1 Turn all iPhone notifications OFF
How many times does your iPhone beep and you rush to look at it? Chances are, it is something unimportant and disappointing. Normally, its a text from my Mum. OK, she is kinda important, but fumbling for my pockets like the world will stop rotating if I don’t answer the beep is a little disproportionate. Interruptions are difficult to recover from. It takes at least 10 minutes to regain full focus on a piece of work after an interruption. By turning off your iPhone notifications, you reduce the risk of interruptions so that you can FULLY concentrate on that assignment. Be in control of your time and answer WHEN IT SUITS YOU. To turn off notifications, visit SETTINGS > NOTIFICATIONS CENTRE and scroll to the bottom. Click each offending app, and select “none” on the notifications screen. You will find the new silence BLISS!
2 Use Trello
A great todo list can help no end. Just about the best I’ve found (looking at new todo list systems IS procrastination, by the way) is Trello. Its interface is a handy card system that allows you to add todo items, then drag and drop them onto a “DONE” list, when you are done. Check it out, its great.
3 Use a “not to do” list
Often, it is the things you are doing that you shouldn’t be doing that kills your productivity. How do you stop doing stuff you shouldn’t? Explicitly outline them in a “not to do” list. Examples could include “Check Twitter”, “Eat chocolate”, “Open the laptop without a good reason” or “Check email until 3pm”. Having “not to do’s” allows you to know when you are procrastinating and directs your attention back to the important activities.
4 Parkinson’s law
Ever had to complete a piece of work that is due the next day? Did you manage it? The answer is probably “yes”. The reason for this is Parkinson’s Law. This law states that any activity expands to fill the time you allocate. So, if you have 3 weeks to complete the piece of work, it will probably take 3 weeks. You will then be left flapping on deadline day, complaining on Twitter how “snowed under” you are. Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage and set shorter deadlines. Make a rule that all work should be done the day you get it. 9 times out of 10, you will kill off a piece of work there and then. It is your route to a stress free existence.
5 Pareto’s Principle
Pareto was an Italian economist who stated that 80% of a country’s wealth is produced by 20% of the population. This ratio expanded to his pea pods too. 20% of his pea plants produced 80% of the peas. In your work, 20% of the effort will produce 80% of the return. It is your job to decide which 20%. When I was at university, I spent all my time learning the most valuable 20% of content, knowing that this would get me 80% of the marks. Decide on what is the most important aspect of your price of work and laser-focus on that.
6 Do not polish the underside of the bannister
Related to the last law is the temptation to polish the underside of the bannister. No matter how shiny you manage to get the underside, no one will ever see it. The same can be said for the approach some people take to work. They will spend FOREVER nit picking, redesigning, reordering and making it look beautiful. But, people will never notice. They are interested in the meat – the valuable part of the work. Try to stick to the most valuable aspects of a piece of work and neglect the temptation to concentrate on the superfluous. It will save you A LOT of time.
7 Be like Nike
Oftentimes, inertia is the biggest threat to productivity. How often have you stared at a blank page not knowing where to start, only to procrastinate even more and waste more time. The feeling of not knowing what to do creates inertia, and we end up doing nothing. On these occasions, be like Nike. The sportswear giant’s mantra is “Just Do It”. And that is exactly what you should do. If you don’t know where to start, just do it. Write something, read something, draw something, produce SOMETHING. It probably won’t be right, but the mere act of doing something provides feedback. When you come to assess what you have done, you will be able to say whether it is right or wrong, and this feedback will inform your next action – you will pick an activity that will be closer to the correct answer, thus getting you closer to completing your work. If you are ever stuck, carry on regardless.
8 The early bird catches the worm
I love sleep. I may be getting old, but the prospect of staying up doing work until 1am terrifies me. I couldn’t think of anything worse. Lots and lots of students live on a diet of late nights, burning the candle to eek out a few extra minutes in order to complete some assignment or other. I prefer to front load my days. Getting up early and working first thing in the morning is a great habit to cultivate. Killing off 1 or 2 hours worth of work will have you feeling EPIC for the rest of the day. You won’t have the prospect of unfinished work hanging around your neck, as you’ll have already done it. Plus, early in the morning, your body is too tired to object to doing work. Just set off writing and you are away. Bang, and the work is done before you have woken up enough to realise what in the heck you are doing!
9 For those who cannot resist – stay focused
Sometimes, the lure of Facebook is too much. Save yourself from yourself by downloading “StayFocused” browser extension for Chrome. This little baby allows you to list the sites that distract you the most, and it will limit your daily consumption to a pre-defined amount. Mine? 5 minutes a day TOTAL. That’s 5 minutes browsing time for Facebook, LinkedIn, News sites, ESPN sport and YouTube. Its amazing how easily you get into the habbit of clicking straight back off the site once you know the time is running out. The best part? Once you have run out of time, you are greeted by a big, fat message “Shouldn’t you be working?” Yes, yes you should.
10 Interval training for uni work
Another great practice is to organise your work into sprints. Allot 20 minutes to your work and hammer it like hell. Go all out. No distractions, no looking up, just full on head down until your nose bleeds. After that? 5 minutes rest. Set the stopwatch to give yourself 5 minutes respite. Then? Repeat the dose. Another 20 minutes of solid, nose to the desk working. No distraction. Just work. Repeat the process until you have finished. Knowing that you only have 20 minutes to go flat out until you can rest will enable you to concentrate. Resting at pre-determined points will allow you not to feel guilty. When we procrastinate when we chould be working, we feel guilty. If we have organised the rest, we are on easy street. We feel good and that we have earned the feet up. Go ahed, give it a try!