Struggling to get more done? One of the best productivity tips for moms is to use a productivity planner with these 7 must have features to maximize your productivity and make your planner work for you.
I’ve been a time management and productivity junkie for years now. I’ve always been a planner but when I had kids, was working outside the home, and was trying to handle how to deal with pain and lack of energy from my autoimmune disease, I was looking for ways to get more done to deal with the overwhelm. Since then, I’ve devoured countless books and worked on the “art of stress-free productivity” for years now. It sounds divine, right? Stress-free and productive? Yes! It’s possible! It’s been my mission for years now and it’s changed my life for the better.
What it boils down to is.. being “productive” means knowing the next right thing to do at any given time. It sounds simple enough but is actually quite complex when you’re talking about all the information, tasks, ideas, information and dreams coming at you and running through your head.
I’ve tested out a lot of different planners over the years. The key to managing it all is a good productivity planner, whether paper or digital, that can help you stay focused on choosing the next right thing to do.
I’ve identified 7 features your productivity planner should have that are essential for maximizing productivity so it works FOR you. If you need a productivity planner, I pulled it all together and created a Simple Productivity Planner printable PDF too. Whether you use mine or another productivity planner, I hope these tips help you find the productivity solution that allows you to get more done, so you can start living your best life today.
Let’s get to it!
1. Your productivity planner should have a goalsetting section to help you identify your why and prioritize your tasks
Goalsetting is the foundation of productivity. It is a powerful tool that can help you identify the areas of life that are most important to you so you can prioritize them. While we would like to do all the things all the time, we can’t and that’s ok.
Prioritizing the things that are important to you and making time for them in your day will help you feel more productive and fulfilled. An effective goalsetting section in your productivity planner should be able to walk you through the entire process, from envisioning your goal to making it a reality with these steps:
- identify why a goal is important to you
- define the finish line of the goal (what it will look and feel like)
- define bite sized action steps so you can make progress on your goal
- identify the resources you need and the obstacles you’ll need to overcome to complete it
- a tracker so you can monitor progress
- rewards for completion (optional) so you can stay motivated to follow through and reach your goal’s finish line.
Goalsetting is your time to dream about what your best life looks like and take the steps to get there. It should be an essential component of your productivity planner.
Here are the what the goal pages in my Simple Productivity Planner look like. They will help you identify and knock out your goals!
- goal page 1: mindmap or create a vision board for your goal
- goal page 2: define your why, your finish line for the goal (what it will look like and feel like when complete), resources needed and the best time to complete it
- goal page 3: brainstorm the obstacles and interruptions you might face and how to overcome/handle them, define action steps to complete the goal, monitor goal progress with a goal tracker and reward for completion
- goal page 4: a monthly goal progress calendar so you can see the progress you make on a long-term goal. Color code your goals, put a checkmark or a happy face or a sticker for each day you work on your goal. Don’t break the streak! Intentional, daily progress adds up.
2. Your productivity planner should have time blocking and time tracking to budget and spend your time wisely
I truly believe that the simplest and most effective way to boost your productivity is to track your time for a week (or longer, it’s been years and I still do it). If you don’t know how your time is spent, you won’t know realistically how long things take you to complete (hint: it’s longer than you think).
Once you track your time, you can better plan and budget your time with time blocking. Time blocking is planning out what you will accomplish in blocks of time throughout your day. Decide what your ideal length of time is for your time blocks – how long can you typically stay focused?
Then decide what you would like to get done during that time block. Here’s where tracking your time comes in handy, it will help you be realistic about what you can accomplish during your time block so you can stay focused and motivated without getting overwhelmed.
You can download this free time tracker or time blocker pdf when you subscribe to my blog’s newsletter. Write on the top of the page whether you are using it for time tracking or time blocking, the hours of your time blocks and notes to track what worked and what didn’t. These pages are also included in my Simple Productivity Planner because they are the backbone of boosting your productivity!
One thing to remember is to guard your blocks of time (fiercely and ruthlessly if you need to and can). You’ve decided that this block of time is important to you to accomplish certain tasks. So respect and honor yourself and your time and stick to what you said you wanted to do.
Set a timer for your time block and focus on your task list. If something comes up and isn’t an emergency, then do not let distractions creep in. The next productivity planner feature will help you tackle those things that pop into your head and try to derail you.
Most planners allow you only one weekly layout where you have to choose whether to use it to block or track your time. In my Simple Productivity Planner printable, you get a time blocker, a time tracker and 4 other layouts for weekly planning so you can use what you need during any given week. I use one for time blocking and one for time tracking so I can see both how I thought I’d spend my time and how I actually did. It helps me plan better for the future.
You can also use your time blocker to plan out your ideal week. I like to print one out every time our routines change, like when kids start school, or start a new sport/activity, and one for the winter and summer.
3. Your productivity planner should help you manage and organize your projects, tasks and ideas that come up (especially when you’re trying to focus)
One thing I struggle with is a racing mind when I’m trying to focus. Or I’m trying to do one thing and find 5 others that need to get done too. But I’m trying to focus! So what do I do?
If you are like me, you need somewhere where you can write all the ideas out of your head and get them organized. Then later, I can come back to them when I’m ready to tackle it or process it further. Call it whatever you like…a mindsweep, an inbox, a brain dump, the idea is to get it out of your head so it stops occupying the space you need to actually get things done.
I call them Master Project and Master Task lists by category in my Simple Productivity Planner, they can keep all your ideas organized for when you are ready for them. Keep these lists easily accessible to you so that you can quickly jot things down if you need to and then get back to what you’re focusing on for the current time block.
The master project task lists are wide spaced so you can write a more detailed description of the project and what the finish line looks like. So instead of writing “declutter the garage”, I would write “declutter and organize the garage so we can easily find what we need when we need it” or “organize sports equipment so kids can find what they need when it’s time to head to the park and I don’t trip over it”. Lol. True story.
The Master Task Lists by Category come in both a lined and checklist version. I break my categories down by how much time/energy and what I need to complete it. So for example, my Rheumatoid Arthritis can make my brain foggy of my body hurt and my symptoms change with the unpredictable weather. So my categories are:
- Quick win (takes 15 minutes or so) – like scheduling appointments, tackling a small pile of paperwork or placing an online order for something you need
- High mental clarity needed – like finances, writing/editing for blog or designing printables for Etsy
- Low mental clarity needed – like planning, creating images for blog posts or Etsy
- High physical energy needed – like decluttering the kitchen, organizing, cooking, taking photo shoots for blog images
- Need to do/discuss with….like my husband’s list budget recap, next trip or house project to plan; and a list for each of my sons with things like things
4. Your productivity planner should be flexible so it works for you how and when you need it
Flexibility might be the hardest thing to find in a planner. One day you might need just a weekly overview to work from and others you have a million things going on and need the space of a daily layout where you can write down all the things. If you’re like me, you want both a weekly and a daily layout every week.
No two days are exactly the same, and one thing the last two years has taught us it’s that, things can change hard and quickly. In order to maximize your productivity, you need a planner that can change with your needs.
The problem with most planners I find is that you’re stuck with one layout for an extended period of time. And you don’t know if it will work for you until you try it for longer than a day. I’d spend a bunch of money trying to find planner peace and that ideal planner. But one planner layout can’t fit all my needs because they change by the day and my current season of life.
So I created the Simple Productivity Planner to have 4 different weekly layouts and 4 different daily layouts so you can choose and print which ones you need, test them out, and figure out which ones help you feel most productive on any given day.
The weekly pages in the Simple Productivity Planner has 4 vertical layouts with a Monday start to choose from:
- version 1: 3 vertical blank boxes
- version 2: 3 vertical blank boxes with to do checklist in the middle box
- version 3: track all the things layout, each box has a title: daily focus, tasks with checklist boxes, meals, and water habit tracker), and
- version 4: lined
You can also use the different weekly layouts for different purposes. For example:
- use the 3 vertical boxes layout for a memory planner. Write down happy memories, tape in pictures from the week, decorate with stickers or highlighters.
- use the track all the things layout for keeping you on track when you are having trouble focusing on what all needs to be done.
- use the lined layout for a daily journal where you can write your vision for each day in the morning or a gratitude journal
The daily pages in the Simple Productivity Planner include these 4 layouts:
- version 1: schedule on the left and 3 boxes on the right titled today’s focus, tasks (with checklist boxes), and gratitude
- version 2: schedule on the left and on the right: a habits box with space for 4 habits, a water tracker, tasks (with checklist boxes) and a lined section,
- version 3: schedule on the left and on the right: top 3 priorities, tasks and gratitude,
- version 4: schedule on the left and on the right 3 blank boxes so you can customize however you like!
5. Your productivity planner should help you reflect so you can grow and make things better for yourself!
One of the most important exercises to help your productivity is to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Some days/weeks are so busy that we don’t take those few minutes to stop and think. But if you make time for this simple reflection, it can help you change your life.
These are the reflection questions:
- what worked?
- what didn’t work?
- what can I do to make (tomorrow/next week/next month) better?
My Simple Productivity Planner has a Monthly Reflections page, a Weekly Reflections page and a Daily Reflections page.
6. Your productivity planner should help you manage the things that are important to your family, like finances and food!
Finances and food are a big part of family life and for us (I have a husband and 3 sons), meal planning and cooking at home is the biggest money saver. These guys can and love to eat so it costs us a small fortune to eat out. Not to mention, it’s much better for our health when we eat at home.
A lot of planners on the market don’t come with dedicated spaces for these important pieces to run your household. So I included a few simple monthly calendars in my Simple Productivity Planner so you can monitor these at a glance.
The monthly section of the Simple Productivity Planner includes:
- monthly overview page: 6 lined sections labeled goals, health, finances, meals, relationships and 1 blank for you to customixe
- monthly calendar on 1 page with 2 lined sections for highlights and notes
- monthly meal planner calendar on 1 page with 2 lined sections for favorite recipes this month and recipes to try.
- monthly bill calendar on 1 page with 2 lined sections for financial goals and ideas to save more next month,
- monthly goal progress calendar on 1 page (pictured in #1 above), and a
- monthly reflections page (discussed in #5 above)
7. Your productivity planner should help you cultivate and refine habits to help your days run smoother
Cultivating habits is a whole other topic we will get into on another day. The value of creating effective habits is that they can help you accomplish your goals in small, manageable steps. For purposes of your productivity, cultivating and refining your habits can help your days run smoother and can help you feel better mind, body and soul so you can have more productive days.
Here are some daily habits that can boost your productivity:
- vision or manifest journaling in the morning
- time block and plan your day
- check in with your planner
- turn on focus apps on your computer or phone
- mindsweep everything out of your head into the master task list
- gratitude and reflection journaling at the end of the day
Here are some daily habits for a better mind, body and soul so you can have more productive days:
- drink water
- read a book or daily reader (my favorites: Atomic Habits, Lazy Genius Way, Daily Stoic, Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible)
- recite/write affirmations
- journal or write morning pages
- work on a new skill
- do something just for you that brings you joy
I could go on and on about habits and routines, but I do want to share the 4 habit trackers in the Simple Productivity Planner:
- version 1: a monthly habit tracker to track 14 habits over 31 days and why this habit is important to you lined section
- version 2: a monthly habit tracker with spaces to track 4 habits over 5 weeks (Monday through Sunday), including defining a goal for that habit, how much you actually accomplished, and a reward for reaching your habit goal.
- version 3: a monthly habit tracker with spaces to track 4 habits over 5 weeks (Monday through Sunday) with blanks so you can customize your own habit parameters
- version 4: a blank habit tracker so you can customize for your needs
Ready to get things done so you can have more fun? I’ve given you the tools you need to boost your productivity with intentional steps. I truly believe that your planner should work FOR you in a way that helps you be the most productive you can be given how you feel and what you have time for. I hope you will stop by my Etsy shop and check out the Simple Productivity Planner and the other planner printables I designed to help you live and achieve your best life.