Productivity 101: How to Get Through Your To-Do List
You’re a few weeks into the semester and it’s time to really learn how to buckle down and get things done. If you thought you had a lot of work the first week, just wait until your teachers start adding last-minute assignments to the syllabus. Here are a few easy ways to make your day more productive.
Depending on how you work, you may want to start small and work your way up to the big stuff. For some, however, starting with the most important task, such as your studies, may be a more effective way to get everything done.
If you don’t know where to start, try to worry more about the time-sensitive items on your todo list. That doesn’t mean blow off your essay until the day before its due, it means you need to work on understanding urgency vs. importance.
I get it; we all think that sending text messages here and there only steals like five minutes of your day. And that random Facebook or Twitter update is only a few seconds, right? Well, according to a recent study by The Buntin Group, the average person spends about 23 hours a week on email, texting, and social media sites.
If you stop responding to texts, Facebook notifications, and emails during the day, you could gain 23 hours a week; that’s almost an entire day!
There’s an App For That
Now that you’ve put your phone on airplane mode for the day, you can still listen to music and access the majority of your apps. Find one that works for you so you can keep everything organized.
I’m also a firm believer in putting small tasks on the to-do list. Then, when you cross off “3-Mile Run, Eat Breakfast, Read Chapter 4 of Physiology,” all before 10am, you feel like you can accomplish just about anything.
Plan Feeding Times
Yes, I said “feeding times,” because that’s what we’re doing when we eat alone — just feeding ourselves. If you want to be productive, you don’t have to be a hermit, but you probably can’t eat every meal socially.
Based on your schedule, it might be nice to enjoy lunch or dinner with friends and roommates, so plan easy or portable meals the rest of the time. Baby carrots, nuts, yogurt, and a banana make a good breakfast or lunch, or you can settle into a quiet café to study over hot soup and coffee.
Trips to the dining hall with friends take an hour or two, while a quick salad alone takes only 5-10 minutes to eat.
Yes, you should take breaks. Despite the previous tip, it is important to have some sort of an outlet every day, and you should really take a short break from your computer, or paper, or textbook at least every two hours. Social hour is great, but it isn’t productive to spend two hours at the dining hall for breakfast, and then again for lunch and dinner.
Consider this schedule: quick breakfast + internet checking; 4 hours of studying and/or class with 10-30-minute snack or nap break; lunch for 1 hour with friends; library and/or class for 3 hours with 20-minute snack or nap break. This is a great way to get a lot done while still having human contact during the day, and the evening is yours for studying or socializing. (Adjust according to your class schedule.)
Don’t Obsess Over Your Tasks
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our to-do lists and feel as if we’re slowly cracking under the pressure of “being productive.” This obsession with accomplishing more often turns against us, causing a need to escape by procrastinating. Eventually, you’ll become less productive and yet find yourself constantly “busy” with something related to your important tasks.
So take those breaks we talked about and find a good work-life balance to avoid this trap.
Take a Day Off
This might seem like complete nonsense and totally out of place on a list for how to be productive; however, if you take a day off, you will give yourself something to look forward to, and a reward for completing a busy week. It also gives you a goal day in which to complete everything on your to-do list.
Try to schedule your week to give yourself a Saturday or Monday off from studying and take a trip to the beach, the movies, or into a nearby city for something different. This is the day you’re allowed to watch The Real Housewives or sit in front of your Facebook like a drone for hours on end.
Have a Routine
Much like an exercise regimen, a daily routine is something that need to be practiced regularly in order to have an effect. You don’t need to schedule every minute of your day, but getting into a certain groove can help you feel comfortable working — allowing you to get more done, relax, and have fun. Something as simple as going to bed at a certain time every night can help you wake up feeling rested and motivated to work.
Image: Rob Warde
About the Authors: Caitlin Self is the grammatically correct writer behind Frugal Nutrition, and contributes to a number of health, travel, and eco-friendly websites and blogs. Mark Frost is the editor-in-chief of HackCollege, a lover of web design, and a documentary fiend.