Expert Time Management Interview: Simple Productivity with LJ Earnest of Simple Productivity Blog

Expert Time Management Interview: Simple Productivity with LJ Earnest of Simple Productivity Blog

LJ Earnest


I have been following LJ Earnest’s Simple Productivity Blog for some time now and I have been happy about the various productivity topics that LJ writes about.

Finally, I had a chance to make an interview with her and LJ shared her advice on personal productivity and keeping your home organized (+ other things as well).


1. Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I have been running for a few years. It started out as a blog about Palm PDA software; but I realized that I was far more interested in what the software did and how it made me more productive than in the software itself. The next logical step was to start a blog about simplifying productivity.

My personal philosophy is that there is so much out there I want to do that I don’t want to get mired down doing the things I have to do. The faster I get through my have-tos (and doing it right, so I don’t spend time re-doing things), the faster I get on to things that really engage me.

2. What are your strategies for keeping your blog fresh with content – while having a day job (and making sure this time is not taken from your family)?

I write 5 articles a week for I work off a schedule of days: I know that every Monday the topic will be about productivity, Tuesdays are open loops and so on. Having that structure gives me limits.

I also keep a running file of blog ideas. I challenge myself to come up with 30 ideas per month. Some of them are absolute garbage — but most provide prompting for me to produce articles.

I write during my lunch hours and in the spare minutes I can find during the day. That way I don’t take time away from my family. My iPad has helped with this immensely. I can blog wherever I am.

3. What mindsets do you find the most important when staying organized and productive?

It is critical for my organization and productivity that I single task. If I pick up something to put it where it belongs, and then on my way see something else that belongs somewhere else, I have a tendency to misplace both items. If I am working on writing, I can’t get distracted by email, or I will lose my momentum (or even worse – lose the train of thought entirely).

A good example of this was a few weeks ago. I was getting ready for my Girl Scout meeting, and I went upstairs to get some notebook paper. On the third descent, I still didn’t have the paper, and my daughter looked at me and said, “MOM. Focus.”

4. What are the simple ways to keep your home organized – especially with kids?

Once children are walking, they are able to help with keeping things picked up. When my daughter was small, we had large bins with pictures on the outside showing what went in them. She was able to put her toys away with a minimum of effort.

Now that my daughter is older, she can take on more tasks, but her messes are bigger as well. We solve this by having a contract specifying what areas can be messy (with the caveat that I can ban visitors if I think it is too bad), and what common areas have to be picked up. For the common areas, things left out go into a hostage box (see Keeping Things Picked Up With A Hostage Box) where they can be redeemed by extra chores. My stuff is also subject to the hostage box, just so you know.

5. How to take care of mundane household tasks? 

I tried the Flylady system years ago, and while I had a small living space and no kids, it worked fine. It stopped working for me after my daughter was born and we moved into our house, but I still use some of the concepts.

I divide my chores up into the “frequent”, “weekly” and “every-so-often” chores. Frequent chores need to be performed daily, and are things like keeping up with the dishes and making sure the animals have enough water. Weekly chores include cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors (my vacuuming is taken care of by a robot on a rotational schedule), laundry and dusting. The “every-so-often” chores are the heavier cleaning and decluttering. I only do the “every-so-often” chores when they need to be done, but I do focus on one area at a time so that I don’t lose focus. I try to spend about an hour every week on those less-frequent chores, but sometimes it is all done on one day, rather than broken up into segments.

My daughter is assigned to help with some of the chores. She takes out the garbage, dusts the downstairs, and maintains her bathroom.

6. How do you make an effective office space?

For many years, my husband, daughter and I all shared a single home office. We all have our separate desks, which means that we don’t have to make way for anyone else. I was finding it hard to concentrate, though, so recently we converted an unused closet into a writing studio for me. I can use this space when the noise of the house gets to be too much, or I just need less distraction. (see Creating Your Own Space)

An office space is only as effective as its usefulness. I think it should include a place where you can leave your work in progress without having it disturbed, and all the supplies that you need.

7. What are the essential items every home office should include?

Since I am a computer programmer by day, I tend to focus on technology. I believe every home office needs a backup system. I personally like local and cloud backups, and the more transparent they are to the user, the better they will work. I personally use Mozy, and it has saved me on more than one occasion. I will never forget the horror of opening up my novel in progress and realizing that I had lost 17 days worth of work. Mozy got it back for me.

Next, a comfortable working space where you can leave work in progress. This allows you to come back to tasks as you can, and not have to worry about setup time every time you do.

I also believe in good headphones. I prefer the Skullcandy brand, because their earbuds mimic the industrial earplugs I wore at a factory job site. Depending on how far I push them in, it cuts the noise to various levels. I couple this with both music and apps to help cut the distractions (see Be More Productive By Blocking Noise).

Thank you so much for this opportunity to be interviewed! I have enjoyed it very much.

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