We haven’t posted in a while, but I am going to try to crank out some more insightful new posts over the next few months. Here goes…
It is part of the “human condition” that we overthink things. We feel the need to constantly be busy. This feeling has been hightened with globalization and new technologies that give us access to a myriad of information. While this is generally looked upon as a positive and progressive aspect of life(and it is) at an individual level, this wealth of information can be detrimental. Sensory overload will ensue if you try to completely utilize these new technologies. Therefore, we need to define specific ways in which we can organize and structure our lives to use technology to our advantage. In this way, you can more effectively make use of your time and accomplish your goals with less effort than you have been using.
This year I am taking a new approach. I am in the process of reading Tim Ferris’s book The 4 Hour Work Week. It’s teaching me new tips and tricks to be more productive and to free up time to do more fun things like read for pleasure, play intramural sports, travel and hangout with friends. This post presents some of Tim’s ideas, as well as some of my ideas for how you can be a more efficient and effective student. In this post, I will present small lifestyle changes that will significantly increase your free time.
Here is how I tripled my free time and doubled my productivity:
Wake up at the same time every day.
Regardless of when your first classes or meetings are, waking up at the same time every day will fix your sleep schedule. This will also give you some extra time in the morning to crank out assignments. Remember, this is not the same as going to bed at the same time every night (which is much harder to do), this is about setting your alarm to wake you up at the same time each morning. I set my alarm for 8:00am each morning which usually gives me about 2.5 extra hours before class to read, write and work on assignments.
It’s undeniable that productivity has a lot to do with focus, drive and energy (FDE). One way to achieve FDE is through morning meditation. Now that you have an extra few hours in the morning, you can allocate 10-20 minutes to a guided meditation. I use free, downloadable guided mediations by searching for them on iTunes podcasts (I suggest Mediation Oasis).
Use a website blocker for social media
Firefox has an application called LeechBlock that allows you to block certain websites (i.e.:Facebook, email, etc.) for specific periods of time, or just in general. Other web surfers will likely have similar applications. This takes the decision of whether to “hop on Facebook for a sec” or be productive, out of your hands.
Delete Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from your phone
Imagine a world where instead of opening up the Facebook app on your phone, you opened up an app that allowed you to (mindlessly) complete tasks on your to-do list. Think about how much more productive you would be. Our generation really enjoys spending time scrolling through other peoples life events. It gives your brain a nice dopamine hit that is hard to stay away from, but is also taking away valuable hours from your life. Don’t end up spending 20% (140,000 hours) of your life (~700,000hrs) looking at your phone. Instead, use that time to work towards your goals.
Put your phone on a sleep setting once you get in bed
Once I realized that alarms would still go off when my phone was in this setting, I started using it A LOT more. On an iPhone, its the little moon looking button in settings, or on the dashboard feature of the phone (swipe up from the bottom of the lock or home screen). As soon as I am in bed, I turn it on. No buzzing, beeping or screens lighting up once I decide to go to bed. You’ll be able to fall asleep a heck of a lot faster. The only thing that will activate your phone in this mode are alarms.
Check your email 2 times a day at maximum
Besides cancelled classes, you won’t get an “urgent” email to your inbox every hour, or even 2 hours. Nothing is ever that important (and sent over email) that it can’t wait 5 or more hours to be responded to. If it was, they would call. Plus, think about how many hours you spend on your email if you check it every 2 hours. Repurpose that time to complete tasks and check things off of your to-do list. I check my email everyday at Noon and 4:30. I’m planning on only checking it at noon starting next week. That’s it. No one has ever complained to me about slow responses or missed deadlines. Email is not instant messaging. Treat it as it is intended to be treated, formal mail in an online format.
Track your online productivity using this tool
“Rescue Time” will track your internet usage and send you an update email every week, giving you a “productivity score”. It will also tell you whether you are more or less productive than the previous weeks, and will give you specific, quantitative values of your productivity (based on the types of websites you are visiting).
Stop checking the news
News outlets like to make stories about some really unimportant, useless information. When something important is actually happening, you can bet that someone near you is going to be talking about it. So what’s the point of constantly checking news sites and apps for news that is in no way going to effect you? Its hindering your productivity and making you less efficient at the things you really care about.
Skip meetings when you can
If you have ever been involved in a campus organization, you can probably attest to the fact that you leave 95% of the club meetings feeling like most of the time was wasted. Why is this? Because leaders often feel the need to have hour long meetings for 1 line outcomes. Something that could have been texted to you in a single text message is now receiving an hour long meeting. probably filled with technical difficulties, pointless stories and useless ice-breakers. Instead of attending these meetings, tell your supervisor you have a big test the next day that you still haven’t studied for and ask if they could email you a summary of the meeting. This will save you an hour or more per meeting.