The weather has turned golden and the summer is finally starting to pick up. But with so much temptation to spend all of our time at the beach, it’s difficult to find motivation to get our pesky work done.
To help, we’ve rounded up some of our best productivity hacks, so you can get that work done in record time and do the things that really matter, like taking a nap on the deck.
Have a task you’re dreading or putting off? Do it first thing when you wake up.
In the case of one of our content creators, she does the tasks she is dreading before she even eats breakfast or checks her emails in the morning. This way, you’re fresh and able to tackle the project before other things get in the way or give you an excuse to put it aside.
This productivity hack may also make you feel better throughout the day, since you won’t have that nagging feeling that you’re not doing something you’re supposed to.
If you don’t want to take our word for it, Mark Twain once said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Translate your to-do list into your calendar
To get a really good sense of what you can accomplish in a day, spend the first 15-20 minutes every morning planning out your day – and we mean really plan it out.
Block out the times you need for appointments, class, work, etc – and don’t forget to include the time you will need to travel to each of these. Then put in time for breaks (see our previous post on the Pomodoro Technique and how to balance work and breaks).
With the framework of your day complete, fit in specific work times to tackle your to-do list, and make sure you’re specific with your goals. Ie. block in half an hour to read that research paper, or give yourself 20 minutes to sketch an outline for your assignment.
By getting into the habit of scheduling your day rather than just assuming you will find time to get it all done, you will begin to see how much time things actually take you. This will go a long way when it comes to agreeing to more commitments and will help you put aside the time you need to actually get your work done.
Have you ever noticed how when you don’t have a hard deadline, even the smallest tasks become agonizing to finish? Something as simple as cleaning your kitchen can grow into a megalithic task, spreading out to take up your entire day.
If this is you, you might have fallen victim to Parkinson’s Law, a piece of advice which says that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
In essence, if you give yourself a week to write a paper, it will take the week. If you give yourself the afternoon, somehow, you will find a way to complete the paper within the span of an afternoon.
The trick here is hard deadlines – do something to make it stick, like promise you’ll forward the paper to your friend for reading at a specific time, or have family scheduled to come over to your house for dinner after you clean the kitchen. This forces you to get the job done in that time frame.
Be careful to not overload yourself; sometimes us slowing down is a way of our brains communicating that we need a break.
Designate time each day to go through your emails and phone notifications 📧📱
There’s so much going on in our digital lives that it’s easy to stop realizing just how many different things pull at our attention. Texts, notifications, reminders, emails….They just blend into our environment. But what we don’t realize is how easy it is for those constant notifications to pull our attention away from what we want to focus on.
Even if it’s just five minutes of reading that email or responding to that text – the time it takes to break your concentration from what you’re working on, go read the notification, respond, and then try to get back into the workflow you had before (if you’re not completely distracted) adds up throughout the day.
A better way of staying on top of emails and texts is to make time in your day – say an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon – to sit down and go through these notifications and respond accordingly. Outside of those times, silence your phone and your computer notifications so you can focus on the work you really need to get done.
Prioritize your work – don’t spend the same amount of time on an assignment worth 2% than an assignment worth 20%.
There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Readings, lectures, studying, work, internships…the list goes on 🤯. Naturally, we always want to put our best work out there, but when you’re feeling crunched for time you have to make sure the benefit matches your effort.
A quick way to get this done is to roughly map out your week – how much time do you have to focus on homework?
⏰ Then divide it up; if you have two assignments due this week – one worth 2% and one worth 20% of your final grade – and only 8 hours to work on those assignments, you should realistically be spending 10x the time on the bigger assignment that the smaller one. This would mean spending 30 minutes to an hour on the smaller assignment, and up to nine hours on the larger assignment.
By being honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate to your assignments, you will be able to manage your time more effectively – helping you decrease stress and become more productive over time.
Keep a notebook 📒 or a piece of paper on your desk for a “brain dump”, so you don’t get distracted by other thoughts or to-do lists.
Ever sit down to focus on one task, only to be distracted by the million other things you have to accomplish? 🤯 Suddenly, the two hours you have put aside to study for that test is gone, spent replying to a bunch of e-mails and writing down notes for that essay – all things that you have to do “before you forget” 🙋🏻♀️
An easy way to get around this is to keep a notebook (or open up a word doc on your computer) specifically for a “brain dump” 🧠. This is the place where you write down all of those distracting thoughts that you don’t want to forget. By writing them down in one, easily accessible place, you don’t have to worry that you will forget, and will feel less pressure to act on those thoughts right now – letting you focus on what you set out to do in the first place.