In a few weeks, the new semester is about to begin, so you know what that means. A new you! Just kidding. As someone who doesn't believe in temporary wishes and resolutions, I try my best to set long-term goals for myself. Specifically, I like taking tangible and practical steps to improve myself, rather than creating fluffy and whimsical hopes like "I will work hard this year!" for myself.
Keeping a clear goal of getting working done efficiently and without distraction in mind, I have come up with six ways that are actually effective when it's time to be productive. These are things I've picked up after years of experimenting which conditions work best for me. Keep in mind that they may not apply to everyone. Without further ado, I present to you ways to actually get work done.
1. Self control
The biggest hindrance to being productive is all the distractions that are present around us. Especially if the work involves using a computer or the Internet, social media, YouTube and texts are just waiting to interrupt your work ethic. I know it's hard, but do yourself a favor and keep your phone on Airplane Mode or your Mac on Do Not Disturb when there's a big assignment due. Your notifications can wait. Also, resist the urge to keep checking your email or Facebook so often. Just attempt to not click on those websites for a certain period of time. Not working? That's okay.
Possible solutions include:
Deleting bookmarks of distracting websites so it is not so easy to reach them.
Closing tabs that have social media open.
If you still cannot control yourself, then the most effective solution is getting a website blocker. If you have a Mac, you can download Self-Control. It is one of the best ones I've ever used. Once you block the websites for x amount of time, you cannot undo that action. You have to wait it out. Instead of crying out of regret, you might as well use that time to work!
It is so important to keep your life organized to get work done. This includes everything. Keep your work environment clean: a clean desk, a desktop with minimal apps, and a clear state of mind. Most importantly, having a schedule or a to-do list is a must. I never understood the point of planning out my day and writing down what assignments I have to complete in one place. I'd think it's too tedious and extra. But trust me, it helps so much. Instead of trying to memorize your tasks or logging them in 10 different places on your phone, have a homework or reminder app that keeps it all in one place. I recommend iStudiez, myHomework Student Planner, and The Homework App. You can upload your entire schedule and class times on it. It's a great way to mark your due dates and set priority for your assignments.
No matter how distraction-free and organized you become, it's all useless if you don't like what you are doing. And I get it. Sometimes the task is mundane and uninteresting. So, if you have a list of tasks to complete, save the one you are most excited about until the end. This way, you have something to look forward to. Most often, the boring assignments are the ones that are the most time-consuming and take the most effort. Get them done first when you have the most energy. Leave the fun stuff for later. And if you really can't find the motivation for any of your assignments, remind yourself what your priorities and goals are.
You want that 4.0 GPA.
You want to get into your choice grad school.
You want to make your parents proud.
You want to make all that college tuition worth it.
You just need to get through this intro class to get to the fun stuff later.
Whatever your reasons are, keep them in mind. It'll make you a whole lot stronger.
If you are doing something that takes a long time to complete, break it down into sections. For example, if you have to read 50 pages, reward yourself after every 10-15 pages with a YouTube video. If you have been working for 2 hours at a stretch, watch an episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix. If you have a lot of tasks to complete, take a break after finishing two. Try to manage your time well by either giving complete focus to your work or truly relaxing during your break time. Do not attempt to do both because it just slows everything down. It's crucial to not burn yourself out. Working hard and reaching success requires pushing your limits from time to time, but that being said, do not go into overkill mode. Your health and happiness always come first.
5. Be excited
Time flies when you have fun. Well, guess what? Work can actually be fun when you like what you are doing. Just think about it. Say you are really passionate about biology. Anytime you do biology homework, you give it your complete attention and finish quickly. So, even if you are doing work that doesn't excite you, try to find things that are exciting about it. For example, if you have to write a research paper to complete, and you hate finding sources, but love writing, look forward to that. If you are reading a history textbook and find it boring, try to formulate it as a story in your head to connect ideas and events. If you don't understand a concept and are more of a visual learner, find videos and graphics online to clear your doubts. Even the dullest things become exciting when you understand them well!
6. Just do it.
Nike's slogan "Just Do It." is pretty motivational. The best way to stop stressing about a task is to just do it and get it over with. Procrastination makes things worse. Instead of worrying about your workload and complaining about how much you are not looking forward to doing work, actually being productive is much more efficient. Once you start working, it becomes easy and you feel a burden lifted off of your shoulder. On that note, always look for ways to reduce the amount of work you have for tomorrow. If you have to wake up early tomorrow, pick out your clothes and organize your backpack the day before. If you have a lab coming up, read the procedure and protocol in advance to know what to expect. If you have spare time before class, read over today's lecture notes and slides to be prepared. There's always room to be extra ready as long as you think smart and act efficiently. Oh, your tomorrow self will be so proud of you!
Remember kids, it's all about your motivation and prioritization. With just a little bit of self-control and a few rewards along the way, nothing can stop you from hustling hard.