Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

To Do

So I’ve been working this weekend. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable, and sometimes (like now) it’s absolutely critical. By the end of the day on Friday, I had a pretty decent sized list of things I need to have accomplished by Monday morning, which means putting in some extra time. Additionally, I wanted to do all the things I normally do on a weekend, including dishes, laundry, writing my blog post, various other projects…you know the drill. I’ve been working my way through the list at a pretty good clip, and as I stopped to ponder what to post about this week (since I didn’t have time to go to a movie and therefore couldn’t do my planned movie review), I started thinking about my work habits.

Upon reflection, I realized that compared to about five years ago, I’m getting more done, feeling less stressed, and actually have more free time…even though my personal and professional workloads have both increased. So I asked myself two questions: “How am I doing that?” and “Could the answer to the first question possibly be useful to someone else?”

And thus was a blog post born. There are all kinds of things we want/need to accomplish, ranging from professional responsibilities to blogging to personal projects, and most of us are familiar with wondering “How can I get all of this done?” or “How can I work faster and have more free time?” or “How can I possibly fit something else in?”

If you’re looking to be more productive, here’s the best advice I have. This post focuses on two “big picture” things you can do to set yourself up for success, and in part two I’ll suggest some day-to-day techniques.

1. Discover/use your natural rhythm.

For a long time, I woke up each morning just in time to get ready for work and get to my desk punctually. I would frequently work late, and then when I got home I would try to deal with whatever else I needed to do (like cleaning and whatnot), then usually spend an hour or so before bed staring at the TV feeling like my brain had turned to mush. On the weekends, I would get up and spend several hours doing nothing, then try to get myself in gear and do something productive. Usually, anything I attempted to do took a lot more time than I thought it should, and I was often cranky. Some things I just never got around to (which is why, for example, I gave up on writing for many years).

Morning Noon Evening

What I know now (and wish I’d known then) is that I’m a morning person. My brain starts firing on all cylinders almost as soon as I get up, and starts a sharp decline sometime in the late afternoon. It took an interesting experience with jet lag to discover how much more I can accomplish if I take advantage of the early hours. I’m way better at 4 am than I ever am at 4 pm. Now, I get up two hours earlier than I used to. Sometimes I spend an hour at home taking care of personal stuff, while other times I deal with emails or a work-related task that I didn’t have the mental energy to face at the end of the previous day. I go to work early instead of staying late. On the weekends, I clean, write, run errands, etc. first thing. I can get almost twice as much done in a morning hour than an evening hour, and that leaves my evenings free to decompress (and go to bed early).

You might be thinking, “Please tell me you aren’t suggesting that everyone should get up at 4 am.” Of course not! That’s my best schedule, but that definitely won’t work for everyone. One of my colleagues is the exact opposite; he saves his low-intensity work for the mornings, because he hits his stride after lunch, and that’s when he’s in the best mental place to tackle the hard stuff. A friend of mine takes a three hour nap every evening, then gets up and works on her dissertation until midnight. What we have in common is that we’ve figured out what works best for us, and we’re capitalizing on it.

My point is that you should really think about your most productive times (and maybe even experiment a little to discover them) and try to take full advantage of those hours.

2. Discover/create your best environment.

Here’s another area that starts with reflection. Where am I most productive? How much stimulation do I need? How much distraction can I tolerate? What keeps me grounded?

Again, this is going to vary hugely from person to person. When I decided that I wanted to start writing again, a lot of people told me to write in coffee shops. They swore by it, so that’s what I tried to do. When my first try was spectacularly unproductive, I tried another coffee shop. Then another. After my fourth try, I realized that I am not a coffee shop writer. It’s important to figure out where you can accomplish the most, so that when you have an option, you know what to choose.

home-office.jpegI work at home a fair amount, and I tried following the predominant advice on the subject. I have a home office. It’s very professional. It’s exactly the type of environment that most experts suggest. I actually chose furniture and layout based on extensive research…

…and I do all of my work sitting on the couch in my living room. That’s what works for me, so that’s what I do. And when I figured out that the living room was my best space, I invested in it the way I had invested in my office. I bought a great couch, and a couple of folding tables that are easy to set up and take down. I can switch the room from “hanging out” to “business” and back in a matter of minutes. In fact, I’m so productive in the living room that I often choose to take some work home rather than stay at work a little longer.

So my advice is to figure out what your best space is, and then make it better. If you have a work space at your job, give it the same kind of consideration. I’m a “no plants but lots of pictures” person. I prefer to have things I need in plain view, so I have more shelves than filing cabinets. I have my own coffee maker because I’ve learned that a trip to the coffee room usually takes me fifteen or twenty minutes (for some people, a fifteen minute coffee break is a necessary chance to recharge, but for me, it’s a loss of focus that takes me far too long to recover from).

These two things have made a huge difference in my productivity, and in my next post I’ll tell you more!

Good at Stuff & Things

Have you found your best rhythm? Optimized your work space? Or maybe you’re thinking of trying something new? Let’s talk!

32 thoughts on “Worth Trying: Tips to Increase Productivity (Part One)

  1. Alex Raizman says:

    These are some great tips. Especially the bit about coffee shop writing – took me several times to figure out that doesn’t work for me either! Have you found over time your productive “spot” drifts over time? I feel like every other month I shift from working best at my desk in my office to my couch in my living room and back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I occasionally work at the dining room table, if I really need to spread out. In general, though, I stay on the couch. At work I’m sometimes in someone else’s office if we’re working on a project together, but otherwise I’m always at my desk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a rhythm but still live at home so when that gets interrupted everything gets thrown off and I feel like I can’t get anything done. I also have a certain spot on the couch that I write best when sitting at (my room is too distracting) so I agree with both of your points. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It’s amazing how much the right timing and setting can affect our focus. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    I applaud you for being something I will never be, a morning person..

    I think I’m an opportunist sort. When I have the opportunity to get stuff done, I need to move. Of course this requires much coffee and plain old getting the lead out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I was completely shocked to learn I’m a morning person. I never would have guessed.
      And yes to coffee. I love coffee. It makes me happy. ☕

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m one of those people where a trip to make a drink is a good chance to step away from the work place. Do like a change of environment for a short period. Helps my mind stay sharp.

    Unless that change of environment is followed by ‘why did I come in this room’. My memory sucks ever since I hit 30 😂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It’s all about knowing what works for you. I know that if I leave my office I’m going to be gone for a while, so I keep that in mind. I’ve also discovered that people are much more likely to decide that something needs my attention if they see me in the hall or the coffee room, as opposed to having to call or email, so I definitely close my door if I have a deadline.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know that feeling! I like to hide myself away when busy. I often find other people need me only when I’m snowed under with work 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Amanda Cade says:

        As Tolkien said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great tips! It’s true it’s hard sometimes to get things done, as it’s so much easier to just stay on the couch all day 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I work on the couch, so my temptation is to stay in bed all day. Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha 🙂 We are all different indeed!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. masercot says:

    Natural Rhythm is why I get up at three in the morning. I found I have a LOT more energy in the morning, so I just extended my morning…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m SO with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was an utterly splendid read. Thank you for sharing these tips, I gathered a lot of information that could help me personally. – Cezane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m so glad to hear that!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m amazed how organized one person can be. Not just organized, but it’s like you did a study on what works best for you, and actually followed through on your findings. Well done, Amanda !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m kind of Type A. Lol.
      The jet lag week years back was what really helped me turn the corner. Otherwise I never would have tried getting up at 3 or 4, and wouldn’t have discovered how awesome that is for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a real help. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I hope it works for you. ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Absolutely agree. Thanks for this post. I too am a morning person and struggle as I might, I get bog all done in the afternoons and evening compared to the mornings. But it’s good to have a reminder of this because I sometimes still think I ‘should’ be more productive in the afternoons. Great point about your environment too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I definitely try to avoid heavy thinking in the afternoon.

      Like

  11. Paul says:

    Both good pieces of advice. I am much more of an evening/late night person, which is problematic as family commitments prevent me from staying up half the night and rolling out of bed as late as I can get away with. I’m still thinking about this one.

    The thing that I have found most effective is to look at all of the things that I want to do and then decide what isn’t important. It is very easy for me to take on commitments or decide I want to do things and then start procrastinating because my to do list has just become too long. When that happens, I go through and, for everything that isn’t important for me, I strike it from the list until my task count is manageable again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m always thrown off when I have evening commitments and can’t get to bed by 8. Lol
      Procrastination is on my outline for part two.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pam Lazos says:

    Terrific advice!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great tips! I am too a morning person and I feel is ok. I can get done much more in the morning than in the evening. But after 10 hours in the office I also have a lot of things to do in the evening, where let’s say I don’t need to use too much my brain 🙄: cleaning, laundry, cooking dinner, prepare the lunch for the next day, work out, groceries…I really wish I could have more time also in the evening 🙄 I’m still struggling to find some time for myself ☺️ Usually I try to do everything during the week, in order to have the weekend free to relax but then I find something else to do and bye bye relax ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Finding enough free time is always a struggle.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Excellent advice, Amanda. I’m a morning person and also get up at 4:00. But then I waste an hour playing stupid games on my phone. Ha ha. Since I know your advice is spot on, when I finally get home and am up for some writing, I’m going to spend that hour getting my environment set up for productivity! Great post and I’m looking forward to using your ideas as well as reading part 2. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I hope your trip is going well!

      Liked by 1 person

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