After being asked for advice on juggling multiple responsibilities, I decided to create a three-part blog series about habits that have helped me. As I mentioned in the first installment, I’m no stranger to a busy schedule. I’m currently on my last semester of college and balancing three internships, my third year as an RA, being President of my school’s Her Campus chapter, a job, a social media side-gig, my fourth year in my school’s service and leadership society, preparing to serve through Alternative Spring Break, classes, spending time with loved ones and applying for jobs.
The first post in this series focused on mindset, and I firmly believe the best companion for a productive mindset is a productive environment. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of going through the motions of day-to-day activities without questioning their effectiveness, and the work atmosphere we build for ourselves is no exception.
I’ve enjoyed experimenting with where, when and how I work this school year, so I’ve broken down how I found what worked for me into four questions. Above all, I think people should follow their intuition more than their routines or the obvious options right in front of them. I encourage you to keep this in mind as you ask yourself the following questions:
What times are best for me to do different tasks?
We all fall victim to procrastination at one point or another, but sometimes laziness isn’t to blame. We all have different schedules, internal clocks and work styles, so a time that might be productive for some people might not be best for you. Different types of tasks also often have different optimal times. While you might feel great running a bunch of errands in the morning, it might not be the best time to read or work on a project. The times you’re most productive will sometimes even change from day to day.
The best way to determine what time you should work on different things is by following your intuition. Create a To-Do list of everything you have to do within a week and highlight what needs to get done each day when you wake up. Keep the list with you and look through it throughout the day to see what’s calling to you. You might feel motivated to answer emails after lunch, run to Target after classes, and churn out your best writing late at night. With time and practice, this gets easier to determine.
Where should I work?
This is closely tied to what times you should do work. You might be productive working in your room some days, while others you sit down to do something and wake up four hours later with Friends playing in the background. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and constantly experiment with new workspaces! I feel like a lot of people get stuck between a couple places because working in your room is convenient while working in a library can seem like the “right” thing to do.
There are so many other options! You could try a different lobby at your school, a coffee shop, your friend’s room, a kitchen or dining hall, or even outside. The options definitely don’t end there either- keep an eye out throughout your day for new workspaces to try. Just like determining when you should work, consulting your To Do list throughout the day can help you determine where you should work on different tasks.
Should people be around me when I work?
Like where you work, this can largely depend on the time and the task and can be determined the same way. Don’t feel pressured to work with other people if it’s not going to be productive just because they asked you. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ask someone to study or work together if you’re in a slump and need some accountability. The right work buddy is a productivity gift from God. Also keep in mind what kind of people you’d be most productive around. A cafe full of strangers might create a motivating atmosphere while a room full of friends will tempt you to talk every 5 seconds.
How can I engage my senses while I work?
Engaging your senses while working can make your atmosphere both more productive and enjoyable. I love working in places with a nice view, whether it’s a cozy coffee shop, the familiar decorations in my room or a view of Boston. For smell, I love having fresh air coming in from a cracked window, but if allowed/accessible, candles and oil diffusers are great. When it comes to taste, I typically have a tea, coffee or Bubbly by my side.
For sound, I can’t recommend having go-to work playlists enough. This trains your mind to get into “productive mode” when you hear certain music. I like listening to the Lumineers for a relaxing work environment and Mac Miller for a more energized one. For touch, I like working in loose clothing, wearing my slippers and having a blanket in my lap.
I hope these tips help you create a more productive work environment and figure out what works best for you. If you have any recommendations for building a better workspace, feel free to comment below! Thank you for reading!