It can be hard to be productive- quarantined or not. Being unmotivated, not knowing how to structure your day or not knowing how to manage your time are just a few of the things that can stop you from being as productive as you can be. So, here are some steps you can make to ensure that you're as productive as you can be. Read all the points carefully as, although they may seem generic at first glance, this post consists of unique advice on how to carry out these steps.
1. Figure out your goals
Sometimes, not knowing what to do and where to start can put you off being productive. Make a list of things you want to do or the goals you want to achieve, and then you can plan how you work towards these goals and how you spend your time. Some ideas are: teaching yourself an instrument, writing or reading a book, learning a language, studying, drawing, working out or baking. Obviously these aren't the only things you can do, but they are ideas. Don't plan to take on too many activities, but also pick enough to make sure that there's always something for you to be working on if you feel like being productive. Make sure you pick activities that interest you and that you genuinely enjoy so that doing them doesn't feel like a chore.
Then, once you've acknowledged what skill you want to work on, set targets for yourself. These targets should be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based, also known as SMART targets.
Specific targets state exactly what you want to accomplish. Measurable targets give these goals a clear definition of success and the most practical way to do this is to use numbers. Attainable targets mean that these goals are relatively challenging but they are possible. Realistic targets force you to be honest with yourself and think about the hurdles you have to overcome. Time-based targets give you a deadline and time constraints so that you push yourself further.
For example, if you have just started a blog a SMART target can be: By the end of this month, I will have written three blog posts that I am satisfied with. To do this, I will spend two days planning a blog post, three days writing it up and one day to edit it. I will then repeat this until I have written three posts.
When you've figured out your goals, you need to plan towards them. To do this, make lists and schedules.
At the beginning of each week, write a list of what you want to get done in that week, in regards to your SMART goals. You could want to have planned and written a blog post and practise the piano every day for half an hour.
Then, every morning, make a to-do list for the day using your weekly plan as a guide. Be slightly ambitious with your to-do list and try to push yourself- but don't make it impossible to complete every single thing on the list. Also, if you don't cross everything off, don't beat yourself up about it! Be specific in the tasks you want to complete. For example, if you want to revise physics, don't just write down study physics. Instead, you could write down complete 2 physics past papers.
One of the things that to-do lists don't usually allow you to do is to prioritize your tasks. To overcome this, I recommend colour-coding your lists: highlight everything that you have to get done yellow, highlight everything you should get done (but it's not the end of the world if you don't complete it) orange and highlight everything you could potentially get done if you had the time to green. This system works well for me personally and it means that I'm more priority-focused.
Furthermore, try making a schedule. This doesn't have to be too uptight: just write down what activities you'll be doing in the morning, afternoon and the evening. This way, you'll have a bit of a routine. Also, make sure you schedule in something relaxing/fun. For example, every day at 4 PM, I watch an episode of one of my favourite TV shows. This gives me something to look forward to and motivates me, while also keeping my day structured. You can follow the same schedule every day or you can have a different schedule for a different day of the week for some variety but bear in mind that scheduling your activities and making lists should not take too long.
Being in the wrong mindset and having no motivation makes trying to be productive that much harder. Therefore, it is vital that you're in the right headspace as you can't force yourself to work without burning yourself out.
A great way to put yourself in the right mentality is to watch what you're surrounding yourself with. If you're sitting at a clutter-free, organised desk with everything you need right next to you, you are more likely to feel motivated. However, if you're on your bed or surrounded by distractions (like your phone) you probably won't be as motivated to work. With that in mind, make sure you have a practical, quiet study space that you feel comfortable in and turn off your phone! It's way too tempting to spend your time scrolling through Instagram rather than doing what you need to get done.
Another good way to put yourself in the right mindset is to seek inspiration from other outlets. For example, you can read books or watch films with powerful, successful, motivational characters that may inspire you to be more productive. You could also watch YouTube videos of other people being productive, which is not only motivating, but it also gives you an idea as to what to do and how to structure your day.
4. Have a decent sleep schedule
If you sleep in until two in the afternoon, or if you're super tired, you probably won't be as productive as you would be fully-rested. Therefore, it is so important to make sure that you get enough hours of sleep every night. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but try to get around eight hours of sleep per night. As we all know, this is easier said than done!
The best way to have a good sleep schedule is to keep everything regular. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning (even if you don't have any morning plans). Have an evening or night time routine that relaxes you and helps you go to sleep, and try not to change this routine unnecessarily unless it needs adapting. For example, you can read a book for half an hour, have a bath and journal about your day. Try to limit your use of screens and aim to have your phone completely switched off a couple of hours before you go to bed. If you suffer from FOMO, do things to distract yourself (such as reading a book) and put your phone in another room.
When you are in quarantine and don't have any commitments early in the morning, having a good sleep schedule doesn't necessarily mean going to bed and waking up early. It means that it's easier for you to wake up at your preferred hour and fall asleep at your preferred hour while getting enough sleep in. Obviously, if you have school or work in the morning, you need to be able to wake up early. But, when you don't have anything going on, the hour at which you fall asleep/wake up at depends on whether you are a morning person or a night person. If you are a more productive and motivated in the mornings, going to bed early and waking up early is more beneficial for you, but if you find that you get more things done at night, going to bed later and waking up later could be better. It's just a matter of figuring out which kind of person you are.
It's important to remember that not all morning people find waking up early easy! Just because you struggle getting out of bed at 6 AM doesn't mean you're unproductive in the mornings- it just means that you have to train yourself to wake up earlier. This can be a challenge but, again, a good way to motivate yourself to get out of bed is to have a morning routine that you enjoy. This could be having your favourite food for breakfast or watching an episode of your favourite TV show, anything that makes you want to wake up.
5. Exercise and nuitriton
Staying healthy and fit is key to being productive. Make sure that you're not sat down all day and that you're moving around every once in a while. Doing some physical activity, whether it's going on a walk or workouts off of YouTube, will do wonders for your productivity levels and motivation. In fact, exercise in itself is productive. Stay safe and know your limits, and you don't have to work out for an hour every day but try not becoming inactive.
It's also important to eat healthily. Ensure that you're eating enough food and that you have a balanced diet.
It's all too easy just to skip whatever productive activities you had planned. Everyone struggles with self-discipline at some point, which is fine as long as you know how to combat this. If you usually struggle to keep yourself disciplined, it's best to ask other people to keep you in check.
You can do this by giving your schedule to someone you live with such as a parent, sibling or roommate. That way, if they see you watching Netflix instead of practising the piano, they'll remind you that it's not your break time and will encourage you to get back to work. You'll be less likely to slack off because you know someone is keeping an eye on you- similar to how you probably won't sit back and do nothing in a classroom if your teacher is keeping an eye on you.
Another way to do this is by working on your goals with your friends. For example, you could all decide to do Chloe Ting's 2-week shred program, and you could message each other every day to say that you did it. You could even video call them and do it with them. You could also work on a novel together- you could write a chapter each. This forces you to carry out your goals as your friends are holding you accountable.
While having other people look out for you, try taking on habits that will improve your self-discipline. Whenever you're doing something tiresome, think to yourself something along the lines of: as soon as I finish this, I'll watch an episode of Outer Banks. This motivates you and pushes you to get your head down and work faster. Remove all distractions, including your phone. If you need your phone for your activity, disable the social media apps so that you're not tempted to scroll through Instagram.