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We often think of productivity in terms of work. How can we increase employee engagement and productivity in the workplace? What are the best ways to get employees to work more efficiently and produce higher output? But what about increasing our productivity at home? Is there any harm in trying to be a bit more savvy with how we spend our non-work life too?
If work expands into the time that you allow for it, then most of us might as well be destined to spend eternity folding laundry, doing dishes, running the vacuum, and having the same conversations about all the projects we want to do. If you allow them to, household tasks and projects can hang over your head for days or weeks. The clean laundry in the bin at the foot of the bed doesn’t necessarily need to be folded, does it? We could pull clothes from it as we walk past, and then eventually, it’ll all get back into the wash.
It’s this mindset that results in clutter creeping into every room. By taking a simple proactive approach to household tasks, you can develop a system for chores and home improvements that will create a stress-free living environment.
Do we need to be productive at home?
Home is a place where we go to relax and de-stress. If you start to put rails in place on your chores and projects at home, wouldn’t that make it a stressful, work-like environment?
I don’t believe it does. In fact, if done properly, it can actually give you more free time to do the things you want to do, like try a new recipe, start a side hustle, or check off the latest read from your list.
Below are my two favorite methods to increase productivity at home that can lead to a happier, cleaner, less stressful home environment.
Schedule recurring small tasks for specific days
There are recurring tasks like vacuuming, watering plants, or wiping down the bathroom sinks that we all know need to be done. Generally, we wait to do these tasks until we are required to act. We’ll wait until the plants are wilting, the furball in the corner is starting to take the form of an actual rabbit, or a contact that drops in the sink has to be thrown away due to the level of grime.
Create your list
One of the most important things I’ve learned about cleaning is that if you stay ahead of it, it never actually gets that bad. That’s why my first hack to increase productivity at home is to make a list of all the tasks you complete on a semi-regular basis and assign them a length and timeframe. As with budgeting, until you start to track it, you’ll never know how much time is being swept up by chores.
Here’s a sample of what my list looks like for a few of our recurring household tasks:
- Vacuuming upstairs – 10 minutes, every 2 weeks
- Vacuuming downstairs – 10 minutes, every week
- Water plants – 2 minutes, every week
- Wipe down bathroom sinks – 15 minutes, every 2 weeks
- Wipe down shower – 10 minutes, every 2-3 weeks
- Clean toilets – 10 minutes, every 2 weeks
- Clean out old food in the refrigerator – 10 minutes, every 2 weeks
Set a date
Once you have your list, go through and assign these tasks to a specific day of the week for completion. The point of assigning a day to a task is to spread the responsibilities across the week to make them more manageable. (It also ensures Saturday doesn’t become the catch-all for household chores!)
Pro tip: Try using a weekly planner to schedule your cleaning tasks. I love a planner like this* that also enables habit tracking! Talk about a two for one!
If you know, for instance, that you have a book club on Wednesday evenings which you regularly host, maybe you could do your vacuuming on Tuesday after work. If Thursdays are slammed with kids’ activities, perhaps it’s best to leave that day open and instead shift watering the plants to Sunday morning.
By breaking down what needs to be done, there is the added benefit of being able to pull in the entire family. Feel free to assign tasks to a significant other, kids, parents, or dogs (hello, someone has to clean up the bones and toys all over the living room).
Keep a prioritized list of larger home projects
I think of this as the “Dream House” list (not to be confused with a list of requirements for your fictitious dream home). This list of projects contains everything that you’d love to do to your current house to make it a place you love to be every day. Use this opportunity to dump out all of the projects you’ve talked about and have been meaning to do.
Make your list(s)
If you’re married or living with a significant other or long-term roommate, have them make a list as well. (If you want to make it a whole family task, have the kids create lists too!) You’ll want to be sure that the lists contain actual, tangible improvements or projects for your current situation (which your kid’s lists very well may not, but it’s fun to see what their imaginations can come up with).
Here’s my list from earlier this year as an example:
- Paint master bedroom closet
- Paint upstairs hallway
- Office renovation
- Create a space for a garden
- Build an outdoor shower
- Master shower renovation
- Add a folding table in the laundry room
- Find and purchase patio furniture
Then, combine all lists to create one giant dream house project list.
Go through each item and assign it a number between one and the number of items on your list, one being the highest priority down to the lowest. Have your partner do the same, then make a comparison to see if you’re aligned with your prioritization. If you have the same top projects, that’s great! If not, discuss why the high priority items are important to you and why you should tackle them first.
Once you’ve agreed on the order of the projects on your list, start tackling them one at a time. By narrowing your focus and creating a shared vision, you no longer have a million projects looming over your head at all times. You now have one list from which you’ll work, in order, and once you complete the first project, you can keep on cruising. This also means you can work your budget to save towards a single goal if it’s something that’s going to require it.
I have to tell you that this method of prioritization has been a godsend in our house. We know that there are a lot of projects we want to do. But now we can quickly put in perspective what is most important to us, and we tackle one, maybe two, projects at any given time.
I hope you can use one of these methods of task assignment and project prioritization to make your household chores and projects a bit more manageable. Do you have other ways to increase productivity at home? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!