February 4

It’s Monday and February

It's the beginning of another week, and it's February. If you operate on a semester schedule, that means it's no longer the beginning of the semester. You know those big projects you've promised yourself that you'll actually do early this time? You know those papers you've promised yourself you won't write at the last minute?

It's time to be productive.

We all have had weeks that have looked something like this:


On Monday, we start with big goals, but by Tuesday morning, our productivity is slipping, and then it's sort of a roller coaster for the rest of the week. Let' make sure this week is not distracted by Peruvian soccer or must-see TV.

Here are some things I do when I know I need to be productive:

I do not check email or Facebook or Twitter or blogs first thing.

If I open up Gmail or Facebook or Google Reader, I inevitably get sidetracked by something that did not actually require my attention at 8am. Instead, I pick one task that is the most important thing for me to do that day, and I spend one hour devoted working toward it. This morning, for instance, I am writing this blog post.

I have two small children. So, what this looks like practically is after breakfast, the baby goes down for a nap, and the toddler gets to play with a really awesome toy, like play-do or watercolors. If that toy grows boring after 20 minutes, then she gets to watch an episode of Veggietales or some other TV show that doesn't annoy the crap out of me while I work.

If you don't have two small children, have confidence that you can block off one hour for important work.

After that one hour of productivity, I make a to do list of everything that I need to get done. I then make a priority list of 5-7 things that must get done that day.

If I don't make a list of everything I need to do, I inevitably forget about something important. When I do remember that important thing, I have to stop whatever I'm doing to take care of it. If that happens several times a day, I've completely interrupted my work flow.

I envision my blocks of time for the day, and plan which tasks I'm going to accomplish when.

I write out which times of the day I know I'll set aside for work, and I slot the 5-7 priority items into those slots. It doesn't always pan out perfectly, but it helps me see that I have enough to do that I can't waste away time on web surfing or watching The Chew while I eat lunch. Having a vision for your day helps you use that day more effectively.

I ask for help when I need it.

We cannot accomplish everything on our own. If we get bogged down in insignificant tasks, we don't make time for the important ones.

For me, this means asking my sister to watch the kids or hiring a babysitter when I have large projects to tackle. Maybe I ask my husband to do something extra, like take out the trash or pick up the dry cleaning.

Perhaps for you, it could mean asking someone else on your committee to send out the newsletter occasionally or asking your neighbor kid to walk your dog once in a while.

Those are just a few ways I try to maximize productivity. What do you do to help keep yourself from distractions and focus on those important projects?


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