Career Stuff

Productivity Problems

I am someone who always used to be busy. When I was 13 I became involved in the youth sector as a member of the UK Youth Parliament – representing the young people of Bristol for 3 years. I also got involved in other volunteering too, fitting it around school, looking after my Mum when she became ill, and helping out at home. When I moved to London for uni I wasn’t involved in as much extracurricular stuff but I still kept busy. I was a part of the uni magazine for a few years, tried out some societies, ran for student union, and had an active social life.

Upon graduating I hit a lull. Lots of my friends had gone back to their hometowns, or were busy in new jobs whilst I was trying to figure out what I wanted. With little structure to my days I found it difficult to feel motivated to do much, and spent most of my time at home in front of the TV with my laptop open job hunting. But then I got involved in volunteering again, and felt a renewed burst of energy and productiveness. I started to apply to more and more opportunities, speaking at several conferences and meetings, joining different organisations, and making great contacts. It’s through some of those contacts that I landed my internship at The Children’s Society last April. After living at a fairly slow pace for 8 months it was a big change. I was working only two days a week at TCS, but I also got a part time job at Cath Kidston, which meant I often only had 1 full day off per week (sometimes none!) To say I was busy is an understatement, but I mostly enjoyed it. As the year progressed, I moved on to new jobs, which came with new challenges and adventures, and continued to be very busy.

I was busy, but I wasn’t always productive. My pile of dirty laundry kept growing, my desk at home was messy, I really needed a hair cut, and my personal passion projects fell by the wayside. My work life balance was a mess, and I felt like I was spending most of my time sleeping, struggling to wake up, commuting, and sending emails at work. Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of things at work that I’m proud of. From putting together the entire stage line-up and timetable for the young carers’ festival in June through to planning and running several training events for project leaders whilst I was with Think Big there were some great work moments, and I feel like I grew and learned a lot. The thing which I didn’t fully master though was balancing my time. I went from doing hardly anything for 8 months (save a brief stint in retail) to doing too much with equally little feeling of satisfaction or results. Being busy wasn’t helping me, and having nothing to do made me lazy. I am tired of not being productive, so that’s something I am going to work on this year.

From creating routines and schedules to setting daily goals and challenges for myself, I am embarking on a mission to figure out how to optimise my productivity, and sharing the results here. This is intended to be something which can help others, as well as making me a bit more accountable! Telling other people your goals and plans can act as a way to ensure you follow through, as well as potentially giving you a group to do it with you. Now I know that many others before me have embarked on this mission, and found great ways that work for them; people such as James Clear and David Allen are experts in this area. I am in no way trying to compete with them. I follow their blogs and methods with interest, but haven’t yet come across the right fit for me. What I am aiming to do is to take inspiration from them and others, as well as using trial, error, and my personality and creativity to find my own productivity plan.

Bearing that in mind, it’s important to avoid the lure of over-researching productivity methods and tools for half the day, which is really just ‘busy’ with no real outcome. It’s easy to end up simply doing unnecessary tasks, procrastinating, or simply taking on too much work. There’s a certain pressure to be constantly active; busy is seen as something desirable and good. The thing is a lot of the time busy-ness doesn’t equate to productivity. You can spend three hours researching the best planner to manage your time (ok guilty…) and then another hour finding the ‘perfect’ method for sticking to your to-do list and folding your clothes properly. If you don’t actually become more productive from using them, then they’re little more than a waste of time. Now I am the first in line for pretty stationery, but this year I am determined to also be pretty productive. My first step will be to write down absolutely everything that I need or want to do in the next 6 months. I will write this out in my next post; I sense a colour-coded chart coming on….

What are your plans for the next few months? Let me know in the comments and we can try to hold each other accountable!

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