Productivity is less about what you do with your time, and more about how you run your mind.

Robin S. Sharma

The to-do list is getting longer and longer

I often thought about all the commitments I have to make during the day, week, or month. There were so many of these thought that I didn’t follow them. Study obligations would intersect, lack of time due to work, personal projects that I have not undertaken for months, just because I do not know how to organize my free time. So, I made a list of all the tasks I want to finish. However, the list would grow longer instead of shorter each month. SO I had ideas, but I didn’t put them into practice. I filled my free time with obligations that didn’t exactly make me happy. I felt more productive when I was doing things that didn’t make me happy than the ones I would usually enjoy. Otherwise, I wasn’t overly productive, and since my afternoon included uninteresting activities, I also found it harder to tackle them and quite faster.

Photo: Making a list of all the tasks to be done

Crossing tasks from the list

Since my head was overloaded, I decided to write all my obligations, tasks, goals on a piece of paper, so my head was lighter. I found that if I crossed out the activity I did, or ticked it off, I could see better what I had already done and what I hadn’t, I basically had a better overview. I started using the “cross from the list” technique. So, with each activity I finished, I felt like I had done something good in that day or week. Still, I didn’t tackle those fun, personal projects because they didn’t give me a sense of productivity, so I decided to make more some more changes.

Photo: You need to plan your time correctly

I have decided that I needed demanding tasks during the day, which don’t make me the happies and those that I am looking forward to and enjoy. So, I valued these two types of activities equally. What is written on the list that day, I do these activities, whether I enjoy them very much or a little less (e.g. ironing, writing reports, watching my favorite series, sewing). Filling free time is highly dependent on the individual. We can organize afternoon time during the week, after or before work and study, or free days during the weekend or holidays. Each of us has the same number of hours a day, so I find it very important how we schedule this time. We organize our free time ourselves, so we can diversify it and simplify it for OURSELVES. We decide for ourselves what we will do during this time, and how we will tackle the activity, so we do not worry unnecessarily.

Procrastination with work tasks

I would often leave the important tasks until the last days before the deadline. I always knew that I would be able to do everything on time, but in addition to this belief came unnecessary stress, as I had a huge amount of work left for the last few days. “Why do I always leave everything to the end? Next time, though, I’ll get started really faster.” This sentence was repeated for years until I discovered a better way to help ward off this unnecessary stress. Once I was aware of the task, I took the first step the same day or the very next day. I didn’t take the time to think whether I was in the mood for the task, whether it was challenging or not, I simply tackled it right away. The first step can be very small, e.g. write the first sentence of the report or pay one of ten bills. It doesn’t matter how big the step is, just making it, as the beginning is the hardest for most. So, I gradually started doing the work and finished it very quickly. Because I set to work immediately, I didn’t have time for excessive thinking or stress, the work was completed on time and successfully.

Monthly and weekly planning

My example of “crossing the list” technique is as follows. At the end of the month, let’s say it’s December, I make a rough plan for the next month, January. I write down a list of activities or tasks that I know I need to do this month, and activities that I know I want to do but never give priority to. These activities can be larger, more demanding or smaller, less demanding, e.g. complete the study report, tidy up the wardrobe, sew on the button on the jacket, change the light bulb in the pantry, go for a long walk at least 5x, make an appointment with the dentist, watch at least 3 fun movies.

Photo: Cоставление еженедельного плана

The number of tasks should not be too short, but also not too long, as the goal is not to overload ourselves with tasks. I write down as many tasks as there are weeks in a month or less, but I’m careful that it’s a mix of demanding and less demanding tasks. I also often don’t make a whole list and leave some room for activities that may come up in a month.

The weekly plan is made according to the same guidelines. At the end of the week, I make a list of activities and tasks that I want to achieve in the next week. The number of tasks is usually as many as my working days per week or less (specify which days of the week you want to perform the planned activities, it can also be just a few days a week if you are not sure if this technique suits you). If I feel like I have very little to do for next week, I look at the monthly plan, and assign some goal to the weekly plan (when I do that goal, I can cross it from two lists – monthly and weekly).

A day organized to my liking

A daily plan, is something I make a day in advance because I don’t know how I will feel in a few days, and what activity may additionally occur. I write down 2 to 5 activities a day, but I make sure to schedule them so that the day will be pleasantly composed for me. I have found that I am more efficient if I have a variety of activities in one day (e.g. study, watching a movie, cleaning up), and some might find it more pleasant to do one type of work for each day (e.g. Monday – cleaning, Tuesday – studying, Wednesday – gymnastics).

The plans and lists we write for ourselves can be very creative products that relax us, instill motivation, or just simple lists written in a few minutes on a small piece of paper. The point is that each individual makes a plan that is most effective for them. It can be written by hand or electronically (it can be with the help of some application like Wunderlist or Trello), or can be fast and simple, or it can be written in great detail by the hour, accurately. Pre-made desk calendars or diaries can help. I recommend that everyone try a few different techniques, as this is the only way to make sure what is most effective for you.

I attach great importance to activities that make us happy

I think we should do at least one thing that makes us happy (e.g. doing a hobby, watching a movie, gardening, playing sports) and also cross out that activity when we do it. By doing activities that make us happy, we do something for ourselves and if we don’t attach importance to them, we won’t enjoy the day. In these stressful times and fast-paced lives, it’s important to stop, breathe, and do something for yourself, no matter what that activity is. With the “cross from the list” technique, I focused on the importance of the activities I write down, and the success when I cross them out, even if I don’t do all the activities at the end of the week, I will know that I did a lot, including activities they make me very happy. All of a sudden, I will have completed my creative projects that make me happy.

Pia Brolih Djilas, 2nd year of undergraduate study psychosocial assistance at FUDŠ

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