They move in the worlds of sports, business and the arts and brilliantly balance career, family life and, sometimes, even high-level training. How do they do it? They rely on these 10 proven strategies:
- Identify 5 essential things to do every day.
“Every morning, I force myself to narrow down my to-do list to 5 must-do things. Long to-do lists can get really overwhelming. Narrowing down the things I need to do helps me be more productive and focused. I actually just discovered a Google Chrome extension that helps you do this exactly. It’s called Dayboard.”— Marie Chevrier, founding president, Sampler
“To feel like I’m actually getting work done, and for projects that take several days to complete, I try to prioritize a certain number of urgent tasks, which I then combine with a smaller number of less-urgent things that can be done very quickly. By the end of the day, I’m rather satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.”— Cindy Synnett, senior business analyst
- Address every email before the end of the day.
“I make sure I’ve read every email that comes in during the day. I forward what I can delegate, delete what’s irrelevant and immediately reply to those for which I already have an answer. Whatever stays in my inbox is what I have to work on the rest of the week.”— Stéphanie Aubourg, human resources director
- Reserve time slots to deal with the unexpected.
“When someone on my team needs to see me, I ask whether it’s urgent or if it can wait. That way, I don’t spend all day multitasking or waste time constantly trying to pick up where I left off. I also ask them to accumulate their questions before coming to see me.”— Cindy Synnett
“I often work on the road, but every Monday, I force myself to go to the office. My employees and my colleagues in other departments know I’ll be there, so my attention is focused on them for that time of the week, whether it’s to settle a file or give them a head start with their tasks for the week. This way, we’re never running after each other!”— Stéphanie Aubourg
- Take breaks
“Since I’ve been working for myself, I’ve realized that I’m more productive in 3- or 4-hour blocks. Longer than that, my concentration starts to dwindle. So, I organize my days accordingly. For example, I work for three hours in the morning, then go work out or have lunch with a friend. I return to work and take another break later on. Yes, I end up working later, but I know that I’ve made the most of my time.”— Joëlle Paquette, founder and publisher of a fashion and lifestyle blog
- Set priorities and organize your schedule accordingly
“If I set work and training as my priorities, nothing else gets in the way. I don’t even watch TV! Once I’ve established my priorities, I make a schedule based on them: what gets done in what order on what day. Even my family time, with my goddaughter, is planned: I babysit her the second Tuesday of every month. It’s in my agenda!”— Geneviève Asselin-Demers, women’s gold medallist, 2015 Marathon Oasis de Montréal
- Combine your errands
“When I have shopping to do on the weekend, I chain my trips to save time. I use Shopi to make my grocery list: throughout the week, I make a note of everything I need that’s not urgent so I can get it the following Saturday. It’s very visual. Then, I use Flipp, an app that summarizes all the weekly flyer specials. I plan my trips accordingly.”— Stéphanie Aubourg
- Make lists
“I often make lists for myself. I have one for groceries, one for the drug store, and so on. As the day progresses, I jot down what I need in my smartphone’s notepad and do my shopping once a week.”— Geneviève Asselin-Demers
- Keep home and work separate
“When I’m at home, I don’t look at my emails in the evening or think about work. I’m in “home mode” so I focus on things to do at home. The same applies to the office. This way, I’m 100% engaged at each place and therefore more productive.”— Cindy Synnett
- Organize your meals in advance
“Muffins, soups, protein bars: on Sunday afternoon, I prepare 2 or 3 meals to have for lunch in the coming week.”— Geneviève Asselin-Demers
“I cook my 5 meals for the week on Sunday, including the kids’ lunches. I adjust the quantities accordingly (I prepare 1½ portions). I also prepare bags of ingredients, which I cut in advance (I sometimes double the recipe amounts) and freeze in airtight bags for meals to do in the slow cooker. In the morning, I can quickly throw the ingredients in the cooker before leaving for work.”— Stéphanie Aubourg