What’s missing for women over 50 is “me time.” Let’s face it, these women have a lot on their plates.
A woman in her fifties may still be parenting teenagers and/or college age kids and looks after her aging parents. She may be a working professional at the peak of her career, and managing her household.
Time for herself is important. Women over age 50 want to pursue a lifelong dream, start a new hobby or simply to enjoy life.
Girls just want to have fun, right? And… she can.
It’s a matter of making herself a priority and using some productivity tools to carve out “me time.”
Find an extra hour every day
Thirty years ago, time was not my friend. When I started my career as a financial planner in my twenties, I was married, worked full time, had a toddler and a baby on the way. To further my career, the Certified Financial Planner ™ professional designation (a 2 year program) was what I needed.
I wasn’t carving out time for “fun” then.
With so much on my plate, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Yet I knew it wasn’t going to get easier once my second child was born. Time with my little boys was a priority, too. With those competing goals, I had to figure out a way to be more productive at work and carve out study time so my evenings could be spent with my kids.
Here is the system I tweaked over the years: three techniques taken together skyrocketed my productivity.
- Power of 3 – Focus on the three most important things daily
- Focus 33 – Deep work in increments of 33 minutes and 33 seconds
- Power 10 – Stop and take 10 minutes to review and improve
With this system, I’ve been able to produce high quality work in my financial planning career, carve out time to write a weekly column for Forbes.com, and for Deer Valley Ski Resort while enjoying life in a resort ski town. You can use all or parts of it, too.
Up Your Game Girl Productivity Plan
1. Power of Three – Pick your top three most important projects
How you spend your time is vital.
Start your day by determining the three most important things you need to get done that day. Put them in order and then (***important***) book specific time in your calendar to tackle them.
In my example, as a young working Mom working on a professional credential, I wrote down “study my CFP class for one hour” as one of my top three things every day. I put the time in my calendar.
As a mother of a toddler, I had to steadily work away at it. There were no late night cramming study sessions for me! I was exhausted by 9 o’clock. Using this system, I was able to pass each of my classes and obtain my credential a few months after my second son was born. It worked!
Productivity tip: There are a couple of ways to approach your Power of Three. Some people “eat the frog” and take on the most challenging project first thing. Others like to get an early win and take on the easiest task or project. In practice, I go back and forth depending on the project.
Reality check: be gentle with yourself. You may not be able to completely finish your three things every day. You may not complete any! But day after day, focusing on what’s important will supercharge your output.
2. Focus 33 – Create time blocks with minimal distractions to do deep work.
Once you have determined which project you are going to tackle first, use the Focus 33 technique. This time blocking system – an adaptation of the Pomodoro Technique – allows you to do deep meaningful work by eliminating all distractions.
Here’s how: Close your email, put away papers on your desk except what you are working on, and put up a Do Not Disturb sign on your door and on your phone.
- Set a timer for 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
- Work on your project and nothing else until the timer goes off.
- Don’t answer your phone.
- Don’t check email.
- Allow yourself to go deeply into your project.
When the timer rings. Take a 3 minute break. Repeat. Set the timer again for another 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
Repeat as long as you need.
Productivity tip – why Focus 33 works. Franceso Carillo invented this technique in 1992 as a study aid and named it the Pomodoro Technique (and uses a cute tomato shaped timer.) He found tracking your projects with the timer helped determine the amount of time and effort the activity requires. And obviously reducing distractions helps you get more done and with higher quality work.
Reality Check — Why 33 minutes and 33 seconds instead of 25 or 30 minutes?
Have you ever written something in your calendar only to dismiss it when the time comes? Let’s say you wrote in “Work out” or “Call Aunt Katie” on your calendar at 12 noon – 1 pm.
You wrote it down. Did you follow through? Not always. My brain will often dismiss putting something on the hour as if it’s a suggestion not an appointment. When you write it down at an odd time, you trick your brain into knowing you are serious.
This ideas was adapted from Agile Teams that start and end meetings at odd times to encourage members to be punctual. Rather than starting a meeting at 2:00pm and having team members saunter in at 2:05pm. Starting the meeting at an odd time, forces participants to think and pay attention to the time. I used this trick on myself and it worked!
So when I set my phone time for 33 minutes and 33 seconds, this let my brain know I mean business. I am serious. My inner self knows this is a trick but is amused and goes along with it.
Try it and see if it works for you, too.
3. Power 10 Productivity – Take 10 minutes to power up your project
A Power 10 is a strategy used in rowing crew (on the water) that I adapted to use in life (off the water.)
When I rowed on the Master’s women crew team in Sacramento, the coxswain would call for a Power 10 during races. The eight women in the boat would step it up and pull with all our might for 10 powerful strokes. Then we’d fall back to our regular racing cadence (still hard but not grueling.)
The results? With the short but powerful effort, we could catch another boat if we were behind or pass them if we were even. While you couldn’t keep up that pace the entire race, we could for a short burst.
There is great power in a short sprint.River City Rowing Club
The power 10 can be used in many ways. I use it in my morning routine as well as to improve productivity and produce great work. For example, when I am finalizing a financial plan, a proposal for a new client or writing a blog post, I put the project aside when I am completely done.
After taking a break, I set a timer for 10 minutes, relax and think about ways to improve the work before I mark it complete.
Productivity tip: Bake in some extra time at the end of your project for a fresh perspective. As little as ten minutes for a final review can take your work from good to extraordinary.
Challenge: Take 10 minutes and see how you can “up your game” on a project that is important to you.
Now the only question I have is, “What are you going to do with that extra hour a day?” Will it be going for a walk, calling a friend, or reading a book? Are you going to learn a new language or take an art class?
The main thing is to carve out time for you and only you.