How I Learned to Manage My Productivity

Once upon a time, I thought that working from home sounded amazing. I daydreamed about working on my own time, from my own couch, and getting to stay in my pajamas all day long. I fantasized about being able to get chores done while working; doing laundry, taking care of my dog, maybe even cooking dinner.

Little did I know, there is a specific type of person who is successful in a work-from-home-on-your-own-time job. This type of person is self-driven, and able to keep to a consistent work schedule on their own without anyone keeping tabs on them.

I am not this person.

I’m in a period of my life right now where I have a lot of flexibility. I am in grad school, but my classes this semester are all in the afternoon or evening. I have a job, but it’s flexible. There’s work to do, but I can pretty much do it from anywhere on my own time. I have no set “work” hours.

For a self-motivated, self-driven person, this is the ideal schedule. This type of person thrives on flexibility, because it gives them the opportunity to schedule their day in the way that works best for them.

I, on the other hand, flourish with a set work schedule and deadlines. I struggle with holding myself accountable when there is so much flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, I always get all my work done on time, but sometimes that involves last-minute late nights because I procrastinated too much.

After realizing I had a problem, and taking a step back to evaluate, I’ve realized two crucial things about myself:

  • I have trouble waking up in the mornings if I don’t have anything to get up for. I’m great at getting up and ready for a morning class or a meeting, but when I don’t have anything on the schedule until class at 5:30pm, it’s hard to convince myself that I shouldn’t just sleep all day.
  • I am most productive before lunch. There is a definite drop in my level of motivation and productivity after I eat lunch. Maybe food makes me sleepy?

Obviously, these two characteristics are at odds. If left to my own devices, I would absolutely sleep in all morning and not get anything done. This is exactly why I may not be cut out to be a work-from-home-on-my-own-time-in-my-pajamas person. But, since this is my life right now, there are a few things I’ve decided to do to help out my situation.

First of all, I need to force myself to become a morning person.

Since I know that I am most productive in the mornings, but that I have trouble waking up early without a good reason, I need to give myself reasons to get up early. I try to schedule meetings early in the day, and I took on a babysitting job two mornings a week. This way, I have to get up and ready for the day, because people are counting on me. Once my commitment is over, I’m awake and alert, and ready to get down to business.

Another thing I can do is schedule my days productively. I always make lists of the tasks I want to get done on any given day. A few days ago, I had one big thing to do, and many little things. I made the mistake of doing ALL the little things in the morning when I was feeling most productive, and then didn’t have any energy left over when I tried to start the big thing after lunch. One method of productivity is, in fact, to do exactly what I had done. Start with the smaller tasks, so that by the time you get to the larger ones, you’ve checked a few things off your to-do list and are feeling good and productive. However, I didn’t take into account my own needs. The best method for me is to get the more difficult things done before lunch, so that when I’m feeling less productive after eating, I’ll still be able to talk myself into doing the easy things.

It’s hard to be responsible all the time when your schedule is flexible and you are the only person holding yourself accountable. Taking a step back and evaluating my own productivity helped me to understand myself and my needs when it comes to getting stuff done. It took me twenty-four years to get here, but I was finally able to create a productivity game plan that will lead to my best results.

Take a step back and evaluate: what can you do to maximize your own productivity?

Be happy. Be healthy.

 

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