Schoolwork, volunteering, extracurricular activities, DECA... can you really do it all without endless all-nighters? We think so! Check out five of our favorite ways to level-up your schedules, to-do lists and priorities for peak productivity.
1. Schedule Smarter Days
When it comes to maximizing productivity, timing is everything. Take note of when during the day you feel most suited to do certain tasks. Do you feel particularly creative first thing in the morning? Use that time to knock out a writing assignment or design some slides for your DECA project. Or maybe your creative juices flow in the evening and you can schedule basic tasks, like small assignments and emails, for earlier hours. Spend a few weeks tracking your productivity flow, and then use that data to determine the peak time for every type of task on your to-do list.
2. Make the Most of Every Minute
You’re finished with school, work and extracurriculars for the day, but your evening to-do list is longer than ever. How can you make the most of your evening? Productivity gurus love the Pomodoro Technique for breaking up long stretches of work into productive sprints. Start by choosing a single task and set a timer for 25 minutes of uninterrupted work. (Yes, that means putting your phone away!) After 25 minutes, take a five-minute break. Repeat that cycle four times, and then reward yourself with a longer break (15-20 minutes). Then, start the method all over again. This is a proven way to increase your focus and get more done in less time!
3. Put Your To-Do Items into Action
The secret to knocking out a never-ending to-do list all comes down to how you write it. Make sure that every task on your list starts with a specific action verb. This helps break down bigger, more vague tasks into clear, actionable items that are easier to accomplish and harder to push off. For example, rather than writing “Work on DECA written event,” break that down into specific actions like “Develop project outline” and “Identify three sources for research.” You’ll find it easier to gain momentum as you cross off these specific items and make strides towards your overall goal.
4. Get Fierce About Your Priorities
Despite all our best productivity hacks, there’s only so much time in the day, making prioritization more important than ever. If everything feels like priority #1, use the Eisenhauer Matrix (below) to determine what is most deserving of your attention. Rank each task or to-do item on a matrix of urgency and importance. The most urgent and most important items are ones you should get to right away (like studying for tomorrow’s test), while less urgent and/or less important items get delegated or scheduled for later. And those items that aren’t urgent or important? They may not be worth having on your to-do list at all!
5. Redefine “Doing It All”
With the right productivity hacks, you really may be able to do it all. But if you still have too much on your plate, the hard truth is that you might not be able to do it all well. Over-committing yourself can lead to more than just burnout—it can also lead to things like missed tasks and lower quality work. This isn’t a bad thing; it just means you’re human! If you think you’ve reached this point, take a hard look at all your commitments and do some big-picture prioritization. While some areas are non-negotiables (like school or your part-time job), you may find that you’re only keeping other commitments out of pressure, obligation or old habits. Consider finding ways to take those off your plate.
Discover which method works best for you and you’ll be on your way to reaching your peak productivity!