On me: Everlane Dress (order your regular size, it’s meant to be looser and breezy–it was a little big for me at first but I find it does shrink slightly in the wash) I also have this striped cotton dress and love it equally and took my normal size! Steve Madden Sandals (Also love Sam Edelman’s version!) Amazon Earrings (such a steal!!)
Decor: Wayfair picture shelves, Similar picture frames, Similar cowskin rug, West Elm table–it’s expandable! Also comes in a smaller size!) Wayfair Black Bistro Chairs, Vintage Rattan Chairs from Beehive Chicago
I don’t know what is in the water right now–typically late summer is a bit of a lull for me with work, but I have SO much going on that I can’t stop my head from spinning. (So much travel lately! Which, speaking of, we just got back from Toronto and it was SO much fun! )
Anyway-It takes a lot to stress me out–I’m usually really good with pressure, but busy times like we’re in right now are trying for even me, and if I don’t keep myself organized, it gets–well, CRAZY.
I’ve recently started to take a new approach to tackling my weekly to-do list and I wanted to share it with you because it’s really a game-changer! Not going to lie, it takes dedication to stick to this, but if you’ve been finding you don’t have enough hours in the day or have struggle keeping on task–give this a try!
The 15 Minute Planner Method:
This is a method I can take zero credit for because I learned it all from my friend Steph who runs an awesome podcast called the Courage & Clarity podcast, which is geared toward entrepreneurs–so it probably won’t be that fitting for everyone but if you run your own business or are thinking of doing so one day, it’s definitely worth a listen!
Regardless of what you do for a living though, you will love what I’m about to share.
She has become well known for something called her 15 Minute Planner guide and I would highly encourage you to sign up for it, but this is essentially the gist of is:
This method is built on Steven Covey’s concept of “rocks, pebbles, and sand” (or perhaps you’ve seen this viral video)– the rocks being the important major things and commitments, the sand being the little minutiae that tend to eat up our time yet don’t move us forward in our careers or in life (i.e. emails) and the pebbles being the in-between actions that really move the needle in terms of our productivity and growth.
Only way to fit rocks, pebbles AND sand into one jar is to start with the big stuff. Then, the smaller things can fill in the cracks and squeeze in around those boulders. Finally, the sand can fit in between all those teeny tiny crevices. If we do things in this order, it can all fit in the jar.
We all know this–yet, most of us still prioritize the sand, and therefore, there’s no room for the rocks and pebbles to fit.
An example of this is spending all of our time in our inbox and looking up at the clock and realizing it’s 3pm and most of our day has been wasted with nothing crossed off the to-do list.
Therefore, this method requires you to sit down once a week (Sunday night or Monday morning is best) and in 15 minutes, you sort all of your to-do’s for the week into rocks, pebbles, sand, and schedule them accordingly. Here’s an example of what mine look like–but remember, yours will be much different! It’s totally what you make it.
What the heck are Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand?
My Examples of Rocks:
Acupuncture, Client phone calls/meetings, Photoshoots, working out (yes–self care is a rock!) Big commitments that require a specific block of time in your schedule.
More examples of Rocks:
If you work in an office, your rocks might be weekly status meetings with your client, staff meetings, etc
A note on meetings: I know its hard to avoid all those meetings with a corporate job, and I have a few tips on that:
REALLY decide if something requires a meeting or if picking up the phone just to run a few questions by someone would suffice, THEN follow up with what was discussed in an email. You’ll save so much time by avoiding email back and forth, but following up ensures you’ll have what was discussed in writing to refer back to later. Just start being pickier about agreeing to meetings and you’ll get a lot more done.
Also, what my team used to do when I worked in advertising is purposely block our calendars off for a few hours each day to get things done so it looked like we were already busy when others tried to request booking us in meetings ? Sneaky, but effective.
My Examples of Pebbles:
Important things that have deadlines and also move my business forward–concepting, writing, editing, strategizing.
More examples of Pebbles:
Working on a deck for that pitch next week, writing a proposal, conducting research, etc. This will be the meat of your to-do list that you really need to get done in order to keep moving you forward in your career. These are proactive, not reactive.
My Examples of Sand:
Emails, social media posts, etc.
More examples of sand:
Emails, any administrative tasks. These are smaller things that are necessary to tend to but don’t move the needle in terms of growth. These are typically reactive things or things that require maintenance.
Anyywayyy–you’ll figure out how to make the 15 minute planner method work for you when you download her PDF guide here–it explains everything and how to categorize your tasks and it REALLY truly helps you get more done!
The Pomodoro Technique:
Okay, so once I have my week planned out according to Steph’s methods, I open up my google calendar for the day and I schedule out the whole day using the Pomodoro technique, pulling from my list of Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand. I have a separate page in my notebook for the day that lists out which tasks qualify as each of them, so when the “pebbles” time rolls around, I have the next task on my list that I need to address, and so on. Make sense? (Again, download Steph’s planner, it will all make sense.)
If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique, it’s essentially the idea of blocking your time alternating between “on” and “off” The traditional technique calls for four 25 minute sessions of work with 5 minute breaks in between, followed by one longer 30 minute break. For me, it takes awhile for me to really get into a groove (plus, there are few tasks I can complete in a 25 minute session) so I prefer 2 hours on, 30 minutes to an hour off, and I feel like this is good for me.
You can totally figure out what works best for you based on your schedule, but the concept is just that you need to take frequent “non-work” breaks to A. Give yourself a close deadline to accomplish the single task at hand (and avoid multi-tasking) and B. Give your brain frequent breaks so you can sit down with fresh eyes and get back at it.
There is an ENORMOUS difference in my productivity when I schedule out my day vs when I do not.
This is just an example of what that might look like on a given day. Obviously some days are packed with rocks, others are not. I try my best not to schedule too many rocks in one day but sometimes you can’t help it!
(The above is is just an example! Yes, this says 7am-7pm, but during the week if I have nothing else to do at night, it’s often more like 6:30am-10pm ? Don’t let me fool you into thinking I only work 12 hours a day most days ? Then there are days when I take off because I can or I leave early to hang out with friends or do whatever! It’s all about balance!)
Here is an example of how I might block my calendar for the day!
You can see I use my “breaks” to handle other random tasks that don’t require sitting at my computer–ideally ones that I can get up and move around. This is the time I use to clean the house, start a load of laundry, take care of returns, things like thank you notes, an at-home workout, etc.
You might be saying, “Jess, I work in a corporate job. I can’t use my breaks to do my dishes or just up and leave the office to do my own tasks”–but what you could use those breaks for are things like organizing your desk, running to another department to chat with your coworker about a project, run work related errands, or go on a coffee run.
I realize everyone’s work environment is different. But the whole point of the “breaks” is to get out of your “desk brain” for a second and give yourself a little refresher. Even if you have to schedule a meeting during your break time, it still gives you a little time away from staring at your computer and a chance to come back to your work with fresh eyes.