A lazy girl's guide to being more productive

Apr 28, 2015 at 3:57 p.m. ET
Image: Tetra Images/Getty Images

You know her, that highly productive minx. She's looking fly first thing in the morning with her boardroom slideshow ready to go, homemade Mason jar salad in hand to keep lunch light. Toned body, packed social calendar and home decor scheme are all in her tote; she's living a Pinterest-worthy life that should make her totally exhausted. So what's her secret?

If you've ever looked on in envy and wondered how she found a way to get it all so seamlessly into her handmade, embroidered pocket calendar, then consider this your lazy girl's guide to getting there.

The secret strategies that help highly productive women find time to do it all

She does things she enjoys

First and foremost, let us begin with one single distinction between the productive women who seem to "have it all together," and those who don't. The reason things get done in her life (the DIY projects, the gym class, the presentation for tomorrow's meeting) is because she doesn't do them out of obligation. She does them out of joy.

She wants to be fit, so she does the types of workouts she actually enjoys, like yoga versus hours on the treadmill.

She wants to move ahead in the workplace, so she finds ways to synchronize her passions with the company's bottom line so that she can be enthusiastic about the work she contributes.

She wants a chic apartment, so she takes the time to do those artsy projects. But even if you're not crazy about glue guns and bedazzling, you can make the sacrifice of one afternoon at a Bed Bath & Beyond and change the entire look of your home.

The key difference is finding ways to enjoy it, either shopping or hand-making or stretching or running or whatever your choice may be. If you want an end result, first ask "how can I make this something I enjoy doing?"

The point is this: If we can first accept that the results we seek will take work to be reality, and then enjoy that work as part of the journey toward our success, we can take obligation out of it entirely. When the obligation aspect is gone, we can have fun with it. And when you have fun doing something, you're much more likely to do it often and do it well. Much like your love affair with brunches.

She organizes and prioritizes

If you can take the two- to three-hour period it would take to connect your email to your calendar to your phone, and finally make that bill filer, that would be amazing. But we're not going to be unrealistic about what it means to improve. So think of it this way: It might not work for you to be organized about your organization, but if you can at least clearly identify and outline set goals for the day, the week and ultimately your life, you are much more likely to achieve them.

That means setting a to-do list for the day. If it's on that tiny square for the day on your calendar, great. If it's on a Post-it you stick to your computer then throw away at 5:00, fantastic. If it's a text you send yourself, as minimal and lazy as that is, totally fine. As long as you are clearly setting the goals, putting them out somewhere you will see them and can cross them off the list, you are on the right track. It doesn't have to mean that you are organized in every area of your life, it means that you at least organize your priorities for the here and now, with an eye on the foreseeable future.

She brings her best

Preparing and bringing your best self forward starts the moment you open your eyes everyday. We all know how tempting the snooze button is. I mean, it's practically easier than actually turning off the alarm! But that doesn't mean you should give in. Think of it like your first test of the day: If you get up with that alarm, you're telling the world you want to play out this day on the right foot.

Giving yourself just an extra 15 minutes in the morning to prepare some snacks, do a little visualization and put something inspiring in your path like a quote from Rumi, a daily email that instills a positive mood or a five-minute meditation will make all the difference in the rest of your day. Those first few hours of awake-time crucially decide how you experience the rest of your day, and if you spend them in a hurry, you better expect the rest of your day to slip right through your hands as well.

Preparing mentally in the morning is what allows your best self to come forward all day, because it's when you find that self and commit to it. What difference does this best self make? It means being present and ready to work when you get to the office. It means being connected and really listening to your best friend over lunch. It means being compassionate, kind and loving when you get home to your kids at night. If you take the time to yourself to put your mind in the right frame, it will absolutely and profoundly affect the rest of your day, which brings us to our next tip:

She makes time for herself

That time might be those extra 15 minutes in the morning. It might be an additional 30-minute bath after work. It might be a yoga class. And especially, it should absolutely be a short meditation every day, on top of whatever else you do to feel good, beautiful and loved by yourself.

Quiet time taken every day, especially through sitting in silence and stillness, allows us to clear away the clutter between our deepest center, our soul, and our minds, and thus our external actions. When we de-clutter the channel between soul and mind and action, we release greater enthusiasm, greater creativity and ultimately greater potential. We increase our focus, making us better thinkers and creators, and we get all the useless stuff like negative messages of the ego, self doubt and self sabotage out of the way. In essence, we clear the road of roadblocks and trash so we can sail toward all that we dream of.

The productive woman knows how important this time is, and diligently remains true to honoring it. Just a few minutes, whether in the shower or with a guided meditation on the subway, or even just sitting for 10 minutes in a dark room right before you fall asleep, whatever it is, carve out the time and commit to it.

What lies at the very bottom of each of these tips is one truth: All personal successes start with with a fundamental respect for oneself. Without this respect, without feeling the worth and beauty of yourself and your own life and time, you might not even feel you are worth that chic apartment or promotion. But through respect for our own lives, through self-love that says "I deserve this fantastic life, and I'm going to do what I have to do to get it!" we are limited not by busy schedules or money, though we might use those as excuses. We are limited by ourselves.

The productive woman makes a priority of not only gathering the supplies for the life she wants, but carving out the time to reinforce these beliefs and see worth in herself. You deserve a life you love to look at, see, experience and share, and the responsibility falls solely on you to make that happen.