On Monday, I had an absolutely crazy day. I went to class at 8:30, got off at 10am, went to volunteer at the yoga studio from 11-2pm, and then went back to school to finish off an assignment that was due. Then I went to do my weekly grocery run, and finally got home at around 5:30. I wanted to go to yoga class at 7:30, so I hung out and ate some food until then and then headed to yoga. After, I went to the library and did some work until about 11. Now, at this point, I’d had a crazy day but I didn’t feel productive. A lot of my time was spent deciding on what to do next, trying to haphazardly plan the rest of my day, wondering when I was going to eat, etc. I had wasted the block from 10:00-11:00am, a good 30 minutes after my assignment was done deciding on whether I should get groceries or not, and another 2 hours waiting to go to yoga. That totaled to 3.5 hours of wasted time I could have been studying, doing something productive or creative, etc.
There was a period of time where if I had had the day described above, I would have been completely proud of myself and gone to sleep happily after rewarding myself with some (a lot of) chocolate. At a certain point, however, you have to stop kidding yourself. We can always improve and strive to be better versions of ourselves!
So fate must have had it that I had come across the most incredible blog post that I am convinced will change my life (read the full version James Maa’s guide to organization here).
Here are the steps I took to organize my life and get more productive:
Step 1: I got Google Calendar
Okay guys, I love my paper agenda and will probably have one for the rest of my life. But this app has me convinced that maybe losing the art of written word is not so bad after all. I committed 100%, planning out the time I sleep, the time I need to get ready for bed, my snack breaks, everything! Here’s what my week looked like (Monday is empty because I hadn’t made the calendar until Monday night):
In addition, I downloaded Sunrise, an app that takes your Google calendar and makes it a desktop application and is accessible via your iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. I actually now get updates on my phone about a half hour before each event comes up. It seems a bit excessive but I have enjoyed it so far and will turn it off once it starts bothering me.
A word of caution: when I used to plan my days I would get super ambitious about what I wanted to do and never gave myself any leeway. It’s important to also schedule in fun things as well as be realistic about what you are capable of in a certain amount of time. For example, I always allot myself 2 hours to go to the gym. I’m probably only working out for about an hour, but walking to the gym, getting changed, stretching, etc. always take up a total of 2 hours. But what I’ve realized after using this scheduling thing is that if you have decided and committed to going to the gym for 2 hours, you don’t spend time lulling around or deciding whether or not you want to go. You just do it.
Step 2: I get all of the “extra stuff” over with as soon as possible
What does that mean? It means that as soon as my time allows, I will go to the gym, run errands (like getting my lovely boyfriend his valentine’s day present), etc. The only exception is yoga since there are limited class times, but if it’s scheduled it doesn’t really affect much.
I figured out that this was the best system for me because schoolwork is never-ending. There is always more material to study or more assignments to start. If I’m anticipating going to the gym at 8:30, I feel anxious about getting there on time, eating enough, etc. and that will distract from schoolwork. I schedule the studying when I am most at ease, so that I can really focus on what I need to accomplish. Now, this may not work for other people but the message here is that you need to figure out how you work best and organize accordingly.
Step 3: I’m not too hard on myself
The mistake that people often make is that they have a “go big or go home” mentality with everything. I agree, when you propose a project at work or study to get that 4.0, go big! However, with things like starting a new lifestyle or making some sort of change in your life, you need time to adjust. Your body and your mind and your emotions can’t be shocked, because that is how you get discouraged and give up. This is a lesson I’ve learned from my running training. I tried many, many times to start being a “runner”, but every time I would force myself to continue until I wanted to throw up. I got discouraged and never made it past the second run. It’s the same thing with changing your lifestyle. These days, we’re so obsessed with instant results that we often lose touch with how things actually are in the world. Change rarely happens overnight, and any sort of sustainable development needs to occur gradually.
So, there was a day or two when I slept later than I had planned. I left the library early today because I really needed to take a break. And I’ve had to convince myself that this is okay, as long as I get back up onto that horse the next day.
My productivity level has shot straight up. I do better at the gym because I know exactly what muscle groups to target and how long I have until my next obligation. When I sit down to study, I don’t have to worry about learning it all at once because I know I have 3 more hours the next day and 2 hours the day after that. If I know I’m going to have a packed day, I know to prep my meal(s) the night before.
Here’s a photo of a salad I had this week, because I said I wanted to take photos for this blog. Well, here’s to a moderately paced but promising start:
I love salads because they’re SO easy (I hate to admit it but I am a terrible cook and I don’t enjoy the process at all, but I love making salads). This salad had spinach with veggies, half an avocado, zesty italian dressing, and some tuna on top for protein.