Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Productive June Recap

[this is a pre-planned post as I'm currently in NYC being super productive at a conference!] 

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As I've mentioned earlier, it's become somewhat of a tradition in the PhD office to have 'Productive June' - a time of attempted increased productivity to make up for the lacklustre efforts of the preceding months. It involves guilt-inducing propaganda posters and everything. Since it's almost over, I thought I would give a bit of a recap of how it went for me, as well as give you some productivity helpers and hindrances. For me, Productive June went fairly well; I did a lot of work on analysing results for my experiment, and putting them together for my conference talk. There were some less-than-productive days in there too, but I feel I made up for that somewhat by working on the weekend a couple of times. How was your Productive June?

Now onto some productivity helps and hinders:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (as mentioned in this post): a good way to increase productivity is to analyse what makes you productive and what makes you procrastinate. What are the consequences of your procrastinating? Generally it's fun and stress relief. These are immediate gratifiers, and they often win out over the more delayed ones - satisfaction of getting the job done on time, and other consequences such as good grades, promotion at work for doing well, etc. Working on the other hand is mildly punishing in the immediate term; however not working is a delayed punisher: stress from deadlines looming, extra hard work to complete things on time, etc. Being more aware of this, and setting yourself up for success (find ways to immediately reward working and immediately punish procrastination) can help. Ask me if you want more information!  
  • To do lists: help you to be better organised, and you get to feel a sense of accomplishment when you cross something off. Make sure though that you don't spend all your time making the lists, but actually doing what's on them!
  • Some productivity programs (thanks to The Thesis Whisperer for all these suggestions):
    • Pomodoro: an interesting time-management technique that breaks up your work into increments, and includes a 5 min break every 25 mins. I have installed the app on my phone, though have yet to try it; but I think it looks very promising.
    • Evernote: this is very helpful if you're a constant note-scribbler and then find it difficult to organise the notes (or even just find them again!)
    • Dropbox: access important files on any computer; this has helped a lot on the days I work from home (well sometimes).
  • Email programs which alert you every time you get an email: turn it off and only check email at specific times.
  • Facebook, blogs, etc: get a program that blocks them at designated times, such as the one I use on Firefox which is Leechblock  
  • Phone: turn off alerts, put on silent - perhaps even turn it off and tell people you have a 'no call' time 
  • Other people in your office, home etc. coming to chat: implement a no-talking hour (with a do not disturb sign) and stick to it!
  • Environment: is it set up to help you get back to work, or is it set up to distract you? Examples include TV, radio, phone, fridge etc. Consider being a nerd and going to the library, or even just go outside for a bit and only take what is necessary to do some work!   
None of these are mindblowingly groundbreaking, and I'm sure many people have said similar things before (and probably better) - however I think it is a good reminder (for myself at least).

Which of these will you implement so that Productive June carries over to July? Do you have any other helpful productivity suggestions?

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