the bathroom, but that did not really constitute sitting for relaxation.

I figured what chores could be done simultaneously. I would put clothes in the washer, unload and load the dishwasher and by the time the washer was done, it was time to start dishes. While dishes washed, I put clothes in the dryer and folded them while the dishes finished. No job was ever done alone. Something else was doing its thing in the background.

Cupcakes were in the oven while something cooked for dinner on the top. In the meantime, I was sewing on Halloween costumes and running back to check on dinner and cupcakes. This was the night of the Halloween Carnival.

I have long legs and was skinny back then. Everywhere I went in the house was fast. I took stairs two at a time to save time.

One day, as my husband came in and told me about his day, I said I was just exhausted. He wanted to know from what because the house looked the same as it did when he left. Oh, I had just cleaned freezer and refrigerator, cleaned the oven by scrubbing, done all the grocery shopping, put it away, and scrubbed the old claw foot tub, and took care of a baby. I was never done until 8 until 10 each night.

I did not really think about the next task. I formulated a plan where something was going on in the background while I was working on something else or two.

Something people think is weird was my regular way of cleaning house. I never cleaned one room at a time. I did all the floors, all the dusting, all the picking up, whatever…just did one chore until it was done.
Since there were four rooms upstairs and seven down, I usually took two days to really clean the house.


Practical Parsimony April 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I had three children while I was being a dynamo!


Jo H. April 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

This sounds much more focused than my way, which is to just make a list and trudge through the items until I run out of steam 🙂


Barb April 7, 2012 at 9:12 am

I make a list and then go through the list and decide if I really need/want/desire to do each item. I am ruthless at focusing on stuff that I really want to do and the dust in the house is just not that important in the scheme of thing! 🙂 I am learning to be less of a perfectionist and run things through a filter by asking, “does anyone but me care about this?” Sometimes the answer is “no” but I still do it. For instance, having my bed made every morning before work and frequent fresh linen changes are both important to me so they are priorities. It helps that I have a retired husband who willing takes on chores that I hate (grocery shopping). I also subscribe to Anna’s method mentioned above in that I try to straighten as I go along and wipe counters, return items as I go through my day so that things never get too out of control.


Carrie April 7, 2012 at 9:32 am

I call what you refer to as “batching” activities, and I’m trying to do more of it. Especially after reading the book 168 Hours. I find that “blitzing” things that I don’t enjoy as much (like cleaning) instead of puttering around doing a little of this and a little of that is far better for me, and leaves me more time to do what I really enjoy.


Sherry April 8, 2012 at 8:12 am

Love reading all the comments on your blogs. Thanks for providing this forum!


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