Mastering Productivity

I am not claiming to be some kind of miraculous, productive being. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life being really, really lazy. However, over the past year (and particularly over summer), I decided to get myself into gear and actually do something other than eat and sleep.

Keeping busy keeps me level. If I spend too long doing nothing, I start to just morph into a moss-covered rock that never moves, and the less I do, the less I want to do. Once I recognised this, I powered myself full-force into a lot of different things to see how it went. And you know what? I feel great.

Before summer, I pelted headfirst into my course, and kept it as just that. I didn’t really have any hobbies and I didn’t have a job, I just focused entirely on my uni work. So when summer came around, I found myself very, very bored. Sure, I made a head start on the reading list, but that didn’t exactly give me something to have on the go all the time. I dug into my own books, and read more than I could possibly count. I would spend day after day wrapped up in my duvet with my Kindle under my nose, blocking out everything else. I love books, and I love the escape that reading brings, but spending my days poring over books meant that I also spent all my time in bed doing pretty much nothing else.

Once I got a full time job, of course things started to change. I spent the majority of my time at work, and I was keeping busy, but I wanted something to fill my nights and my weekends. This is where I started to pick up hobbies.

Honestly, I’ve never really had hobbies before now. There was never really anything that I kept at, so I decided that this time, things would be different. My first port of call was languages. Over summer, I polished up on my French skills that hadn’t been touched since I was sixteen, and I ventured into learning Danish. I love learning languages, and I love a challenge. I practice for a few minutes every day, and it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. I recognise the words a little faster every day, pick up on new things, and it keeps my brain ticking.

We all know how important it is to be physically active. I had essentially done no exercise since PE at school, bar a couple of at-home workouts that I never stuck to (I bought a hula hoop). I wasn’t happy with how sluggish I felt, or how my chins seemed to be multiplying by the day, and I’d heard about how exercise is a great stress reliever. I loved going to the gym over summer. It made me feel like I had my life together. I had more energy, felt more confident, and had the opportunity to push myself. Signing up to classes in advance made things concrete for me rather than an option. I felt a great sense of achievement when I ran for those extra five minutes or lifted those extra ten pounds, and my head felt clearer, too.

You may have seen me talk about knitting before, and that was my next venture. I love that I have something to show for my time and effort, and it’s so therapeutic. It’s not work related, but I love it and it makes me feel productive anyway. I could take my knitting to work and get a couple of rows done on my breaks so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting time, and it’s so satisfying looking at something and thinking “I made that”.

I’ve played the ukulele for over a year now, but perhaps I don’t pick it up as often as I should. Setting myself a goal to pick up the ukulele every once in a while instead of leaving it to gather dust gave me another thing to focus on, and it was very calming to play.

I even dabbled in ballet a little bit, attending a couple of adult lessons to keep me active and get me out of the house. It was good fun and actually a great way to take your mind off other worries, because you have to focus on your body rather than your mind.

Finally, this blog has pushed me to keep busy. Whacking a post up on a website three times a week means that I have to get creative with my ideas, plan out my posts, and most importantly, write. Writing is my favourite hobby, and yet I don’t do it enough, and I certainly don’t show my writing to anyone. This blog gives me a set structure, with time limits that I have to stick to. I get the chance to let out some of the thoughts that feel like they’re bunged up in my head, I get to be creative, and I get to see how I cope under my own pressure.

I found that keeping myself busy with things other than work helped me to focus on being more driven and not letting myself get lazy. Knowing that I could achieve so many little things in one day restored my own faith in myself, and that means that when I start uni next week, I’ll be ready to get on with my work instead of having to kick myself out of a lazy phase.

So here are my tips for being productive:

  • Just do it. Whatever it is you have to do, just get on with it. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be done, and you’ll thank yourself for it later. Procrastination isn’t going to get you anywhere.
  • Keep yourself busy with anything that you can to keep you in the flow of getting stuff done. The feeling of success gets pretty addictive, so set yourself small goals and soon enough you’ll be aiming higher.
  • Make a checklist. I tell myself that if it’s on my checklist, then it has to be done with no excuses. It feels great being able to tick things off a list and look at everything you achieved at the end of the day.

Like I said, I’m not exactly the perfect example of somebody who has their life together and always gets everything done, but I try, and that’s what matters. My hobbies may be small, but they keep me busy and they give me something to work towards, even if it’s just learning one new Danish word, nailing one new song on ukulele, trying one new stitch in my knitting, or pushing myself for one more minute in the gym. I promise, it helps.

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