Batch Processing + My Blogging Routine

There was a time I was wildly fascinated with the lifestyle of the French. I wanted to know everything about their lifestyle: how they dress, how they live, how they raise children, what they eat…everything. So, I started following a few bloggers who write about the “Parisian Chic” life. In one of the posts, the writer mentioned how French women build exercise into their daily routines. They walk everywhere. They take the stairs. They grocery shop several times a week. Wait, what?! Call me lazy but I don’t want to step out of the house multiple times a day. When I am out, I better finish all (or most) of the errands, return home, and kick off my shoes. I grocery shop weekly. I go to the gym directly after dropping my son to the school, I visit in in-laws on the way to or back from somewhere else. That’s me, batch processing my life!

And I follow the same principles in my blogging life too. I batch process my blog production.

Batch processing + blogging routine + productivity Social 1 Momchakra.com

What is Batch Processing?

Batch processing, as the name suggests, is a technique to process tasks in batches. It’s based on one and only one principle: single tasking. In today’s day and age, everyone multitasks. When I was still part of the corporate world until five years ago, I was even evaluated on how well I could multitask (can I just say I rocked multitasking?). But let’s be honest: I used to slip up every now and then. Recently, I have seen a lot more articles urging people to adopt a single-tasking mindset.

Remember, batch processing is not a process, it is a technique. It simply helps you group similar tasks that can be processed together. For example, you may choose to write your SEO even before writing your post, or you may choose to create your images before writing the SEO. These tasks are not necessarily linear (it helps me though to keep it linear but that’s the “process” that I follow—more on this later).

Benefits of Batch Processing

Once you start batch processing, you will see the benefits within a very short time. Batch processing:

  • Helps focus: Working on a single task at a time helps bring focus to the task. When you are switching between tasks that require the use of different faculties/abilities, it messes up your concentration. Conversely, while batch processing, you are using only one set of faculties and your brain can supply all the juice to the required faculties.
  • Improves productivity: When you batch similar tasks, it builds rhythm and improves your productivity. On the other hand, if you are constantly switching between dissimilar tasks, your brain has to reorient itself to the current task.
  • Saves time: When your brain doesn’t need to switch modes constantly, it helps save time. Your brain knows the requirements and parameters within which you are working and it’s already optimized to deliver at those levels.

How to Batch Process Your Blogging Business

Quite simply you break down your blogging tasks to the last detail and group them for similarity. Let’s say on the 1st of every month (ideally before), you research all the topics you want to write about during that month. Spend 1 hour coming up with as many topic ideas as you can. Note that you are NOT focusing on ONE topic idea but several topic ideas at a time. That’s batch processing.

Similarly, identify other tasks that you can group but need not necessarily relate to a single blog post or project. Here are some ideas:

  • Populate the content calendar for a month
  • Edit and proofread multiple blog posts for the month
  • Record multiple YouTube videos in one sitting (ok, you can change your shirt for every video if you want!)
  • Schedule social media posts for the week
  • Write invoices
  • Respond to emails OR comments

The options are aplenty.

Once you have identified the task groups, you want to schedule them on your calendar and build a routine around it. For example, I group tasks and then schedule them by days. Here’s a screenshot of my “sample” Trello board:

Trello Screenshot Momchakra Batch Processing Productivity Blogging

  • On Sundays, I come up with several topic ideas. Yes, my work week begins on a Sunday. It takes me about 1 hour and it’s nothing more than a brain dump.
  • On Mondays, I select 2-3 topics and begin researching. I note down the key points and build a wire frame for each post. I also decide if a post warrants a content upgrade. I spend 4 hours doing this.
  • On Tuesdays, I write the first draft of the posts. I do not worry about the formatting or grammar. It’s a free-form writing day. I spend 4-5 hours on this task.
  • On Wednesdays, I go in with a hawk’s eye and edit my content. I have been trying to write the long-form content of late so it takes a lot of time and patience to edit.
  • On Thursdays, I create content upgrades, if applicable. If not, I use the time for self-education or administrative tasks.
  • On Fridays, I create the images, fill in the SEO details, and schedule publish. Another thing: social media. Right now, I am very bad at it but I am trying to become more visible on social media. So, with whatever time I save on Fridays, I plan to schedule social media posts for the week going forward.
  • On Saturdays, I spend about 1 hour to draft the week’s newsletter (no subscribers to read them though :-P)

I am only three-months into the whole blogging system, and I am still learning. In addition, I am a stay-at-home mother with only about 4 hours to spare in a day. Additionally, I like to keep my weekends as open as possible. I know that is the opposite of a hard hustle, but if I cannot spend time with the ones for whom I am doing this, what is the point of doing it at all? I wrote about my new blogger frustrations in an earlier post. Depending on your unique life situation, you may do more or less and take more or less time doing each task.

So, there you have it: how I use batch processing in my blogging routine.

What your blogging routine? What processes and techniques do you use to work on your amazing blog?

If you enjoyed this post, please help spread the word by sharing this post.

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How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day! + Free Goal-setting Worksheet

A friend of mine recently came up with the idea to start a home stationery business. As we got talking about the business and her vision for growth, we agreed that she needed to put her vision on paper for more accountability and clarity. Naturally, one of the first things that came to mind was to create goals so she can measure the success and growth of her business. Among others, here is what she wrote as her goal:

  • Be the one-stop shop for all things in home stationery.

Let me add here that this is the first business she plans to launch. I applaud her for that. It takes guts! She quit her full-time job as a graphic designer 7 years ago to stay at home with her then-newborn daughter. Today, when her daughter has grown up and spends most of the day at school and after school activities, my friend found herself with a lot of time on hand and she did not know what to do with it. Instead of wasting it on binge-watching a show on Netflix for the rest of her life (someone, please tell me it gets boring after a while!), she decided to use her design skills to start her own business. Yay to that!

Coming back to the goals…here’s a little background on my professional experience. I am an instructional designer, which means I analyze, design, and develop online and offline courses for corporate employees. An integral part of being in the education business is to know how to identify the goals and objectives of any program (or business, or any project really). This is what I do for a living and I couldn’t hold back. We spent the next two hours thrashing out goals. A tried-and-tested strategy to draft goals is to use the SMART methodology.

What is the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

A SMART goal stands for a goal that is:

  • Specific: Your goal should be as specific as possible. It should have an expected outcome attached to it. Explore the what, why, where, how, who of your goal. Making your goal specific to the last detail helps you identify the component(s) that you want to track. It helps make your goals clearer and more manageable, and consequently easier to accomplish. For example,
    • Vague goal: I want to grow my email list.
    • The problem: The aforementioned goal is vague because it does not address several questions, including (but not limited to):
      • Why is it important to grow your email list?
      • How many subscribers do you want to gain every month?
      • How will you grow your email list?
      • Do you have the necessary tools in place to grow your email list?
    • Specific goal: Grow my email list to 100 subscribers by October 31 so that I can pitch my eBook for sale.
  • Measurable: How will you assess and measure the success of your goal? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Identify the metric and benchmark against which you will measure your specifics. Vague words such as “successful blog,” “life-changing post,” “awesome email list” are neither specific nor measurable. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, every new subscriber will be a metric to measure. That each of those subscribers is “awesome” is an added bonus J
  • Attainable (or Actionable): It is important to remember that the goal must be realistic and achievable. While it is good to be ambitious and positive, it is somewhat unrealistic to set a goal of growing your email list from 0 to 50,000 in the first month. Another example is to aim for a goal for which you do not have the necessary resources available. “Aim for the stars” is a great motto but unless you are part of NASA or Elon Musk’s team, it’s pretty unattainable, don’t you think? Draft goals that set you up for success, not failure!
  • Relevant: Often, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of the big picture. Does the goal align with your vision/big picture/ultimate goal? For example, gaining email subscribers may not matter for bloggers who analyze current affairs. Generally, such bloggers do not aim to sell anything on their blogs. A more relevant goal for such bloggers may be to have a high traffic rate.
  • Time bound: Finally, the goal you draft should have an end-time so that you know when to measure efforts. In other words, define the range of time within which your efforts will come to fruition. This is the time when you will consider marking your goal either a success or failure. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, determine an end date to this goal—such as, by October 31, 2017. This way when the time comes, you will know to measure your growth. Additionally, be realistic about the period. Keep your personality and circumstances in mind when deciding the end date.

Why should I use the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

Why should you? Here’s why. A well-defined goal will act as an effective road map for you to gauge your growth. It is a productivity tool that helps:

  • Convert vague goals into actionable objectives/tasks
  • Visualize success
  • Prioritize
  • Monitor progress

Convinced? Here’s a little bonus resource for you.

But, if you need more convincing, keep reading 🙂

SMART goals Pinterest Momchakra.com

How to Achieve Goals Consistently

The great footballer (soccer, for Americans J), Pele, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Sure we all want to be successful at what we do. Sure we want to accomplish everything the universe has to offer. But success takes a lot of work and it is in our favor to define and approach success in a way that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Here is the step-by-step process that that can help work accomplish your goals consistently.

  1. Identify your big SMART goal: Before you do anything else, do a brain dump on a piece of paper or use a digital worksheet…whatever works for you. Come up with ONE big goal that based on the SMART methodology. One ring to rule them all 😉
  2. Break down the big goal into smaller goals: Think of it as a funneling process. Identify the smaller goals (further filtered to task level) that will collectively help you funnel up and accomplish the big goal.
  3. Set deadlines: Assign due dates not just for the big goal but also for each individual task you identified in the previous step. This will keep you accountable and help prioritize. Also, small wins. Yay!
  4. Build-in review checkpoints: Have you ever set yourself a lenient deadline and still found yourself scrambling for the finish line on the last day? That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty? Here’s what you can do: set up 2-3 checkpoints between the start and end date of the big goal. Hold yourself accountable for meeting these smaller “deadlines” on your way to the checkered flag.
  5. Reflect, evaluate, and modify: At the end of a goal’s life cycle, it’s time to reflect and evaluate. Think back on the process you followed. Determine what work and what didn’t. Identify the roadblocks and think about how you can work around or eliminate those roadblocks from the next cycle. This kind of evaluation will help you modify your process rock solid going forward.

Set Yourself Up for Success

While the process will help you achieve goals, there are a few additional tips you can keep in mind when brainstorming your goals.

  • Set goals at regular intervals: January 1 is not the only date when you should think about reflecting and setting goals. No, I am not saying you should not set goals on that date…do it; it’s been a long-standing tradition and it’s good to follow some traditions. But please understand the logic behind this tradition…it plays on the word “new year” that is supposedly a clean slate to work on. But ultimately, it’s asking you to reflect on your wins and losses and determine how you can leverage that knowledge to succeed at your next mission. One year is a LONG time to not evaluate yourself or your goals. But, if you choose to follow this “tradition” every quarter or every month and line up fewer and smaller goals, leading up to a big goal, isn’t that more realistic, empowering, and achievable?
  • Set fewer goals: We are ambitious and success is great for our confidence. But are we setting ourselves up for failure by adding too many things on our plates? You bet we are! Take my example, I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, I have a freelance writing business, I have a home to run, I have a family to care for, and now I have a blog too. That’s a mighty lot. But there’s a lot I don’t do—I have a help who dusts, mops the floor, cleans dishes, cleans the bathrooms, folds laundry, etc. Another lady comes in daily to cook our meals (Indian meal cooking takes a lot of time + I hate cooking). I had trouble giving away some of my household chores because it makes me anxious. But labor is cheap in India and I just had to measure the return on investment. For a few bucks each month, I have freed up the time to do other things that are more important to me. Those are my fewer, big goals I want to accomplish. Cooking a daily meal for my family is important but it’s not my big goal. As long as we are eating home-cooked meals, I don’t really care who is cooking for us.
  • Focus on the smaller goals: Keep your eye on the big goal, but focus on the smaller goals. Remember the funnel? These short-term goals are going to buoy you up and carry you to your big goal. Focusing on the smaller goals allows you to reset or refine your tactics continuously. Imagine going all the way to the big goal deadline and finding that everything you did was a waste of time.
  • Allow yourself to fail at times: Even superheroes fail at times. Give yourself the grace to fail occasionally. If you can learn something even from a failed opportunity, it’s not really a failed opportunity after all, right? Some goals can be tougher than the rest. Or, perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to accomplish the goal. Or, maybe your measurement metric was wrong all along. Next time, you will know better than to repeat the same mistakes.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

What methodology do you use to draft goals? If you’d like to explore the SMART way of goal setting, I have created a template that will help you draft goals that are not only based on the SMART methodology but will also help you break the goal down into smaller, more achievable tasks. Simply signup below to receive this free resource.

5 Tips to Have an Amazing Morning Routine…Every Day!

Enough has been said about the importance of having a good morning routine. Routines are something I seek and test out very frequently. Mommy routine, morning routine, evening routine, cleaning routine, fitness routine…the list goes on and on. The reason I am so interested in routines is I want to learn how to simplify and/or better my life. Some of these “hacks” work for me, some don’t. But try I will.

So today, my friends, I bring to you my current morning routine and why you should consider adopting it too.

Now, first things first: this post is purely focussed on incorporating “health” in your morning routine. And for that reason, it will not tell you to make your bed, throw a load of laundry, make your To-Do list, or plan your dinner. That will be a post for another day. So are you ready to learn about my morning routine? Here goes!

1. Rehydrate Your Muscles and Cells

The first thing you should do after waking up is to rehydrate your body. If you find it difficult to remember to consume water, keep a glass or bottle of water on your nightstand. This way when you wake up in the morning, all you need to do is reach out for the glass or bottle and gulp down the water. I wrote about the importance of hydration and tips to consume more water in an earlier post. Have you read that yet? It’s also beneficial to eat a small fruit (preferably one that is “in-season” and fresh), or a few almonds soaked overnight within 15 minutes of waking up. This helps kick-start your metabolism and will also act as a before-workout snack (Yes! You need to work out!).

2. Include 30-45 Minutes of Physical Exercise

If you are feeling rushed by this time, perhaps you should consider waking up a little earlier. Here are some tips to become a morning person. Equally important is to sleep early and deep. How will you wake up early if you don’t sleep well, right? I got you covered.  But coming to the point, enough studies have been published highlighting the benefits of including 30-45 minutes of physical exercise every day. Incorporate a good workout routine into your mornings. Consider it like eating the Frog. Let’s face it–of all the things listed in this morning routine post–this point about physical activity is going to be the most difficult to accomplish. But if push yourself to get this done in the morning, you won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. If you are still on the fence about putting aside 30-45 minutes of your morning, you surely can put aside 7 minutes, yes? And while you are at it, gain the immense health benefits. Just remember to start and end with stretches 🙂

3. Practice 15 Minutes of Deep Breathing and Meditation

Alright, it’s time to cool down and nourish your mind. And during this time, do one and only one thing–meditate or bring your mind to focus. Practice deep breathing exercises for about 10 and taper off with 5 minutes of guided or unguided meditation. But how is it beneficial? Breathing is the very basis of life…and no, I am not talking spiritually. Plain, simple biology. Several researchers have put forth the benefits of deep breathing. Here are just a few of those: reduces anxiety and depression, increases energy levels, relaxes muscles, and reduces stress response and overwhelm. The ROI of deep breathing is simple, in my opinion. Coupled with meditation, you will not only bring awareness of your breathing technique but also to every part of your mind and body.

4. Eat a Nourishing Breakfast

It’s time to eat! You may say, “but I just ate,” and I would say “sure…four almonds and a glass of water!” That, my friend, was not your breakfast. I am sure you have heard a thousand times how breakfast in the more important meal of the day. What if they are right? Trust me, I used to be you. I would skip breakfast almost every day–no wait, my breakfast was two cups of coffee–because you see, I was busy and I’d rather get “work” done in the time I’d instead spend eating breakfast. But here’s the thing: the reason they say breakfast is the most important meal of your day is that your blood glucose is at its lowest in the morning after the 8-12 hour gap since your last meal. Low blood glucose means you are low on energy (grogginess, anyone?) given that glucose is what your body uses to provide you energy. A word of tip: try to include both carbohydrates and proteins in your breakfast. One without the other will not serve any purpose. If you, like me, struggle in the kitchen, try searching for easy breakfast ideas (that are also healthy) on Pinterest.

Now, remember, the sequence of routine I have outlined above is what I recommend. If you feel like you need to meditate before your physical exercise, go for it. The idea is to get done with all the tasks BEFORE you go about the rest of your day.

And now *drumroll* it’s time for the fifth and most important tip. TADATADA

5. DO NOT GET SUCKED INTO THE DIGITAL WORLD YET

You heard me. Don’t check your email, don’t check your social media, don’t play games on your phone, don’t read news on your tablet…just don’t. Everything you have done so far to have a healthy start to your day will hold no water. Come on, you have the entire day to spend time with your digital companion, just not the first thing in the morning. You don’t need me to tell you how the digital world is like a quicksand, a whirlpool. In today’s day and age, there is no escaping the digital world, but it need not take up your time from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Remember my earlier post on how to get a good night’s sleep and how you need to practice digital shut down at least one hour before your bedtime? The same is true for when you wake up.

Listen, depending on your personal family situation, you may need to do only this much or a lot more every morning. But let the first one hour be only about you. You deserve this time to yourself. Your daily tasks will get done no matter what, but if you lose your sense of balance, picking up the pieces of the day will be a more difficult than it should be.

So, if you are not already following this routine, will you at least give this a try? For your sake?

If you liked this post, please consider sharing with your friends and family on social media.

How you start your day can either make it or break it. Here are five tips to start every day with a killer morning routine.

How Desktop Clutter Is Killing Your Productivity and How to Address it

I hate clutter. I hate it. I pride myself on being super organized and yet this morning as I switched on my laptop, I was struck by this monstrosity!

A cluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Now, to some of you, this may seem like a normal “working” desktop. I salute you! I don’t know how you find anything on this desktop without spending energy and time that could be put to better use. But you know why it bothered me? Here’s the thing: not one month ago, all I had on my desktop was the Post-it note and the three folders you see on the far right of the screen. I am obsessive about cleaning out my desktop because in the past I have spent a lot of time digging through tens of files and folders on my desktop. I don’t know why I let go in the last one month but this desktop gave me a huge jolt and I promised myself to restore sanity to my desktop.

Why Should You Address Desktop Clutter?

Think of your desktop as the entryway to your digital home. It’s the first space you will experience when you log on to your computer. How do you feel about a messy entryway in your home? I want you to feel the same way about your digital entryway. Besides, a clean desktop:

  • Allows more focus; less distraction: A no-brainer, really. The more clutter you have in your working area, in this case, your computer desktop wallpaper, the more distracted you will get. Clutter takes away your focus from the important things.
  • Saves time; increases productivity*: The more items you have on your desktop, the more difficult it will be to find a file. Conversely, if you keep your desktop organized and clutter-free, you will save time you would otherwise lose.

*Have you read my earlier posts on how to slay your To-Do list and be more productive when you work from home?

How to Reduce Desktop Clutter?

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

So, then, assuming your desktop situation needs help, what should you do to salvage the situation? I have listed my step-by-step instructions to guide you through my recommended process.

1. Use a minimal and inspirational Desktop Wallpaper

Okay, first things first! An overcrowded backdrop adds to the distraction. So ensure your desktop wallpaper is minimal. Second, I recommend using a wallpaper that has more dark tones in it–dark because typically icon labels use a light font. Here’s an example: imagine you need to look for a particular PDF file on your desktop and you have more than three PDF files (often plenty more!). You will rely on the label to search for the correct file. But if you use a light colored wallpaper, chances are the icon labels will become difficult to read, consequently using up your precious time. So, go dark! Now, it’s up to you whether you want the wallpaper to be just a solid color or a photo. If you are going for a photo, make sure again it is minimal and you like looking at it for inspiration. It could be a photo of your current personal goal (mine is, running) or it could be a photo of a quote you live by…the choices are up to you.

2. Create a holding area

After your wallpaper is sorted, create a new folder on your desktop and name it Holding Folder…or whatever you want.

3. Move all items to the holding area

Next, select all items on your desktop (except the holding folder and Trash), and move all items from the desktop into the holding folder. You now have a clean slate to work with.

4. Create a folder structure

Don’t overthink this at this time. At a very high level, I recommend creating five base folders. Once you have these five base folders, you will create subfolders inside them depending on the type of content you have.

  • Multimedia: To store photos, audio, and video files. You will create subfolders, categorize each file into the
  • Applications and Programs: To store all available applications and programs on your computer.
  • Personal + Home: To store files related to your personal space (such as goal sheets, bank statements, eBooks, etc.), as well as files related to running the household (such as a meal planner, schedule sheets, recipes, contacts, etc.)
  • Work (if applicable): To store work files. Again, create subfolders that cater to your personal work requirements.
  • Downloads: The default location to store all your downloaded files. You will categorize these later according to their type into the other appropriate folder(s). Please remember the above structure is my recommendation. You don’t HAVE TO use it. Take what works and customize it according to your own requirements, or change it completely while taking in the gist.

5. Review

At this time, your desktop will have about six folders (1 holding area and 5 base folders). Now, open the holding folder and review each file…consider it a reconnaissance…get a sense of what you are dealing with.

6. Group and Organize

As you are going through each file, move it to a folder where it best belongs. For example, a music file belongs to the Multimedia folder; a recipe belongs to the Personal + Home folder, etc. Again, go as deep as you are comfortable with while creating the folder structure. Personally, I would recommend not going more than two levels down and here’s why–when you become obsessed with perfection, you spend more time thinking and creating folders than actually doing the job at hand, which is to remove the clutter.

7. Eliminate

For files that do not belong to any category or is of no use (such as a temporary working document you created last year; or your bank statement from five years ago)….DELETE. This step is only going to work out if you are honest with yourself. Don’t try to hold on to files that have served their purpose already and are no longer needed. LET THEM GO!

My friend, say hello to your clean desktop work area!

Uncluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Much better! I feel I can now breathe freely again.

How to Maintain a Clutter-free Desktop?

When it comes to desktop clutter, one-time cleanup is not going to cut it. You need to be consistent in your approach and come up with a regular maintenance plan. The secret to a clean home is regular housekeeping. So, here is what I suggest:

  • Eliminate the unnecessary files every night/week: Ideally at the end of each day, but definitely once every week, review the files on your desktop and move them to their rightful category folder.
  • Create backups on external hard disk and the cloud regularly: When you have worked on your computer for while, files start to slow down the computer. It’s frustrating to click a file and spend the next two minutes waiting for the file to open. Occasionally, your computer will also freeze up. But nothing tops the fact that even in today’s technology-driven world, computers crash! Where would that leave you? All your data erased at the blink of an eye? So, if you are not doing this already, please start creating backups on external hard disks and/or cloud services. Now, these disks and services are not exactly cheap. So, if you want a bang for your buck, ensure you are backing up only the files that are super important. Let that be your guideline for what stays and what should be trashed during the next cleanup process.
  • Create multiple desktops (optional): I am unsure about MacBooks, but Windows 10+ operating system allows the user to create multiple desktops–so, you could have one desktop only for your work-related tasks and files; another for your personal data. Consider leveraging this feature to not only have a clean desktop but also to segregate your major work areas.
  • Use the Start Menu (Windows users) and/or the Taskbar to access applications: Instead of keeping the application and program shortcuts on the desktop, move them to the Start Menu or pin them to the Taskbar at the bottom. You could also use the Search function to pull up the required applications and/or programs.

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

How about you? What’s your desktop situation? Will you evaluate your desktop wallpaper situation? If it’s already under control–KUDOS! Share some your tips with others in the comment section.

Productivity for Moms: Top 5 (Free) Apps to Help You Stay Organized

Ah! Productivity and Technology–two of my favorite areas of interest—and, when these two come together, I can spend hours absorbing information related to them and then several more hours telling others about these. You can tell I am passionate about these two subjects!

The other day I was visiting a friend and we got talking about paper vs. digital planning. We agreed both of us love paper planners over digital planners—I like to write things down; typing does not hold the same motivation. Then, our harmless conversation things started to move into the “tech-bashing” zone, and it got me riled up. Look, there is no denying the analog world will always be more charming than the digital world, which is evolving every day. But, we also cannot deny the ease of the digital world. Worse still, I believe we cannot give up on the digital options without even giving them a fair trial.

So, in this post, I will share some of my favorite apps that help me stay productive and organized. These apps, in conjunction with my other tips on productivity, is sure to give you a head start.

So are you ready? Here we go…

Top 5 Free Productivity Apps For Every Mom

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

Please note this post is neither sponsored nor do I have any affiliate links added. I am simply sharing how I stay productive with the help of certain apps. These are what I use and recommend. However, what works for me may not work for you. So, I want you to understand the use of each of these apps and then choose to either give these a try or to find similar apps that serve the same purpose but are more suited to your preferences and/or style.

1. Google Calendar

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

Who hasn’t heard of Google Calendar? It’s the king of productivity, in my opinion. You can carry your life in this one little app. I was introduced to GCal while I was still working full-time. The organization I was working for was brave enough to switch from the industry standard Microsoft Outlook to Gmail for Business. Now, Gmail does not come with an inbuilt calendar like Outlook, so naturally, we switched to GCal as well. Though we were all reluctant when we made the switch, GCal has now become an integral part of my planning and scheduling process. In addition to my work meetings, I schedule all my travel dates, social events, birthday/anniversary reminders, my son’s school events and even my blog post schedules on Google Calendar. Events are easy to create and modify on GCal. Any spillovers or postponed events can be easily moved to another date by simple drag and drop action. For events that require travel, you can even integrate estimated travel time and the destination address on Google Maps (another favorite app of mine, but not really a productivity app except that it may help you plan for your travel time and destination).

2. Google Drive

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

I’ll be honest. I started using Google Drive very recently on a serious basis. Before this, my only experience with GDrive was to access shared documents for my job. But once you start using it, you know it’s a great tool to stay organized, thus helping your productivity. It helps that you can mirror the Microsoft Office suite on Google Drive—you have the option to create documents (MS Word), spreadsheets (MS Excel) and even presentations (MS PowerPoint). But what sets Google Drive apart is the ability to not only share documents online but also allowing live editing. For example, if I write a blog post on Google Docs sitting at home, I can share it with my husband who is on the train back home from work. He can access it on the go and review it on the go. You will say you can do that by emailing your native MS Word document and the recipient can review it on the go. But I bet you cannot view the review happening in real time. Told ya =) It has saved me so much time to be on a live document review with my clients. Both of us access the document and run through it together. Changes are suggested and implemented then and there while some major changes can be noted for future implementation. Similarly, you can create and share project plans, schedules, presentations etc. I even track my home projects, budget, utility services on Google Drive.

3. Pocket

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I have been a long-time user of Pocket and it is one of my favorite apps…ever. As a busy mom (and even before), I will often come across articles that are interesting but I have no time to read then and there. What’s the next best option? Bookmark it! Pocket does that for you and much more. You see, your bookmarked article will be added to your Pocket queue (on the web or on your phone depending on how you have it installed). The article will, thus, be available to you whenever you have the time….even if you do not have a data connection. What’s more…it gives you the option to select your “view” – whether you want to read the article in a mobile-optimized format, or you want to read it in its original web format. But can I tell my favorite feature of this awesome app? It’s the editorial team-curated list of articles that have been doing well around the world. On your own, you may not have known about these articles but Pocket makes sure you never miss out. Instead of spending your precious free time on mindless YouTube cat videos, why not use Pocket to access and read some brain-stimulating information.

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4. Evernote

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I am a big consumer of information. I am also a compulsive planner. Evernote helps me do both on one platform. In a way, I started using Evernote to save articles for future consumption…until I discovered Pocket. So, while I still save articles to read later, I use Evernote more as a brain dumping platform, mostly geared towards this blog’s content, but also certain social events. For example, I planned a Christmas party To-Do list on Evernote last year. Additionally, I also use it as my shopping list because I do not want to carry a notebook that adds weight to my handbag. The To-Do list can be created as a checklist and you can check off items you have already bought or done, as the case may be. Isn’t that great? Another great feature of Evernote is the Notebook and Notes distinction. You see, you can have individual notes about whatever stuff you want to list, but you can also have a broad-level notebook (think of it as a category) under which you can organize your individual notes that fit the category. For example, I have a notebook named after my son. In that notebook, I have individual notes on planning his birthday party and the Christmas party I mentioned before. The options are endless. It’s up to you how you want to organize your Evernote.

Remember: being organized is the first step to being productive.

5. Scanner Pro

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This is a mobile-only app but it is a lifesaver! So many time. I don’t know about your country, but here in India, one needs to produce their photo identification very often. I have been stuck in situations when I didn’t know I needed to submit copies of a certain official document and did not have it on me when needed. Scanning apps, like Scanner Pro, came right to my rescue. You simply need to take a photo of the required document and the app saves it as a scanned copy and allows you to email the “scanned document” to the concerned party. It also comes in handy when you have to fill a physical form. Fill it, scan it, email it. Done, done, and done.

And here’s a Bonus App

LastPass

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How many websites do you visit in a week? 5, 10, 15…? More? Now tell me this: how often do you read and hear about the news of some website database being hacked and data of thousands and millions of people stolen? At least once a month? It’s a scary time to live in. But it is also a time where most of our life is managed online. Most of us now bank online, make reservations online, and share much of our personal data with a third party. Agree? Now, unless you have a brain that can store 50 passwords (some of which need to be updated at regular intervals), you should definitely give LastPass a try. LastPass is a tool that helps manage your passwords for hundreds of websites. If you do not pride yourself in coming up with strong passwords, LastPass can even generate one for you. So, you don’t want to spend time scavenging for your passwords. Over time, you would have saved a significant amount of time and energy. Whether you choose to give LastPass a try or not, I want you to remember these two points:

  • Do NOT write down or type out your passwords anywhere—online or offline. It is just not worth it!
  • Do NOT use the same password for all your website logins. It’s a hassle but it’s important.

Before I sign off, I want to ask you—my dear readers—a few questions: have you used any of these apps before? How is/was the experience? If you haven’t used any or all of these apps before, would you like me to do separate in-depth posts on each them, and share their features and functionality and most importantly how I use these tools personally? Leave a comment with your feedback.

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Sleep Faster and Better: Top 5 Tips for Get a Restful Night’s Sleep

Hello, sleepyhead! What’s keeping you awake? A newborn baby, too much coffee, a high-profile impending presentation, a thousand emotions bottled up inside of you? Or perhaps, you lay awake reflecting on the past, or worrying about the future. No matter what your reason is, we need to address it. Because you know, sleep deprivation is not only a hindrance to your daily productivity but it can also affect your health and wellness in an adverse manner. Studies reveal that not getting enough sleep over an extended period of time can lead to serious health issues, including high blood pressure and heart attack.

Top 5 Tips to Sleep Faster and Better

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So, what should you do? I have listed five tips you should try for faster and better sleep.

Tip 1: Add Physical Exercise to Your Daily Routine

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But you already knew that, did you not, my dear reader? Physical exercise tires you out thereby increasing your body’s need to rest. If you have not done anything even moderately physical during the day, your body is left with unspent energy, which in turn does not allow for a deep sleep. But, remember to leave at least a two-hour gap between the end of your exercise session and the start of your bedtime ritual. Why? Because physical exercise gets your blood flowing and energizes you–something you want to avoid if you want to get a better quality of sleep.

Tip 2: Avoid Daytime Naps

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All of us have different sleep requirements. While some of us can function well with just five or six hours of sleep, some others (*cough*) may find even 10 hours not enough. But hey, you know, we can not spend all our life sleeping. We need to get out of the bed, no matter how tired we feel, and get on with the day. If you are not well-rested, then the exhaustion will deter you from completing necessary tasks during the day. And we all know the result of unfinished tasks piling up.

Now, to combat this exhaustion from sleep depravity, some of us take day time naps. But hear me out. Unless you are a sleep-deprived parent of a newborn, an infant or a toddler, or an elderly or sick person, you should avoid day time naps. Instead, adjust your night time sleep routine.

Now, I know there are many gurus who advise taking day time naps, but remember, those naps are called power naps and typically last between 15 to 20 minutes. So, if you must, please go ahead and grab a short nap during the day time. But remember the time limit of power naps to ensure you are not turning your nap into a deep sleep. This is because when you take long naps during the day, it reduces your sleep requirements at night, and you are back to square one.

Tip 3: Develop a Healthy Bedtime Routine

So, let’s assume you exercised and avoided the day nap successfully. You now need to prepare for the night time sleep. Develop a routine comprising of the following three habits to ensure you can fall asleep easily.

Limit Alcohol and/or Caffeine Intake

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This isn’t rocket science, my friend! There’s a reason why many of us start our day with coffee. It stimulates the brain in a way that takes away the feeling of tiredness. I won’t get into the science behind this, but if you are interested, you can read about it here. So, coming back to coffee, you need to limit your daily caffeine intake (caffeine also includes aerated drinks) to no more than 2-3 cups, and definitely not within 6 hours of your scheduled sleep time. So, for example, if you go to bed at 10 PM, make sure you consume your last cup of coffee no later than 4 PM.

Monitor Your Food Intake

While you may already ensure not going to bed while you are still hungry, you need to take care of the opposite end of the spectrum too–do not go to bed stuffed. Have you noticed how uncomfortable you get when you overeat? Yeah, you will neither be able to do chores nor sleep. What good is that? So make sure you are eating healthy but also monitor your portion sizes. While you are at it, cut out those snacks upon which your day is built. Reduce your salt, sugar, and processed food intake. Hydrate yourself by getting enough fluids in your body. Here’s a post I wrote to help you stay hydrated.

Practice Digital Shutdown

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The digital world is as addictive as coffee. It is also a necessary inconvenience. It keeps us connected to the rest of the world and apprises us of the world happenings. But it also limits human relationships within the confines of the digital world. So, let’s all agree it is necessary for us to engage with the digital platforms. But for the sake of your health and wellness, limit your usage, especially late evenings. Here’s why: we all know the lights emitted from the gadgets interferes with your sleep cycle. That’s why manufacturers are designing their phones and websites to function on a “night mode” but I am not sure how effective that is. Additionally, let’s assume the “night mode” works and you settle into your bed and switch on your phone. Remember this: digital platforms are created in a way that will keep you bouncing from one event to another, never really allowing you to switch off. Suppose you decided to catch up on the current affairs of the country at bedtime. You read one article, and then you find the “You may also like…” bait. Then, you may want to check your email one last time. Uh oh, an important email from that important client. Your response can wait until tomorrow, but since you are anyway awake, why not reply now. Next, let’s check Facebook, Twitter, and oh yes, Snapchat and YouTube. Before you know, you would be 1.5 hours past your scheduled bedtime. So do yourself a favor and disengage from all gadgets at least 1 hour before your bedtime. Allow your body to wind down.

Tip 4: Prepare for the Next Day

Before you head for the bed, you need to prepare for the next day in whatever little ways you can. If it means writing down your To Do list for the next day or packing the lunch bag, just do it. It will be one less thing to worry about in bed and the next morning. Developing this habit not only help you sleep better at night, but also save you a lot of time when you wake up the next morning.

 Tip 5: Write Down Your Thoughts

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How often have you found yourself unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, worrying about an impending presentation the next day? Grab a pen and paper and write down what’s causing you to toss and turn. What are you thinking? What are you worried about? Writing it down is proven to mimic the act of sharing worries with a friend. It’s a great way to release the bottled up emotions that are a cause for your sleeplessness. Writing it down will also allow you to “see your thoughts” and help you analyze them.

So, there you have it. My top 5 ways to help you sleep faster and better. But you know what, there is another added benefit: sleeping faster and better will make it easier for you to become a morning person. Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.

Let me know in the comments your tips to sleep faster and better.

Until next time,

Sleep well, my friend.

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Work-at-home Moms: 5 Productivity Tips

I am a work-at-home mom. Every time I mention my work situation to family or friends, they say, “You are so lucky! You can stay at home and earn money. I wish I could be a work-at-home mom and earn my salary sitting in the comfort of my home.” Well, I agree. Staying home, earning money, and watching my kid grow is a blessing. But I also tell my family and friends, my work-at-home situation isn’t a bed of roses…work-at-home moms have to be really smart and disciplined to save their sanity.

PRODUCTIVITY TIPS FOR WAHM | MOM CHAKRA |

When I was working in my corporate job, we were encouraged to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which is a very effective tool to help you identify and prioritize tasks that are truly important and/or urgent. To this day, I use it to manage my day-to-day responsibilities and especially work-related ones.

Today, I want to share with you the process I have devised for myself based on this wonderful time management tool. As with me, I am sure other work-at-home moms can also greatly benefit from it. Without further ado, let me show how you can adapt the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to make your day more productive as a work-at-home mom.

Step 1: Identify the Time Suckers

This is the number 1 tip for work-at-home moms to be a more productive professional or businessperson–identify the time suckers.

Before anything else, identify the time suckers in your day. From your To-Do list, which tasks are neither important nor urgent? Ask yourself, is it really necessary to check your personal Facebook profile during your work hours? Or, do you need to sort through your email spam folder every day? These kind of tasks are simply unnecessary–and going by the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, are neither important nor urgent. These are simply time suckers. They do nothing but distract you and pull you down. Do yourself a favor and eliminate these time suckers from your To-Do list. That, my friend, is the first step towards eliminating overwhelm and being productive.

Step 2: Prioritize Tasks

After you have identified and eliminated the time suckers, it’s time to work on the remaining tasks. First, you want to identify tasks the tasks that are urgent but not important. These are tasks that are due soon but do not contribute significantly towards your long-term work goal. For example, maybe you have to go for a conference two weeks from now. Now, you could spend one hour trying to find the best deal, or you could hire or request someone to do this for you. And you, on the other hand, can use the one hour you just freed up to work on something important. In other words, you need to delegate tasks that are urgent but not important.

Step 3: Schedule Your Day

Now you are left with two types of tasks–those that are important but not urgent, and those that are important and urgent. I am sure you know the difference between the two terms, but just to reiterate for clarity sake:

  • Urgent tasks are those that help you achieve your long-term work goal, and are due on an immediate basis. Not addressing these tasks immediately may result in missed deadlines or lost customers.
  • Important tasks are the other tasks that help you achieve your long-term work goal, but is not due immediately.

It is essential that you clearly distinguish between the two, otherwise, you can misconstrue an ‘important’ task as ‘urgent,’ which will eat into your hours. So what’s the solution? Schedule the ‘important’ tasks in your calendar for a more appropriate later time while the urgent tasks take up the more immediate calendar space. For example, if you need to email your project status to your client, it is an important task but not usually urgent. You can schedule a time in your day when you can draft and send an email to your client with the requested updates. Maybe that time is 2 PM every day. On the other hand, an article that is due today is an important and urgent task that you should address before taking up other ‘important’ tasks.

Step 4: Hold Your Work Hours Sacred

So, now you know how to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix to design your work day to be more productive. The matrix can help you achieve your short- and long-term goals and make your day more productive.

In addition, I recommend establishing routines in and around your work hours. There is no denying that routines help bring semblance to your day. For a work-at-home mom, it is important to distinguish work hours from non-work hours. When your day begins and ends within the same four walls, it’s easy to lose the distinction. But if you design routines that will help you ease in and out of your work day, it will bring more satisfaction and fewer frustrations. So ensure that you hold your work hours sacred.

Decide which hours of the day you will work, and stick to those hours. Do not be distracted by any personal chores or whims during these hours. It may take some trial and error before you can settle on your best hours for working, but when you find that sweet spot, stick to it. For example, perhaps your best time to work is while your children are away in school. Use those hours to complete your work tasks. Do not get sucked into the social media whirlpool or picking the grocery. Remember, everything in its own time.

Step 5: Set Aside Time for Self-Care

Lastly, in a previous post, I mentioned how, as moms, we don’t take the time for self-care. How many times have you used your work break to run an errand? You might say “I am a busy mom. I do not have another time to run these errands!” I understand, and it may even be true for some of you on certain days. But if you don’t use the break to nourish your mind, body, and soul, you will soon run out of the motivation. Say to yourself, “I am already a super mom. I do not need to pack in more into my day.” You know what I say to myself though? “I may not be a supermom or best mom. But I am a good-enough mom. And that’s okay!”

Remember this: You are doing a wonderful job raising your child. And boy! You also work-from-home. Like others say, “it’s the best of both world.” But it’s easy for this world to fall apart without the necessary discipline. I wish for you a fruitful and blessed personal and work life.

I would love if you can share some of your tips as a work-at-home mom.

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