Today’s post discusses 5 key productivity habits that have three purposes: to save you time and energy, help you manage your stress, and motivate you as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Plan the day the night before
The major tasks are written in my planner, but the more detailed outline is written in my bullet journal. If you plan on having a very busy day and want to make the most out of it, one of my key productivity essentials is to plan the next day by the hour.
Planning it the night before provides several advantages:
- Helps you manage stress (and more likely get better sleep)
- Gives you the opportunity to sort through what you did, what you must do and what needs to get done
- You wake up with a purpose: no need to sit around and think about what to do, which can easily take you an hour in itself – time you could have used to do your readings or notes, or any non-school-related tasks.
- You don’t feel overwhelmed when you wake up (IOW, scared to death of the day ahead of you): you have a structure and step-by-step guide to help you through the day.
What ever it is you need for the next day (books, documents, folders…), have it sorted out and on your desk, ready for you to get work done. This is crucial especially when you get motivated, however you can’t seem to find anything. Not only does this disrupt your “flow”, but it is also a total waste of time.
Keep things ORGANIZED
Does it show that I like to be organized? Even in a mess I know where everything is (although I wouldn’t suggest to live/work surrounded with clutter… especially during time of stress). Take the time to tidy up your desk/workspace. Pens in pencil cases and pen holders, cups and glasses back in the kitchen, clothes folded in drawers or hung in the wardrobe… You get the point.
But more specifically, books and papers that you plan on working on should be organized by chapter or section. So any class notes, assignments, personal notes, and homework that are tied in to a specific chapter, place them in a single pile and attach them using a binder clip.
You shouldn’t overwork yourself or your brain. Taking a break not only refreshes you but it also has its memory benefits. Those of you studying and memorizing should consider taking 10-15 minute breaks to let your brain consolidate the newly learned information.
- Memory consolidation: when a new memory trace is stored permanently in brain areas for future recall/recognition.
When you take a break you are also giving your brain a break by allowing to rehearse all this new and important information. If you cram for hours on end, what happens is that your brain wasn’t given the the chance to go over any of that information, and you are more likely to forget entire chunks of it.
Outside of the studying context, taking a few minutes to rest is actually more beneficial and efficient than working non-stop. Your creativity decreases, you start getting impatient, the quality of your work might diminish… basically, your battery wears out. It’s important to give yourself time to recharge, but don’t over do it either!
Change your mindset
Point number 5 is, I believe, the most crucial one out of the 5. You want to be productive? Then just be it, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it”. “You are what you do”. “Actions speak louder than words”. I can go on and on with the quotes, but the point that I am trying to get across is that we have choices to make in this life, some harder than others. Some that you are happy to make, and others that feel forced on you. Yet not doing anything is a choice in itself. It is very rare that life will hand you what you ask for or what you dream of, so you have to be the change you want in your life. “If you want something you’ve never had, do something you’ve never done”.
Even more important is not to look at success as the source of happiness. Happiness is the source of success. Be grateful that you are getting an education, that you are able to read, walk, talk and see. Be thankful for what you have, but also for what you don’t have. Being productive, working, or studying shouldn’t be a source of anxiety, unhappiness or something that you have to do but don’t want to do. Perhaps if you change your perspective and take it all as a learning experience, as a test of God, an opportunity for you to grow, then maybe it won’t feel as hard or daunting.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but I am sharing what worked (and still works) for me, and you can do what you want with it: adapt it to your own needs and goals, get inspiration from it, or discard it. Being productive and successful takes dedication, hard work and a lot of discipline, so make sure that you are investing your time in doing something that you love.