3 Productivity Tips Women (and Men) MUST Know

On 1st November 2020, I had the extreme pleasure to collaborate with one of my favourite Malaysians, Ainie Haziqah in her Sunday Nights with AH live session. Aside from being the Managing Partner at law firm Nurainie Haziqah & Co, she also co-founded Happy Bank NGO AND Girl2Leader Malaysian chapter AND Human Aid Selangor NGO AND KitaLearn AND Wanita Muda Negara.

 

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Our chosen topic was Productivity Tips for Women, and even though I feel inadequate to talk about this topic next to her, I know I can at least contribute a little bit. At the very least, I know I scored 65 out of 105 in the Pozen Productivity Test, a 21-question survey based on seven habits of productivity:

  • developing daily routines
  • planning your schedule
  • coping with messages
  • getting a lot done
  • running effective meetings
  • honing communication skills
  • and delegating tasks to others

(To be fair, some of the questions are not applicable to me so that reduced my score a little bit – I don’t work in a team, don’t attend regular meetings and have no subordinates to delegate work to. You can find our your productivity score and take the test yourself here.)

The topic of productivity is not a new one, but here I want to emphasise these are tips that women should know. Generally speaking, you have less time to work with for personal development, because society imposes the burden of unpaid care work to you – you do 70% of it. Your work in childcare, elderly care and housework is regarded as free, invisible, and not compensated in monetary value.

As much as I want to say ‘don’t do it’, I know that caring for others gives you (and me) is sometimes unavoidable and may even give a lot of joy and fulfilment, so like it or not we have to be smart with our time (and our choice in spouse).

#0 – Unseen productivity boosters

Before we get into the meat of the topic, I want to bring up one fact which many people forget: privilege boosts productivity levels.

It is NOT REALISTIC to compare your productivity output to someone who:

  • Has a person/a whole team working behind the scenes (domestic helper; driver; personal assistant; employees etc)
  • Has a supportive spouse and/or domestic helper who takes over household responsibilities and caring duties when needed
  • Has no or minimal caring duties (healthy parents; healthy, responsible and self-sufficient children)
  • Lives near to work or works from home (no commute = more time!)
  • Has invested a lot of money in time-saving and long-lasting gadgets and equipment

Personally, I think my productivity has a lot to do with the fact that I am childless, blessed with healthy parents and work from home. Ainie has a team.

What I’m trying to say is… don’t compare, your best is good enough. After all, comparison is the thief of joy.

Okay, with that disclaimer, let’s go the first productivity tip,

#1 – Note-taking

Note-taking habit is my #1 productivity tip. I swear by it – I can’t live without it! The feeling of dumping information on paper so it no longer takes up space in your head… unbeatable. I save so much time and frustration when I can quickly retrieve information!

I write all sorts of things in my notebook. Aside from the money stuff (related: 17 Things to Include in Your Money Journal), I also maintain a groceries system to avoid food waste, write out article outlines, pour my heart out in mental health checks (both using free-writing method; highly recommend) and more.

I’m aware that note-taking isn’t a particularly revolutionary tip, but I have additional protips:

  • Buy undated planners. Yearly or dated planners are hard to re-use, and if you ‘fall off the wagon’ (as we often do – no worries life happens), you won’t waste pages. Also, you won’t know how many pages you actually need. Personally, I go through 1 full notebook every 9 or 10 months.
  • Stationaries junkies and note-taking junkies aren’t necessarily the same crowd. If you have no patience or obsession for stationaries (like me), then don’t force yourself to make ‘pretty’ notes. Take notes that work. I use ONE multi-colour pen and stuck a bunch of post-its at the back of the notebook, to differentiate notes and to cover mistakes, respectively.
  • Use hardcover notebook. This is non-negotiable for me. So much easier to write on than softcover. It is also a must for everyone who is ganas with their belonging!

#2 – Protect your flow state

Short, focused work in flow state > long hours filled with distractions.

Science backs it up: Flow is described as a state of complete immersion in an activity; you can get a LOT done if you reach this state. I know it sounds like a woo-hoo thing, but it’s true. And flow is not just for work either – it’s any activity, including learning, networking and even resting.

People use all sorts of strategies to eliminate distractions in order to achieve flow state, from the practical ‘put phone on silent’ all the way to enforcing intentional time limit (like Pomodoro Technique) to ‘wake up at 5am (do work while everyone else is asleep)’. The tips that work ranges, because everyone’s distractions are different.

For some people, especially caregivers, distractions are not possible to completely eliminate. However, here are some tips compiled by some parents:

  • Hire a babysitter or enlist help from family members, if available and possible
  • Instruct children to ONLY come to you during specified times, unless of course if blood is involved. I’ll backlink this when I find it again, but I recall this one mother using the family meeting method – bring up everything during once-a-week family meetings, which quickly gets sorted/delegated
  • Wear crazy hats and/or earphones to signal you’re working and cannot be disturbed (again, unless blood is involved)

#3 – Automate, Optimise, Outsource, Eliminate

If you can automate, optimise, outsource and eliminate housework, do it. Some ways include:

  • Get gadgets: Robot vacuum cleaner, washer/dryer, etc
  • Hire regular house cleaning and/or laundry service
  • Do meal-planning and meal-prepping: plenty of videos on Youtube showing you how to do bulk-cooking once a week
  • Getting groceries delivered
  • Practicing minimalism so you have less to clean/maintain/fix in general
  • Voluntarily choose the childfree lifestyle (not for everyone obv; I’m pro-whichever situation where the children are wanted and loved)

Men, you might want to take this part seriously. These chores tend to be invisible to you, and you don’t do your fair share. A lot of women – especially working women – feels resentment over the unequal contribution of housework. Resentment breeds contempt, which is the biggest predictor of divorce.

Having said that, women should know that men face problems that you don’t know about, because they won’t tell you about it. It’s hard for men to break away from the ‘I’m a man so I must suffer in silence, never show weakness’ mentality. 85% of stonewallers in a heterosexual relationship are men.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me the motivation to work hard so I can comfortably afford to automate, optimise, outsource and eliminate where possible. If my relationship still doesn’t work out, then I know I gave it a fighting chance.

How do YOU protect your time, focus and energy?

What productivity tip works for you? Which ones doesn’t? What is your biggest barrier to focused, uninterrupted work? Let me know in the comments!

Watch our full talk here (includes Ainie’s personal productivity tips!):

 

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Guest : Suraya Zainuddin, Founder of RinggitOhRinggit.com

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6 comments

  1. My biggest barrier now is I’m living with my parents and the eldest daughter. Most of my time has to be divided between myself and my parents. However, now since I have read this, I will try to make time for myself more which now started with the daily schedule. When you mentioned the planner, I was thinking to have one. Anyway, very good tips from here. Thank you.

  2. An enjoyable and informative article; I especially resonated with the bit about flow states. The feeling that I get while accomplishing a large amount of coding or documentation while in flow with lyricless/classical/chiptunes music playing and all distractions removed is really… Heavenly? It’s certainly something. Satisfying for sure.

    Anyway, spotted a typo that you might like to correct. In the line “And flow is not just for work either – its any activity, including learning, networking and even resting.”, the “its” should be “it’s” as it’s a contraction of “it is” and not a possessive. A small error, for sure, but striving for perfection is kinda its own reward.

  3. The first time I came across this term ‘flow state’ was when I read Ikigai by Hector Garcia. It was truly an eye-opening book which encouraged me to think more of my Ikigai and flow state but I have yet to achieve it, still a work in progress LOL!

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