I’m a full-time student, an executive for at least three organisations at any given time (have you checked out Her Campus at Gettysburg yet?), the owner and author of everything having to do with this site, I write professionally, and I have a part-time job at a local museum. In short, I’m always very, very busy! It’s been absolutely critical that I stay organized and productive. Today, I’m sharing my best tips and tools for you to learn how to be more productive!
1. Do it for five minutes.
You can do ANYTHING for five minutes, right? It might feel like a long time, depending on what you’re doing, but it’s still only five minutes. Accomplish that? Challenge yourself to five more, or even as far as half an hour! Chances are, you’ll get into “work mode” strongly enough to keep it up a bit longer.
Pro tip: Try out the Pomodoro technique if this method seems to work for you!
2. Plan, plan, plan!
Get a pre-formatted planner. Start a bullet journal, if that’s more your style. Prefer digital? Set up a Google or Outlook calendar, or iCal. Use a website or app like Asana or Trello. Whatever your preference, you need something to keep you organized, especially if you’re a student or busy professional. Even a basic notebook can be carried around for to do lists, songs you hear and want to download, or your grocery list.
3. Set the scene.
Remove whatever distractions you can. Too quiet? Try white noise or an ambient soundtrack. Personally, I use Ambient Mixer—I love the Ravenclaw Common Room mix! I also keep a playlist of my most motivating songs for when I really need a boost!
Pro tip: Movie or video game scores tend to make awesome study/work music!
4. Drink water
One of these things is not like the other? If you’re hydrated, you’ll be less hungry and be less likely to deal with headaches or dry skin/chapped lips and general sadness. Water is magical like that.
Check out these tips to stay hydrated!
5. Dress up!
Maybe not in your favourite pirate hat or princess dress. However, “dress for success” is a cliché for a reason—and not just because it rhymes! Studies show that dressing the part helps your mind differentiate between “work you” and “play you.” This is especially important if you work from home (looking at you, fellow bloggers!).
6. Stay in the zone—literally!
On a similar note, it’s important to stay in a work-related setting, especially if you work from home or study in a dorm. Your brain will have an easier time focusing if you aren’t trying to revise in bed or answer emails from the couch.
7. While you’re planning, plan ahead.
Take five minutes before you go to bed to plan out a basic timeline for the next day. Stop for a bit on Sunday night and prep for the week. Like they say: failure to plan is planning to fail!
8. Utilise your email
Does Inbox Zero motivate you to stay focused? Maybe it’s using your inbox as a to-do list? Test a few different methods, then put it into action!
Picture this: you’ve got a mile-long to do list and you’re diligently crossing things off all day long. Then, come the evening, you look back on the past twelve hours and feel like you’ve accomplished so little. Why? Chances are, you crossed off plenty of little tasks, but not the most important. So, at the beginning of the day, identify your most important task(s) and get that completed as soon as possible. Do the thing!
10. But, don’t forget the little things.
It’s absolutely crucial to do those important tasks, but you can’t underestimate the power of the little ones. Think back to that imaginary day from #9: instead of a bunch of little items or just your top three, picture your day if you crossed off your most important tasks AND a handful of smaller ones. Feeling more productive yet?
11. Minimise distractions.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one a thousand times. Download an app to block the sites you waste the most time on: Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube . . . . Set your phone to “do not disturb.” Tell your friends you’re going off the radar for a bit. Then get to work!
12. Sit down and do it!
If you’re anything like me, it’s far too easy for you to get stuck in the planning stages . . . eternally. Planning is great (and truly one of my favourite pastimes!), but you won’t accomplish much if you never take that first step beyond preparing.
13. Set boundaries and make them known.
Maybe you’ll only check your email between 2 and 5 pm. You’ll only focus on work during working hours (an especially helpful plan for crafting that legendary work-life balance!). Maybe every Saturday at noon is your set me-time. Tell your friends, coworkers, and families that this is set in stone. Then, follow through!
14. Find your most productive moments.
Remember in high school, when the period immediately following lunch absolutely dragged? Learn from that and plan your day accordingly. Are you useless before your morning coffee? Don’t wake up and immediately open your emails. Does a three o’clock nap always sound like a good idea? Don’t plan a crucial meeting at 2:45. Keep track of your time and figure out when you’re most productive. Use those time slots to your advantage!
15. Just say no!
No, I don’t mean to drugs (though, of course, avoiding those will definitely help you be more productive!). But, saying no will still come in handy. Really don’t need to go to your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s baby shower? Say from the start that you can’t make it! Swamped at work and know you won’t be able to fit in that extra assignment Bob the next desk over asked for a hand on? Tell him that, while you’d love to help, you simply can’t this time around.
16. Do a life audit
This one honestly helps improve your life overall, as well as making you more productive! Basically, it’s hard to be productive if you aren’t prioritizing (which could be a whole tip itself!). Pull out your bullet journal and create a Level 10 Life spread. Or maybe you want to freestyle it a bit more. Maybe you want to keep it super simple with a basic list of categories and subcategories, with some action steps off to the side. The important part is to identify what you’re committed to (don’t forget that you yourself are a commitment!) and decide how you need to improve in that category (or congratulate yourself for doing so already, you well-balanced human, you!). This is the perfect time to throw in some KonMari, too. Does this activity or commitment spark joy, or is it necessary for you to exist? If not, it’s probably time to focus your energy elsewhere.
17. Find what motivates you and use it to your advantage.
Have you seen the image circulating the web of a textbook with candy bars stuck in every few pages as a reward for getting that much studying done? Utilise this principle. If I don’t really feel like working on the blog, you lovely readers (yes, you!) and my amazing group of blogging friends (*waves to the Twitter gals*) motivate me to do it anyway. If I don’t really want to go to class or work, the concept of providing for my future dog is usually enough to kick me into gear! Find what motivates you the most, whether that be candy or puppies, and find a way to use it to motivate you for everything else.