I am not, by nature, a productive person. Not unless you consider maintaining 12+ Pinterest boards, keeping tabs on any social media happenings, voraciously working through all 8 seasons of How I Met You Mother on Netflix, and providing the cat with frequent cuddles productive.
Over the years, though, I have devised some tried and true strategies to get done everything I need to. I’ve even split the strategies into two different categories based on personal preference. Decide which strategy type will work for you and then, my friend, you will be well on your way to getting things done.
Bits and Pieces
This strategy is based on the idea that doing little things over time adds up to big things. It can be appealing if you have difficulty sticking with any one thing for more than a half hour (or even a few minutes) or get overwhelmed easily. Avoid it if the thought of small but frequent “To Dos” hanging over your head is stressful or you need to get something done fast.
1) 5 On/5 Off
For this one, first set a clear goal. Let’s say you want to clean your bedroom. You will then set a timer for 5 minutes. In that 5 minutes do as much as you possibly can. Make your bed, or pick up stray socks off the floor. Windex a mirror. Whatever. Just make sure you work hard for that 5 minutes. Then, when the timer goes off, reward yourself with 5 minutes of something “fun,” such as watching 5 minutes of your favorite show on Netflix or flipping through a magazine. As soon as the timer chimes get right back to cleaning intensely for 5 minutes. Continue until your goal is reached.
2) Spread It Out
This one is for goals that might be a bit bigger or more time consuming, such as cleaning the entire house. As a kid I was always in awe of my mother’s ability to clean the entire house in a single sitting every Friday night. If, like me, you find that the thought of tackling such a task all at once is about as appealing as a root canal, then Spread It Out is for you.
You’ll want to start by making a list of all the things you need to do to clean the house. Your list might look something like this:
- Clean bathrooms
- Straighten/Tidy Up
Rather than trying to do all of these things in one day, spread them out so that each day has a different assigned chore, like so:
- Thursday- Bathrooms
- Friday- Vacuum
- Saturday- Straighten/Tidy Up
Only having one thing to do each day makes the entire process seem much more reasonable, in my opinion. I may not have the energy to clean the whole house at the end of a long day, but I can probably manage a little dusting.
All At Once
Does the thought of waiting until the last minute to finish something give you nightmares? Would you rather just get things done and over with? Or, conversely, did you accidentally “forget” to do something that you now have to finish as soon as possible? Then you should go with the All At Once strategy. While it takes some willpower to slough through a long To Do list, this strategy has the advantage of being quicker than Bits and Pieces and gives you the piece of mind you can only get from being done, done, done.
1) Eliminate Distractions
Before you begin, consider what, if anything, may occur to distract you from your task. Are you planning to write a paper, but have a text from you mom requesting that you call her? Rather than starting on your paper only to be distracted by a phone call from mommy dearest an hour later, go ahead and get that out of the way. Take your dog for a walk, send that email you’ve been putting off, whatever. Just go ahead and finish off those little things that will only serve as excuses to stop working (and thus lose momentum) later.
Additionally, don’t set yourself up for failure. Avoid working with a brand new episode of The Walking Dead on in the background. Stay away from your friends who don’t have work to do. You can do all of that when you’re through.
2) Have It All
Similar to the idea above, make sure you have everything you need before you officially begin. Have your textbook nearby, a cup of coffee in reach, and a steady supply of pens and paper. This will prevent you from having to stop mid work session because you can’t continue as you are.
3) Make It Motivating
Have an outline of exactly what you need to get done. As you go, check things off. It makes it much easier to see what you’ve already finished and what’s left to do. Plus, it’s really exciting to see the list get shorter and shorter. Also feel free to partake in a low distraction activity (like listening to music) simultaneously to help you get through it.
4) Just Do It
Not to sound like a Nike commercial, but sometimes you have to just suck it up and go. Do it because you know how much better you’ll feel when it’s done. Do it because you have to. Just do it!
And that is how I have managed to turn myself into a semi-productive human. Just the fact that you’ve managed to read this far indicates you’re serious about getting things done, so what are you waiting for? Make a plan and get going!