Okay, I'm sharing a secret with you:
Productivity. Is. Not. Magic.
...but you can use it to impress your friends and demolish your competition.
These are seven of the tools I use to keep my competitive edge sharp as I strive to be the best lawyer this City has ever seen.
1. Start Your Day Right
Every morning when I wake up three things happen:
1. I drink a giant glass of water,
2. I down a giant mug of English Breakfast tea, and
3. I write down three things I must accomplish that day.
I'm going to repeat that: three things I must accomplish that day.
No more, no less. Usually there are about thirty things I WANT to accomplish, but finding the three essential things I can't go to sleep without crossing off my list makes sure I structure my day according to what is important.
This is a quote Jess handed me last week:
2. Balance Yourself
It's easy, when making goals, to narrow yourself down to your career but everyone occupies different "roles" in life with multitudes of expectations.
For example, mine are:
Daughter (family members), Girlfriend, Student, Professional, and Adult.
Sometimes we can become unbalanced with all the thing we have to do in order to achieve our dreams, and leave our friends, family, and personal lives behind.
The solution to this is to make goals for the different "roles" in our lives.
A "Daughter" goal: call my mother three times a week.
A "Girlfriend" goal: write Jess a sweet note, or bring home Twix ice cream.
A "Student" goal: a homework assignment or paper.
A "Professional" goal: read Forbes or The Wall Street Journal cover to cover.
An "Adult" goal: take a bubble bath, or sort out finances.
All of these roles are important to me, and having them on my 'to do' list keeps me from being unfulfilled.
Do something every day to get your heart beating and your brain will function significantly better. Period.
I love Spin classes and go to my Soul Cycle religiously on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On the days that I don't, I'll get off the subway a stop early and walk through the park on the way home, or walk the block during lunch.
Find exercise that makes you happy so that you miss it when it's gone: Dance, run, or volunteer to walk your neighbor's dog.
Here's an article from Health.com on Tricks to Exercise More.
4. Make This Graph
This is from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey (which I highly recommend).
There are four quadrants, into which everything you do can be divided:
1. Important and Urgent (Overnight tests, Emails from potential employers, etc.)
2. Not Important and Urgent (Roommate texts, What to wear tonight)
3. Not Important and Not Urgent (Game of Thrones, All the lyrics to "Super Bass")
4. Important and Not Urgent (Exercise, Learning a second language)
The major distinction is between Urgent and Important, because the former often masquerades as the latter ("I have to answer this text" or "But this video is on my Facebook feed now" is not, in the long run, Important; it is Urgent). Learning to differentiate can save lots of time.
Anytime you are uncertain if something is worth your time, write out this graph and figure out where it lies. If it starts with a Not Important, ditch it. Ditching the Not Importants can help make time for your longterm goals.
5. Get in the Zone
Figure out what works for your when you want to sit down and accomplish things so you can truly focus, and get the most work done with the time you have. 80% of work happens in 20% of the time, so figuring out what you can do to facilitate that 20% is key.
Here are some hints:
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Or set it to Airplane Mode and only check it every hour. Nothing will happen in the intermediary time you won't be able to handle once you've finished your work.
Play Focus Music. I personally subscribe to FocusAtWill.com, which is an incredible resource I tap into when trying to write a paper or read a particularly difficult case study. It's basically musical white noise, and tunes me into work. Other options are Pink Noise or the Classical Station on Spotify.
Location. I love the library -- the peer pressure to be focused is so intense it works well for me. The New York Public Library's Schwartzman Branch is much the same way ( bring me a jacket). Some people like noisy cafes, some people prefer the quiet of their own rooms.
Find a productivity haven, make it sacred, and make time to be there.
6. Take Breaks
This seems counter-intuitive, but the best way to convince yourself to ficus is to remind yourself:
The breaks will happen.
If you work now, you don't have to work later.
This too shall pass.
Interval timers are my best friend when I'm working--25 minutes of focused, social media and email-free work, 5 minutes of free time. Repeat. Repeat again.
And of course vacations. Take vacations. Take weekends. Take days to relax, and splurge and enjoy yourself and the work you do will flourish accordingly.
Check out this TEDtalk to prove it.
7. Write Down What You Did Today
This is my favorite.
For a long time, I wasn't getting anywhere...or at least that's how I felt. I'd be doing all my homework, working endlessly at my internship, running to an from places, and never feeling productive.
Productivity is not just in the planner, it's in the mind.
And the way I found to fix my mind was to write down the things I had accomplished every day. Looking back on the day helps me realize that I am going places, and things are happening.
I' a physical-not-digital kind of person, so when my mother gave me this book, it helped me the most. It's a journal that holds ten years' worth of observations, date by date. It's brilliantly formatted and has been an emotional lifeline for me.
Another option is The Grid Diary app, but even just a regular journal would work!
Let me know if any of this works for you, or if I've forgotten something you find essential! I'm always looking for recommendations!