Tips for Productivity & Prioritization
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Life can be overwhelming with tasks and to-dos, especially if you’re a career woman, a wife, a mom, a student, or even a dog-mom like me! If you feel as if you’re never actually getting anything done and your wheels are constantly spinning, then you’re not alone.
I thought I was busy during my undergrad and then med school came around. That was a level I didn’t think I could handle but I got really great at prioritizing and making the most of my time really quickly. Quality over quantity anyway! Now I’m balancing full time work as an independently contracted ER doctor, my personal brand and blog, wifely duties and dog-mom status. I definitely have a lot of systems in place to make sure our regular schedules run smoothly. AND don’t worry I have plenty of time for rest and fun. But this did not come easily, in fact, I’m still working on fine tuning the process to avoid palpitations and last minute worry. The question remains, are you prioritizing your tasks correctly?
Make a Plan
All goal setting and prioritizing starts with a plan, you have to set out and declare to yourself what you want to get done and when you want it to be done by. I usually start by doing a brain dump and jotting down everything that I need to get done in the next little while. These tasks can be big or small – they just can’t be forgotten about.
I don’t love this as a (daily) strategy because it can lead to a never-ending list that stresses me out. No one crosses off everything in one day. In my opinion to-do lists are better used for that brain dump, then reorganized into more manageable chunks. A to-do list is a great tool to remembering those things that you know you’ll otherwise forget but don’t put the pressure on yourself to complete it in one day or week.
Putting a hard deadline on things can help, especially if you’re going old school and writing it down in a hard planner. If it’s a goal or aspiration, putting a hard deadline on it can be stressful and sometimes impossible. I recommend taking your to-do list, then looking at your week in your planner and putting in those tasks where appropriate. Prioritize the more urgent and difficult tasks for the beginning of the week and go from there. Like I said above, the to-do list is great for remembering everything but the planner can help you break that down and allow you to see realistically how many hours these things will take. This is SO important.
The planner can help you with your big goals too! Look at your goal – maybe you want to accomplish it in the next 6 months – break down the tasks that you need to complete to achieve that goal. Rachel Hollis likes to call this “goal posts”. Break down monthly tasks, then even more into weekly tasks, and then into daily tasks. Suddenly, that hard deadline becomes much more manageable when you know you can do little things by the day (or hour) to work towards that goal.
I love buying a beautiful wall calendar at the start of every year, and then I keep it in a central location for Chris and I to reference as we go. Family events, trips, and our shared plans go on there. Or, if there’s a week where one of us has an intense deadline, that goes in there too so that we know to respect each other’s time and space. Even a shared Google calendar can serve as a solution for this if you prefer to have things on your phone! But I’ll be honest, I prefer an old-school, hard copy!
Distractions will create set backs when it comes to achieving the tasks that you’ve prioritized. More often than not, those distractions come from our phones, our environment and maybe even the fridge. Your environment an important factor. If you need to take time to study, write, or work on a computer, where are you sitting? Do you have a dedicated space or are you in the busy kitchen while others from the household are all around you? Do you work better with the background noise of a cafe or in a quiet library with little movement around you? Your dedicated space doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy, it just has to be a place where you can commit to being distraction-free. Also, have your phone on airplane mode (or at least do not disturb) in another room, it’ll work WONDERS for your productivity if you can bring yourself to do it! Let me be real with you… productive people are NOT instagramming their productivity as they go! Put down the phone, the story of your IG-worthy study or productive space is not as important as actually BEING productive.
This might be a hard pill to swallow, but saying “yes” to things that you don’t really want to do does nothing for your productivity. In fact you might just be contributing to someone elses to-do list. Do you ever get that feeling in the pit in your stomach when you’ve said yes to something that you don’t really want to do? Your gut is literally reminding you that this was never a priority but now you’re stuck. This can apply to a lot of different areas but a particularly hard one is when it comes to spending time with a friend or family member. If you know you’d rather use that time to work on other things you have going on that’s okay! Don’t feel bad, it’s okay to step back and let yourself be focused on your goals.
What Do YOU Want?
When it comes to meeting your goals whether that’s getting good grades, or working on a side hustle, ask yourself what you really want. Be honest with yourself and go get it. If it scares you and makes you SUPER excited all at once, you’re probably on the right path! But sometimes the motivation doesn’t come easily. If you don’t know your WHY, you might not be able to prioritize the tasks that will move you toward your goals. When procrastination creeps in, or motivation is low, try silencing out the world around you and really take time to remind yourself what you want to do and where you want to be. Pro tip: you do not have to want something just because it’s “the thing to do”, or what all the other med students or bloggers are doing. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. What do you want and WHY do you want it?
Make the Change
Sometimes a little change or new habit can go a long way for productivity. Start with doing a little inventory on your habits; your workspace, where your phone is, what time you get to work at, how you sleep at night, even how you’re fueling your body! Plan some actionable steps for change where it makes sense and feels good. Small changes will add up to help you feel more confident and prioritize the work that you want to do. A big change that you can make – and possibly the scariest – involves considering who you’re surrounding yourself with. Are they respectful of the goals that you’ve set for yourself and are they understanding of your priorities? If not, you might need to make a change in your circle, which is so hard but can be very liberating!
All these tips, tricks, and tidbits are always easier written in a blog post than put into action in real life, I get that. But of course I want you to achieve those big goals of yours and ultimately get shit done! Use one, or a few of these tips to slowly begin to up your productivity game. Success is out there for you to grab onto! Don’t let old habits and current circumstances deter you from that. This is your life, girl! Go out and give it your all.