How Do You Make Your Evenings Productive?

Hard city sunset, originally uploaded to Flickr by angelocesare.What are the best ways to recharge after work — and reclaim those hours as a productive time for you? Reader R wonders:

Do you have any tips for recharging after work so you can have a more productive night? I keep reading about how mothers like Sheryl Sandberg go home and do another 5 hours of work after they put the kids to bed, but I’m exhausted by then! All I can do is stare at the TV with a glass of wine. Help!

I totally agree, R! I’m curious to hear what the readers say because evening productivity has always been one of my biggest struggles. (Pictured.) I’ve never been very successful at doing work work at home in the evening, but I have had periods where I’ve felt my evenings weren’t a total waste. Things I’ve done in the past include: [Read more...]

Open Thread: Keeping a Clean House When You’re Too Busy To Clean

Cleaning Supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by SurvivalWomanSo:  one of the big tips they give to working women is to hire a cleaning lady.  I get it, I really do — but I still can’t bring myself to bring someone in more than once a quarter.  I’ve seen a ton of interesting Pins on Pinterest on how to keep your house clean (e.g., this one from The Budget Diet), and I know both Apartment Therapy and Real Simple have written about it in the past.  I know readers have discussed full-fledged “systems” like The Fly Lady cleaning system, as well as newer ones like, ahem, Unf@#$ Your Habitat (which even has an app).  There are even games out there, like Chore Wars! (Pictured: Cleaning Supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by SurvivalWoman.)

For my $.02: I’ve been doing my own modified version of a few different systems, but in general I’m willing to commit 15 minutes a day to cleaning.  For our 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1000 sq ft apartment, this is what it looks like:

  • Monday: clean bathrooms (counters, mirrors, toilets) and kitchen counters
  • Tuesday: Swiffer floors, dust apartment
  • Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: spend 15 minutes doing Thing That Bugs Me (maybe it’s scrubbing the stove, or the shower, or decluttering the kitchen table, or cleaning a bathroom floor)

We tend to do laundry as needed throughout the week, and my husband (God bless him!) does most of the dishes and whatever vacuuming needs to be done.  I’ve found the perfect time for cleaning, for me, is after my workout, when I’m already sweaty and gross but want to cool down before I hop in the shower.  I’m starting to get more into nontoxic, green cleaners, and across the board I really like Method products over some other ones I’ve tried.

Readers, do you have a system for keeping your house or apartment clean?  If you have a partner or roommate, how do you split chores?

How to Make the Most of Your Productive Times

Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos.I’ve written before about how I love to get up early because that’s my most productive time of the day — but I don’t think we’ve ever talked about how to optimize those productive hours to get the most stuff done. I have my own tricks; I’d love to hear what you guys use as well. (I usually can be focused enough without time management techniques during this time — but they can be super helpful during other times of the day. Pictured: Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos. )

1) Know what you want to do. I always find this time is best to focus on ONE THING, not a whole to-do list. I don’t even WRITE my to-do list until later in the day, to be honest. When I get up early, I do the one thing that I need/want to do, and nothing else.

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The Chatty Boss

Blah blah blah, originaally uploaded to Flickr by theunquietlibrarian.How do you get any work done when your boss is a Chatty Kathy? Reader K is having some trouble adjusting to her new boss’s management style…

I have recently switched jobs in the legal profession and am having trouble adjusting to the management “style” of my new boss. My previous supervisor was a hands off type of person, to whom I spoke only sparingly when necessary.

My new supervisor is the total opposite. He is very chatty about everything under the sun and if I am not careful he will consume half of my time (literally) during a given work day to chit chat, mostly about non-work related topics. I end up zoning in an out of listening and am afraid I will soon start pulling my hair out due to the unproductive nature of our interactions!

I pride myself on being very productive and am having trouble adjusting. What advice might you have for my situation?

Wow — great question. I particularly see this management style more in smaller offices where everyone is friendlier just because they’re working in close quarters — but it can happen in big offices, as well. Especially when you’re the newbie, you don’t want to be unfriendly — but you also want to finish your work and get out of there at a reasonable hour. We’ve talked before about how to discourage chatty coworkers, but we haven’t really talked about how to deal with it when it’s your boss. (Pictured: Blah blah blah, originally uploaded to Flickr by theunquietlibrarian.)

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Open Thread: Hiring a Cleaning Lady

Cleaning supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by AnnieGreenSpringsReaders, have you hired someone to clean your house or apartment? What are your best tips for how to hire a cleaning lady?  When did you first hire them? (Right out of school, after you reached a certain salary, after you got married or had kids… when?) What have you learned about the process, such as how to be a good boss, how to communicate your wishes, and how to get what you want?

You see, for years, I’ve ignored the advice that every older working woman gives every younger working woman: hire a cleaning lady. It makes returning home after a long day spa-like! It saves marriages! It is the easiest thing to outsource! (Pictured: Cleaning supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by AnnieGreenSprings.)

And yet, I thought: I don’t like people touching my stuff. Or, God forbid, “organizing” my stuff. Particularly while I’m not home! And then if I am home while someone else is cleaning my house… gee, where are the palm fronds and the four buff guys to carry me around?  Also, I thought, I don’t have time to “clean for the cleaning person” — if I did then I would just go ahead and clean the apartment myself.

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Wakey Wakey! The Business End of 4 AM

Sunrise, originally uploaded to Flickr by killthebird.There was an interesting article in Forbes the other week about how power women wake up early, and commenters seemed interested in talking about it more, so I thought we should explore in an open thread. How early do you get up? What do you do with the time? Any tips that make it easier to get up then? For those of you who don’t rise that early, do you have another special time of the day? (Sunrise, originally uploaded to Flickr by killthebird.)

For my $.02: I was always a night owl when I was younger. Term papers and graduation speeches alike got written in the hours between 12 and 3. I realized this was a problem sometime around high school when, reading a college admissions essay I had thought brilliant the night before, I realized a good two sentences were devoted to “finding a piece of licorice on the floor.” And not even in a metaphor way, just a “Kat had a dream while typing” way. Still, the habit perpetuated until after law school, I think. By then — working crazy long hours — I realized that my best time truly was first thing upon waking. So I started getting up earlier. [Read more...]