Without fail, it seemed to happen every time my old boss handed out our weekly assignments. Once my team members and I got back to our desks, we’d spend a good chunk of time going over our “to-dos” again and would then proceed to freak out and lament about how much time all of this was going to take to finish.
Sure, we almost always got our work done on time, but we definitely had moments when we were racing the clock to meet our deadlines. Yet, for some reason, we never changed our ways. In retrospect, we probably would have been much more productive had we used the time we wasted commiserating with each other on actual work, yet our urge to procrastinate always seemed to win.
A New Approach
Realizing the vicious cycle my team seemed to be stuck in, I knew I needed to change my approach to work, but it took some real effort. Now, just as everyone has different ways of learning (auditory, visual, interactive, etc.), people have different ways of working. Some prefer a straightforward, knock-them-out-as-they-come approach, while others kind of start a project, then jump to the next one before it’s done and before they know it they are in the middle of five masterpieces, but have essentially completed nothing. For me, I realized I worked best when I did the former, but was far too accustomed to the latter. I had to change.
It seems simple enough — just do your work. But streamlining my approach took some conscious effort. Below are some straight-forward tips I found helpful when changing my work habits.
Make a To-Do List
Every day, make a to-do list of what you need to do that day, and hold yourself to it. Prioritize it by time-sensitivity, so that if you do happen to run out of time, you should have completed everything that was pressing for that particular day. Additionally, being able to actually see what is expected of you forces you to be honest with yourself about expectations and deadlines. Plus, I personally get a bit of gratification by being able to cross something off of the proverbial “to-do list.”
Stop the Defeating Self-Talk
The next big step I used to become more productive was to stop the defeating self-talk I seemed to do at the start of any big undertaking. I have no clue if anyone else does this, but just as my team members and I would complain about what we thought were excessive assignments, I would overwhelm myself with “what-ifs” and begin to doubt my ability to perform.
I soon realized this was extremely counterproductive as my brain became clouded with self-doubt and pessimistic thoughts. I would stress over every little detail, which is anything but efficient. By forcing myself to dive right into a new task, my mind had less time to wander. My output greatly improved in both quality and quantity, because I was only allowing myself to focus on the task at hand, rather than unnecessary, excessive details.
There’s No Substitute for Self-Discipline
These tips are especially helpful for today’s students. With the advent of online education, students have the ability to complete full courses without ever setting foot in a classroom or meeting their instructor face-to-face. This obviously requires a special type of discipline, as unlike other forms of education, the student does not have someone constantly reminding them to complete an assignment or project.
Sure, there are all sorts of new time management apps and gadgets entering the market every day that promise to make people more efficient, but, just like diet and exercise fads, these tend to only work when the user puts in the necessary effort — bringing us back to the importance of intrinsic work ethic and responsibility.
I know, I know all of this seems much easier said than done?specially in this age of eager multi-taskers where it’s hard to stay focused on any goal for too long, but trust me in the end you will be less stressed. Next time you have a new task to tackle, don’t look for a quick-fix solution. Rather, take a page out of Nike’s book and JUST DO IT.
This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for online classes.
Photo by NovumOpus. Used with permission of the artist.