How to Be More Productive – Advice from a Type A Virgo.



I’ve received many emails from my readers asking for advice on how to be more productive. I’m a naturally (and irritatingly) organised person but even I need a swift kick up the backside every now and then to stay motivated. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of things…

1. Plan. Plan. Plan.

If you don’t own a diary then buy one. Write down all of your appointments in it. Schedule your gym sessions, coffee dates, what night it’s your turn to cook dinner, when your next project is due – everything. I cannot fathom how anyone survives without a diary. Buy it, use it. Your diary should be like a puffer for an asthmatic. Do not leave the house without it. Go into semi-permanent state of panic if you lose it. Diary = Livelihood. Get it?

2. Learn how to write lists.

Most people think this is a no-brainer but there is a serious art to list writing. A little known tip to write an average to-do list is to categorise it. For instance my to do list today consisted of the following

*Blog post on productivity
*Print earrings photo for auction portfolio
*Transfer rent money
*Book flights for July trip to Brisbane

* Clean kitchen/washing up
* Put clean clothes away
* Clean sheets on bed

Errands (Don’t forget travel mugs and green bags!)
* Gym
* Post Office
* Shopping
* 2 x takeaway coffees

This way you can knock over a whole category at once and save yourself time by not jumping from a ‘House’ task to an ‘Errand’ task. I also use categories like ‘School’, ‘Body’, ‘Blog’, ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’. You can then have sub-lists within these categories for tasks like shopping or emails. You should also have daily lists (washing up, email editor, shop for dinner), weekly lists (start research on assignment, buy wedding present, take car to be washed) and monthly lists (book dentist appointment, roll super-annuation funds, join new gym) so you don’t go crashing towards the end of the year realising, in December, that you haven’t paid your electricity bill since August.

3. Fake it until you make it.

It takes thirty days for a behaviour to become a habit. Start every day with the proverbial ‘can do’ attitude and commit to thirty days of organisation. I guarantee at the end of this time you’ll have three matching notebooks with categorised lists and a full supply of Sharpies in your handbag at all times. And if you really love me you’ll also alphabetise your book shelf and label all the jars in your kitchen pantry… I’m just saying.

4. Plan a treat at the end of a busy day.

I study full time and work part time. Both my study and work require a lot of extra hours of research and planning so my weekends and evenings are often spent working. When I wake up on a Sunday I’ll make plans with a friend to have a coffee or a glass of wine at five o’clock that evening so I have the incentive to get everything done. If you leave your time open ended it leads to procrastination and time wastage. Always give yourself deadlines.

5. Remember that there are 24 usable hours in everyday.

And if you don’t spend at least 6 to 8 of those hours sleeping, the rest of them are pretty bloody useless.

6. Ban distractions.

I love nothing more than to write while Sex in the City is on in the background but unfortunately it makes me start every blog post with a Carrie-ism – ‘And that got me thinking… (insert rhetorical question here)?’ so that habit had to go. Be honest with yourself. If Facebook/Twitter/YouTube are taking up most of your day, work away from the internet. Turn off the music. Switch your phone to silent. Halve the amount of time you spend working and double the amount of time you spend playing.

7. Prioritise.

Really think about what is urgent and get those tasks done ASAP… because every time you miss a deadline, a fairy dies.

Please feel free to add any additional tips in the comments section. Also, if you liked this article… why not email it to a friend? Spread the Smaggle love!

Love Lady Smaggle


Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. Kylie 6 years ago

    I think I’m one of the only disorganised virgos around, and I’m a teacher! I am getting better though, it was my new years resolution. I have 3 diaries – One for school, one for everything else (and lists, I’m good at those) and a quick glance diary. It sounds crazy but it works. Hopefully some of your tips will too.

  2. Kim 6 years ago

    What fabulous timing! I was just thinking over the weekend that I need to have another go at getting organised (attempt #257 I think).
    Thanks for the great tips – I especially like the idea of categorising the To Do list. xx

  3. E 6 years ago

    Get other people to keep you organised:

    Direct debit/standing order arrangements mean you never miss an important bill – mortgage/utilities/cred cards – also helps money management – I know how much of my salary is ‘mine’ after deducting any top ups to min payments/factoring in food. Divide by 4 (or 5 if the month goes that way) and you know how much cash you have to get through the month.

    Buy mags and so on by subscription. Really, it stops me buying publications randomly – and most do a 3 issue option – also you usually save on stand costs and get your fix early.

    If it works for you – grocery shop online – save scads by not impulse buying and once you’ve set it up – easy to reorder/restock from your regulars/previous list. Also check to see if your locals will take an order on the phone or operate a delivery/collection service – my local greengrocer does both – they’ll either bring it to you – or you can collect your order from them.

    I’m not big on ‘to do’ lists but love my diary and the big write-on calendar in the kitchen.

    If you have a vehicle – note your MOT date- licencing will send you a reminder – you can tax on-line in the UK. Put these dates in your diary anyway along with any dates like servicing/tyres as they’re done (with your mileage). We have 3 bikes and 1 car and this has saved a lot of heartache.

    Value your time – honestly give yourself an hourly rate (mentally) and let that help you decide how much to do and how much to delegate.If you live with others – make sure they pull their weight and do the same yourself.

    Pragmatic Capricorn.


  4. LaLa 6 years ago

    Great advice Lady Smaggle. I am so putting some of these to work!

    Here’s my tip. It’s actually to do with budgeting but I it really helped me. I am a (fairly) sensible, methodical Capricorn who was well trained by her bestie Virgo friend. We purchased a house together and we opened a joint account. We wrote down every bill we could think of that we might have to pay in a year and then calculated (or guesstimated) how much it would cost us over a year, divided it by 26 (as we were both paid fortnightly) and then in 2 giving us an amount we had to put aside every pay.

    On pay day that bill money and mortgage money comes straight out of my account (and his) and goes into our offset account meaning we reduce the amount of money we are paying interest on. We set up direct debits for all bills so they automatically come out of the account when they are due. Following this same logic I also have an automatic amount of money transferred to my savings.

    We’ve managed to reduce our 30 year mortgage to 22 years in 3 years and I’ve saved enough money to go for a 4 week holiday to Europe.

    And I NEVER even have to look at my bills (though I do of course, because I am anal).

  5. LaLa 6 years ago

    Oh. That was a terribly long comment and I sound like I am bragging… which I am but I am ever so proud!

  6. LC 6 years ago

    This was just what I needed after a WHOLE WEEKEND of writing and organizing and getting stuff together.

    Just one question: Do you have any recommendations for the PERFECT planner/journal/diary? I have one right now that is all bent and I sort of hate that it’s bent. Plus it has like TWO LINES for me to write my To Do list. Yea, right, like I only have two things to do every day.


  7. Na 6 years ago

    I love my diary. I can’t live without my diary. And I remember when I was a teenager my mother ranting at me about getting and using a diary… I am so glad she did. She’s not a Virgo though. She’s a scarily practical Scorp.

  8. so fitting, as I am already on a roll at work today. Thanks for the extra motivation. 🙂

  9. ACTinglikeamama 6 years ago

    I so need this post! At the start of any project, or the beginning of the year I get super organised – clean my working space, file everything away, start writing lists and filling out my diary. Four weeks later, my space is a mess, the filing builds up, my diary is nowhere to be seen and I am so disorganised.

    This post has motivated me to “hit em up style” and kick my arse back into gear – thank you!

    PS – I love the comment about giving yourself an hourly rate – it makes you realise how valuable your time is and what really is worth spending time on and what is not!

  10. E 6 years ago

    Because we all love a bit of DIY craftiness – and also – shrieking HOW MUCH?? in front of the Filofax refill stand in Staples is a tad undignified …

  11. Showa59 6 years ago

    I get everything done, but really need more organization in my life! This article has helped me greatly! Seriously, I know know how to write a list 😀

  12. Imogen Lamport 6 years ago

    Some great tips here. I need to write more lists, my brain is so full it forgets stuff.

    I couldn’t live without my diary, and I much prefer a paper one to an electronic one. Has to be week to view too.

  13. Wizzkas 6 years ago

    I have been writing lists since I was about 5 years old I think! I always have one on the kitchen bench for all the jobs that I want to get done at home, like “change kitty litter” or “clean out emails”. My husband likes to add items for me, eg, “get a life” or “write another list”. Very helpful!

  14. Jess 6 years ago

    Hee hee – your ‘transfer rent money’ on your ‘computer’ list just reminded me why I turned on my laptop an hour ago! I was totally wasting time on Facebook until now.

  15. Lymie 6 years ago

    I’m such a lazy slacker, so this is pretty useful advice. Today I finally forced myself out of the house for my first run, my dog used as a safety blanket, and my new clothes giving me confidence. Everyone was nice, and it was fantastic, and it could have been this fantastic months ago, but I put it off and put it off.

    And I’m going to go out and buy a diary today, because I always have all this stuff planned, but I never remember because I never write it down. I start school this fall (If I ever get that FAFSA in…) so planning around my job will be essential.

    Also, you’re a blessing.


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