I am very concerned about efficiency. I do my best to ensure that I can get the greatest amount of work done in the least amount of time possible while still doing it well. This has really come in handy throughout my lengthy (and still ongoing) education. It helps me stay on top of my assignments but still have time to sleep, connect with other people, and enjoy hobbies. Efficiency is what has gotten me this far.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my method of ensuring efficiency and if it’s really the best thing for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that what I’m doing works well, so I’m not going to change it. But in the process of thinking through my approach, I thought it might be nice to actually write it out and share it with you guys not only for my own benefit but also in hopes that it might be helpful for you. So this week’s blog post will be a little more practical than reflective. I hope that’s alright with you. Here’s my approach to efficiency and getting stuff done.
Basically, the secret to my success is giving myself little rewards throughout the day. If I have a 20-page paper to do, I set small, specific goals, and then I reward myself every time I reach one. If my goal is to write a section, I’ll give myself a snack break when I finish that section. If I need to read a certain source, I’ll let myself watch an episode of TV or read a chapter from a fun book when I’m finished. Giving myself little rewards after completing small goals eventually leads to finishing the big project.
I call my approach alternating. I try to never get bogged down on one thing for too terribly long. I can’t write a long paper in one long sitting. I’ll get burned out. I have to switch to something else every once in a while, and that’s where the short goals and rewards come in. It lets my mind switch out of whatever mode I’m in so that it can rest and be ready when I get back to it.
I often switch back and forth between work and something fun. But sometimes, there’s just too much to do. So I have to switch between two or three different kinds of work. But even then, the same system applies. I choose whatever work I’m most looking forward to (or least dreading) and use that as my reward for finishing the more difficult or less fun work. For example, I will work on an assigned reading until I finish a chapter, and then I’ll let myself do something fun but still productive like working on the podcast I’m making with some friends. It doesn’t have to be switching between productive and unproductive. It just has to be switching between two (or more) things.
The benefit of this approach is that it practically removes the threat of burnout. I can switch back and forth between two productive things all day and be just fine. But if I try to do just one productive thing all day long, it takes longer and ends up worse because I burn myself out. I think alternating is the ideal way of tackling things that require productivity.
Now, I do recognize that there are times when this process doesn’t apply. If you’re in an extreme time crunch and absolutely have to get something done, then this process can be harmful. For example, I once put off editing a 45-minute video until the day before it was due, and so I had no choice but to focus solely on that assignment for a full day. But if you’re planning ahead and making sure you have plenty of time to do something right, I’d say alternating is the way to go.
So there you go. That’s how I get things done. It’s not profound or new or mind-blowing. But it works for me, and who knows, maybe it can work for you. If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with me through this sort of different blog post this week. I hope you have a great week, and I’ll see you next time!