I’m going to be completely candid: the reason I’m writing this post is because I have found myself feeling my days slip away without so much as a checkmark on my to-do list. And this needs to change. I try to put things off, I procrastinate by cleaning (yes, cleaning), and I make excuses. But this behavior helps no one. At the end of the day, I’m the person whose day was wasted. So to help revive my productive streak (and yours!) here are five quick and simple tips for being productive and making the most of your days.
Find a place to work.
While simple at a glance, this is actually one of the more difficult things to pin down. But it’s important, because if you’re not in an environment that’s conducive to your working habits, you’ll never get anything done. So ask yourself: Are you more productive at your desk in your bedroom or at the kitchen table? Do you prefer to work alone or with others? In public or in private? At a quiet library or at a humming coffee shop? For me, the answers vary. I prefer to do my reading in my room where it’s quiet, but if I have the chance, I like to do my writing in a coffee shop (like now, for instance!) because the bustle helps me focus. And for some reason, I just can’t do work in the library.
Create to-do list schedules.
Not only is it important to write down everything you need to accomplish in your day, you also need to create a schedule around them to hold yourself accountable. If you’ve intentionally structured your day around working on tasks, you’ll be more likely to stick to finishing them. Instead of sitting around all day with the nagging feeling that you have so much to do, your schedule sets mini goals for yourself, making the workload seem smaller, and reminding you in what order to do things. For example:
9:00am: Read two chapters of Spanish textbook
10:00am: Work on internship applications
11:30am: Respond to emails
12:00pm: Lunch break
1:00pm: Get groceries
1:45pm: Drop off package at the post office
2:15pm: Write three pages of English essay
4:30pm: Finish math homework
Set long-term goals and hold yourself accountable.
While teachers and looming deadlines are usually good at keeping us on track, they often lead to late-night cramming sessions. Instead, create your own deadlines. Use your to-do lists for good and the day a teacher assigns an essay or you find out about an internship position, put it on your to-do list and work on them bit by bit each day so you’re not overwhelmed. But don’t just hold yourself accountable for school assignments—figure out what you want to accomplish in your own life, be it writing a book or traveling more often, and create a plan for making it happen. Make scheduled to-do lists, but instead of on a daily basis, make it on a weekly or monthly basis.
Delete distractors (or learn how to use them to your advantage).
They’re different for everyone, but we all know them when we see ‘em: social media, Netflix, podcasts, comic books—we’re all guilty. But they can suck hours upon precious hours out of your day and before you know it, you’ll have gotten nothing done. One method of dealing with this is deleting the apps off your phone entirely, putting your books out of sight, or getting a Chrome extension (like StayFocused) that blocks certain websites for a specified period of time. The other way to deal with your distractors is to build them into your schedule. Use them as a reward for accomplishing a certain number of tasks, or give yourself 15 minutes between tasks to use them. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s what works best for you and that they don’t get in the way.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important that you don’t burn out. The time you don’t spend working is also as important as the time you do spend working. You need to be sure not to use up all of your energy before you can tackle your to-do list. Whether your break consists of using one of your “distractors,” making yourself a cup of tea, reading up on the news, grabbing lunch with a friend, make sure it gives you the proper rest and helps you recharge before getting back to work.
What are your tips for staying productive? Let me know in the comments below!