In my last post How To Be Productive When You Feel Broken, I spoke about how to deal with being productive after the effects of a breakdown and panic attack. In this post I’m going to be going over some of my tips and own ways of staying organised and productive before a breakdown has time to occur. Staying on top of everything and relatively stress free helps to prevent the vulnerability that makes us so susceptible to breakdowns.
This post was inspired a little by a video by YouTubers Hannah Witton and Lucy Moon, which spoke about how they stayed organised, and their own methods to staying productive. It re-encouraged my excitement (I realise how nerdy that sounds) for organisation, after my brief blip of a creative block. So go ahead and watch that too!:
To start off with, I always find it really important to understand how different locations affect your ability to work. For example I work best in University surroundings and usually with a study partner. However I can work at home in my room, but in order to do that I need to keep my work space organised and to my own preferences. What I mean by this is the placing of everything. Is it close to hand? Do you have everything you need in a relatively accessible vicinity? And perhaps most importantly, do you feel comfortable?
If not, then mix things up a bit. Reorganise your desk and the area around it. For me, I really struggle to work if my surroundings are messy, so I always try to clean up my room, or the table I’m working at. Less distractions that way. As an example, I’ve come back from Uni to my hometown for a week and this is how I’ve organised my room while I study:
It’s uber simple, but that’s what I wanted, nothing too cluttered, and everything I need right beside me. On one smaller desk I have my laptop and mouse, so that when I’m writing, that’s all I’m doing, and I also have the light from the window. To my immediate left I have a separate desk with a collection of relevant books, my diary, application forms for dissertation approval and of course a mug of coffee. I like to keep a mixture of things near me, in terms of having dissertation resources, different assignment resources and blogging resources near. Some people can’t work like this and can only work on one thing at a time. The best way to find out how you work is just to try both and sort your organisational system around that.
Personal Organisational System
Truthfully speaking it’s one of those terms that seems a little more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s helpful to call it something I find. Essentially, one of the best ways to be organised and to understand what you’re doing one day and what you’re doing the next is to establish a personal system. It comes down to how you work again, if you find it easier to work on multiple things in short periods of time or to work on one singular thing for a longer period of time etc. Once you know this, you can shape your system around that preference.
I’ll give you a brief idea of how I normally shape my system. I ‘m one of those people that enjoys working on multiple assignments and projects in a day. But I will prioritise whichever ones require the most effort or are due in earlier. I usually give myself an hour or half hour between assignments, and a good enough break between each. For example if I write my dissertation for an hour, I will give myself a 15 or half hour break to rest my brain before either continuing another hour, or switching projects. I like to keep it changing. Even when your projects are changing, your timings and system stay pretty similar, which gives you a sense of routine. Routine gives a sense of purpose and naturally allows us to feel as if we are working toward something, and that the effort and productivity is just a part of our day. This will help to get the brain to fall naturally into a state of productivity without the moaning and groaning beforehand because you’re not used to it.
Diaries and Deadlines.
This is one of the things that influenced me quite a bit from Lucy and Hannah’s video. They spoke about different ways to keep organised, but one thing they both mentioned was the existence of diaries. They mentioned iCalendar, Google Calendar, and Bullet Journaling. Again, a lot of this is subjective and personal. For example, I tried Bullet Journaling but I just struggled with the customisation of it, and it just seemed too complex for what I wanted. I do use my Google Calendar quite a bit as a diary, BUT I am one of those writers and bookworms who still adores the physical form of things.
I always, unfortunately, decide to sort out my diary at the worst times though. When I do, the normal diaries start too early leave too much space, and the mid-year calendars start too late.
What I’ve done is bought a blank, lined notebook and created my diary from it. I will leave little customisable doodles at the side to make it a little personal, but generally speaking I’m going to keep it simple. It takes a little while to finish it but the end product looks quite nice, and whats-more is I find you’re less likely to abandon something effort has been put into. If you’ve taken the time to go to each page, split it between days, and write the individual date until you have no pages left, you’re going to be annoyed if you don’t use it. But what do you actually put into it? Well here’s how the benefit of having 2 diaries comes in handy, again as Hannah and Lucyhh mention in their video. I think what I’m personally doing is keeping my physical diary to professional projects, and blog/poetry related deadlines. I’m also keeping one or two casual events in if it will fit, because it reminds me that in a day it’s important to have moderation between work and rest.
Here’s what my section for today looks like:
I’m trying to also keep it to the most important deadlines and/or projects for that day. I will then tick each piece that is completely done to the level I’ve put in the diary, just so I can see what is left. It also helps to give a little sense of achievement to tick it off your list.
Diaries like these are great for everything, but I always write all my assignment deadlines into it. I will write the actual deadlines and occasionally reminders a week before, so if for some reason I’ve forgotten I will have reminders in there about what I need to do still. This works for University deadlines and work deadlines alike. Keep a record of what large deadlines are given to you – mention them in the section for that day that you are told. It just allows you to keep on top of it, without it becoming too scary, or too demonised by your own fears.
Organisation Can Be Fun.
It sounds horrific and weird, but organisation should be a little fun, rewarding or even, in the case of say a producer, thrilling. It is one of those reluctant loves, that as you begin to organise, you find yourself excited at the prospect. Just give yourself time to create the right system for you, and attach enough enjoyable elements to the work so that what you’re doing isn’t boring or completely soul destroying.
Organisation is there to keep things clean and in place, not chuck them out of order, and that is everything you need when it comes to deadlines and assignments.
As Benjamin Franklin once said “For every minute spent in organising, an hour is earned”