3 Productivity Tips to Get Stuff Done

Dear fellow procrastinators, how is your quarantine going? For me, time management has become extremely challenging and I haven't been this unproductive in a while. Although I have the entire day to myself now, I find myself putting things off and watching yet another series on Netflix. If you are reading this article, I am assuming you're the same. I've found three simple tricks that have made my lazy days more productive and I hope you will find them helpful as well!

  1. 1. Break up your work time into 25 minutes

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    A handy trick is dividing up your time and taking breaks. Just set a timer to 25 minutes and start working on your project. The main rule is that you can't open your phone or do anything unrelated to your task during this time. When the 25 minutes is up, it's time to take a short break. You just repeat this as many times as you need. 

    25 minutes may not sound like much, but believe me, you can finish more than you think you can—especially if you're committed to not opening Instagram every five seconds. This is also a useful trick to start getting to work. As a procrastinator, I understand the feeling of not wanting to start your work in the first place. The first step is the hardest, but when you think you only have to concentrate for 25 minutes, that feels doable. Knowing that I have a break coming up also helps me to concentrate within the time frame that I'm given. 

    Taking breaks is crucial, as it gives your brain some time to relax so you can concentrate and be more productive. 

    For those of you who aren't confident that they can stay away from their phones for 25 minutes, I would suggest either turning it off or filming yourself in time-lapse mode while you work. This makes it much harder to do something on your phone. The fun part of filming yourself in time-lapse is you can see how much you worked afterwards. Whenever I do this, I just film my hands and see how fast my typings gets in time-lapse. There's something satisfying about watching yourself at work. 

    Another important thing is to try to time your breaks as well. You do not want to find yourself watching youtube for another 45 minutes during your break. I know it's tempting, but try to be strict and take five to ten minute breaks—this should give you enough time to stretch a bit or get a small snack. 

    Lastly, here's just a piece of advice I was given by my professor about taking breaks: try to stay away from your social media or any digital content. Even though scrolling through Instagram doesn't seem like that much of a task, your brain will be working on processing the information from your screen, so it may not be getting the rest it needs. 

  2. 2. Keep a distraction journal

    Another trick is to keep a "distraction journal". Have you ever felt the urge to do something else right when you start working? For example, you realize that you need to send an email, book a flight before it's full, or check your phone because there must be something important on it. All those random thoughts march into our brains once we get to the task. When you get distracted by these, you feel like you have to set aside your work and handle the distractions first by working on them. The reality is that these tasks will only slow down your work speed, and most of them can wait until you're done with your task. A distraction journal will help you to recognize this and keep you on track while you're working. 

    In a distraction journal, you write down all of the things that crossed your mind that made you want to stop working on your project, instead of interrupting your work flow to do them. It becomes like a reminder list to get back to after finishing your task. This way, you won't forget what you need to do and you'll be able to focus on the project you are working on at the moment. When you write down the distractions, you should also put why you need to do it in columns. If the distraction is something like "write an email to ~", that task has a legitimate reason. When you write things like "check my text" or "open Instagram," that doesn't have a good purpose—you just want to procrastinate. This has personally helped me to reduce my screen time when I have a pile of things to do since I was able to realize that most distractions really are unnecessary.

    My own journal is slightly different from what distraction journals usually look like—I've personalized it in a way that best suits my needs after trying it out. The video above will give you more detailed information on what a distraction journal is, so be sure to check it if you're interested. 

  3. 3. Change locations

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    The last tip is to change the space you are working in. Now, I understand that, since we are under quarantine, we can't just go to a nearby cafe or to the library and that this can be hard for some of us. Instead, what I do now is changing locations within my house. This may not work for everyone, but sometimes changing things up even just a little can help you find your motivation or clear your mind, giving you space for inspiration.  

    With the weather being so beautiful lately, I like doing my work in the sunroom, or in the yard where I can feel the breeze. I also sometimes work on the steps—it might sound weird, but in my house, it has the best lighting at sunset and feels good to work there at that time of the day. Other times I sit at the living room sofa or work at the counter while standing. I usually start working in my room, and move around the house whenever my concentration begins to go away. I have no idea if this will work for you, but it may be worth the try. You could even find the best spot to get your work done, and it might be somewhere you never expected! But don't forget to be conscious of your roommates or family. You don't want to get in their way. 

Hope these new, and maybe strange, tips will help you get more productive!