With our smartphone, tablet and computer at arm’s reach it can be a challenge to be productive.
All it takes is a simple login to Netflix or seeing a youtube video of a bunny eating asparagus with electronic rave music playing in the background for 4 hours to go by without a trace.
There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with some internet time or other activities you enjoy. But if you constantly find yourself stressed out, trying to keep track of your many tasks and convincing yourself you have more time than you do (a la procrastination), maybe you need to start finding the thrill and joy in productivity!
Yes. Being productive does not cause stress, but rather, relieves it. And it gives you energy, motivation and direction towards your goals. In other words it feels great, almost as great as watching Ser Ilyn cut off Lord Eddard’s head.
Ok so you want you to be more productive. But where do you start? Here are 5 Ways to Get Productive and Stay Productive:
Specify Your Goals
Goals not only help to measure your progress, but they give you a sense of direction and purpose. Setting goals will keep you motivated and willing to keep up with day to day productivity.
A good way to keep track of your goals is, you guessed it, to write them down! Write them in a journal, on a calendar, or leave sticky notes on a bathroom mirror.
The more specific the better. For example instead of: My goal is to become healthier, you could say: My goal is to drink 8 glasses of water per day. Or instead of: I want to be more organized, you could say: I want put aside 15 minutes per day dedicated to organizing my tasks for work. These are very concrete, specific goals that are easy to track.
The feeling of accomplishment when completing a goal is so worth the effort and allows you to start seeing other possibilities that you otherwise would not be open to in your everyday life. The key is to dream big, but to also, dream specific!
Calendars, Calendars, Calendars!
There was a time when I thought I was above calendars, scheduling and e-reminders. I don’t need a schedule running my life! I make up my own rules. But all it took was taking on a part time job and starting a freelance writing business to learn that calendars are actually awesome and essential in many people’s busy lives.
It’s a little counter-intuitive but if you set aside time to find the time, you will feel more organized, less stressed and supremely motivated to do your thing, whatever that may be!
A good time to set your calendar is before bed. Your mind will be buzzing with things you need to do the next day so it makes it a good time to fill it in. Relax and make filling in your calendar a ritual, knowing that a little planning now will make you feel so much better later.
As someone who has learned the power of scheduling, I’ve extended my calendar to include everything from blocks of time for exercise, cleaning, shopping, cooking, writing and personal goals. It may seem like it’s limiting to be so scheduled but it can actually be seen as a way of eliminating that constant sense of urgency and stress that accompanies the simple thought of: What do I need to do today?
Some more tips for calendaring at top form:
- Have your calendar where you can see it (posted on the wall). Or as an app on your smartphone home screen.
- Fill in calendar before bed or during down time.
- Colour code! Use different colours for social events, work, exercise, shopping, studying, family time etc.
- Put as much info as possible on your calendar for each day (ie. Addresses, phone numbers, reminders etc.)
- Be flexible! Your calendar should merely be a tool to help organize your tasks. So don’t worry if you find you’re not sticking to your calendar like you expected to. Make changes as you go.
Recognize the down the days
So you’ve started writing that screenplay you’ve always wanted to write. A love story set in 1825 between a young countess and a smooth talking hay bailer…it’s like Titanic without the iceberg and sinking ship, trust me, its gonna be big. You’ve given yourself a timeline of 1 month, that’s doable. And you’ve looked up some ways to submit it to script-seeking producers when the time comes. It’s gonna happen, you’re gonna do it, life is looking pretty great!
Except the next day you only get 2 and a half pages done….and self doubt is setting in. Will this sell? Maybe I should have made the hay bailer something better, like a pirate or like a feral man who was raised by wolves…wait, how am I going to get Leonardo Dicaprio to play the lead role?
Most often, projects are abandoned or given up on when a “down day” is reached. But down days should be recognized just as that, a down day.
If you can recognize that today you just aren’t feeling it, and make a pact to yourself to get back to it the next day, nothing is really lost. The human mind isn’t designed to focus on one thing constantly over a long period of time. So make sure you aren’t overworking yourself and give yourself breaks when needed.
I find it useful, if I am lacking motivation, to choose something smaller and more manageable I can accomplish that day. An example of this is if you don’t feel like exercising on a certain day, try a short yoga video instead. Or if you don’t feel like cleaning your whole house, clean only one room.
Limit Technological Distractions
This is a big one. Just about everyone can attest to being distracted by their technological devices. There is nothing wrong with being connected to your family and friends. But it becomes an unnecessary distraction when you are trying to live a productive life.
In an ideal world, the time allotted for personal goals and tasks should be greater than time on technological devices. In order to limit time on these devices, consider limiting all social media feeds.
There are options on facebook, twitter and social media sites to limit news feeds as to not include every single piece of information under the sun. From experience I’ve found this to be a great way to gradually stop investing so much time on social media and start investing more time on personal goals.
Another trick to moderate your use could be to allow internet time upon completion of a task, as a sort of reward. I personally haven’t found this as effective as simply deleting news feeds but has been known to work for some people.
Use the power of Now!
And finally, the last tip to kickstart your productivity journey: Do it Now!
It doesn’t mean do it tomorrow, or do it in an hour, it means do it NOW.
Doing things now seems simple enough, but it turns out not to be so simple with the number of distractions present in our modern lives. There are an infinite number of reasons not to do things now, but the simple fact is doing things now makes more time to do other things you like to do, later.
Doing it now will make you feel like you have more time to actually do the things you like to do, it will bring you closer to your goals, you will find you have more time for relaxation and you will most definitely be happier for it!
psysci is a psychology blog covering all things psychology, from the latest research to the latest self-improvement trends, founded by Marcus Clarke who has worked in the field of psychology for several years.