Good morning, hope you enjoyed your week. Today I am sharing a bunch of tips to increase productivity. Wether you’re going back to school in person, online or working from home, I’m sure you will gain something from this post!
Keep reading to find out more about Parkinson’s Law, Jeff Haden’s take on motivation + success, how a children’s book can be quite relevant and Classic Conditioning! If you’re pressed for time there are numbered headers for you to skim through and find what interests you.
1. Start Small + Form Habits
Things take time, and it can be intimidating if you bite of more than you can chew. So start small, like getting up 20 minutes earlier if you are trying to wake up earlier then move from there. Making a habit can be super beneficial, however, habits take 21 days to form, so don’t give up!
2. Wake up early (or earlier)
I want to preface this by saying if you know you’re most productive at night then do what is best for you BUT in a general sense, the earlier you wake up the more likely you will be more productive. You don’t need to change your routine drastically (like from 10am to 6am). Start slow, start by getting up a half hour earlier.
BONUS: Open curtains and windows. Let the sun shine! The light will stop the production of melatonin, the hormone that cause you to be sleepy, and thus allowing your body to be more awake. If you can, opening a window and allowing fresh air in or going outisde for a bit is also great to help you wake up.
3. Tidy + Clean + Make bed
It’s hard to focus if your space is a mess, so take a bit of time (either before bed or when you wake up) to tiddy up your space before starting work. It will help you feel better and distract you less if your environment is clean and uncluttered. Pick up the random things throughout your room/apt./house, put away dishes, wipe down your desk or work area etc.
Making your bed is also a great thing to get in the habit of doing. Not only does it make your space seem so much cleaner, it also deters you from crawling back into it.
4. To do list
Be detailed, include things such as shower, make bed, eat lunch etc. That way when you cross off things you gain motivation. Jeff Haden said success leads to motivation which leads to more success. So setting yourself up for success is very beneficial, almost like “fake it till you make it”.
5. Plan Ahead
Lay your clothes out the night before, pack your bag, plan your day/make to do list etc. This way you have less excuses about not getting stuff done.
6. Get ready for the day
Even if you are working from home, DON’T WEAR YOUR PJs (you can still wear something comfy though). Doing your hair or makeup, or even just having nice breakfast, whatever it is you need to do to feel like you are ready to conquer the day.
Bonus: Create a solid morning and night routine to help you body know when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep.
7. Time block + Set time goals
I will go into more detail about time blocking in its own post, but basically just “block out” specific hours of your day for certain tasks. You can even take it as far as scheduling your whole day, which for some people is super helpful. If you’re not about that schedule lifestyle, setting realistic time goals for a task is a great alterntive. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available, if you give yourself 1 hour to finish an assignment then you will likely finish it in that hour but if you give yourself 3 hours for that assignment you will also likely finish in 3 hours. This law heavily influences why people (myself included!) procrastinate and can still manage to get things done before the deadline.
8. Hold yourself accountable
This can be many ways, sitting at a coffee shop, FaceTiming friends and work together virtually, set your time goals with someone etc. If you get distracted from your phone easily, you can try apps like “Forest“, or giving your phone to a friend or family member and tell them to not let you have back till you finish *Insert what you’re needing to get done here*. My roommate and I will switch phones so we aren’t tempted to go on our phones for a set amount of time.
Bonus tip : My frist year english prof was super picky about phones, because if they’re out of sight they’re out of mind. If you leave it on the table even flipped over, your brain is still invested in it and even subconcionsly you’re thinking about it. This leads to more distractions and less efficient and lower quality work. If you’re in class, more chance you will miss something being taught!
9. Get Motivated
Finding or creating motivation is such a crutial part of being productive. It’s the primary reason for whatever it is you’re doing. Remember why you are doing what you are doing, FIND THAT REASON. That said, if you need extra motivation, try setting internal goal/reward system with yourself. For example, if you wake up by 7am you allow yourself to go pick up coffee, or if you work out everyday for a week you can have that extra dessert etc. Another great option is planning a study date with friends or have a realtime/live study with me video playing.
A famous story, from the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, (very shrot summary) is how Tom Sawyer had to whitewash (paint) this fence, but in the end he convinced other kids that it would be fun to paint a fence. Thus tricking them into thinking it was play.
So you’re wondering how does this relate to motivation? Basically, if something is ‘work’, then our brain is more reluctant to want to do it but if it’s ‘play’ then our brain wants to do it. So you can use this to trick yourself into wanting to do something by making it ‘play’.
10. Workout/move + Stretch
Trying to workout sometime through out the day (even better earlier in the day). This releases endorphins, which can trigger positive feelings. This is helpful when you want to be productive, so working out earlier in the day allows you to take advantage of this longer (rather than working out and going right to bed afterwards – also it can be harder to fall asleep if you just did an intense workout).
You don’t need to spend hours at the gym, just making sure you move your body periodically throughout the day can dramatically improve productivity by refocusing the mind and giving your body a break. Same goes for stretching, do what you can! Stretching your body can help you relax and release any tension that might have built up from sitting for a prolonged period of time.
11. Make a designated work area
This doesn’t have to be your own home office or anything fancy, just a place where you do work. This helps your brain distinguish from chill time to work time. Some qualities of a good area are, comfy (ergonomically friendly, NOT your bed), a desk, table or surface you can put all your things, good natural light (reduces eye strain which leads to more productivity) and minimal distractions. The next 3 tips coincide with this one.
12. Study Snacks/eat your meals + Tea
Having fresh, healthy, brain food is essential. When you want your mind or body to perform at its best, you need to fuel it properly. You also need to remember/make time for meals through out the day, skipping meals tend to do more harm than good. I also included tea here, becasue I really enjoy a cup of tea when I’m studying. I also like coffee but I find it makes me too jittery and harder for me to concentrate. If you are someone who relys on coffee for energy, try swithcing to matcha, it will give you a boost of energy but a steady energy so your less likely to crash mid day (start small and switch one cup a coffee a week to tea, then eventually one coffee each day etc.)
PS. don’t forget to drink lots of water!
13. Candles or essential oils
Creating a peaceful, focused environment is helpful when you have a lot to do. Using candles or essential oils can help. You can take this one step further and have a distinct candle or oil that you use whenever you work or study. Eventually your brain will associate that smell with being productive. This uses Ivan Pavlov’s Classic Conditioning. In case you have never heard of this, in short, Pavlov used bells and food to train dogs. He noticed that when a dog was given food, it salivated. He then rang a bell everytime they fed a dog. Eventually, he rang a bell without giving the dog food and the dog still salivated. This is due to the dog associating the sound of the bell with getting food.
Play some music to help you study/work to get you in a good mindset. You can even use the aforementioned theory to condition your self to be productive with a specific playlist or type of music. Some great options are classical, instrumental jazz, instrumental piano and instrumental soundtrack/scores. Check out my study playlist on Spotify!
15. Take breaks!
Taking breaks is very important, your mind and body need to recover in order to be efficient and put out your best work. There are many different methods for studying and productivity. I personally set a timer for an hour, and take about a 15 min break, and I try to not go on social media because I find I loose track of time really quick and find it hard to refocus after scrolling social media.
Similarly, take time to do things you enjoy, this allows your mind and body to reset and actually make you more productive when you return to work.
Thank you so much for reading, it was quite lengthy, but if I missed something you feel is helpful please leave a comment below.