Have you ever had to study for an exam, finish a project for work, or make time for an event, only to realize that you’ve spent triple the time you intended only to get halfway done with whatever you were working on?
Well, I’ve been there, and I still work every day to improve my time efficiency. Today, I’m going to show you some of my personal tricks for squeezing more effectiveness out of my days, courtesy of the most productive people I know.
Put a Wall Between You and the World!
Everyone gets distracted once in a while, and most of us can be distracted very easily. I’ve lived with all sorts, from your classic party animals to human mice that you would never know lived with you if it weren’t for the extra dishes appearing out of nowhere.
Sometimes we allow distractions into our lives. If I don’t lock my phone into a time-sealed reinforced-steel lock box buried in ten feet of cement, I will inevitably try to look at it, waste five minutes of my day, and then repeat it two minutes later.
Being able to identify and remove distraction from your life while working is a great start to keeping yourself productive, and being more productive means more time doing what you enjoy!
Here’s a handy guide for anyone who might be looking for better ways to keep themselves on task, even for those with rowdy roommates and noisy neighbors:
- Try to find an agreement with the people you live with, establishing hours and days of the week reserved for work. This might include days that the others regularly leave or are otherwise outside of your dorm/apartment. If you can find some peace in those few hours to get things done, it won’t bother you as much when they are distracting while you are relaxing.
- Alternatively, you can change your schedule to better utilize your time, waking up a few hours earlier than everyone else, and staying up later than others can be a good option as long as you maintain a roughly similar sleep schedule.
- Try putting away anything that you KNOW will distract you, even if you REALLY don’t want to. Keep you phone in the other room, if you work online, disable any applications that don’t need to be open, take them off your desktop if that helps.
- Find a way to get into the mood – music and meditation can help you block out unnecessary distractions and reduce wasted time.
This list is absolutely NOT exhaustive, so if you’ve got any personal tricks you use to keep the distractions away let everyone know by putting it down in the comments, everyone will appreciate the help!
Set Goals AND Stick to Them!
Goals are a great way to increase productivity. Having a clear idea of what needs to be done stops you from wasting time on things that are less than useful. Its like distraction repellent. Any time you see yourself doing something that you shouldn’t be, you can just tug yourself back into the mindset you were in before, because you know EXACTLY where you need to be. No ifs ands or buts about it.
Something I’ve talked about before is the proper way to manage your schedule, which plays heavily into goal-setting and effective use of time. You can read the full bit here, but in general you want to be able to create a few “hard” goals, which MUST be finished by a certain date, going day by day is fine here. Anything that does not need to be done by a certain day but should be by the end of the week needs to have a rough sketch about the time you can work on it.
This is where that time from before comes in handy. Your roommates take off for 2-3 hours for sports/parties/study groups and BAM, you’ve got an opening to work on weekly tasks. This is extremely useful, because it means that should something come up earlier in the week, for instance something fun or more important, you have wiggle room in your schedule that won’t lock you down to a certain time. Overall it is a great quality-of-life improvement.
Eating Your Frogs, Even the Extra Slimy Ones.
Eating a frog sounds like one of the worst things you can imagine, which I guess is why that phrase has become so popular when referring to doing the thing you hate.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go grab a little green friend and hork him down, but you might reconsider doing the things you hate after what I’m about to tell you. Typically, the best time to finish your worst problems is when you are at your full potential, which for some people will be early in the morning sometime between 4-6 A. M, while personally I only hit that sweet spot around 10. Figuring this out is a case-by-case experience, and should come pretty naturally to you.
If you want to find your peak, it is probably hiding a few hours after your body normally wakes up, so for me that’s around 10, but some days I can be ready to go by 8-9 if I wake up especially early. Once you find this, you can use it to time your projects and hardest portion of work with the best time of day to tackle it.
It also helps to do things that are easy before you reach this point, this is a psychological trick I refer to as snowballing. Below I’ve written out a short checklist to get you on your way.
- Find your sweet spot of productivity, this is usually a few hours after naturally waking up, and will vary with your sleep schedule. Its best to find this when you are on vacation/break from school/work so that you are more likely to find that natural waking point.
- Once you’ve found this, set some easy goals for yourself early on, just something simple like fixing breakfast, playing a game, or working out is a great way to start out and prepare you for your prime-time!
- Use that sweet spot to burn through any tough problems you have that day, and make sure to block out distractions as much as possible to maximize your productivity.
The Mind-Killer – Multitasking
If you think about your brain as having multiple gears, forward, reverse, low, neutral, and parked, multitasking is like trying to shift between all of those as quickly as possible. Do that for a few hours and you will destroy your transmission.
The key to high productivity is having the end in mind before you even begin. No matter how many times you’ve been told that you are a great multi-tasker, or how much you think so yourself, I implore you to try shifting gears going top speed down the highway, and tell me how far you get before someone pulls you over.
So if you want to waste your own time, multitasking a great way to do that, but if you want to become the best you can be at literally ANYTHING you put your mind to, just stop putting your mind to other things while you’re doing it.
This is just part of my Project:Influence line-up which will be expanded on as I do more research into ways to become the best version of myself, which I will pass on to you guys. Any feedback is greatly appreciated, so tell me what you think down in the comments and if you have any ideas I would love to hear it!
If you have any questions for me personally I will answer them, usually within 12-24 hours via my email: email@example.com