I'll be honest. I'm not the most studious person. I have to play tricks on myself to get work done. When I was in college I realized when I took 12 units a quarter I couldn't get my work done, but when I was taking 20 units I was majorly productive. I am the kind of person that feels alive when I have endless amounts of work. (Don't get me wrong, it stresses me out like a mother. But part of me likes the excitement and race against the clock.) With all that said, I know what makes me more productive than my natural tendencies. I definitely have problems being productive, but these items certainly help me boost productivity and maybe it could help you!
1. Go to bed early. Wake up early. I get more work done between 8am - 12pm than I do from noon to midnight. Something about the mornings and the beautiful daylight that helps me focus. I remember what the light looked like in the mornings when I was in college in my lab. I remember how the air changed, and I loved working in that fresh environment. My labmates and I used to tune into the same jazz radio station on each of our computers to have surround-sound jazz as we worked on our projects. I know how great it feels to wake up early to start work and see the sun rise as I work. I long for it most days, in fact.
2. Exercise and drink lots of water. Whenever I'm tired and exhausted exercising and drinking water gives me the long lasting boost of energy I need to get through the exhaustion. It's pretty good for health, too.
3. Work in good light. Sunlight and compact fluorescents are best for me. I like daylight light. Yellow light really kills my mood and makes me tired. very tired.
4. Separate and prioritize to-do lists. I break down my to-dos to the very basic of tasks. Say I have to edit a wedding. I list all the tasks needed to complete that project such as import photos, add meta data, cull first round, cull second round, edit, retouch….and so on. That helps me feel like I'm making progress however small. I try to remind myself that any progress is good progress. I easily and often feel overwhelmed with work nowadays so any little accomplishment is crazy empowering. I also have lists for all the projects I need to edit, my business projects and my personal projects, and within those lists I prioritize my projects. Sorting all my tasks into the days of the week, enables me to plan out my week so I know which projects are most pressing and which can hold off a bit. I keep all these lists and tasks in order with the website/app, TeuxDeux. It syncs on my computer, phone and ipad, so I can easily keep track of all the things I need to get done. I like it because it shows a week of to-do items and all project lists on a single browser window on the web. My favorite part of it is the ability to cross items off my lists and the ability to move around tasks.
5. Listen to the same music or watch the same movie in never-ending loops. I always get distracted and have always had a hard time focusing. For the month of January I pretty much watched "You've Got Mail" the entire time I was working. So that's about 12 hours a day, seven days a week of one single movie. If I'm not watching a movie I'm usually listening to a single song on repeat. My most played song was played 2507 times which means I listened to it for about 126 hours. So this also why I've also watched the Band of Brothers Series more than 20 times.
6. Allow myself small victories. I've always been my toughest critic. I'm not sure where it's from. Some might thing it's from growing up Chinese, but my parents were actually pretty good about not pressuring me. They just always encouraged me to do my best in whatever I was doing. But somehow I'm always criticizing my best until I reached adulthood and allowed myself small victories. I try to remind myself that "small" accomplishments are still accomplishments, and I shouldn't be so hard on myself. So relishing in these small victories actually encourages me to keep going. Whereas when I'd beat myself up about everything I couldn't get anything done because I felt so defeated.
7. Keep an organize desk and keep a trash bin close. Seems pretty easy, but it really helps me. It eliminates distractions while I'm at my computer and prevents things like going through my mail from piling up to unmanageable sizes. Keeping a trash bin close has been good for me to constantly throw stuff away to be clutter free.
8. Keep a (nearly) empty inbox. I feel overwhelmed when my inbox is full, as if all these emails are pressuring me. I need to have a mostly empty inbox to feel sane and get work done. When I get emails I try to respond as soon as I receive them to keep them at a manageable level as well.
9. Insert personal joys to break up the endless work. Having a quick half hour break to read or clean or scrapbook or watch Nashville is lets my mind rest. The break makes me feel like I've just pressed the refresh button on my productivity.
10. Turn my phone on "do not disturb" mode or turn off my wifi. So this is a major thing for me. My phone and the internet are the worst time wasters. And the sounds and screens lighting up seriously distracts me. So when I really need to get work done I turn it all off.
11. Love my work and feel challenged. This of course is the most important to me. I have to do what I love. That's just always been me. I've never been a person to do a job for the money. I have to enjoy it to really be productively. And it certainly can't be mindless work. I'd get bored, miserable and overwhelmed much too easily if I didn't love the work and the people.
*The picture above is of Melissa Esplin doing her thang at Alt Summit.