7 Steps Towards Being More Productive
(and possibly a little happier)
After four full years at the University of Copenhagen, I have started the final year of my master degree, and it feels like my career is starting to really develop. I’m truly enjoying my internship, I feel challenged and happy at work, and more and more small projects are finding their way into my life, all at same time as I’m kicking off the most demanding year of my education. Easing into the change from just having to do good at university, to having a lot of people demanding much more than I’m used to from my creativity, dedication and time, has been a little ambivalent. I have been running high on inspiration, energy and happiness, but I’m also feeling incredibly tired, and completely drained. Wanting to please everyone I’m professionally involved with these days, has left me working till way too late every night, and having no real separation between work schedule and weekends. Last Monday, after writing the post on how to feel more confident, I decided that this week I was going to stop working past 8p.m., and have a full weekend off. Every week!
Writing that post, I realised that to be able to actually be inspired, productive and happy, I really need to lay down some boundaries on how to deal with the workload. Pushing yourself to the limit without taking real breaks will only come back to bite you in the ass later on. It will eat off your productivity and inspiration, and make you less effective and really tired. Over the past four years at university, I have boiled everything about having good work schedule down to a few easy steps to make it easier to actually get time to relax and have some real time off, with no deadlines hanging over your head. I've heard someone describe it as having a parasite in your life, which is a really good description. What I've learned is that these steps make it a lot easier for me to be both productive, and really enjoy my time off without thinking about the work that lies ahead of me, and it has completely eliminated the feeling of having a parasite feeding off my energy. It's not rocket science to handle a heavy workload without the pressure getting to you, but I thought I'd share these little tips with you anyway:
NO.1 Get up at the same time every day
Actually getting out of bed at approximately the same time every morning, makes it a lot easier for your body to get into a good rhythm. This for me, means that I will be more productive for the same time period every day, because it makes my energy levels much more stabile than if I slept longer, and worked later on days where I didn’t have to get up early. Basically, it makes it more likely that I will get a lot done! Weekends are of course different, but I still try to get up at a reasonable hour so I don’t ruin my sleep pattern too much in periods where I’m very busy and need it to be consistent.
NO.2 Eat food that will give you energy throughout the day
How you maintain energy throughout the day will depend on how your body works best. My sister can’t bear to eat breakfast, while I can’t go without. Just make sure to eat regularly, and stay clear of too much sugar and carbs because it makes your blood sugar sky high, before leaving you hungry again quite fast, usually in a bit of a bad mood as well. I have a couple of great go-to breakfasts that I stick to, eat a big salad with lots of protein and healthy fat for lunch, and a good, fulfilling dinner with a lot of vegetables. If it feels better to eat more often that is what you should do, I just work best with three meals, with no snacks in between.
NO.3 Make a detailed schedule, with deadlines, and leave enough time to actually finish them
Every Sunday, I plan the schedule for the week ahead, and I try to include as many details as possible. If I know when I can work from home, when I can do grocery shopping, go for a run and when I will be done for the day, it makes it easier to not feel stressed about the workload because I know when I need to take time off to do other things during the day. I make little deadlines for myself every week, and make sure I have enough time to actually meet them. Being ambitious, but very realistic. It’s always a better feeling to do more than you set out to do, than having to admit that you can’t even meet your original ambition. It’s about generating a feeling of accomplishment. It sounds a bit silly, but it works.
NO.4 Work from a time schedule, not a ‘until I’m finished with this’-kind of schedule
If you are like me, you will finish the task ahead of you no matter how long it takes, which results in working till 11.p.m. and having a concentration level that is not very high. I have found out that if I have a certain time where I need to be finished, I work a lot more concentrated, and usually get the same work done in a lot less time. Knowing that I’ll be off, and can see my friends at a reasonable hour, makes me a lot more motivated, while the other model often leaves me feeling quite inadequate. If you are not done, just finish it the day after.
NO.5 Get moving
Sitting in front of a computer, reading curriculum or being in meetings is not the best for your posture, energy levels or health over all, so moving a little as often as possible is a way to fight all of those things. Living in Copenhagen is wonderful because we get to bike everywhere, and that accompanied by taking the stairs whenever it's possible, and doing some real exercise a few times a week will do wonders to how your body feels, and for me, is crucial to how I perform at any kind of work I do. I often feel like running after a long day, because I get to work that tired energy out of my body. Find something you like to do, and use it to fight off the feeling of being tired and stressed!
NO.6 Don’t punish yourself for mistakes
If you don’t make your deadlines, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make a new deadline, and try again. There is no time for talking yourself down, just give it another shot and acknowledge that there are plenty of things in life that will throw you for a loop and fuck up the ambition you have about the workload in front of you.
NO.7 Sleep enough to make you feel truly rested
Take time to rest, hang out with friends, and sleep. I need to sleep a full eight hours to feel rested, and I make sure to do just that. This, and drinking a lot of water is so crucial to how effective I am when it comes to work. Pushing yourself to your limit doesn’t make you more productive, resting enough will get you there faster, I promise!
This week, I met all my deadlines, and little more. I had my evenings off, and have enjoyed a really amazing weekend with almost no plans. On Saturday, I got something in the mail from my mother. I have a mother who knits the most amazing things, and when I opened the package the softest sweater (pictured above with my perfectly lit collar bones) appeared alongside with my favourite chocolate. I will live in this sweater all though winter, and wear it as a dress because it is so wonderfully long. Wearing something soft, when my body is tired from yoga and running feels quite spectacular, and I’m all in for the small pleasures in life. This 7 step thing makes both my hedonic and eudaimonic happiness levels increase, and that is one of the things that are great about growing up. You know how to adjust and increase happiness where it’s possible. Set your ambitions high, work hard, rest and play.