How to be a Productivity Ninja. . . Working Parent!

Leanne Dal Santo, from Smart Bags emailed me recently.  We thought it was so good, we decided to publish it as a guest post.  She’s proof that the principles in “How to be a Productivity Ninja” can apply to a really wide range of topics and situations – so here we cover what it’s like to be a busy working mum, running your own business.  We’d also love to hear the situations you apply the book to – and your own tips too, of course.  Just email me at and we’ll share the best ones on the blog.

So… over to you, Leanne!








Hi Graham,

I read How to be a Productivity Ninja over 6 months ago and I thought I’d write and let you know how I got on. The telling is that it has been several months and I am still utilising the principles.

Thank you for such a great book, I’d rate it in my top 5 business books and have recommended it several times. It was perfect because it was a balanced mix of business, motivation and how to while not being too rigid that that the reader couldn’t adopt to suit their personal situation.

I remember you inviting emails about readers experiences and it is this personalisation I would like to share with you. I own my own business with my husband and have two children (10 & 7) and very little time. After reading your book I took some time to think of the principles  I could apply to specific situations in my life to make me less exhausted from wasting mental energy or feeling overwhelmed or unprepared and came up with my own 5 tips.  Many will seem so obvious or at best trivial but in reality once incorporated and become part of life, they really have made a difference to me.

1. Night before Routine:

I always feel I have started on the back foot if I have to think of what needs to be packed, prepared or remembered in the morning for myself or children. I always find the morning time seems to go quicker and is a frenzied race against the clock. I now spend 5 minutes either laying out what needs to be worn, packing the things needed (lunch, permission notes, books, sport kits, music instruments) or writing a mini checklist of what needs to be remembered in the morning so no extra thinking is required when the morning comes. It is like a micro Daily list but specific for the time before you walk out of the door and I find makes all the difference.

2. Morning Emergency Procedure:

Following on from the “Night before Routine”. Every flight suggests that you prepare yourself with oxygen and safety jacket before attending to your children in an emergency situation. I have adopted this for my daily morning routine. I shower, dress, and put my make-up on before waking, dressing, feeding my children or emptying dishwashers or whatever other morning tasks I have. I know if I feel or look ready I am off to a good start to the day and in control and less chance of the kids sabotaging the morning with some mini disaster like spilt cereal on a clean top that ends up with us running out of time and me with wet hair and half-dressed on the school run.

book cover

3. Learn while you Clean:

It is not new to suggest listening to audio books while driving or travelling but as a women that lives and works in the same square mile I spend more time cleaning than commuting. Man or woman there is a certain amount of domestic duties that must be routinely done. I always listen to a podcast or book downloaded from while cleaning on a Saturday morning. I use to feel resentful that I am lumbered with the majority of the housework while my husband and son go off to football training, now I look forward to it. I power from top to bottom cleaning my house learning and being inspired.

4. Under 1 hour Jobs List:

Inspired by your @read or phone calls idea I have made a list I keep of “not urgent under one hour jobs”, these are dead boring things I need to do, not work related and those I never do because I don’t remember them or have them on a list . Eg match lids to containers and organise cupboards, look at cheaper utility companies, fill out forms, descale the kettle you name it. So now, if I find myself with an hour or less – watching Masterchef, waiting for kids sports to finish or something equally non taxing I simply think what do I feel like doing on that list and get on with it.

5. Unsubscribe:

As careful as you are ticking the opt out boxes somehow all those online purchases lead to endless emails and newsletters, which I am now discovering post-Christmas! I now Unsubscribe from any emails or newsletters immediately that I don’t need or want to receive, they are distracting, possibly costly by tempting me to spend more and often annoying. This might sound obvious or not a big deal as they are easy to delete but once you actually make the effort to unsubscribe it is one less think to suck your time, even if it only is seconds.

6. Get a bag with compartments:

I use to waste several minutes every time I needed to find my phone, keys or purse in the graveyard that was my handbag until I bought one with compartments on the inside. I know it sounds trivial but it is equivalent of a key rack, I don’t waste time fumbling several times a day anymore. I have even found a really cheap product that is an insert, so you don’t even need to buy a bag with compartments just the organiser an move it into whatever bag you want. Genius! (to me anyway)

I hope you find this different perspective useful. I am sure many other women in similar situations will resonate with it even if they don’t admit it!


Thanks Leanne!

And we’d love to hear more of YOUR stories and ideas if you’ve read the book!

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