On Productivity

Two things work through my mind as I start typing this out:

On how pretentious a productive person I might sound (loving the alliteration though, can’t help it, slurp);

IT’S BEEN THE SECOND DAY IN A ROW SINCE I WROTE SLASHED BLOGGED. GAH. YAY. OHMYGOSHImuststopbeingasdramatic.

December Diaries copyJokes aside though, I have some productive tendencies. It all comes down to how productive I genuinely want to be. Emphasis on the genuine (and not some as most would’ve assumed, lol), because I have come to realise that I cannot fuck with my brain. It knows when it is urgent and how important it is to me or something on those lines.

So of my twenty-something years on board, here’s what education, work, familial and other relationships have taught me on productivity: 

a) Sleep has nothing to do with this

I don’t know about you, but as a kid I had plenty of autographs. You remember those yes? 90s kids? 80s kids? 70s? 60s, no that was my Mum. But these autographs, (not the funky ones with questions that became a hit in the 2000s) were colourful blank often-perfumed pages for friends, family and loved ones to write nice things about you, so that when you grow old, grey and miserable, life has given you something good to fall back on. I jawk, aren’t I just hilarious? 😀

In one of my first autographs (I may have been 7+), my Mum wrote in it, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a girl healthy, wealthy and wise.” I mean, I’ve always been a night-owl. As a child of seven, I used to clean my desk between 08-10pm every Tuesday night. (I don’t recall what the deal was on Tuesdays though) As an adult, health aside, the wealth and wisdom may have been accumulated from night-time adventures.

FYI, for those who are confused about the sort of work I do, no I do not moonlight as a hooker. My area already has a few prominent bodies who may not be accepting of mine and my body is still not on par with theirs and hence, it comes down to a matter of tough competition.

On the health side of things, yes, your face would look brighter, but then again I have for most part of my life never had the issue of circles or bags under my eyes and have begun using an under-eye cream to prevent any such nuisance in the years to come.

b) Do not however, ignore the importance of sleep

This does not mean that you are to work all night long because you need no sleep, like Jon Snow, you know nothing. Even if sleep does not come naturally to you, while I do not advocate for sleeping pills and what not, if you must, do go ahead with it, if not, try exercising, eating lighter meals and Googling as to how you can sleep better at night. Even if you don’t sleep, try to lie on your bed listening to music. Try to avoid reading or watching anything that will bring additional strain on your eyes, but just chill and hopefully, you’ll fall asleep.

c) Understand your body type / environments you work (best) in

This is a weird productivity tip of sorts, but I think for me to have written the first two points, it took me a while before I figured out that I was a night person. It’s not only night-night that’s most important to me, but also the environment you work in.

For example, when I’m at home, I work into the nights because the house is quieter and everything is really calm. I even tend to workout most at nights. However, if I am travelling for work or on vacation, I do have early night (sometimes as early as 10pm?) because I tend to finish up on work during the day because of the change in environment (and also due to the less number of household chores / responsibilities that you may otherwise have).

It’s best for you to understand on what works for you. For example, while in uni, my roomie was an early bird. So during exam time, I’d study from 10pm – 3am and I’d wake her up when I’m going to sleep where she will study from about 4am till mid morning.

d) Exercise

It’s funny that I speak on exercise because I’m anything but sporty. haha. In school I didn’t do any sports. Probably played badminton for about a year and clearly my Mum’s sports gene had hit neither my older sister nor me.

We don’t really have the most athletic of bodies either and due to our genetic mix, we are the if-you-eat-too-much-you-will-put-on-weight as opposed to the my-metabolism-is-naturally-high types. Towards my late teens and uni in India too had a lot to do with this, I started doing yoga. I started off with a yoga class (not the traditional one, this was at a gym, lol) and then followed a lot of yoga videos online and started reading up more on it. When I started feeling my body becoming stronger, I gradually incorporated more cardio and strength training into my routine and now, I have a relative-commendable schedule of working out thrice a week with some yoga, some cardio, stretching and core-strengthening. I don’t use machines or hit a gym (because of a very bad and funny gym accident I had a few years back); don’t jog (this tropical weather I’m telling you and we have weak-ish knees) and have put together a routine based on various workout videos and articles that strain neither the knees or the wrists.

Exercising has not only helped me fall asleep better at night but also help feel good about myself, especially that I-cannot-climb-up-this-staircase-but-oh-that-feels-good thought. Working out regularly has also made me make a mental note when planning things out because now we have one more thing to incorporate into the schedule!

e) Write your shiz down

As a writer that tries very hard, I essentially enjoy writing. While I was teaching, my students may have hated me, muhaha, but I try to institutionalise the practice of writing wherever I can, just as how I change computer languages from American to British English, HAHAHA.

Writing helps you put things in perspective and also helps you prioritise. I write both on paper and on the terrific Notes app on my laptop and phone. If you want a fancy shiz app, I’m sure there are tonnes on your phone app store that might hit your fancy.

If you are overwhelmed with hundred-and-one things to do and do multiple-thing-including-the-supposed-hooker-moonlighting like me and don’t know where to start, here’s what works for me:

  • Take a blank paper and write down in point or list form every single thing you want to do. These can include things like taking your kid to the doctor’s, calling up your friend to check on last week’s hangover (yes, these things happen and we forget), grocery shopping, paying you internet bill and so on. The list is not a work or house only list, but a list of everything you need to accomplish in life that moment. Of course if you write things like “graduate” then you might as well stay in school, silly goose.
  • Number them! Scan the list thoroughly and number them in order of importance. If some items are equally important, e.g. – shopping for your boyfriend’s birthday next week and finishing up a report, don’t hesitate to use the same number twice, but remember not to overdo it. Ask yourself if you will die, be fired, lose money or a relationship if the task is delayed and the answer is no, then it’s fine to push it to the bottom of the list. Do not mix prioritising with procrastinating, because what’s at the bottom of the list will make it’s way to the top, eventually and be complete.
  • Once the numbering is done, set time or date stamps, giving yourself a grace period as well (especially where client / employer deadlines are concerned).
  • Categorise your tasks then in either order of importance or a date-breakdown or just into baskets where they all belong.

What works best for me is when I put it in to a day plan – basically ten things I plan to achieve in a day (these also include chores and what not) and generic basket plan, where the different tasks are put into categories / clients / employers and then listed out it in the order of importance.

Yes this may sound terrifying, but once you spend time initially and get this ball rolling, encouragement and motivation will find its way here.

d) Deconstruct tasks

This is probably one of my favourite productivity tips that I made a habit while I was living away in India. I would basically breakdown a larger task and do it in small parts so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the thought of it, when either a deadline or task is due. I use this most when it comes to household chores because I’ve seen my Mum clean the house inside out every weekend. For example, if it’s something like cleaning my bathroom, I would clean the floors on one day, the sink / commode on another, the wall tiles on another day and so on. This way, not only will my bathroom constantly be clean but when my loo can take no more, I wouldn’t be stuck in a pile of goo, literally. haha.

e) Incentives

I know, but this is great when you have to force yourself into doing something you don’t like, whether it is a school assignment or a task your line manager delegated to you, and you need that extra motivation to keep you going.

I usually make a mental note to reward myself:

  • if I complete something I’ve been putting off ages because it was too time consuming;
  • complete something I simply do not want to, but have to;
  • continuously work on a task / habit for a period of time. For example, last evening I shopped for some workout clothes because my workout schedule has actually been commendable over the past few weeks!

f) Take time off

I literally cannot speak or write more on this one. It’s a concept that is still new to me as it hasn’t been too long since I myself began practicing it. 

If you work unconventional job(s) or hours like I do, then everyone probably thinks that you lead suchha chill life. <insert image on Snoopy chilling on a beach chair with a Piña colada>

As if.

Chances are that you are (over) working most of the time, probably due to time zone constraints or there is simply too much work and your organisation does not have funding for an additional human resource, hence, alas and you soon start having your weekdays glide into your weekends and vice versa. The next step in this sequence is when you are termed a “workaholic”, “inconsiderate”, “bad relationship person”, “does not have time for family and friends” and so on.

I relate to this because I was this person about a year ago. Then, the words of my first boss / Editor found its way to my head. Six years back he told me,

It’s not about how (many) long (hours) you work, but how smart you work. 

Now, I make it a point NOT to work on Saturdays, I try for the entire weekend, but a Saturday is a start and a good one at that.

I try to take at least one weekend off doing nothing or spending time with family, friends, grocery shopping or travelling.

The break, I’ve grown to realise helps me reset and recharge for the next gruelling week ahead that I actually look forward to.

Word of the day: hustle

g) Spend time building yourself and your relationships 

This is not the yogic mantra nonsense telling you this, but taking time off has led me live somewhat of an offline life (of sorts) or at least to stay a few hours offline, spending time with myself or those whom I adore the most.

I’ll start with myself, because I’m narcissistic. If I have time to kill or purposely am avoiding work because I need a break, I do things that I find therapeutic, workout or just sleep. Even if I sleep in a little longer on a day I intend to wake up early, I have learned to stopped blaming myself because, perhaps the intention was not genuinely present when I fell asleep the night before. Spending time with myself either doing weird yogic nonsense like meditating has also helped me appreciate myself better and also worked a bit on the self confidence.

In case you didn’t realise, the narcissism was a sarcastic plugin.

My “me-time” usually pays off in good (productive) work vibes and that sort of positive chain reactions. I also think that good vibes and positivity goes beyond a hippy acid trip. It’s only natural for you to want to do the sort of work you do (regardless of how much you may not want to or how much you dislike it) when you are in a good mood. 🙂

I also now try to socialise and open up a bit more to family, friends and other favourites when I take time off. I either chill with them, do something fun together or just walk hand in hand to the sunset < #haw ❤ > because not only do we all need to calm the fuck down but also take some time off to appreciate one another by giving them our time.

I haven’t proofed this yet because it turned out WAY longer than I expected, but it’s honestly been something on my mind a long long time and here it is, finally. So excuse the typos and other (many) possible grammatical errors. Some of these work their way into productivity in a weird way (like motivation?), hence the reason I’ve included them in.

Until (hopefully) tomorrow, have a lovely Wednesday.

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