Contrary to what some may believe, productivity can be practiced and developed. And if you’re here reading this post, I’m assuming it’s because you want to develop the skill and become productive. Well, you’re in the right place.
In one of my posts, How To Master Time Management In 7 Days, I went through the exact process to develop time-management skills. Time management is an important part of productivity, so I recommend reading that post (and following through) before continuing.
Once you’ve mastered time-management and are ready to become a highly productive student and individual, follow this 5-day guide! Make sure to bookmark it so you can come back to it each day. Now, let’s get into it!
Day 1: Learn About Yourself
Just as I emphasized in the time-management guide, analyzing yourself is an essential step before performing any other action. Before you can become better, you must discover what’s holding you back.
There are 5 things you must identify within yourself and your surroundings:
- Your peak productivity times.
Find out what time during the day and what days during the week you are most productive. Although this can vary from time to time, you should be able to determine a pattern between when you are the laziest and when you are the most focused.
- Your method of working.
Determine what kind of environment and what method you work the best in. For example, are you the most productive alone and in a completely silent room? Or do you prefer working while on a call with friends?
Knowing this information will help on Day 2 when you prepare your workspace and environment.
- Your method of planning.
Find out what method of planning works best for you. Do you like creating timetables/schedules for each day? Do you write to-do lists for every day, every class, every project, etc? Or do you prefer creating rough plans and “going with the flow”?
Also, are you most accountable when there is a reward system? Or would you rather be more strict and implement a punishment system?
- Bad habits you have.
You may have many bad habits, or you may have only a few. There may be some you never realized you had or others that are actually not as bad as you thought.
Some common examples of habits that prevent productivity are:
- The tendency to multitask.
- Addiction to your phone.
- Working in front of the TV.
- Doing everything yourself.
- Not prioritizing.
We will try to fix all of these problems in the next few days (in the rest of this post), as well as prevent more bad habits from popping up.
- Distractions around you.
Find out what items or people around your workspace act as distractions while you work. These are usually things you like to use when having fun or passing time, such as video games, snacks, social media, etc.
Tomorrow, we will learn how to prepare and organize your space to eliminate these distractions as well as maximize your potential in your workspace.
Day 2: Prepare Your Space
Before you start planning and doing, you need to prepare both your mental and physical spaces. This will make the process flow much easier and in turn, maximize your productivity
Preparing your mental space is arguably the easier one of the two to do, but the more important one. Having an organized and positive mindset will help skyrocket your productivity and follow through with building good habits.
But how do you prepare your mental space?
First, have a positive mindset and an internal locus of control. Tell yourself that you will become productive and organized, and that you will be the one controlling your actions and productivity (this is known as having an internal locus of control).
Next, practice blocking out mental distractions and bringing your mind back when it starts wandering. Know that it’s okay when it happens, but that you need to actively bring it back in order to be productive.
Lastly, prepare a journal or a notebook to declutter your mind whenever you need to. You can write down affirmations to help shift your mindset, reminders to make sure you don’t forget something, or anything else that you feel is important.
Obviously, it’s important to have an organized workspace if you want to ensure productivity. Decluttering your space helps to declutter your mind, and removing distractions will– of course– help you focus.
Whether you’re working from home, at an office, at a coffee shop, or at a library, you’ll most likely be working at a desk. If you’re not, start building the habit of doing so, as it’s the most comfortable and healthy setup for working.
So how do you prepare your desk space to make sure you can focus and be productive while working? Well, start by removing all physical distractions from the area. Some things to get rid of include:
- Video games
- Board games
- Social media (turn off your notifications!)
- Messy snacks (chips, desserts…)
- Books you’re reading for fun
- Instruments you like to play for fun
- Other items you use to pass time
Then, start picking up and organizing things to keep at your desk. These things should help you focus or help you get things done, such as:
- Sticky notes and notebooks
- Calendars and planners
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Water and healthy snacks (fruits, veggies)
And don’t forget: less is more when it comes to organization. So if your desk is looking a little crowded, don’t hesitate to remove those unnecessary items!
Now that you’ve completed all the preparation work, it’s time to really get the fun stuff started.
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: How To Organize Your Desk To Maximize Productivity
Day 3: Planning Day!
Here’s where it gets interesting. It’s time to start planning!
Today, you’re going to take around 30 minutes of your day to sit down and plan. If all goes well, you’ll walk away from your planner with a plan ready for the next day, week, month, and maybe even the rest of the year.
Step 1: Grab a planner
There is not much difference between planning on a physical planner and on a digital one. Many find that a physical planner is better for keeping themselves accountable, while a digital one is easier to maintain. The choice is yours!
Either way, you need to choose a planner that suits your purpose. If you’re a full-time student, there’s not much use buying a travel planner. You have to make sure your planner has dedicated space for setting goals, planning months and weeks, and writing lists.
This Ultimate 3-in-1 Student Planner was made by me– a student– for you– a fellow student! It is a 45-page downloadable/printable PDF that contains planners, trackers, templates, checklists, and more. The entire planner is undated, which means you can reuse pages (or the whole planner) however many times you want.
Step 2: Decide the time period
Although it’s great to want to plan out your entire life, it’s best to start small. First, plan out the next couple of days. Then, go on to the rest of the week, the month, the quarter, then eventually the year.
All your plans should be interconnected (because your goals for the month/year will impact your plans for the week/day), so don’t feel overwhelmed as you plan. Take it step by step (just like we’re doing here)!
Step 3: Note important dates
If you’re planning out your month or quarter, the first thing you must do is to take note of important dates to avoid making plans that clash and having to cancel one. Here are some examples of events you should mark in your planner:
- Birthdays of friends and family
- Doctor’s appointments
- Important exam dates
- Project due dates
- Holidays or days off
- Bills and paychecks
Step 4: Set goals
Next, you must set goals for yourself. These can be academic, personal, financial, health-related, or whatever you’d like to set goals for.
These goals must motivate you in some way or another, and reach the SMART criteria. As I mentioned in a previous post, The Ultimate Guide To Effective Project Planning, all your goals should follow the SMART rules:
- S: Specific
Your goal must be specific, answering the 5 W’s of who is involved, what is achieved, where it will occur, why it is significant, and when it will be completed by.
- M: Measurable
There must be a quantitative measure in your goal, whether it’s the amount of time you will take or the amount of stuff you will get done.
- A: Achievable
Your goal must be realistic and achievable for yourself. You must consider your own abilities (though they can and should develop in the process of completing the project) and other constraints like time and resources.
- R: Relevant
Make sure that your goal and your overall project is actually significant, is occurring at the right time, and will benefit either yourself or someone else.
- T: Time-bound
Lastly, set a deadline for your project and goal. This will set the entire planning process to action, keeping you accountable and focused on your goal.
Step 5: Create action tasks
Next up is to implement actionable, short-term progress tasks into your plan. It is not productive nor smart to simply have your long-term goal in mind, without any idea of how to execute it.
Therefore, you must create stepping stones. Based on your goal, name the things you can do weekly or daily (or even hourly, depending on your goal) to successfully reach it. Here’s an example of what that looks like:
- My long-term, SMART goal
I will end the 2021 school year with a 90 or above in my social studies class, which will help me achieve a 3.9 GPA.
- My short-term, actionable tasks
- Each month, I will go to my teacher’s office hours to ask questions.
- I will do my homework on time and ask my classmates for help if I need it.
- Before each test, I will carefully review my notes and do practice problems.
- Each week, I will do a few practice problems on Khan Academy.
Step 6: Write a todo list
Last but not least, create to-do lists to organize your tasks and stay accountable. You can create a master to-do list that covers all the tasks you need to do within a time period (time-based) or to reach a goal (event-based).
You can (and should) also regularly create lists for your day and week. Especially if you’re having a very productive and busy day, to-do lists are the best way to keep yourself organized and on track.
If you like to go above and beyond and into the nitty-gritty details, create a schedule with time blocks as well! Fill up your entire schedule with blocks of time dedicated to certain tasks, and you’ll always know what you should be doing during the day.
Now you’re done with the planning process! Tomorrow is going to be our day of productivity, so make sure you have a plan written out beforehand!
Day 4: Day Of Productivity
Here’s the day you’ve been waiting for. Today, you are going to be highly productive, following your plan and to-do list and getting it done.
What you actually have to do is super simple. Go about your day as usual, but consciously and actively stick to your plan without giving in to distractions. Make sure to keep a strong and positive mindset!
Today is the first day of your new lifestyle; follow a routine and do everything you meant to do. It’s alright if you skip something, but don’t do it twice (this is something I emphasized in my Complete Habit-Building Workbook). This will help you build habits that stick.
At the end of the day, you might feel tired– give yourself a pat on the back! But you should also feel accomplished and proud of yourself. This feeling is part of the whole “productive” lifestyle– it makes you feel good!
CHECK OUT THIS POST: 9 Powerful Daily Habits For Productivity
Day 5: Evaluate & Improve
Lastly, you cannot forget to evaluate your productivity throughout the day or the week. Carefully analyze what you did well and what you could’ve improved. This will help you identify your weak spots and strengthen them, becoming more productive.
For example, if you realized that during your breaks, you often spent more time on your phone than you meant, try to relax without going on your phone next time. Or if you were tired and uninspired during your designated work period, switch up your time blocks next time so that you’re working during your peak productivity times.
Contrary to what the title of this post says, you cannot suddenly change up your lifestyle and become productive in 5 days. However, you can learn what habits you need to build and break, what type of planning you’re most comfortable with, and in what ways you can grow in these 5 days.
Becoming truly productive will take trial and error as well as time; be patient and actively engage your mind and body into the productive lifestyle, and you will find yourself becoming more productive.
If you’re looking to read more about productivity, check out these posts:
- 7 Better Monthly Habits Of The Smartest Students
- 10 Powerful & Free Productivity Tools You Should Be Using