Reviewed by Julie Vandekreke
When your semester enters into full swing, productivity tends to take a backseat to competing must-do's. Learn the root of your productivity problems and how to be more productive here! Whether you’re working and taking classes online, or just focusing on your studies, there’s a lot going on in your life, which makes it important to use your time wisely. When the season changes, and with them a new semester, you might yourself wanting to close your computer and books and watch a movie on the couch. But you don’t have to fall victim to the unproductivity that comes with with feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to set your priorities . Instead, use the information below to navigate your way through the semester and rev up your productivity. First, it’s important to identify why you’re not being productive. Are you responding to gloomy weather? Maybe you have new semester anxiety or post-break let down. Ask yourself:
- Are you saying yes to everything? It’s important to set boundaries for yourself and know you can’t say yes to everyone and everything. Stick to your priorities first, including precious down time. Then, if you have extra time and energy and to help someone else or attend an event, agree to it.
- Are you finding excuses to avoid things you don’t want to do? Sometimes there’s a task that just doesn’t sound appealing, where almost anything else sounds better than doing that certain thing. So, you delay. Washing dishes? Sure. Vacuuming the house? Perfect. If this is the case, it’s crucial to realize you’re focusing your productivity on something else instead of what really needs to be done. Refocus your energy into what’s at the top of your to-do list, then consider rewarding yourself for getting it done.
- Are you feeling overwhelmed? If you don’t have a to-do list, you may feel like all your tasks are crashing down around you. When every task seems to have the same importance and due date, it’s hard to choose which to start first. Making decisions like this waste a lot of precious time. Take thirty minutes to create and manage your to-do list so you know what high priority things must get done and dig deeper to see what needs to be started first and how to best move forward. Then decide which less important things you may be able to delay, delegate or say no to.
Now that you’ve answered these questions and have your do-do list in hand, but it still seems like there’s so much to do. Now what? Try these tips to kick your productivity into high gear:
- Make a list. If you have many tasks due at the same time, write a to-do list that takes into account when you’re feeling most productive. If mornings are your jam, schedule time in the morning to do your most difficult task. If mornings are slower and more difficult for you, schedule something for that time that requires less effort and something easier for you to engage in. The idea is to do the hardest work at your most productive time while not wasting your less productive time spinning your wheels.
Pro Tip: There are several apps to help you list your tasks and prioritize your time. Find one—or more—apps that work well for you.
- Set a time limit on activities. Estimate how long each task on your to-do list will take you, leaving plenty of wiggle room. Set a timer for that amount of time and during that time, focus on nothing but that task. Turn off gadgets and devices. If the task is going to take longer than an hour, break the task up into 25-minute sections instead and take a 5-minute (timed) break to reset before picking up the task again. Taking a break between tasks will give your time to switch gears from one task to another. Try a small coffee break, a shower, walk or quick social media scroll before starting your next task.
Pro tip: Limit short breaks to 10-15 minutes, and once that time is up, re-set that timer for the next task. This Psychology Today article describes how and why doing breaks the right way works to improve both your productivity and outcomes.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Fear of failure is a real thing and can get in the way of productivity because you hesitate to start something in the wrong way or have to re-do your work once you begin. In reality, this is how we learn and grow, so start off in the best way you can, and learn from mistakes when the result isn’t what you want. The ability to learn, grow and redirect yourself will make you more adaptable and lead you to different discoveries about yourself and your work.
Pro tip: if you find yourself paralyzed by the fear of failure, this article from Mindtools explains the phenomenon and how to overcome your fear. No doubt about it, a change of season or starting a new semester can be hard on your productivity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give these tips and tricks a try to set yourself up for a great day—then turn that day into a week, month, and year!