1. Productivity is connected to intent. If you intend to get specific work done, you are more likely to get it done. Make sure to decide what you plan on achieving each day and then focus on accomplishing those tasks. If you are just stuck in doing what you usually do and go through your usual routine, stop for a moment and consider whether the tasks you're completing are connected to what's most important and valuable to you and to your work.
2. Plan out your top 3 tasks you plan on accomplishing. Choose three big things/tasks you plan on tackling the next day. That way, as soon as you wake up, you know what you need to get done. Once achieved, you should feel productive!
3. Complete the most important tasks first! As Franklin Covey would suggest, take care of your big rocks first, not the grains of sand. If you picture a jar filled with rocks and sand, if you tackle the big rocks, the sand will filter around those rocks, whereas if you start with sand, not all the big rocks will fit in the jar. Those who work long hours aren't necessarily more productive, they may just be dealing with sand all day, but if you take care of your big rocks in half the time, you were much more productive!
4. Avoid email or other internet distractions for the first hour of your work day. This is very difficult, I know. But if you can spend one hour doing what's most important to you before you check your email, your social media sites, etc, you'll actually get the work done that matters to you most. This is of course different if your work is based around internet usage. Even still, find a way to focus on your tasks first before you get sucked into the email and internet rabbit hole. Use the internet as a reward after you completed solid work. If an hour feels too long, try at least 15 minutes of work before you eventually build up to an hour of productive work!
5. Give yourself fake deadlines. Many of us love to procrastinate, in fact, we've all procrastinated at some time or another. That's because if a deadline is too far off in the distance, why tackle it now? Instead, give yourself a fake deadline of at least a week before it's due, or sooner rather than later, and get it done. See how this impacts your work. I've noticed a great difference in my stress levels when I get things done earlier. Sometimes when you're given a small window of time, you can be more productive in a short amount of time rather than being given weeks to complete a project.
6. Reward yourself. In graduate school, I would reward myself with food only once I finished a draft of my work. Okay, I realize this was somewhat crazy and definitely unhealthy, but it instilled a level of focus in my work that allows me to just focus on one task until I feel ready for a break and a mini reward (tea, chocolate, time with loved ones, etc). But please, do eat while you work!
What helps you be most productive?
It's important to love what you do and share your love for your work with others.
The challenge of loving what you do - it's called a job. Most people just want to get through their day at their job until they can finally do something they love. There are, of course, the exceptions to the rule - those who actually love their jobs! Now, many more of us can join the "I love my job" movement if we shift our mindset and discover what we actually love about our jobs, make small changes in our daily routine to make us happier, and set goals for ourselves so we feel like we're making a difference.
Sometimes we can get lost in the grind of our daily tasks and to do lists. We can lose sight of what's important.
Moreover, negative moments can infiltrate our being and take our joy hostage. No matter how many things go right, one negative moment can launch us into a negativity spiral. Work life quickly turns bleak and the glimmer of a new job on the horizon can feel like the answer. It's just a temporary fix - new setting and new people, but the same issues will arise.
The issues lie with our mindset, not our jobs. If we tend to look at our work life or our personal life in a negative way, no matter the job or the relationship, negativity will feed off of more negativity. But, if we approach our work from a positive outlook, appreciate what we have, and focus on what we actually love about our job, we thrive. And no matter the work place, this kind of positive outlook will encourage more joy and happiness in the work place. Positive thinking can spread like wildfire. Remember, 10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we choose to react to it! How will you choose to react to moments in your own life?
Of course, there are exceptions where the job/work environment/fit just isn't right and change is necessary. But in many cases, employees get restless and just want out. Moving on to another position doesn't always solve the problem.
Common Problem: It's the same job year in and year out and I'm getting bored.
Possible solution: Ask for a shift in responsibilities, a different project to work on, or a different seat on the bus in that organization. Sometimes just a slight change in role and responsibilities can give you that feeling of a new job. If that can't change, then think about new ways you can improve your own work, set a goal for yourself in terms of what you want to master and go for it! While some things may be completely out of your control, focus on what is in your control - what slight changes can you make so your job is more enjoyable?
Common Problem: I just don't like what I do.
Possible solution: Really? Nothing about it is appealing to you? Think about what made you apply to that job or reach out to that company in the first place. Did you want to join the work environment? The company culture? Was there some task or part of the job that seemed particularly appealing? Remember where it all started and focus on appreciating what you like about the job. Think about what aspect of your job you actually like. Do you enjoy being social? Do you enjoy helping others? Do you love making a difference? Are there people at your job you really enjoy working with? Do more of that! Make plans to meet with those co-workers more regularly to lift you up - do more of what you enjoy!
Common Problem: I just have got to get through the day and then I'll be OK.
Possible solution: Oh boy, what's going on? By the way, you're not alone in feeling this. Are you getting sucked into the negativity spiral? Are things really that bad or are you just stuck in a story you're telling yourself about how bad your job is. Are you surrounded by others who are negative about the workplace? Is there something else going on in your life impacting your ability to do good work? Think of what you can do before the work day to lift your spirits and start the day off in a positive state of mind. I recommend waking up 15-30 minutes earlier than you usually do to avoid rushing - as this can often cause anxiety and frustration.
Now, show your love for that job! Express gratitude and appreciation for the job you have. Actually, tell someone you work with what you appreciate about the job! And show that you love your job with the customers too! It will make everything more pleasant for every party! When good news starts spreading, it can actually make others think about what they appreciate too!
That being said, if you actually hate what you do, please, for everyone involved, stop doing it and find something else you enjoy.
What do you love about your job? How will you share the love?
Happy Mother's Day! To all mothers and mothers to be out there - I hope today is a joyful one, filled with celebration, laughter, and love. Anytime I think of mother's day, or father's day, valentine's day, teacher appreciation week, etc, I realize we don't celebrate those that matter to us enough. Let today be a reminder to not only celebrate our mothers, but also to appreciate all those we care about in our lives on a regular basis. We will never regret the things we say if they come from the heart, but we will always regret the things we don't do or don't say. So, today, and everyday, take the time to appreciate someone you care about and let them know about it!
I realize I haven't actually said some of these things to my mother, so today, publicly, I'm thanking her for three important lessons she's taught me and am passing them on to you!
1. Just do it. No, my mom doesn't work for Nike, but she sure is great at living their brand. My mother encouraged me to go for anything - to reach out to anyone, and to do just do it. She was the one that taught me to apply to jobs that weren't posted or didn't exist yet. She would encourage me to do my research, reach out to people I admired, contact organizations I wanted to work for, and see if there could be a way that I could be of service to them. Every job I've had (except for when I was a bartender at Applebee's) I received because I took the initiative and reached out, not because I searched for job postings and went through the typical application process.
I still carry this with me and share this with all my students. My mom says: "What's the worst that will happen? You don't hear from them, or they say they're not interested. And if you didn't reach out in the first place, it's like you already said no to yourself. Let them be the ones to say no. But what if they say yes?" She's right.
Go for what you want, do your research, and reach out to those you want to meet, you want to work with, and the ones you want to help.
2. The power of play: I will never forget one brutal winter in Vienna, Austria, when my brothers and I were feeling down because we were stuck inside our apartment. My mother put on her bathing suit, turned up the heater, laid out some beach towels on the floor in the hallway and pretended like she was catching some rays. We were bewildered. She invited us to join her at the 'beach'. We smiled. She then offered to bring us some beach drinks (after all with the little heater cranked so high, it was quite hot). That's when she hooked us. She told us to get our bathing suits on and off we ran to put on our suits. We all 'laid out' on our towels and imagined we were under the hot sun on a wonderful warm sunny beach day, drinking our cold drinks with straws, and fancy little paper umbrellas my mom had from a left-over dinner party.
My mother, with some creativity and imagination, brought us on a playful journey and completely transformed our moods. We bought into the experience, we fully participated, our spirits were lifted, and it's a day I forever cherish as part of my childhood experience. This is just one example of many, when my mother used her creativity and imagination to play with us. She is the reason I became fascinated with play and theatre as a learning medium, since one can be transported to any time, any place, and become anyone.
3. The importance of humor. My mother is hilarious and reminds me to not take things too seriously. I cherish those moments of being silly with her! I remember a time where she had the unfortunate case of the runs, and would even say: "Ah, this is a bunch of crap!" I couldn't help but laugh! She would laugh too. My mom has inspired me to use humor in my classroom. Laughter unites a group.
I remembered the power of humor on Friday, as my students were on their fourth and final day of standardized testing and they were silently waiting for the time to run out. They looked miserable. All had finished but were sitting in silence. But instead of telling them testing was over, I began writing on the board. At first, I wrote what was happening next, what classrooms they would go to as we were following a special schedule, and then, I smiled, and I wrote what had happened to me two days prior. I wrote:
"A dog bit me two days ago." I turned around to see a few kids smiling and few kids looking concerned. I smiled.
"This dog bit me in my bottom." They were desperately trying to hold in their laughter.
"And this dog, tore my jeans open and actually punctured the skin." After each sentence, I looked at the kids, wiggled my eyebrows, grimaced and smiled again. These 7th graders were still silent but they were all smiling and bursting at the seams.
Then I wrote: "Today, my car had a flat tire." And then I wrote: "Uber". I reacted to each sentence on the board physically in silent pantomime. At this point kids were chuckling and time was up.
Now these statements were all true! I was bitten by a dog a few days ago, and I did have a flat tire! And while those instances might have been painful or upsetting at the time, I learned from my mother to find humor in all situations. When I finally told them we could start talking again, we were able to laugh about it all together. I encouraged them to stay positive and appreciate things in life, especially when they encounter obstacles.
Humor is so important - real laughter is contagious and just spreads happiness in the room. Plus, laughing burns calories and could even help you live longer - it's just good for you! So thank you, mom, for all that you've taught and continue to teach me. I love you.
What have you learned from your mother? If you're a mom, what do you hope your kids will learn from you?
We waste too much time. We even sell products to help us waste time, but they are designed to make us think we're being efficient. Don't believe me?
Consider the highlighter. Now, don't get me wrong, I own highlighters and my students often ask me if they can use them to highlight their lines. From a visual standpoint, I can see how highlighted lines may be easier to read, but the final task of them actually memorizing their lines and knowing their cues is not achieved simply by highlighting. Rather, the act of highlighting is just a step to the final destination. I want students to engage with the text, memorize their lines, and make it their own. Or, consider students who highlight and underline text as they study, but then don't do anything with that material. That time spent highlighting has just been wasted! Highlighting and underlining on their own are not effective study habits! They waste time.
I fell into this trap myself as a graduate student. I had so many books and articles filled with text I highlighted, underlined, and pages I dogeared, but if I didn't actually do anything with that text RIGHT THEN AND THERE, that time was lost. Days later, when I returned to those texts, those highlighted sections, underlined passages, dogeared pages no longer resonated with me. I then just stopped doing those actions and when I found something useful, something that hit home or emphasized a key point or even played devil's advocate to a point I was trying to make, I would WRITE IT DOWN, cite my source, make my argument. I would deal with it then and there. Guess when I became more efficient? That's right: when I stopped underlining, highlighting, and dogearing text with the good intention of returning to it at another point. Think about the many tasks and tools we use that get us started on something but they don't actually take us to the final destination. The highlighter is just an example.
Here are three things to STOP doing that waste our time and three things we can START doing to make better use of our time.
STOP browsing on your device without purpose. We have all fallen into the time wasting trap when we are sucked into the world of our devices and taken down the rabbit hole. We click on an article about how to maximize our time (ironically), to be brought to another exciting article, to then look at an image, to find this video, to check out a popular meme, and then half an hour later, we wonder where all that time went. Just notice the impacts phones have when people choose to take it to the bathroom with them versus those who leave it behind. Those who take their phones will take a longer time! This is usually done with the intent to 'save' time, to 'multi-task'. After all, why not just 'quickly' check your emails, because you're waiting to hear about something important? People waste time and are also incredibly dangerous on the road when they try to check their phones while driving. Some claim they only look at a stop-light, but I mean, really? Have you ever been behind a car that is just stopped on the road because they were on their phone? Or perhaps missed a turn signal because they were on their phone? Maybe you've been that person? The thing is, not only is that incredibly dangerous, but you're also wasting time and delaying your ability to get to work on time. And, you're affecting those who were behind you who also missed that green turn signal!
START browsing with a time frame and purpose in mind.
If you are seeking articles, research, resources, then decide how long you want to spend doing that and what you hope to accomplish by the end of your browsing time. Even if you just want to look at social media, go from just scanning images and looking at other people's lives, to actually making connections, reaching out, and making plans to see those you care about. I'm not saying we shouldn't browse around on our phones, but perhaps we should become aware of how much time we're spending on our devices and what we're actually accomplishing.
STOP checking your email to just check your email without taking action!
Have you ever checked your e-mail, you open up a message, read it, and then decide to deal with it later? Some people even mark their messages again as unread because they want to deal with it later. You guys, this is all part of wasting time! Instead of just swiping through your e-mails, make it a point to actually look at your emails and respond to them.
START checking and dealing with your email right then and there
I learned from the great Tim Ferriss, author of bestseller of The 4-Hour Workweek, to decide when in the day you plan to check your e-mail and to have an autoresponder that explains when you check your emails so people know when they will hear back from you. You can also articulate that when you are not checking email, you are teaching, working, in meetings, etc. Perhaps even set 2 or 3 times a day when you sit down, check your email, and deal with it then and there. Think about the many hours you have to NOT check email and to actually do other things that are focused on what you need and hope to accomplish.
STOP writing to do lists without prioritizing and acting on each item. We've all fallen into this trap as well. How many of you have items on your do-list that's been on there for, well, too long? How many of you make a new year's resolution to do list and how many of you have actually accomplished everything on that list? Lists are great, but they're a starting point, not an end point.
START writing out what you need and want to do and then schedule your calendar.
Instead, make a list of all that you need and want to do, prioritize those items, and then actually schedule them into your calendar. Plan for them. If you put in a date and time in your calendar of when you will actually go work out, you're more likely to do it instead of just writing 'work-out' on your to-do list. It also forces us to break down some of our larger tasks on our to-do lists into manageable chunks and help us see how long things will actually take.
How can you stop wasting time and start making time to do what you actually want and need to be doing?