My Personal Framework for a Productive Life

There’s no shortage of productivity tips and tricks on the internet. Just visit your local bookstore, and you’ll find books professing to give you the ultimate method of productivity or time management lining the shelves.

But if you find yourself on this page reading this article, chances are you haven’t found anything that works for you yet.

Sure, you’ve got a bundle of tips and tricks, but each one seems to fail after a few weeks or months of trying.

Maybe the perfect answer for you is still out there.

But you know what I think? I think the perfect method is the one you create, and no amount of tips and tricks designed by other people will add up into something that works for your unique personality and lifestyle (unless you know how to fit them into the right structure).

So instead of feeding you my specific strategy for staying productive, I want to give you something way more useful.

In this article, I’m going to share my personal framework for staying productive. It’s not a set of specific steps or methods you must follow. Instead, it will give you a guideline for picking and choosing the methods you want, and make sure you can put together a full working system for your productivity that’s beautifully designed for you and you alone.

It’s called the TIME Framework, and I’m going to walk you through it in a few moments.

But first, let me give you a bit of background on me so you know where this is coming from.

Table of Contents

  1. My Productivity Journey
  2. Introducing the TIME Framework
    1. T is for Target 🎯 Set Targets for Your Life
      1. How to Get Started
      2. Book Recommendations for Setting Targets
    2. I is for Inventory 📋 Make an Inventory of Everything On Your Plate
      1. How to get started
      2. Book Recommendations for Creating an Inventory
    3. M is for Map 🗺️ Map Your Tasks to Your Schedule
      1. How to Get Started
      2. Book Recommendations for Mapping Your Schedule
    4. E is for Engage 🏃‍♀️ Take Action On Your Plans
      1. How to Get Started
      2. Book Recommendations for Engaging
  3. Takeaway

My Productivity Journey

I’ve always been interested in making the most of my time. I love to learn and read and make things, and when I was a kid, I used to forgo showers or getting dressed just to spend more time reading. (Luckily those days are WAY behind me now.)

But my interest in productivity and getting stuff done really skyrocketed when my firstborn started to be more active. Suddenly I found myself with the same exact obligations (client work, volunteer activities, home management) but all this, shrunk into the space of a few hours when my baby was sleeping.

I began reading every productivity-focused article, book, and Instagram post I could put my hands on. I wanted to keep working toward all my goals and passion projects while still giving plenty of time to my kids, and I knew I needed some help to figure out how.

I would try one method for a while, and it would work, but then I’d find another method and completely replace the old system. This happened all the time.

I couldn’t decide on one system. And even though I wanted to teach productivity to moms, like I do on this blog, I wondered how I would teach something that I couldn’t even nail down myself.

I began to wonder, How can I teach productivity to others? What are the most fundamental pieces of a successful productivity and time management system? Could it be distilled into a single framework?

Out of this thought experiment came the TIME Framework, which I believe is the best way to understand how to be productive, stay on top of your to-dos, and make the most impact with your life, no matter what productivity methods you choose to follow.

Introducing the TIME Framework

Each letter of TIME stands for one piece of the framework, one of the foundational elements of a productivity system. They are TargetInventoryMap, and Engage. (You’ll see what each one means below.)

Once you understand and implement the TIME Framework, you can:

  • Align your daily life choices with your ultimate goals
  • Learn how to stay on top of your life so nothing gets lost or forgotten
  • Feel more calm each day as you know exactly what you need to do (and can stop thinking about the rest)
  • Get more done in less time, which frees up more time for the things you want to do
  • Continue improving your system so it gets better over time

Let’s dive in.

T is for Target 🎯 Set Targets for Your Life

Target refers to the idea of setting the ultimate direction you want to take your life. If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know what steps to take today?

This includes seeking a purpose for your life, dreaming up a vision for different areas of your life, and creating long and short-term goals. It also means clarifying your personal values and setting standards for different areas of your life.

Here’s an exercise to make this clear: Imagine yourself at the ripe age of 99, looking back on your well-lived life. What do you want to look back on? What kind of life would make you feel proud? What kind of life would leave you free of regrets?

This will help you discover your life vision and the goals you want to achieve.

How to Get Started

So how to start implementing Target right now? Here are some ideas:

  • Do the thought experiment about your 99-year-old self and write down what comes up for you. What kind of visions, goals, and personal values do you want to record and achieve so that you can make this a reality?
  • Write out your ideal lifestyle in a story format: “I wake up at… I feel… The first thing I do is… Then I…” Imagine the activities you would do in a day, the work you would do, the people you would spend time with, and how you would feel if you could design your day-to-day life.
  • Set 3 long-term goals (a few months to a few years) and 3 short-term goals (within 3 months or less) that you want to achieve
  • Write out your life roles and record a future vision for each

Book Recommendations for Setting Targets

If you’re a bookworm like me, this is a great book to read to learn more about this (although it touches other pieces as well): First Things First by Steven Covey.

Next, let’s move to the second piece of the puzzle, and one of the most important.

I is for Inventory 📋 Make an Inventory of Everything On Your Plate

Inventory means you have a record of everything on your mind in one organized place.

This includes the tasks you need to complete, the projects you’d like to finish, your goals and visions and values (from Target), your obligations and appointments, things you’re waiting for, dreams and ideas, different pieces of information that you need to reference someday, and anything else that you want to keep track of.

You’re probably thinking, Whoa, that sounds like a lot. And it does.

The thing is, your brain is already trying to keep track of all this stuff on its own. And it’s way too much for your brain to handle. This is why we always feel like we’re forgetting something, with that nagging feeling that follows us around like an excited puppy.

This is also the cause of ping-pong brain, where you remember one thing and get up to do it, but then suddenly remember you need to call Jessica, so you pick up your phone, and then in the middle of the conversation you remember you need to buy batteries, but by the time you hang up, you forget, and find yourself thinking about what you’ll cook for dinner. Inventory solves this.

The solution is this: write everything down, and organize it just enough so that you can find the right information when you need it.

This can look like:

  • Adding all your upcoming obligations, deadlines, events, and reminders to a calendar
  • Organizing all your tasks and projects in a to-do list (with due dates if applicable)
  • Filing away all your important papers and documents in an alphabetized file
  • Jotting down notes, ideas, dreams, and even fears and worries into a journal
  • Making quick notes when things come to mind and then organizing them later
  • Doing a brain dump whenever you feel overwhelmed

There a ton of different techniques you can try to do this, and I’ve outlined some in this post about how to get organized. The point is to get everything out of your head and onto the page so you can see what you have.

What happens when you’ve got a complete inventory of what’s on your mind?

  • You have the ability to make choices about what you will and won’t do
  • You can decide whether to take on new projects, since you can see everything that’s on your plate (and you have proof to show others how much you’re handling)
  • You can stop thinking about things over and over again, since they’re kept safe in your inventory
  • You know how to stop feeling overwhelmed—write everything out on paper and decide what to do with it

How to get started

To start, try a brain dump of every different task, obligation, and thought that’s on your mind.

Then decide: Should this go into a to-do list, a bullet-point list with a specific category (like goals, ideas), should I save it in my notes, or should I get rid of it? You’ll feel the pressure come off you as you start writing everything down.

Book Recommendations for Creating an Inventory

If you want to read a book that outlines one powerful way to create an inventory of your life, try Getting Things Done by David Allen. (A lot of my ideas about Inventory are inspired by this method.)

But just writing things down isn’t enough. How are you going to find time to do them? That’s the job of the next piece of the framework.

M is for Map 🗺️ Map Your Tasks to Your Schedule

Map means taking your list of things to do and mapping it to the time you have available. This is crucial because you’re giving yourself a chance to actually get things done. Without this piece, you’ve got lots of lists, but things never get checked off—a sure-fire recipe for anxiety and stress.

To map your tasks to your schedule, you’ll ask questions like:

  • How quickly does this need to be done?
  • When can I fit this in?
  • Is this something I can do on a routine basis?
  • And if so, is it daily, weekly, or monthly?

And the biggest question of all, how much time do I actually want to be completing tasks? (You’ve got to block off time to sleep, time to be with family, and time for yourself, too.) Once you’ve included time for the most important things, you might find that you don’t have a lot of time left for doing other projects. (This is the case for toddler moms, moms of kids with special needs, military moms, single moms, and many other cases.) In that case, you know how much you can handle and you can make decisions about lessening the number of things on your plate.

Once you know how much time you have, here are two ways you can map tasks and obligations into your schedule:

  • Setting a specific time period to do them, for example by the end of the day, by the end of the week, or between 5pm and 6pm on Thursday
  • Or embedding them into a routine, for example, every morning while I sip coffee, every night before I go to bed, every Thursday after lunch

How to Get Started

First, write down everything you can think of that needs to be done (see the previous section for more). Then, decide what you want to finish by the end of the week. Finally, decide what tasks you’d like to finish today, give each an estimated time, and then measure that against the actual time you have to work during the day. Adjust your plans so everything can fit into the time available, and you’ve got your plan.

There are so many ways to do this. I’ve written about 3 different methods of planning out your day to give you some ideas.

Book Recommendations for Mapping Your Schedule

If you’re a reader, you might like the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, which talks about how to organize your tasks to get the most meaningful work done first. Also, check out 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, which talks about how to use time effectively and how to find more time in your schedule.

Finally, it’s time to get moving. The final step is all about actually going through with your plans, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. (Fortunately, I’ve got some strategies that can help you get better at getting things done.)

E is for Engage 🏃‍♀️ Take Action On Your Plans

Engage is all about putting your head down and doing the work. For some of us (me included), it’s easy and even fun to put together plans and organize lists, but when it comes time to just do the thing, we balk.

It’s totally normal to have trouble getting to your tasks. It’s common to procrastinate and have a hard time focusing. Focus, persistence, and consistency are all muscles we can develop with practice, but they don’t come naturally to most people.

This piece of the framework is the place for you to find strategies and tactics that make it easier to get the job done, no matter what you’ve planned for that day. I’ll be sharing more of my experience building self-discipline and finding strategies that have worked for me.

Why does this matter? Because even the most perfect plans will totally fail if we can’t actually do the things we want to do. On the other hand, if we can build our self-discipline and train ourselves to do the things we plan, we dramatically increase the choices we have in our lives. We can get healthier, we can achieve our dreams, we can build resilience even when life throws curveballs at us. We can say no to mindless social media or other time wasters that drain us of energy and take control of our lives. Discipline and focus make life so much better. And they give you more options.

How to Get Started

Here are some places to start with Engaging:

  • Learn how to build good habits and brainstorm ways to build good habits in your life.
  • Start a self-reflection journal and record the times you struggle to do things you’ve planned. What makes you procrastinate? What are you resisting? What are you afraid of? How could you overcome that and make a new decision?
  • Build routines into your day to make some tasks automatic. I’ve got a couple of articles on morning routines you can check out: one about how to win your morning, and another about how to design a morning routine that works for you.
  • Check out some of my favorite productivity rules.

Book Recommendations for Engaging

Check out Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg to learn why habits form, plus how to build good habits (and break bad ones).

Also take a look at Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky to learn several strategies for building focus and productivity (written by people who helped design one of the world’s most distracting social media sites).


If you’re tired of conflicting productivity advice, or you just can’t find something that works, I encourage you to try the TIME Framework. This gives you a solid structure to put together your own productivity strategy that works for you.

Here’s the framework again:

Target 🎯 – Clarify your purpose, vision, goals, values, and standards, so you know what you want to prioritize in your life.

Inventory 📋 – Write down everything that’s on your mind and organize it in a way that helps you to find the information you need when you need it.

Map 🗺️ – Take your list of things to do and decide how to fit them into the time you have available.

Engage 🏃‍♀️ – Follow through on your plans, build good habits of focusing and resisting the urge to procrastinate, and continually reflect on your progress to find things you can improve or tweak to make it work better for you

Next up, check out this post: 9 Ways Moms Can Use ChatGPT to Make Life Easier

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