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Productivity - Some Thoughts and Suggestions

This week on social media, we have been focusing on productivity. This can be quite a loaded word - it is a measure of how much we are doing, how long it is taking us, and how well we are doing it. Being productive at work or school or whatever it is you are doing is a good goal - but what does it really mean? And how can you get there? Here, I will talk about what productivity means to me in this fast-paced day and age, and I will also share some strategies that have worked for me when it comes to being productive. These aren’t my original strategies - they are ideas I have seen on other lists and from other sources, but I’d like to share how I have made them work in hopes of helping you as well.

First off - what does it even mean to be productive, and how do you know if you are doing a good job of it? There are many different definitions out there, and really it just means that you are making or doing something. But to me, it basically just means that you are doing work that challenges you at a pace that stretches you a bit. It means taking the work you are doing and trying to do it as efficiently and as well as you can. For instance, if you have an essay to write, and you sort of half focus on it while also watching tv and checking Facebook, you probably aren’t being very productive. But if you sit down, ready to work, in a quiet space and with some scheduled breaks and a plan of action, there is a good chance you will be far more productive. With that said, here are some of the productivity strategies that work well for me.

Setting up my workspace. When I try to work in my bed or on the couch, I don’t tend to focus very well. This makes sense; these are places where I am usually relaxing and not working very hard. So instead, I need to either sit at my desk at home, or go to an office or coffee shop where the atmosphere feels far more work-related. In addition, while at the desk or table I am working at, I try to keep the space work-focused when I am not taking breaks. This means both not having clutter everywhere and also not visiting distracting websites, such as Facebook or YouTube.

Scheduling my time, including breaks. When I start work for the day, I usually like to make a schedule that includes what I would like to have accomplished at the end of the day, along with how long I think I will need to spend on each of those tasks. In addition, I put in a couple of ten or fifteen minute breaks, so I will have some off time to look forward to, and if there is something not work-related I want to do, I can save it for a break rather than interrupting what I am doing. Breaks are typically a recommended addition to the work day, so that you don’t get bogged down or restless.

Writing it Down. Along the lines of making a schedule and a to-do list, I like to make notes before I start a task of what I hope the finished product will look like, and what I will need to do to get there. This helps me focus if I start to get off track, and it always feels good to check steps off a list once you have finished them. Writing things down also helps you remember things better, and I find it easier to work productively when those action steps and goals are right in the front of my brain.

Listening to music - but the right kind of music. Now, I know that listening to music doesn’t work for everyone when it comes to being productive. But I personally need some sort of background noise to work efficiently, so that I don’t get distracted by my own thoughts and surroundings. What I have found, though, is that music that is too new to me is distracting in itself, and so I need to listen to music that I already know well, preferably in playlists or albums that I know the order of. That way, the sound I am hearing is always predictable, and I am never distracted by listening to new lyrics or wondering what song will come on next. For example, before every midterm and final exams period in college, I would pick a new album, listen to it over and over until I knew it well before exams began, and then study and work while listening to that album exclusively. That way the music was still new enough to be entertaining, but familiar enough not to be too attention grabbing. I realize that for some people this repetitiveness might seem like torture, but for me it really works for getting in that productivity zone. If you are so inclined, give it a try for your next big project - you might find that it works for you too!

Now go get out there and be your best productive self, and thanks for reading!


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