8 Smart Ways to Be More Productive
When you're working hard to get yourself into a great college, you have to be smart about how you use your time or you will burn out. Read on for my best tips on how to make the most of each day.
I have to admit that as a student, I was never really the best at time management. In high school, I worked myself so hard that I was pretty sure I was developing an ulcer. No joke, I went through about a bottle of Pepto Bismal every week. I was also known to regularly fall asleep at red lights due to exhaustion in college. It wasn’t until mid-way through grad school when I finally figured out a balance that allowed me to get everything done that I needed to, without aversely affecting my health (and the safety of thousands of people on the road). Let me go ahead and save you 10 years (and 50 bottles of Pepto Bismal) and let you in on what I learned.
1. Stop Multi-Tasking
You might think that multitasking helps you get more done (I know I was pretty proud of my multi-tasking skills), but research shows that we actually get things done twice as fast if we focus on one thing at a time. So pay attention when you’re in class, give your friends and family your full attention, and enjoy your meals. When it’s time to do homework, turn off your phone and give that your full attention too. Not only will you get things done faster, but you’ll enjoy them more too.
2. Identify your Must-Do’s
Everyday, choose up to 3 things that absolutely must get done today and give most of your focus to those. Any more than that becomes overwhelming, which induces panic and makes it hard to focus. After you finish those 3 things, you are free to work on others if you want. But don’t stress about them, and even if those 3 things are all that you get to, consider the day a success.
3. Do Your Most Dreaded Tasks First
Now that you have your 3 must-do items, do the one you hate the most first. You might think I’m crazy, but dreading a certain task leads to procrastination, no? If you do the thing you hate the most right away, not only will you feel incredibly productive, you won’t have to sit with that awful feeling all day.
4. Say No!
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, taking on more is craziness. Just think, if you agree to plan the fundraiser for your Model UN trip, that leaves you less time for your Physics project, college essays, and your best friend’s birthday party. Remember, you can only pick 3 priorities each day, so make sure you’re not bumping something more important!
5. Take a Break For Some Fun
And I mean everyday. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes. I promise you, you’ll come back feeling recharged and be even more productive than if you keep powering through. Maybe it’s watching an episode of your favorite show or meeting a friend at Starbucks. Just make sure to do something that makes life worth it everyday. No guilt allowed!
6. Give Social Media a Rest
I know, I know. Trying to convince teenagers to chill with social media is madness. But hear me out. Try tracking how much time you spend on social media each day and compare that to how much time you’re willing to give up for it. I’m willing to bet that it’s taking up more time than you realize. Let’s say you’re willing to give social media an hour of your day. Try breaking that into say, 4 15-minute chunks spread throughout the day and really try to limit yourself to that. It might be hard at first, but I promise it will be worth it. Besides, time spent on social media is linked to depression and lower grades. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
7. Get Enough Sleep
I would have made this number one, but I know you would have just stopped reading right there! Getting enough sleep is a huge problem for high school students due to early start times, but y’all really do need about 9 hours per night. I know hitting the sheets before Jimmy Fallon comes on isn’t too appealing. But lack of sleep hinders productivity and plays havoc with your emotions. Try to get a full 9 hours tonight and see how much more you get done tomorrow. It’s worth it, I swear!
8. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
At the end of the day, write down 3 things you accomplished that you’re proud of. You can write them in a notebook or use an app like Grid Diary. We tend to focus on all of the things we didn’t get done. But focusing on the things we accomplish increases our confidence and our motivation for tomorrow. And as hard as you work, you really do deserve to enjoy your accomplishments.
So there you go! Commit to trying at least one these tips each day this week and see how great it feels. Time management is a really important skill to learn if you want to be successful as an adult. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for learning this stuff now!