I named this post productivity tips but in reality, I think it's more like an overview of how I TRY to stay productive. Emphasis on the "try" there. As my course load is getting heavier and heavier by the day and lots and lots of deadlines are coming up, I've been trying out some new apps and tips to stay on top of the whole thing. It's not that I wasn't organised before but with the help of all the new things I've been doing, I feel like I'm actually managing my time well and instead of having a million things on my to-do list that will never get completed and in turn demotivate me, I've found a system that keeps all that in check while making sure that I do get all the work I'm supposed to do done. I don't feel so overwhelmed anymore when I think about all the things I have to do thanks to perfecting my own little system so hopefully, this can help you guys too.
I've been using Todoist since August and it's been a game changer for me. It's a to-do list/task management app and the basic features are free. I tried out so many different methods of planning out a to-do list including just using some sort of a paper planner or a bullet journal and think this one works the best. You can assign tasks to specific days, or set them as recurring tasks for every week or two weeks and more, and can assign tasks to specific projects. So at the moment my project titles look like this: Masters for all my uni work, nnyley for all things related to this blog, Admin, Goals and this includes my attempt to learn Spanish so I have specific tasks in here that relates to that, Entertainment for all the books I want to read and films I want to watch, and a couple of projects for different cities like London and Seoul so I can quickly put some new restaurants I want to try out or places I want to go on there. I don't have dates assigned to all the specific tasks but I make sure to sit down on Sunday to review my Todoist account and see if there's anything that I'd like to schedule for that coming week. If you guys want, I can talk a little bit more in-depth about how I use Todoist using screenshots on a different post, so let me know!
Ask anyone and they'll tell you that I've been a paper planner girl through and through. I was obsessed with the Erin Condren planner for a while and the Day Designer too. They were both really good and I think having a beautiful planner motivated me to actually write down my schedule and plan ahead. I then moved to using a weekly Moleskin planner for a couple of years and that was really helpful too. So these planners have the week on one page and a blank lined paper on the other. I would write events and classes on the actual week but use the lined space next to it write my to-dos and assignments that were due. While I liked this system, I found myself having to transfer tasks to different dates and my schedule would get changed so it got a little bit messy. I started using Google Calendar as an alternative, thinking I would never stick with it because I loved my paper planners so much but found myself being a lot more organised and productive. I have four different calendars so I can select to have a few of them showing at a given time. They are Personal, Masters, Fitness, and Editorial. I love that it allows me to move events easily and that it allows me to look back on the past month or year without having to actually go and find my paper planner. It's also useful for when you get meetings or events sent through your email because you can easily click on it to add it to your calendar and for having it on the go because you don't have to carry an actual planner around with you. Todoist and Google Calendar can also be integrated so you can see your tasks for the day and schedule it to specific times.
I find Evernote really useful for note taking in class but also for general notes. I used to write all my uni notes on Word and save them into different folders but they would easily get lost so tried out Evernote. It's really easy to use and having my notes all under one app makes searching so much easier. Especially since I'm trying to write multiple essays, their features like enabling users to search notes and pdfs have been extremely useful.
I use Pocket to save articles or pages that I'd like to read. Instead of having a million tabs open on Chrome so that I eventually get through and read all of them, having it saved on Pocket makes life so much easier. I put different labels on the articles when I save them so I can search easily. So for example, if I see anything related to the US, I would put that under my Masters label because I'm writing a couple of essays on the history of the US. I would also use labels like personal development if I see anything that relates to increasing productivity or happiness in general. I do a mass reading of all my saved articles on Sunday but when I'm waiting for a friend or have a little time to spare, I'd open the app on my phone and read a couple of articles.
This one relates to how I use Todoist with my Google Calendar. I block off certain periods of time like an hour or two hours and dedicated to a task or a group of tasks. So for example, I might block off 9-11am on a certain day for admin things like calls and I might block off the next hour for doing some research for my dissertation. Instead of having a list of things to do for a day, I find it useful to set aside certain times for tasks. That way you can focus on just one thing instead of trying to juggle multiple tasks and it helps you be a lot more focused. Having done this for a good few months now, I'm able to review where I allot more time to tasks than I need and where I overestimate how much I can get done. I think reviewing is also important so that you don't set unrealistic goals for your day.
Using the Pomodoro technique during my blocked times has been really helpful. I think we all got the advice when studying at school that we should give ourselves regular breaks instead of trying to sit down for hours on end studying. Essentially, it's like breaking down your task or work into shorter intervals with regular breaks. How it works is, with a set task in mind, you set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on that task and only that task for 25 minutes. You then take a short break, maybe 5 minutes, and repeat the process. After you've done 4 Pomodoro sessions, you take a longer break. I've found this extremely helpful as it stops me from procrastinating too much. If I think of anything else I should be doing outside of the task I'm currently working on, I quickly jot down the idea in a notebook I have on my desk, which I can review later during the breaks. It's fine to use a timer on your phone to do this but I like using the Focus Keeper app as it helps you keep track of how many rounds of Pomodoro you did that day and it also saves the statistics so you can review it later.
So those are some apps and tips I use every day to up my productivity levels and just generally be a lot more organised. If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to leave a comment below! Also, just to let you know, I won't be keeping with my two posts a week schedule because I have a lot of deadlines coming up and a big exam soon. I'll try to post as much as I can though but please bear with me!