I’m definitely one of those people who has very dichotomous work styles. Some days, I come home from work and sit on the left side of the couch and don’t get up for the next 6.5 hours.
Other days I buzz through my twenty-item to-do list and still find myself bubbling with energy. And now with the last semester of grad school starting up, two internships, bookmaking, and all the big extra projects like hunting for jobs and studying for exams going on, I need to channel that energy-me as much as possible. This led me, of course, to thinking about my productivity and what things I do that increase it.
Now, I could offer you some tips like make a list and check things off, and those things obviously work great. But because I’m me, and it’s Monday, and offbeat is my style, I offer you instead the following three productivity tips.
1) Headphones are your best friend, and repetition is gold.
If you live alone, like I do, you probably don’t use headphones much. There’s no one else to be bothered by the music, after all, and not alot of sounds to distract you from your work. However, the other day my landlady’s tv was rattling my ceiling, so I stuck my headphones in and when I looked up, I’d been working for a solid hour and a half without even noticing it. There’s something about eliminating even the silences from the stuff your brain has to filter that really helps focus you on the work at hand. If you’re having trouble, I definitely recommend plugging in.
Along this theme, the music you choose is incredibly important. My choices vary wildly based on what I’m doing. For a long time, Viva La Vida by Coldplay, Church Music by David Crowder, and Innocence and Instinct by Red were my go-to study music. That was in college, in the days of writing my thesis and my international issues paper. Last year, it was the French music station on Pandora. Last semester, it was Barton Hollow by the Civil Wars. This semester, it’s one song – Gospel, by the Marchfourth Marching Band. Before I’ve liked more contemplative things, this semester I need the jazzy, driving beat to pump me up. It doesn’t hurt that it’s from Monsters University.
When I write, I choose music that fits the mood of the story moreso than songs that are a precise match. I don’t want those words to bleed into mine, but I need the feel of it to help me find my way. My current book is being written to God’s Not Dead by the Newsboys. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the book, just the right mix of beats and energy. And if you’re not getting done what you’re trying to, then hey – dance party!
2) Chart it and stay accountable.
For writing, I use the oft-promoted sticker method. I get a star for 1k, a cupcake for 3k, and a balloon for 5k. Last month, I only missed four days, because no matter how terrible I feel, I hate seeing that empty space on my calendar and I will do whatever it takes to have a sticker each day. I also have little numbers written on each day of how many words I need to stay on goal.
For studying, I have a calendar I cross off with big red x’s each day that I successfully complete the work I’ve laid out for myself. I also keep a to-do list of assorted tasks in my calendar and check them off as I go.
However it works for you, being able to mark down what you’ve accomplished is a huge encouragement. Even if you have to dig back to your kindergarten days, I think you’ll be surprised how much a little accountability to yourself can improve your focus.
3) Channel your inner Leslie Knope
Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows ever ever, and as ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes I just have to ask myself, what would Leslie do right now? Leslie is driven, passionate, over the top, focused, and determined to do whatever she has to to make her projects and ideas happen. So whenever I’m torn between holding down the couch and actually working toward goals, I ask myself what Leslie would do. And the answer is always As Much As Possible.
So, basically you now know all my silly little secrets for catching up and staying caught up on one million things. I know things like listening to music, writing to-do lists, and thinking positive thoughts of the end goal aren’t anything new, but now you have before you the goofy spins I put on them as well. Whatever works for you. To close, I’ll add a Tip 3.5 – if in doubt, do what I do, and take a normal thing and make it crazy.