Hi again! Artybaker here, and there’s something you should know about me. I’m kind of obsessed with productivity. OK… maybe get rid of the ‘kind of’ and replace it with ‘totally’. I’ve always got many projects on the go which I am very passionate about, and when I set myself goals for them, I really want to complete those goals. Since the beginning of the school year though I’ve been studying for some GCSEs I’m taking this May and I’ve had to prioritize that over my other projects. For the first few months, it was a struggle, but I’ve found ways to fit everything in and still enjoy life over the past few months. I’m really grateful for these exams, regardless of how well I do, because not only have I learnt a ton about the subjects, but it’s taught me a lot about how I work and what ways of working are best for me.
So, today I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learnt about being productive. There are many different interpretations of the word but I see it as getting the work done that I want to get done within a certain time frame. And ‘work’ can really be anything from writing an essay to playing a videogame. Also, these tips are obviously just stuff that works for me in my situation right now – productivity is about working with your own strengths and limits, so I’m not saying these tips will work for everyone or are foolproof or anything.
So, enough rambling, my first tip is Write Stuff Down. This is literally a life-saver – I’ve learned the hard way that when there’s something you need to remember, you may think there’s no way you’d forget it, but trust me, more often than not you probably will. I find it’s much easier to sort through my thoughts when they’re down on paper (or a computer screen) in front of me. It’s really not that difficult to write yourself a little note (not too little, though, or you might see your one-word note and wonder what the hell that’s supposed to mean – this has happened to me too!) and it’s often just the act of writing it down that makes you remember. Either way, I love making lists so I write all sorts of stuff down on a daily basis and it really helps me.
Next up is Get the Shorter Things Done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a long list of jobs in front of you. A good policy for this is to make that list shorter! This certainly isn’t always what you should be doing but if you prioritise the long-term or recurring jobs, you’re not really crossing anything off your list and you won’t feel accomplished. But, if you put the one-off jobs first then they’re done and out of the way and, in my experience, it feels like I have more breathing room.
This next one I feel is very important, and something all of us are guilty of ignoring when feeling overwhelmed by the stuff we have to do. Set Yourself Doable Goals. Productivity is about motivation, and making yourself reach for something you know you can’t accomplish only makes you feel disappointed in yourself. It’s also about, as I said earlier, knowing your own limits. Sure, setting goals and pushing yourself can be great but I for one don’t work that great under pressure, and if I know I can’t do something, why should I try very hard? For me the best way to do this is spreading jobs over multiple days or weeks (monthly goals are pretty cool), so you can do less on some days and more on others, and if you didn’t have time to get to something, don’t beat yourself up because you still have tomorrow. 😉
On a related subject, my next tip is to Know Your Schedule and Work With it. Obviously there’s the obvious time restraints of work, appointments, sleeping and mealtimes etc., but what I’m really talking about is the times when you’re most motivated. Using myself as an example, one of the biggest things I’ve learnt in preparation for these exams is that I’m most productive in the morning. The earlier I start, the more I’ll do. So, I’ve started waking up at 6:30 most days (don’t worry, you don’t have to do this; I’m a morning person!), then going straight to my desk to start working – before I even get dressed or have breakfast or anything. That way I can have most of my GCSE work done within a couple of hours, and have the whole day left to do other things (only after devouring a tasty breakfast though, of course).
So yeah, work out when you work best – maybe you like to get up early, like me, or you do little things here and there throughout the day, or you might like to work in the dead of night! Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, my advice is to stick to it and hopefully you’ll really get into the swing of things. Don’t be too rigid about it though – I have plenty of days where I ask myself why I’m getting up at such an inhumane time and go back to sleep for another two and a half hours.
That kind of leads onto my final tip. Give up. I know this sounds kind of strange, but it’s again about knowing your limits. There’s a lot of advice and motivation material all over the place about never giving up and pushing through the tough times, so that for a long time I felt really bad giving up on anything. However, I’ve learnt that sometimes, it can be healthy to give up. This advice comes in most useful to me on a smaller scale – not giving up on a whole project, but giving up working on it at that moment in time. If you’re tired or bored and you think you’d be able to focus more later, or tomorrow, feel free to set it aside, and as Shakespeare says…
No profit grows where is no pleasure taken.
– William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew.
And that’s all my tips! For me, feeling like I’ve been productive is great for my day-to-day happiness, so I hope these tips might prove helpful to you too! 🙂
(P.S. I seem have an obsession with lists… my next post will be something different, I promise!)