How being a productivity ninja is making me a more relaxed homeschooler

Productivity ninjaa

Last week when I was pondering the problem of having too many fun things to do, I came across the best titled book ever, How To Be A Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More And Love What You Do.

I knew the author and I were going to get along when I read this description of his natural style of work:

“Flaky, ideas-based, more comfortable at the strategic level than the ‘doing’ level, allergic to detail, instinctive, crazy-making and ridiculously unrealistic about what’s achievable in a given time period.”

(Naturally organised people don’t need productivity systems.)

What a productivity ninja looks like

Here’s the fantasy future-me I was imagining about after I’d zipped through the opening chapters:

–  I glide through my days with Zen-like calm and clarity

–  I am mindful of my energy and attention levels and use them wisely

– I can focus with serene efficiency because I find it easy to stay either in boss mode or worker mode at any given time

– because I always know the most important things I want to do,  I enjoy a sense of completion each day when I’ve achieved them

– I reach Inbox Zero at least once a day.  (I’ve missed several payment deadlines recently because of an email inbox that ran to many screens, so this one was very appealing.)

How to become a productivity ninja

The backbone of the productivity ninja system is your list of projects and your master task list.

A project is any ‘to do’ item that requires more than one physical action (task) to achieve.  If you’re not able to commit to doing at least one task on a project in the near future, you need to either scrap the project or move it to your good ideas list.

Once a week, wearing your boss hat, you review your list of projects. This means that when you’re in worker (doing) mode, you need only refer to your master task list, which will show you with ninja-clarity what you need to do –  you don’t get distracted by having to do any high-level thinking about what the next step is.

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All images by productivity ninja Graham Allcott

Example:  I’m in the process of making various photo products – a wall calendar, desk calendar and various Christmas albums as gifts for family members. I tend to procrastinate about working on my photos, mainly because I can never remember where I left each project. Have I put my selected pictures into an iPhoto album yet? Do I need to edit any photos?  Have I uploaded them to PhotoBox?  But by spending a few minutes once a week noting exactly what needs doing on each photo product, when I have a spare moment I can go straight to my computer and get editing, sorting or uploading.

How can being a productivity ninja make you a more relaxed homeschooler?

You’re probably wondering how all this ninja talk relates to relaxed homeschooling.

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Thanks to the  ninja-productivity process,  my master task list contains every homeschool-related activity I want to do, as well as all my other upcoming responsibilities and hobby-related goals.

I have sub-lists of the activities I need to do with my children – buddy maths, writing games and science experiments, for example – and what I can do without them, like research, planning, or setting up an experiment.  I can also see what non-homeschooling activities or jobs I want to get done that day.

I use Toodledo to sort these lists because I find automated lists thrilling (it’s a geek thing), but you could just as easily use a pen and paper.

The reason the productivity ninja system is such a powerful tool for child-led homeschooling is that I’m not dependent on getting anything specific done with my kids in order to feel a sense of completion.

Thanks to my master task list, I find it much easier to respect how my children choose to spend their time and resist pressuring them into fulfilling my agenda.  My daily list might include ‘do copywork with J, do buddy maths with C, read aloud from Waves’ – but my kids get to choose which, if any, of those activities get done.

So if C(11) wakes up inspired to take photos for her Arts Award project or record herself singing, or J(9) wants to spend the morning making a stop-motion animation film, I can save my ideas for another time. Meanwhile I can easily see from my daily checklist how I can make best use my time without that child or alone.

Thanks to my master task list, even on rare days when both my kids want to spend the whole day doing their own thing, I still end the day with a sense of achievement because I know I’ve spent my time doing tasks which take me closer to my goals.

And if the children invite me to join them on one of their projects or in a game, I can shuffle my list with ninja-like flexibility and go and play.

You can get a free kindle sampler of How To Be A Productivity Ninja here.


I think I'd buy this book just for the cute graphics
I’d buy this book just for the cute graphics


*This post contains affiliate links but I bought my own copy of the book and wrote this because when I love something I want to share it with all my friends and my husband says he’s heard enough Productivity Ninja talk for now thank you very much. 🙂 


I’m appreciatively linking up here:

Weekly Wrap-Up – Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Collage Friday – Homegrown Learners

The Hip Homeschool Hop

Finishing Strong

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13 thoughts on “How being a productivity ninja is making me a more relaxed homeschooler

  1. Having a sense of achievement at the end of each day is important, and I’m so glad that you’re finding your groove with this new system. It sounds very logical and systematic, and I can tell by your post how well you’re implementing it. 🙂 The book’s graphics are awesome!

    1. Thank you Hwee. I know I should really have waited a while to see how long I last with the system, but then I might never have got round to writing about it! Perhaps I’ll post an update in a few months. 🙂

  2. Hi Lucinda,

    Zen-like calm and clarity … I am pretty sure this will never be me, if it works then maybe I should read the book. 😉 Actually joking aside I am going to read the book. This year is shaping up for a lot going on so I do need more productivity without ending up in a big mess.

    1. Yeah I’m not quite there with the Zen calm and clarity Lisa… Good to have aspirations, though! And it’s definitely helping me plan to leave for Spain in a week’s time without being a complete headless chicken. 😀

    1. That’s a good idea, Carol. The “CORD” model is actually quite easy to explain to kids. (C: Capture and Collect everything you have to do, O: organise it into your ‘second brain’ system (Toodledo/pen & paper system), R: Review tasks and projects regularly, D: do the stuff you have to do.)

  3. This is the exact strategy I use for university assignments! I never thought about exactly why it works but you’re right, it’s so much easier to just do the next step on your list, even when you’re not really in the right frame of mind to figure out what the next step is.

    1. Hi May, You are obviously much more naturally organised than me to have found for yourself a strategy that works! So good to hear that this model works for uni assignments. I agree, that separation between ‘thinking mode’ and ‘doing mode’ is crucial for me. It helps me remember that at some point I have to stop thinking about what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it, and just get on with it! 🙂

  4. I just had to pop by and say how much my children enjoyed meeting you on Friday. C was incredibly pleased to have got some tuition from you and kept telling me how useless she was before hand and then how brilliant she was afterwards!!
    Blogging is so cool!

    1. It was such a delight to meet your children, Claire! When I told my C I’d recognised them she was a bit worried I was going to be an embarrassing mother, but when I saw your C I just couldn’t resist introducing myself and taking her for a spin round the rink – it’s not so long ago that was me clinging to the edge for dear life! She did so well. I really enjoyed meeting L and T too – they’re all such confident, friendly young people!
      Yes, blogging is very cool! 🙂

  5. Thanks to my master task list, I find it much easier to respect how my children choose to spend their time and resist pressuring them into fulfilling my agenda. My daily list might include ‘do copywork with J, do buddy maths with C, read aloud from Waves’ – but my kids get to choose which, if any, of those activities get done.
    Read more at thi cong noi that van phong

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