My Productivity Tips for Lockdown
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Loosely schedule what you want to do for the day
Be over-ambitious with how much work you'll get done
Short bursts, the Pomodoro Method
Food and drink
Trick your brain
Naturally, at the start of lockdown I decided I was going to be uber productive during this period at home. And I'd like to say that I have been somewhat productive, which is at least something. Certainly I have been more productive than I would have been at school (which I think isn't the best use of time) and I have compiled some ways I have been staying productive. Most of my ways are ideas harvested from various sources (I refer to them as 'productivity gurus' and are linked below) and there are more extensive resources on how to keep productive. But these are the ways I have found useful and are using. I'm splitting my tips into through catergories:
Effective time management
Two of my favourite productivity gurus: Ali Abdaal Thomas Frank Also, two of my favourite books on getting things down are Atomic Habits by James Clear and Grit by Angela Duckworth.
1. Effective time management With routines out of whack, a natural thought would be to have a routine for what you'd do each day, and this is certainly what these 'productivity' gurus have been advocating. I personally think that unless you are extremely disciplined, setting up a tight schedule for yourself is unrealistic.
What I do instead is roughly plan my day- usually the day before, before bed. For example, I think tomorrow I need to finish my notes on gas exchange and organic chemistry and also to test myself on quantum particles.
The general idea is to plan out what you need to get done for the day- I find it best to be overambitious with how productive you plan to be. I usually write this on a post-it note and stick it on my wall so I don't forget.
I profound theory that I came across from following AliAbdaal's Youtube Channel was Parkinson's Law. It is the idea that work expands to the time allocated for it. I.e if you give yourself a week to complete an essay- the essay will take a week to do it. However, if the deadline for the same essay is the next day, it will most likely be done before then. This, I think is a very useful idea to keep in mind and is therefore better to over-set what you want to complete during the day, without the mindset of I am over-setting this task for the sake of over-setting, but rather with the mindset of I will complete this task by the end of the day, but it's not the end of the world if I don't. 2. Focusing I've always been rubbish at focusing. Unless I have a specific task to do such as a worksheet to complete or an essay, when I revise I spend a maximum of 20 minutes working before I have a substantial break. I even abided by that system through GCSEs, but I started revising considerably a long time before anybody else and so my shorter period of work over a longer time period probably added up to a decent amount of time. I even did well in my GCSEs. I believe a shorter, more focused period of work is a more efficient way of revising that say an hour of not so effective work- and its easier to stick to, though some of my mates advocate for revising 2 hours at a time.
There's general consensus among these productivity gurus that shorter bursts of efficient work is better than longer periods. A technique I've come across is the Pomodoro Method. This involves doing 25 minutes of productive work with a 5 minute break. I don't personally follow this since I don't have that much pressure to work that hard, which means I enjoy much longer breaks. Nevertheless, this has worked well for me for when I decide to be productive- a useful app is Tomato Timer which is specifically designed for Pomodoro.
Productivity gurus also suggest keeping your phone in a different room to prevent distractions. I don't find this especially useful since I can do everything on my laptop as I can do on my phone, so my fine remains with me at all times. When I want to especially focused I use the app Cold Turkey which blocks everything on my phone for a certain period and Forest when I want to be slightly less focused- an app that lets you go onto other apps but makes you lose 'points.'
Additionally, music is very important to me when I work. Although numerous studies suggest studying with music is sub-optimal, I feel that the enjoyment of studying with music greatly outweighs its apparent side-effects on my studying. However, it is important to note that music without lyrics is preferable to music with lyrics with regards to studying. I recommend listening to both classical music and music from film tracks, especially The Avengers tracks.
My final tip is another idea I've harvested of the internet. I feel it's pretty easy to work once you actually start working while very difficult to start. So a quick trick is to say to yourself I will work for 2 minutes then I will stop. Usually, after 2 minutes you will find it is easy to carry on working and it is easy to work for 2 minutes. Other things that help my focus include eating and drinking while studying- I recommend peppermint tea- it contains basically no calories and no caffeine. Also, a very important thing that is often overlooked is having a clean and tidy work area.