As a person that vacillates from being completely unproductive to hyperproductive, I feel like I’m semi-qualified to give advice on this. Plus, I feel like if I make this post, I will be forced to be productive for the rest of time (because only hypocrites don’t follow their own advice).
This is pointedly directed towards the over-worked, over-loaded, social-media/fangirling-obsessed generation of today…
- If you have a Mac, download Self-Control. Please. The app itself is a miracle worker if you have most of your assignments online, and have a tendency to open up a new tab to YouTube or Tumblr when you start getting bored. Basically, you set a timer during which you can’t access a list of websites or you can only access certain websites. I love this for when I’m writing essays or even doing notes because I can still listen to music through Spotify, but I won’t be tempted to take a break until the timer is done. (https://selfcontrolapp.com/).
- Make a To-Do List and a Schedule. Don’t do just one. Do both. I find this really helpful when I have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time. If I write out all my tasks, I can then arrange them in a separate schedule and that way I can make sure I finish everything even if I don’t follow my schedule.
- Take breaks, but be productive during your breaks. Right now is a good example. I’m writing this blog post as a break from doing homework, and simultaneously I’m watching the newest episode of Shadowhunters. If you find tasks that are productive and that you enjoy, you won’t ever feel compelled to abandon working completely.
- Know yourself. Everyone has a particular time where they’re the most productive, the least productive, the most tired, etc. You have to create schedules that work with those times, especially if you’re trying to plan an entire day out. For example, I work best in the mornings and can’t do anything between 2pm-4pm without falling asleep, so my schedules are usually packed in the morning and then filled with free time in the afternoons.
- Take a shower. Okay, beyond normal hygiene and all that, showering is a great way to take a break and still be productive. It gives your mind a chance to think, and if you ever get into an unproductive slump, showering will refresh your mind and make you want to work again. (also, you always seem to realize how much you still have to get done when you’re in the shower).
- Have a keeper. This sounds weird, but basically the idea is that if you have a friend that is also trying to get a lot of work done, you should regularly have breaks together and go over what you accomplished. It’s kind of embarrassing to have to say that you got nothing done the entire day when you’re talking to someone who wrote 50 pages of the next great American novel. This was really helpful for college apps, because I had someone to bounce ideas off of, and we kept each other motivated.
- Find your silence. If I hear even the sound of someone breathing, I can’t focus. I have no idea why, but I need absolute silence. However, if I’m listening to music at full volume, I can focus just fine. After lots of trial and error, I have discovered that the best way for me to study is to listen to music that’s either behind me or through head-phones, and that I have to listen to piano music when studying for memorization but any other music when just completing tasks. Music is also a good way to figure out how much time has passed without checking the clock. If you can figure out how to make your mind focused, you will get things done so much faster.
- Understand time. One Zalfie vlog is like 20 minutes. That’s 1/3 of an hour. That is 1/72 of my day. In that time, I could make myself a meal. I could write a blog post. I could do half of a homework assignment. For a very long time, I would see the time changing from 8pm to 10:30 pm and I would still be doing nothing, but I didn’t register how much time actually passed. If you understand how much work you can get done when you are sitting there and wasting time, trust me – you’ll jump up and work.
- Break everything into smaller tasks. Intimidation is one of the leading causes of procrastination. If you break up a task and understand what it takes to complete it, you won’t be afraid to start it. The more work you think you have, the more you’re going to end up procrastinating.
- Set yourself a bedtime. When I was in ninth grade, I used to sleep at like 10:15 pm every night, without fail. I remember once I had to stay up till 12 to study, and I was freaking out. Now, I’ve slipped into the habit of thinking “oh, I still have all night”. The truth is, you really do better when you sleep more. I try to aim to finish all my work by 11, and then give myself whatever time I’m still awake for to relax or complete tasks that aren’t immediately due. That way, if I fall asleep (and I will), it doesn’t really matter. It sounds silly to have a “bedtime” once you’re over the age of 12, but aiming to sleep at a particular time does wonders for your work ethic.
- If you feel yourself getting unproductive, swtich spots. Move from your desk to your couch to your guest room to your bed and back again. Every time you move, you’ll feel motivated to work again. Don’t ask me why.
- Invest in a planner or planner app. If you write down all your tasks and have a calendar set up, you’ll be able to visualize what you have to do. It’s a nice thing to carry around with you, and it ensures that you won’t forget to do something.
- Reward yourself. One of my friends has an app where she gets points for completing tasks on her to-do list. This levels up her character in the game and gives her XP. Give yourself that pat-on-the-back for finishing your math homework or walking your dog or going to the gym. However, you should always have a timer on your breaks so you don’t ever get back to work. My reward has always been laptop time, because if left alone, I would literally spend my entire time on the internet.
- Incorporate what’s going to distract you into your studying. Right now, I’m a bit obsessed with K-POP. Instead of watching videos, I make myself be productive by listening to K-POP while studying. It’s a compromise that makes me happy and prevents me from taking 10000 breaks.
- DON’T TOUCH YOUR PHONE. The minute you touch your phone, you are immediately unfocused. It’s hard to get back to work, and you’ll lose the momentum you’ve worked so hard to build. Even on breaks, I try to use my phone only to check texts or keep up snapchat streaks. (My phone and I are very much acquaintances and not friends. )
- Stop reading this post and do whatever you’re trying to make yourself do. Please.
That is all. If I think of more, I will let you know. Hopefully, I (and you) start getting to work.