Nanowrimo is really about time management in the end. If you start this project, chances are high that you know how to write. The really tough thing is to keep yourself motivated to make time for it every single day. Sometimes, it’s challenging. It’s already so late again, although I promised myself I would be going to bed a lot earlier today. Not happening. Who knew.
How do you find two hours a day in your already tight schedule? That’s the real difficulty here. Not the writing part. Easy peasy.
It takes 19 days to form a habit. Now that I’ve reached day 25, I don’t know how to stop. If I don’t write late at night, something is missing. If I get too much sleep so that I’m not that exhausted anymore, something feels wrong. My mum asked me today how I can do all this stuff. I go to uni, work, meet friends, go for runs, paint and play the uke…so many other things. And every night I sit down to write. Because I can’t stop myself. The word “Break” doesn’t exist for me while Nanowrimo is on. It’s a challenge. I accepted it.
Here’s how to do that.
1. Know your goal. You will get things done much more easily if you have an aim in your life. I identified my life’s purpose yesterday, if you want to read about that. Now that I have it in the back of my head, things are a lot easier. I will see the reason behind the exercises I do. I have to study this because I will need it. I sit down every night despite being tired and get the words flowing. Because I know I want to write. This aim keeps you going whatever the circumstances are. Write your goal down. Put it up on the wall over your desk. It helps, trust me.
2. Write everything down. I keep a bullet journal. That means I make a planner from scratch and have a little to-do list for every day. I add inspirational quotes and pictures, little drawings and lots of lists. I love planning. It keeps my head clear for the important stuff. If you have written down what you want to achieve that day, it is a lot easier to actually do it. You can learn a lot more about this technique here: http://bulletjournal.com/
I love bullet journaling. It is both creative and productive. I can write weekly aims down, what I need to do. Transfer them to another day or week. I have monthly overviews with important events. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do anything, write down “have breakfast”. It looks nice if you have accomplished something that day. All the other tasks will be easier for you. Start easy on yourself.
3. Prioritise. That’s a vital part of planning. Over time you will know how many hours you need to do certain activities. For example half an hour to clean the bathroom. 7 hours to do statistics homework. … Yeah… Write it down. Sort your assignments for the day according to the time you are going to need to finish them. Start with those which take the smallest amount of time. They will keep you going. Go on to the more demanding ones with the feeling that you already have accomplished something.
Furthermore, it is important to note when those tasks are due. If you have to hand in an essay tomorrow, or write a report for you boss, do it now. Do the most important pieces of work first, so that they are out of the way. If you do not face them, you will have them in the back of your head the whole time. That makes realising other projects more difficult.
4. Find a great workspace. If you love your kitchen table but the temptation to go to the fridge is high, don’t sit there. If your neighbours are annoying or too loud, get out of the house. Find a spot where it is silent and you can focus on your work. Switch your phone off. I can’t stress that enough. With the notifications of modern mobile phones, productivity is impossible. I like to go to the library of our uni because there are so many people studying, who keep me motivated. Also, I just leave my phone at home. Then I have no chance but to work.
If you get on with the work, stay hydrated. Allow yourself breaks after each half an hour. Stretch a little, move. Concentration leaves us after 1.5 hours because our glucose levels are too low. You could eat an apple for example to get your brain going again.
5. Focus. That’s one of the hardest parts. To not let your mind wander, to not let yourself get distracted, to not start day dreaming. I have put a little note on my desk with “Stay focused” on it. That sometimes helps. I’m the person who puts sticky notes everywhere.
6. Keep going. The most amazing tool for productivity is “Pomodoro” for me. That’s an app that basically works like an egg timer. It’s usually set for 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes break, 25 min work, 15 min break. These intervals work very well. You get so absorbed in your work in these 25 minutes, it’s great. The app tracks the time you invested in certain tasks. It’s always nice to see how many hours you have worked that day on a specific project. That’s also what I write down in my bullet journal. How many pomodoros it has taken me to complete the exercise. Consequently, planning gets a lot easier.
7. Don’t multitask. If you started with one topic, finish it. If you focused all you energy that day on one project, keep going until you can’t go on anymore. Don’t try to switch between tasks, that’s not going to work most of the time. It’s like reading books for me. If there are only a few pages left, I will finish it, no matter what time it is.
8. Know when to stop. If you are facing a particularly different challenge, it maybe nice to have a break to clean or tidy something. To go for a walk. Give yourself some time to recover your mind. To lift the pressure off you creativity. Our brains are hardworking organs and we have to be kind to them. It’s so easy to destroy a day of hard work within just moments when you are tired and unmotivated. Don’t let that happen. Listen to the signals your body is giving you.
9. The 80-20 rule. Being a perfectionist is hard. Especially in a time, where we have so many different things going on in our lives. If you want to do everything perfectly, the possibility that you never get anything done is high. The 80-20 rule says, that you do 80% of the work in 20% of the time and the remaining 20% of the work in 80% of the time. Just go until 80, that’s enough. The reworking parts are the most time-consuming ones. Here’s a tip: Start to work on a project and do it until you are fine with showing it to others. Do something completely different. Then go back to your project and see if your work was enough.
10. Time for yourself. You need to sleep, to eat, to meet people, exercise a bit if you want. Treat yourself. If your whole day is packed with work, you won’t last very long. We are not made to be under pressure the entire day. (In whose head did Freddie Mercury sing this line right now? :D) Make yourself a cup of tea, sit down for a while. Read something. Watch a video. Talk to a friend. You need time to calm your mind and gather all your energy. It doesn’t help to freak out about all the stuff you need to do and in your panic do everything wrong. (Oh, all this lovely maths homework… I know what I’m talking about…) Don’t push yourself over the limit, just gently touch it and then let yourself fall down again. It’s great to test how far you can go. That’s also the kind of experiment I’m doing right now. How much work can I do in one month without completely losing it? I’m still fine, you see.
These are my top ten tricks how to manage your time effectively. I love to manage. To pass tasks around and to bring people together to work on a project. It’s just a process that I really enjoy. If you have other tips, please tell me, I would love to know! What works for you? How do you motivate yourself to get things done?
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