I’m trying to be more intentional about how I waste my time. Stick with me for a moment. While I like to spend time reading, there are too many times when I waste time trying to beat a really hard level of Cookie Jam. I’ve decided that in those moments where I’m just wasting time I’d prefer to do something more productive. I decided to start listening to more TED Talks.
What are TED Talks?
A TED Talk is a showcase for speakers presenting great ideas. Usually, the format calls for presentations on the shorter side. Think about all of the lectures we’ve all (almost) fallen asleep listening to. The talks are thought-provoking and stimulate conversation. They can be inspirational, funny, or mind-blowing and they cover almost all topics — from science to business to global issues.
Here are a few of my favorite TED Talks that you may want to add to your playlist.
5 TED Talks For Your Playlist
How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas
Description: Do you sometimes have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular? It’s because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.
Your Elusive Creative Genius
Description: Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius.
Embrace the near win
Description: At her first museum job, art historian Sarah Lewis noticed something important about an artist she was studying: Not every artwork was a total masterpiece. She asks us to consider the role of the almost-failure, the near win, in our own lives.
I ran across an article once that promised to deliver the formula to productivity. Yes!! Sign me up!! I want to be more productive! Two-thirds of the way into the article I was sorely disappointed. Here’s the thing, there isn’t one particular way to be productive and the formula they promised wasn’t going to work for me. We all work differently and approach tasks differently. However, there are definitely tips and tricks that can help us use our time more effectively. I’ve pulled together some of my favorite productivity tips below, but remember to adjust them according to what works best for you.
At the start of every morning, fast-forward to the end of the day and ask: When the day is done, what three things will I want to have accomplished?
Do the same at the start of every week.
2. Eat Breakfast
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. How many times have you heard that? It’s true though. You can find articles upon articles that point to studies that prove that by starting your day with a healthy meal can enhance memory, attention, the speed of processing information, reasoning, creativity, learning, and verbal abilities.
3. To-Do Lists
I’m a big fan of to-do lists. A University of California study found that when you write things down, you are 42% more likely to remember them. To-do lists also help you focus on the most important tasks at hand and keep you organized. When I cross items off my to-do list, I feel a sense of progress and accomplishment. At the end of the day when all (or most) of my items are crossed off I can’t help to be proud of myself. There are days that I leave a lot on my list and it simply helps me focus on what needs to be prioritized.
Get into the habit of doing the worst task first. Worst just means the task you’re most likely to procrastinate on. If you complete that task first, the rest of the day can be a breeze. Although, I can’t predict what crisis may arise during the day. 🙂
5. Give Yourself Breaks – productive breaks
I mentioned the Pomodoro technique in my last post, but this time management technique is a great productivity tool. When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines without burning out. In the next tip, I have some apps linked that help you with the Pomodoro technique.
6. Download some help
Look into some productivity boosting apps like Evernote, Wunderlist, Brain Focus or Clear Focus and Rescue Time. Evernote and Wunderlist are boss to-do list apps. Evernote is tried and true, but I love that you can integrate Wunderlist with Google Now and Microsoft Outlook. Clear Focus and Brain Focus are apps that can help you with the Pomodoro break method above. Brain Focus also offers some pretty cool stats (if you’re into that sort of thing) regarding how your time was spent. Rescue Time helps users identify where they spend most of their time online (including specific websites). I never realized how much time I wasted scrolling through Etsy.
7. Quick Toss
This one may seem a little odd, but hear me out. Take five minutes out of your day to spend time testing out all of the pens on your desk. If you have to scratch around to get any of them to work toss them out. To me there’s nothing more obnoxious than grabbing a pen to jot something down quickly and the pen doesn’t work. Now I have to listen to that five minute voicemail again just to get the contact’s preferred number. Do this with the dry erase markers or highlighters or whatever tools you use and save yourself some headache with this quick and easy productivity tip.
Unsubscribe from any newsletters that aren’t helping you achieve your goals and are cluttering your inbox using unroll.me. The time I wasted deleting subscription emails I didn’t even want is ridiculous. Look through your Downloads folder and file or delete any files you can. Keep that computer running quickly! Also don’t forget the normal tidying up: pick a stack of papers on your desk and throw out, recycle, or file anything you can.
9. Touch-up your resume
When you have a few free minutes take the time to update a few bullets on your resume or your LinkedIn profile. Think about that huge project you just completed- now is the time add it to your resume, while it’s fresh and you can easily recall the details. Making these updates as they happen, will make updating your resume when you need it so much easier.
Yup, you read that correctly. I keep a coloring book and colored pencils in an extra drawer at my desk. Coloring can help you relax, reduce stress and boost mental clarity and creativity. All of these things help increase productivity. Besides it’s fun! Now, don’t take an hour out of your day to color and tell your boss I told you to, but 5 or 10 minutes filling in a mandala can make a difference in your day. Here’s a site with a list of free coloring pages.
What are some of your tried and true tips for productivity? Share them in the comments below!
It’s back-to-school season and I want to help all of our college-aged readers get organized this semester. Yes, I graduated from undergrad five years ago and graduate school almost four years ago. So there’s reason to argue that I don’t have any relevant advice to give. However, organization is my thing.
7 Organization Tips For College Students
Keep a planner or use some sort of calendar system. Surprise, surprise. I’m recommending a planner. Before I knew who Erin Condren was or discovered her planners, I used a regular old Staples planner to keep track of all my classes, assignments, social plans, Alpha Phi Omega events and work schedule. Figure out what works best for you to keep track of all your classes and events in one central location. Color coding is an effective way to do so so you can track one particular topic at a glace. For example, if all of your journalism class assignments and dates are green and your sorority recruitment events are magenta, they’ll be easy to distinguish.
Save all your syllabi. This is your road map to your semester. Keep a digital copy and print one out and leave it in the front of your binder. If due dates or assignments change, make note of it right away. Transfer all relevant dates into your planner or calendar so that you can see how assignments overlap in your other courses. I remember one time I didn’t notice that the Thursday location of my Tuesday- Thursday class was different. Also be sure to highlight the professor’s and TA’s office hours.
Make an assignment list. When I was taking six classes, keeping an assignment list kept me sane. Gather your syllabi together and make one long sheet of every day that an assignment is due. Because I love a printable, I’ve created a free assignment tracker for you all. Excel is your friend and you can make a customized tracker that also fits your needs.
Figure out your most productive time. Figure out what time of the day you are the most productive and schedule your work around that time. If you’re an early riser- arrange your schedule to get most of your work done then.
Set time goal. Back in my University 101 class freshman year, we learned about the Pomodoro Technique, a productivity method from the 1980s. In this technique you:
Decide what your task is (e.g. write English essay, proof history paper, etc.)
Set the Pomodoro or timer to 25 minutes
Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
Take a short break anywhere between 3-5 minutes
Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break of 15 – 30 minutes
Limit time spent on websites to procrastine. SelfControl or Stay Focusedare tools that keep you from accessing websites like Facebook,Twitter, or Buzzfeed when you should be working on that paper that’s due. These are both free and you can customize them to block yourself from whatever website you may want to browse in an effort to procrastinate.
Don’t forget self-care. SLEEP. Take time out for a yoga or a dance class. Join the Quidditch team or any other intramural sport that might give you a little reprieve. College can be hard, so don’t forget to take time to take care of yourself.
Do you have any tips to share with college students? Leave them in the comments below!