It seems like the older I get, the busier my days seem to get as well. Why is that? While I would love to say that I don't struggle with productivity, I think all of us have hit that wall where we go, "Hm... nope!" and go back to sitting on the couch to binge-watch Netflix in our sweats and order some take out.
It isn't because I don’t love my work or am not passionate about the things I do, but there are a TON of distractions in this world of ours and I usually get sucked into one or two or fifty. So this blog post is dedicated to conquering those days we just can' seem to focus. So. Let’s DO THIS!
Who is addicted to their phone? My hand is WAY up here. I am constantly on my phone and while I would love to say I am always working while on it (doing science communication on multiple social media platforms does that to a gal), I have found myself wasting time on it by mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Twitter literally thinking, "I'm bored." It's why I love when I have field excursions that make me have no reception-- it gives me a digital detox whether I like it or not.
When I want to get things done at home, I literally put my phone in another room. No distractions here! If I have to keep my phone by me for whatever reason, I don't get distracted by notifications because I TURNED THEM OFF and put the device on airplane mode.
I’m 100% guilty of this one. There are too many memes to send or distracting videos to see on Youtube or... or... you get the idea. When I want to focus on a particular task (such as writing), I put my laptop on airplane mode OR I temporarily block websites during a set amount of time so I won't be tempted to go on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr... you name it.
Multi-tasking... don't do it!
Yeah, it's cool you can juggle x, y, and z at the same time... but are you really paying attention to what you're doing? Take for example me yesterday-- I was cooking dinner, putting a load of laundry in, vacuuming the rug and doing my nails. Our chicken dumplings ended getting burnt (my husband is a saint for not complaining) and I still haven't folded the dang laundry.
This study (amongst others) basically state that trying to do too much at once actually hinders your productivity. Ever since hearing this, I have tried to focus on one thing at a time (but sometimes get a bit carried away... like, the nails could have waited until later that night). It makes sense though: instead of thinking about two things at just 50%, give your complete attention to one and you not only get it done faster but with less mistakes! Who would have guessed?
Lack of a routine
You're probably scratching your head thinking, "Huh?" And while I love being spontaneous in life, I do like having some sort of routine (in fact, Josh and I call our nighttime routine our "ritual" and if I don't do it I don't sleep as well). I think it’s really just about finding a schedule that works for YOU. Lately, planning out my day the night before has really made a huge difference for me, since I lay out what three things I want to accomplish and focus on just that. I'll be posting a morning routine blog post soon enough
Lack of work-life balance
Sometimes I sit down in the morning (the rare times I get to work from home) and the next time I look up it’s already dark outside. Yeouch! Thankfully, the Apple watch my husband and our friend Matt got me for my 23rd birthday helps remind me to stand up and walk around (plus, it is addicting to close all three rings!). Trust me, I know how fast the day can go by when you get sucked into e-mails, meetings, writing, etc. BUT you are more than your work title. We all need breaks (be it mental, emotional or physical), so go spend time with friends and family, go for a walk around the neighborhood, take your time selecting what food you will be nourishing your body with at the grocery store... basically, take time to not think about anything work-related.
Do you ever have a big project (that you are a bit intimidated by, maybe?) that you just keep telling yourself, "Oh, I'll do it later" and then later comes and you tell yourself that same lie over and over again until you're looking at the deadline and freaking out? Hello procrastination.
A head's up: you aren't alone! It happens to everyone! I always think I’m never going to run out of hours in the day and then all the sudden it’s past six, my husband is about to come home and I haven't cooked or cleaned or gotten to half the things I wanted to do done. I think scheduling the tasks you want to accomplish throughout the day helps with this. Have you heard of batching tasks? If not, it's a great tool to help combat the procrastination monster and has really helped me!
That waaaay too long TO-DO list you have
This sort of ties into that work-life balance you want to have. Here's the thing: the truth is, there will always be work for us to do. We just need to know when to turn off the computer, shut the dang thing, and go enjoy life away from it. Of course you want to make sure you are crushing your deadlines, but you don't want to overload yourself on the day before a project is due! That's why I have a daily calendar where I write down three things I want to focus on. For example, today's calendar shows:
The black hole that are e-mails
I used to be one of those people who checked their e-mail multiple times throughout the day, thinking I *had* to respond to anything I got ASAP to give off a good impression. This sucked out SO MUCH of my time, specifically because I went on multiple times a day. Now, I try to spend a maximum of about 10 minutes in the morning checking any e-mails I have received (usually these e-mails are from those in the US due to the time difference). I also set aside 5 minutes in the late afternoon to respond to anything I couldn't in the morning due to not being on my personal computer.
I have set up filters so all the promotional e-mails get separated out from the ones that actually require a response, as well as have a separate account for those 'personal' e-mails and that related to professional work (my Gmail account). This is SO helpful for me because it eliminates that distraction! I even took it a step further and am hooked on Unroll Me, which takes me off subscriptions I have long forgotten about. This weekend I did a tidy up of both of my accounts and it means less junk gets into my inbox!
Whether it's meetings at work or ones I created for myself to meet with people, meetings can sometimes be a nice break from your every day work hustle. On the flip side, sometimes I feel like I spend all my time running from one meeting to the next! Talk about exhausting, both physically and mentally because often the meetings aren't in the same vein (i.e. subject or matter). In the future, I'm trying to schedule all of these out-of-office things for one day, that way I don’t have four days where I'm spending half a day running around and the other half exhausted and trying to get work done. It just isn't productive!
Tell me what your biggest distraction is and how you’re dealing with it!
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Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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