I relate to this quote: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? That there are so many worthwhile things in the world that it’s challenging to experience everything that we want to?
On any given day, I have a list on my phone of around 20 things that I want to do. As a blogger/writer/avid Instagrammer, I’m always looking for ideas for my posts. I try to keep my thoughts organized on my phone or in Word docs, but as a creative person, I tend to find inspiration all around me (on good days at least). This means that my ideas don’t always come when I’m ready (or wanting) to write them down. Even when I’m trying to work off of to-do lists I’ve created, so many other ideas keep jumping into my head, fighting for my attention. I want to do everything at once. Since that’s impossible, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all of my ideas, which is frustrating.
Psychology was my support field (similar to a minor) in college. One of the things we learned about was the “fight-or-flight,” response, which is one of the body’s typical reactions to stress. Meaning that when someone encounters a stressful situation or perceived threat, they either decide to stay where they are and “fight” through whatever is happening, or they take themselves out of the situation and escape. Most of the time when people talk about fight or flight, they’re talking about it in terms of a more serious situation, like when someone is criticizing you or you’re being mugged. But I think that sometimes, I experience a little bit of fight-or-flight when I try to accomplish something important to me, such as a blog post. I sit down, ready to knock it out and then all of these competing thoughts pop into my head. “Maybe I should write about that other thing instead?” “Should I get a cup of coffee before I get started?” “What was that idea I had when I was walking around Target the other day?” “I should create a blog schedule for next week before writing.” I get overwhelmed by all of these thoughts and start feeling stressed. On good days, I push through the overwhelming feelings and get stuff done. On bad days, I get too distracted and take a break for the day.
Is anyone else like this? I would bet that quite a few other creatives are.
Here’s the thing: I believe in my ideas. I want to write and create and follow my passions. I don’t want to not do the things I care about because I was too distracted. I want to start really harnessing my creativity and learn how I can be more productive. This is something that has really been on my mind lately, so I’ve been trying a few different productivity techniques to see if they help. Thankfully, I’ve had some success with this and have found myself feeling more focused and being able to get into “work mode” easier.
Here are a few productivity tips that work for me:
1. Eat regularly
I’m much more prone to be distracted when I’m hungry. Sometimes part of why I have trouble getting focused is because I didn’t eat enough. There’s nothing wrong with having a little protein to help boost your energy levels! Your body needs fuel to do all the things you want to do.
2. Find background noise that works for you
For me, I’m more likely to be distracted by my own thoughts if I’m in a totally quiet room. But at the same time, I can’t really focus on writing (or other similar things) if I listen to music with lyrics-I get too emotionally invested in what’s going on in the song and can’t concentrate, haha. The happy medium for me is either instrumental music (like movie scores or piano) or even rain sounds. As I type, I’m actually listening to the sounds of a thunderstorm thanks to Amazon Prime (even though it’s bright and sunny out my window).
3. Set time limits
I’ve started giving myself set amounts of time to get things done. I’ll say to myself, “ok, you have until 4:30 to finish this and then you need to start working on something else.” I think this works for me because I do better when I can switch gears after a while and give myself a break from doing the same thing for hours and hours. I like to stagger the types of things I’m doing when I can so that I use different parts of my brain. I might go from writing, to folding the laundry, back to writing, and then to cooking dinner. Of course, sometimes you just get in the zone and want to keep working on whatever you’re doing, which is great. I try to not interrupt myself when I’m on a roll. But when I’m feeling antsy, setting time limits can help me get things done.
4. Make your to-do list at night
I’ve found that when I write my to-do list for the next day at night before I go to bed, I wake up the next morning with purpose. That’s a really good feeling. When I wake up with purpose, I’m more excited to get out of bed and start the day. If you write your to-do list at 2:00 in the afternoon, you’ve already lost a good chunk of the day that could have been spent being more focused. Also, in order to keep yourself from the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start, write your list in order of priority.
5. Be kind to yourself
I realize that I put an insane amount of pressure on myself to accomplish a lot during the day. I’m my own worst critic and beat myself up when I don’t get something done that I wanted to do. Lately, I’m trying to cut myself a little more slack. We’re all human and sometimes we have off days. Sometimes we can’t get focused no matter how hard we try. Sometimes we need a good cry, those extra hours of sleep, or that night of binge watching a show on Netflix. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. You might have had an off-day today, but you can try again tomorrow. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself as well as to you guys!
Learning how to be more productive is a work in progress for me. Do you have any productivity tips? Is there an app or planner that you swear by? I’m all ears, so please share your thoughts with me!
Side note: today I’m linking up with the Making our Life Matter blog for the Motivation Monday linkup. You can check out the linkup here.
Thanks for reading!