Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to Have a Productive Day & Accomplish Goals

Do you feel a lack of focus or purpose in your daily activities? Do you have trouble finishing tasks throughout the day? Or maybe you just want to increase your efficiency?

Whatever your reasons for continuing to read this advice, it is important to first remember that we are humans, not robots. We all have days that are not as productive as we had hoped. Things happen that we do not have control over and sometimes we may be simply be un-inspired. It is also completely normal to go through times (especially in your early 20’s) when you haven’t quite figured it out yet. That’s what I am here to help with. 

It goes without saying that I haven’t figured it out yet either. For me, I believe it's a daily battle of what I want do vs. what I really need to do #thestruggleisreal. Moreover, that horrible pest called perfectionism does more harm than good. I’m still learning how to balance doing enough without giving up or overthinking because something isn't “good enough”. The information I am going to share with you here, are tips I have learned through trial and error. I am forever in the pursuit of having a better day, week, month, year, and ultimately life. I will try to share everything I have gathered as thoroughly as possible.

So, this advice is twofold. First, it is important to develop clear goals. That is the “having purpose and staying inspired” part of the equation. Secondly, one must create an implementable plan. Of course, nothing is going to just happen. You are not going to achieve your goals sitting in front of the Netflix simply because you wrote out your goals and plan. Stating the obvious? Perhaps. 

So, basically goal + plan + implementation of that plan = success. I should maybe have spent a little extra time making that equation sound more exciting, but this is what it boils down to. 

Priorities > To Do Lists: Long Term Planning
Don’t get me wrong, to do lists are a great tool. I like to use them for tasks like packing, preparing for an event, things that need to be done before going out of town, basically items that MUST ALL be completed in order for a specific short-term goal to be met. However, on a day-to-day basis I may have a wide array of tasks to complete that are not related to each other and that contribute to a larger long-term aspiration. This is where identifying priorities comes into the picture in order to ensure all necessary goals are met. There is a very easy way to do this. It will take some time on the back-end, but will hopefully save you more time and anxiety in the long run. 

Let’s break it down with a quick exercise…

Before you even think about planning for tomorrow, STOPPull out a sheet of paper and list out all the areas of your life. Break down your current lifestyle and future aspirations into separate categories.

I have included a hypothetical example of categories below. I probably could have combined manners into the religion category and added one for hobbies and work, but this is just a hypothetical I came up with. With these categories, less is definitely more. The more you can consolidate things into fewer categories, the easier it will be for you to manage the goals associated with them.

Now that you have your broad categories, in a notebook/planner/word doc (anything you can refer back to regularly), you want to use a page to list out your yearly goals for each category. For example, perhaps relating to education, you are trying to get into grad school. Obviously, this is not something that is going to happen overnight. It is going to take a carefully thought-out plan and DAILY implementation of that plan. Think back to that cheesy equation from earlier ;) So, your yearly plan could be as simple as "get into grad school". Moving on to monthly goals, start a new page and keeping with the education category, your monthly goals could be "finish 8 chapters of test prep, have three people edit personal statement, & meet with a professor to get letter of recommendation". These are specific measurable goals and will likely not be the same for every month in each category. Once you have established monthly goals, I personally would skip weekly and move on to daily. I tried doing weekly, but it got to be too much and felt unnecessary. For daily goals, simply figure out how much you need to accomplish per day to reach your monthly goals within 30 days. Again, do this for each category. 

And, finally! Let's move on to the first half of the post title, how to have a productive day!

Become a Sleep Legend
The ideal way to exist is to go to bed by 10 pm and wake up at 5 am EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Your body doesn't understand sleeping in on weekends or days off. It likes consistency. It is scientifically proven that this is the ideal sleep schedule. But, you don't have to take my word for it. Click here for a piece by the Daily Mail on why waking up at 5 am is the key to feeling happier. It may just convert a few of you to the dark side, pun intended ;)

Seize the Day
For daily progress, figure out how many productive hours you need to have each day in order to accomplish all of your tasks. Based on how many individual tasks you have for each category on your daily list, determine how much time you need to dedicate to each of those broad categories per day. Then, make that time to work for you.

For example, I have seven broad categories. I have them prioritized from most to least important and that is generally the order in which I get to work on them when I wake up in the morning. I aim for 12 productive hours each day. Studying could be allotted 6 hours, while cleaning could have only 2. Then, I break them into one hour intervals. I set the timer for one hour on my phone and get straight to work without distractions. Having the timer set makes me less likely to get distracted because I know this is the amount of time I have and I have to make it work hard for me. If I don't finish my tasks in the given 12 hours, I have to add more hour intervals, cutting into leisure hours. Sounds a bit grueling, but you can obviously take between hours. And, no one ever got anywhere worth going without putting in the effort. 

So, this is what I try maintain every day. Some day are better than others, but we are all just trying to make it, right? :)

Hopefully, there isn't anything I have forgotten to mention. If you have a method that works well for you, please share it below! I'm all ears! I hope at least one bit of information in this post helped you out. Now, get out there and conquer your goals! 

xo Aneela

1 comment:

Sagheer Ahmed said...
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