Twenty-Two days into January and it seems many of us are still going full speed ahead. Congratulations if you are! Perhaps you are going through the last motions of finishing off your assignments before exam season. Maybe you are finishing off projects and closing deals as we move into the final financial quarter. Or like me, you may even be playing catch up after a bout of sickness and trying to utilise the most of the working day, even if that’s working overtime. Hey today I felt like I completed a weeks work in a day, and the day flew past! However days like this are definitely not always the case. Instead our time can be consumed by mindless Facebook scrolling or googling fun and completely unrelated work facts ,like where the Obama’s went on holiday last Summer (it’s Bali btw).
Today I have managed to steer mostly off that procrastination train and I am going to share with you the best tips I follow and have found that personally help me to be productive, in an efficient and structured list (of course!)
1. Make a to-do list of all the errands you have to in your personal life. Writing this down will actually help you focus on your work or your assignment that is the real priority which you are avoiding.
2. Next make a list of what you actually have to do at work this next week or two. I like to be optimistic and think I can achieve most of this stuff in a day or two, but I have to be flexible as I know that last minute important tasks will be given, and will absolutely have to be completed ASAP. However it’s nice to know and face head on what needs to be done.
3. From your list quickly number the order of your tasks by priority. Number 1 being the most urgent. Tick them off as you go. It’s very satisfying. If things are of equal importance I try to do the one that I think will take less time first.
4. Have a drink always near you. Fill up a big bottle of water and have a hot drink next to you too. This will stop you getting distracted and wandering into the kitchen for snacks or around the office for a chat.
5. Combat the problem of noise. Can’t work when it’s too loud? Plug in your earphones (or just one, like me- so not to be too rude) just so that you can fade out all the distraction around you and get stuck into a task.
6. Similarly can’t work when it’s too quiet? Put the radio on or again your music through your headphones, or listen to a podcast as you work, whatever you need. Just remember not everyone copes well with noise and people chatting and laughing too for that matter, especially during busy January periods!
7. Have a task that will take about five to ten minutes? Do it first. Read your emails, send that letter, whatever the task is, I find that completingsmallpieces of work often helps motivate me to be productive to tackle the bigger stuff next.
8. Take a decent lunch break. You will not be productive if you work yourself too hard. Make sure you get fresh air and stretch your legs during your lunch break or at least every hour and a half of you sitting. I have only recently started doing this, despite being told this repeatedly during my A-Levels. The fresh air or some exercise really does give you a clear head. I try to step away from desk and go for a walk at lunch time every day if possible, and take frequent breaks to get another drink etc.
9. Give yourself a settime when you’re going to start or complete the task. Whether it’s a work project, beginning revision for exams or cleaning the bathroom. Say to yourself today at 6:30 pm I am going to the gym, or on Saturday morning as soon as I have eaten breakfast at 10:00am, I’m going to hoover my car. Giving yourself parameters to work to and commit to the task, by setting a time to complete it, you assign importance to it, rather than shrugging it off as having to be done “at some point”and then stressing out later down the line.
10. Track your progress and think of the reward and the positiveoutcome. Maybe after a long day of revising or working overtime, treat yourself with downtime such as by watching that episode of Game Of Thrones you have been saving. Also to be productive and fight procrastination remind yourself how much lighter you will feel when you stop putting off all that data entry! Keep that happy and relieved feeling at the front of your mind. By putting a positive spin on the after effects and the benefits of completing the task (even if it’s the ironing or hoovering) I find that I am more productive! This works if you want to eat healthier too, I.e, I want that chocolate but if I don’t have it I may actually lose my Christmas weight and feel healthier again!
I personally applied this principle particularly during revision periods. When I was at Uni I used to say to myself if I wake up early and start revising by 10am and finish by 6pm, I can take the whole evening off for myself. This really helped motivate me and gave me a balance for social time. I found that most of my friends who were unproductive with their time would not do this. They would sleep in late, and have “evening revision sessions at the library”, which meant going to the library at 5pm, getting hungry by 6, stopping for dinner at 7, back to the library for 9/10, and not really achieving anything. Revision is boring enough, treat it like a plaster- pull it off at once and deal with the pain sooner than later.
So there you have it, my top tips for being productive and how I stay motivated in starting and completing tasks and goals, both at work and at home. What tips do you find work for you? Let me know!