Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tips For Being More Productive

All I can think about lately are college apps: due soon, financial aid, interviews, acceptances and rejections. New problems are coming up all the time in speech and debate and journalism, and upcoming finals have me constantly on the edge about grades. My eyes are getting blurrier, and I've been finding myself falling asleep in class and losing coordination. I've been making a huge effort to become reduce procrastination, such as quitting all social media, but mostly I need to manage time better so I'm not so tired out from simply stressing about doing things all the time.

A lot of the time, why "just doing it" doesn't work for me is because of anxiety. It's really stupid, because anxiety in front of a crowd or during an argument is perfectly understandable, but when it comes out of nowhere and my hands shake so I can't hold a pencil, and my breathing gets more and more shallow until I'm barely taking in any air at all, and my heart rate escalates to 120BPM (I counted it once, and normally I'm at about 65 BPM, so definitely not good) it just gets to a point where trying to do anything is frustrating. I've gotten better at managing it, but a large part of it still comes from stress, so I want to make sure that I'm doing everything in my power to keep it under control.

The following are a few tips and notes I've collected over the year on how to be productive. Hopefully by writing them down and keeping them at the top of the page of this blog for a while, I can be reminded of them too, now and in the future, so I can stay on top of things and not get mired in work. It's even hard for me to follow these tips (I'm like Alice in Wonderland, "I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it") but after a while, they could simply become better habits. I've probably written a version of this post already, but these things change all the time for me, so I might as well put some more out there.

»Take 10 Break 2
This first tip actually has some science behind it. The Pomodoro technique was created by a chef for better efficiency in the kitchen. Originally, the measures were 25 minutes of productivity followed by a 5 minute break, and repeat. For studying, a common variation I've seen is 50 minutes studying, followed by a 10 minute break. Any ratio of 5:1 seems to work, and since I know I can't sit still for a very long time, I use the 10 minutes work, 2 minutes rest version of it. It's very fast-paced and not for everyone, but it keeps me moving.

»Take a Nap
This may seem counterintuitive, but a nap can actually be quite productive. I like to distinguish between "productive resting" and "unproductive resting" (I talk about that here) and napping is definitely of the "productive" variation. As I mentioned in my post on decision fatigue, a lot of decisions throughout the day can wear down on willpower. Rather than procrastinate (avoiding the issues), a nap can help reset and refresh willpower capabilities. When I wake up, I like to eat some sugar (dark chocolate works best for me) to recharge the batteries, tie my hair up, splash some cold water on my face, and get back to work. It might also be worth mentioning that before a nap, prepare all assignments so they're there on the table ready to go. It also makes waking up a lot easier because an uncluttered workspace is more inviting and approachable than a messy one.

»Let the Beat Rock
Upbeat (non-distracting) music keeps me focused and on task. I usually listen to "In Motion" from The Social Network soundtrack, as the techno beat and heartbeat rhythm works quite well for me. Sometimes, it also helps to just turn it off. When I start feeling agitated, I pause the music and give myself some silence, which usually relieves some agitation.

»Make Good Art
On a similar note, do something you enjoy while working on an assignment that needs to be finished. I used to be able to churn out literary gems in record time, but after the depression in March, writing has become mind-numbingly difficult. Now, when I'm trying get an essay done, I like to do something else like drawing on the side. Not doodles, but a full size drawing in my sketchbook. I think it's because I usually have so many things going on at once in my brain that working on two things at once can be a huge improvement over thinking ten things at once. Inspiration comes from doing things, and when I'm focused on art, it let me think without getting distracted by all the other things I have to do.

»Time Yourself
I tried this once while doing math homework, and it actually really helped with future assignments. I used to view math as this daunting assignment that takes forever, but on one day, I decided to use a timer to see how long it would take me to do the homework. It was less that an hour. Doing this helped me create more realistic expectations for how long an assignment will take, instead of viewing everything as an overwhelming, never-ending lump.

»Find the Best Time or Environment
This one is the hardest because for me because I cannot guarantee what kind of environment will be most productive at any time. I know for sure that it's extremely hard to me to study when the siblings are playing instruments, or other kids are over. I usually work best when it's completely quiet, but sometimes a little bit of soft background noise can help. Also, I get more done during the AM hours, but of course that isn't socially acceptable, and it doesn't work with my schedule, so I'm still working on getting to sleep earlier. Other than that, I'm more productive in the afternoons if I haven't done anything all morning, but getting out of bed at 3pm on weekends is also frowned upon.

Either way, I'm exhausted from being around people all day when I get home from school (especially on Thursdays, when I don't get home until 7pm), so I need a bit of recharge time. Naps and dinner are good, and a bit of entertainment so I can rest is forgivable. Before I quit all my social media, I wouldn't start working on homework until 11, and finish at 1, which is completely unhealthy. Now, without social media and with block scheduling, I have a lot less homework per day and I can do much of it at school during tutorial. I've been trying to get into a habit of doing homework from 8pm to 10pm, and on days when I've stuck to that schedule, I find that I'm actually doing everything in a very focused productive manner. I've also worked out a schedule of which days I'm going to be focusing on certain extracurriculars and college apps, so I'm interested to see how that works out (of course, it'll be obsolete by second semester when college apps are done.)

So, there are six tips on how to be more productive. Hopefully you can benefit from them as well in the new year, and I will try to refer back to it in times of need so I can stay in control of my life as well. Toodley-pip! ◊

No comments:

Post a Comment