Happy Friday y’all! It seems that the week goes by quicker and quicker as we near into spring, which has its pros and cons. While I’m super ready for the warm weather to hit it also means midterms and finals are coming! As my planner has less and less blank spaces and my to-do lists become longer I’ve tried different methods and routines to boost my productivity. While I’m no expert, there are a couple small changes you can implement to your day to guarantee a boost in productivity.
The Night Before:
Create a To-Do List:
Every successful person prepares for their week by analyzing their long-term goals and breaking them down into smaller tasks that are necessary to reach that goal. That sounds complicated and stressful if we’re being honest, but all it really takes is a daily to-do list. Prepare for your day before it has even started by writing down every thing you need to get accomplished so that you’re not scrambling around the day of. Include everything from the most urgent tasks to the smallest mundane things, but be realistic about it; you’ll thank yourself later.
Your mornings become a lot more easier and a lot less stressful if the bulk of the load is already resolved for you. There are simple steps you can take such as checking the weather for the next day and laying out your outfit, gathering everything you’ll need for the day and having your bag/backpack/purse ready, and prepping your food for the next day if you haven’t done so. Give yourself peace of mind and declutter your space before you go to bed; just take a couple of minutes to place things where they belong and make your space look neat. Try to get ahead with anything you can; it will take less time than trying to accomplish it in the morning.
The Day Of:
Your first reaction to the sound of your alarm in the morning will set the tone to the rest of your day, so don’t hit snooze! Morning routines will vary depending on what type of person you are, so this is a trial and error process. For me, waking up early in the morning to get my workout in before class or work gives me energy to take on whatever the day may bring, but not everyone is a morning person. There are things however that everybody should be aiming to add into their routines for maximum productivity:
As soon as you wake up take a minute or two to stretch, either laying down, sitting up, or even standing up. Stretching helps you get rid of stiffness and increases blood flow to the brain and muscles. Some simple stretches you can do besides toe touches include drawings circles with your arms, twisting your torso, hamstring stretches, and pelvic thrusts.
Wake up 10-15 minutes earlier to allow yourself cushion time in the morning for setbacks or accidents- nobody likes feelings rushed, especially in the mornings.
Make your bed, seriously! One small accomplishment in the morning is enough to get you started, especially for those mornings where you’re feeling unmotivated. A neat room makes for a happy you, and it only takes two minutes.
Avoid your phone at all costs. Do not check your e-mails, do not check social media, and do not check your texts. Let your mind rest by avoiding any screen until you’re all set and ready to step out the door.
Choose a mantra and repeat it to yourself, either in your head or out loud. These can be motivational quotes or statements about yourself to boost your confidence. Some of my favorites are “I can and I will,” “I did not wake up this morning to be mediocre,” and if I’m not feeling my best, “it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present.”
Have a long commute to work or school? Listen to a podcast that sparks your interest, or better yet, listen to motivational speakers. Get inspired for the workday ahead of you! If podcasts aren’t your thing, try mindfulness. Notice everything around you, from the person sitting across you in the train to the way your belly rises and falls as you breather. Mindfulness will enhance your mental health and help regulate your emotions.
Your to-do list is already written, but now it’s time to actually check off the tasks of the day. If you’re trying to be as productive as you can then the goal should be to complete the most challenging task first– this can either be the most time-sensitive, the hardest, or just the one you really really really don’t want to do. Whatever it is make sure that’s the first task you check off the list so it doesn’t roll over to the next day. After checking that first task off, focus on the quickest tasks, that way by checking off everything that takes less than 20 minutes you’ll feel a sense of completion that will motivate you to check off everything else.
As you do this, resist the urge to multi-task! No matter how good you are at it you’re doing yourself a disservice by diverting your full attention from each task and running the risk of having to take even more time to correct mistakes. No matter how productive you feel doing two (or even three) things at once, it’s ineffective and time consuming. If you’re worrying about something that needs to get done as you’re working on your current task, add it to your to-do list. Prioritize being as present and focused on the task at hand as you can be.
Additionally, allot a certain period of time for checking your e-mails. Rather than checking your inbox constantly throughout the day, which will sidetrack you from the tasks you’re currently working on, make it a point to check and respond to e-mails in bulk, whether this is once every two hours or only three times during the day.
Be realistic: you cannot work every minute of the day. You can’t even work for a whole hour without needing a break, but if your goal is to be as productive as you can be you can still take full advantage of those short intervals away from your workload. Choose a good book you’re excited about to read during those periods where you just need to get away from the screen, or take a short walk and be mindful of your surroundings. If you haven’t talked to a family member or friend in a long time and have some time to catch up, then reach for the phone. Check out a TED Talk, or crack open your journal and write down all your worries. There’s so many ways to take a break that don’t include checking your Facebook or looking at cute cat videos on YouTube (not that you should avoid that! Sometimes you have to treat yourself to keep yourself motivated).
Even if you don’t work in a collaborative environment, how you interact with others is crucial to your success. The first step is be selfish and learn to say no when you have to. You can’t boost your productivity if your focus is on doing favors all the time, so learn to set limits; your peers will respect you. If you’ve got a meeting, make it your goal to throw out at least one idea. It doesn’t matter how silly or incomplete you think it is because by making your voice heard you lead the path for others to also share their own thoughts and opinions. Take space, but also make space and encourage others to speak up. If you’re making plans with a friend or coworker write it down in your calendar immediately as to avoid any conflicts later on that will hinder your productivity. Above all, always be as candid and inclusive with people as possible- be memorable.
Let go of your perfectionism and make sure your personality shines through in every single one of your endeavors. Do not beat yourself up or dwell on defeat if you spend more time than you wished to have spent on a certain project or task; your to-do list is not static. Be flexible and always be prepared for whatever comes your way. Lastly, your obligations are not something you have to do- you get to do it, so do everything with a purpose.