Some days all I want to do is scroll through my Instagram feed. Other days I have a million ideas and don’t leave my desk before the sun goes down, but more often than not I have a to-do list a million miles long and end up spending a lot of my time watching Youtube videos to avoid my responsibilities and I think that happens to the best of us. For me, as someone who works full-time, is getting my masters, and working on my own projects, working efficiently, staying motivated, and getting sh*t done is key. Of course, I have days where I do nothing, but having my own ways of keeping the grind going have tremendously helped my life.
Tips for being productive and motivated
- Make lists – by hand! I swear by written lists. There are few things more satisfying than physically crossing off something you worked hard to complete. It’s also much easier to overestimate the work you can get done when typing out a to-do list, but by writing it by hand you have the take the time to really consider what is going to fill space on that page. Another tip is to use small piece of paper! It’s much easier to complete a post-it-sized list than something on regular sized paper.
- Have a schedule, but don’t be too rigid. I went through a phase where I scheduled things by the hour or by the minute and I continuously fell outside of those timed parameters when something took longer than expected. Then, I would beat myself up over it. So I’ve found that by scheduling by chunks of the day rather than minute to minute tasks, you stay on track. Time frames such as during your morning coffee, prior to lunch, after lunch, early afternoon, and the end of the day, are what work best for me.
- Have a routine. Most people say that having specific morning (and night) routines are the best ways to keep you days consistent and productive. I haven’t quite mastered either (mostly because my routines depend on what happens that day) but I still have a regular routine for my work day. It begins with coffee and checking my emails. Then, I go through my bullet journal and plan out the day, then I check my calendar for meetings, and I write a to do list. I also take breaks and eat meals at relatively the same time every day. This regular routine sets up my day and it works to keep me motivated to get my work done.
- Take breaks. Like I said in the point above, I take breaks at the same time every day. I also know people that get up and walk around every hour or so. Taking breaks is a necessity. Whether you’re at a stand still or working diligently on a project, the best way to do your best work is to give your brain a refresh and come back to your work with a fresh mind.
- Turn off your notifications. Nothing is more distracting than having a constant ping from your phone or email accounts. So, turn your email notifications off and put your phone on do not disturb. I’m definitely a supporter of a social media break now and then, but continuous distraction is a death sentence for any productivity.
- Have a good environment. Having a comfortable workspace is the best thing you can do for your work ethic. I would say make an area your go-to work space, that way when you sit there your mind immediately switches to ‘work mode’ as a habit. Then make it a space you enjoy. Have a great set of pens, a comfortable chair, and anything else that will brighten it up for you. Hang things on the walls, have notebooks you like using, and efficient tech accessories (like a monitor stand or document holder).
- Create a system for organization. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find something when you need it. I’m not saying you need to be hyper organized, but at least have a system that works for you to keep things in place. I am the queen of clutter, but I still manage to have folders, bins, and drawers designated for things so when I need that certain document or specific supply I know exactly where to go looking.
- Don’t skimp on self care. I think the biggest mistake we all make sometimes is making productivity our number one priority. While it should definitely be near the top of the list, our well being should always be number one. I have had my fair share of burn outs, so it’s important to listen to your body and know when it’s time to cut yourself some slack and take a day (or two or three). It’s also important to be proactive. Stay healthy, drink water, and schedule time to do things that don’t involve work to keep yourself sane. You will be thankful later.
Things to remember
The most important thing when it comes to staying productive is to set realistic expectations. If you expect to do a week’s worth of work in one day, no amount of routine can make that possible. It’s also crucial to know when you’re getting burnt out. It is only healthy to take breaks and step away from the grind for awhile not only to stay functional but also to do your best work.
Also only do what works for you. Some people strive by getting up at 4am, but others don’t (me, definitely me). Some people work better at home than out and about and vice versa. Don’t plan your routine solely based on what you see other people doing or what #girlboss and ‘successful people’ do. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll find a groove that works for you, not what you think is supposed to work for you.