Life Hack Tips: Task Management & Productivity (from a lazy person’s guide)
I am not calling anyone out lazy but I am simply sharing my own experience as a lazy person. I have finished school and have a full time job as an engineer now. My image among my peers and co-workers is portrayed as a hardworking and disciplined person. Disciplined, organized and lazy they don’t seem to fit in the same sentence, do they? But I am originally lazy, yet at the same time have a competitive nature. The competition is not with someone else but rather with myself. There is another thing that works behind that competitive mentality and that is called-anxiety, fear of screwing things up. Now that is a whole different topic, which I will touch another day. Because of my competitive mind, I push myself to be pro-active and a go-getter. I haven’t reached perfection at every level but have made a lot of progress following my own tricks in the past few years.
In my own experience, the number one rule of success in life is called “persistence & perseverance”. In an age of social media, our biggest challenge is to stay on top of our goals without getting distracted. How many of you have thought that, when you get home you will study a bit more about certain topics or get certain things done, yet end up wasting time surfing through Facebook wall, Instagram feed and YouTube videos? Well, I am no exception. I still do that. And I have my own fair share of days when I get pretty much wasted without getting much done. I also have days when I am a peak performer. On those days not only I get most of my things done, sometimes I do even more than I planned.
These are the simple steps that I take.
1. Make a To-Do List:
I know some of you will say you have tried that and it doesn’t quite work for you, you wanna go with the flow blah blah. But it is important to prioritize work specially when you are juggling through multiple tasks. You can go fancy by using alarms, event reminders, to-do-list on your phone etc. But I simply write my things down with a pen on a notebook. Writing with hands does something to me, It helps me remember my tasks. As if I am stacking those list in my brain instead of in the notebook. I don’t even have to carry my notebook with me for the day, I remember it anyway after brainstorming and writing them down. I think that should be the goal. My mom makes a grocery list, forgets to bring it to the store and ends up buying more stuff than she listed while missing some important ingredients. LOL. So your goal is to remember your tasks, no matter how you do it. I make a rough weekly plan and also specific daily plans as well as a monthly plan for paying bills on time. Checking things off from the list as I get them done is very fulfilling to me. I divide a big task into smaller chunks and prioritize them. Make “sorting emails” an important part of your list whether it is work email or your other emails. Checking emails and replying promptly helps you get an idea of the work, event or correspondence that you will follow to keep up.
2. Stick to your plan:
Half of doing is believing that you can.
We have all probably made plans but sticking to the plan is the biggest challenge. Read the written list in between your down time to keep yourself on track. Make or read a list and try if you can back to your leisure. I don’t know about you, but it is almost like some alarm clocks start ticking in my head from the moment I make up my mind about getting something done. And I cannot relax in the same way after that. I do use alarms and reminder occasionally for big events. I am big about finishing things before deadline. I also reward myself in between tasks-whether it is food or snack, stretching, walking, checking on phones or listening to some music etc.
I must emphasize, please do not keep changing your plan just because it was hard for you to keep up with it the first time. Stick to it, make smaller flexible changes as you need and learn though your trials and errors. Learning to write computer programming? Playing piano? No matter how bad you are at first, stick to your plan and keep a track of your progress. The key behind success is steady progress. I see it quite often among highly intelligent people juggling through ideas and changing them way too quickly which ends up with no result.
3. Stay away from social media while you are at your work:
Now I am blessed because I cannot take any phone or outside devices to my labs or main work premises and our usage of internet is limited to work related email and research. Because I don’t have any choice of checking on my Facebook wall, Quora or Instagram feed, I use the time very efficiently at work. Without those distraction we tend to get things done faster. So if your work place is not like mine then turn off your phone/put it on silent mode or deactivate your social media accounts while you are in some serious business. Deactivate all phone notifications. Or just better if you don’t have any social media account to begin with. Sounds a bit archaic but if that makes you more productive then go for it. I do use social media in my advantage, to keep up with the updates, to keep in touch but try to control the over-usage.
4. Keep a diary:
You can keep a to do list and diary all in the same notebook or you can separate it by categories. One for work and one for home. If you are keeping a diary at work then refrain from writing too much personal details. The idea is to keep a track of the task progress in your own words.If you are multi/bi-lingual, working in an English speaking country, you can write in your own native language. I personally find writing diaries in my own language very therapeutic. At home I write diaries to vent but still refrain using too much personal details and names. As long as I understand what I write is fine for me. I write down important details and events that took place that day and I also write down possible outcome of a future event (!). I know it might sound interesting but even though sometimes things don’t go exactly as I planned, it makes me mentally prepared for the worse. For example, If I write I won’t lose temper in a certain ongoing stressful situation, I do see myself keeping a calm demeanor throughout the day.
4. Other things you can do to be more productive
Getting rid of stress is very important to be productive. Although I am not very religious, I pray to de-stress. No matter what religion you follow (or don’t follow anything), take some time to do some prayers or meditation everyday. Spend some quiet time with your self. Shut those chatter and noises in your head. The simple rule to relax your brain is, if in the back of your head you are thinking about some possible (worse) outcome of an imaginary situation, don’t follow through. simply change your mind from it. Or just write it down in your diary-what is bothering you.
I do travel, take a walk by the beach (I live in San Diego), take pictures, enjoy fine dining, like to cook, like to dress well, get a massage, read a book, write etc. Coffee is important to me. It keeps me going. Although I have skipped breakfast in the past (which is very bad), now-a-days I take the time to eat something healthy in the morning. Usually few hours in the morning are pick hours to be most productive. So when you have a breakfast, not only you feel more energetic during that time, you also end up eating less at lunch. I am trying to get into a routine of exercising. I do walk regularly. If it is hard for you to fall asleep at night faster, I would suggest finish dinner by 6 pm, do a bit of exercise, take a quick shower, write few lines or read few pages of a book, it should be enough to make you tired and go to sleep. Proper sleep and diet is important. I did not always have a sound sleep and proper diet during my hectic college years. But these are pretty staple to stay energetic and active.
Now-a-days I don’t get much time to draw pictures but I used to spend down time in creative art before. Now-a-days I read about technologies or do some side gig in my down time. If you have some creative hobbies, keep up with it on the side. Have a pet! I I love puppies and kittens. Currently I don’t have a pet but I spent times with my siblings’ pets a lot. Having pets are very relaxing. Some people make a bed or clean table to de-stress. It does not work for me but it might work for you.
Share in the comment if you have more exciting ideas or tips to stay focused on your daily goals.