• Bianca Dukesherer

How to Stay Productive Every Month

Hello my friends! I know its been a minute since I posted on here, I think with the chaos of Covid-19 and starting graduate school it took me a minute to find that motivation and productivity again. Throughout this process I've had quite a few people come forward and ask me how I balance everything going on in my life. Of course, I'm not perfect (by far) but I do make a constant conscious effort to better myself as much as I can. To move away from the stagnant. Hoping this can benefit some of you out there to know it is possible to overcome procrastination, overcome the slump of not feeling confident or having a lack of motivation. #selfcare #productivity #backpackingbee

Time management.

I can't honestly stress this enough. Some of you know by now that I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life and would put things off to the last second all. the. time. Only to realize I would overdo it the night before an assignment and thus re-enter into this cycle of not taking my me-time, sleeping in from exhaustion, forgetting to workout, etc. I realized I was only hurting myself in doing this. To put it bluntly, you are harming yourself, you're making things more difficult. Putting blocks in the road that make it so much harder for you to drive.We know that logically anything more difficult just doesn't make sense, but for some it runs deeper than that, its mental and emotional. So with this I say you have your work cut out for you but its a matter of saying:

"Hey, I'm worth the time, and respect myself enough to improve"

bucket list book, lap top, focus, pressed juice, flat lay

Photo: @backpackingbee

Calendar apps/desktop notes

One way to kind of push yourself into a new plan of productivity is through apps if you feel you work better with online reminders, calendar notifications, etc. and some of these can get pretty creative for those needing an added creative boost, or something to get them interested.

Examples are:

Evernote (App for Phone & Desktop)

Free for the basic plan which includes more of the note-taking and sharing aspect otherwise there's a business and premium plan to consider. (13 euro per user each month for business and 7 euro per month for premium) but it's one of the top apps for productivity including to-do lists, projects, meeting notes, reminders, etc. (good for those that don't really know where to start when it comes to productivity cause they really make it easy with this app)

Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar (Phone & Desktop)

Both are free, and are two of the better apps in my opinion, I never strictly rely on the Apple Calendar - I don't think its very user friendly and especially if you have an outlook email or gmail it's nice to have everything in one spot that you can go through.

Zoho Calendar (Desktop)

Similar to Outlook there is this cool (Free!) app that gives you access to calendars, to do lists, emails you reminders, etc. With the added aspect of utilizing separate applications as well if you choose. Ex. managing your volunteer schedule or business schedule separately in different colors, etc. Very useful for the person with multiple things going on right now.

Side-note - for my fellow content creators out there there is also an app that connects to content scheduling and analytics through this site, free trial for 15 days.

coffee, coffee table

Photo: Wix

Online productivity timers

One of the best ways to really sit down and force yourself into a routine in order to get your work done is timing yourself. The first step is to respect your own time enough to regret wasting it.

PomoFocus (Phone & Desktop),

Productivity Timer (Desktop)

Forest (App)

The first two are pretty simple and basic but what I especially like about PomoFocus is you can input your tasks and realistically put how much time it should take you. This forces you to really think about not wasting time, or having too many breaks. Start the timer and just dive in (note- it also gives you break times so its already something to look forward to and reward yourself with).

I had to make a separate mention of Forest because I just think its amazing, whoever came up with this I love the concept and just think its incredibly creative. Similar to Pomo and the Productivity timer, you get the same idea but instead it plants a little virtual tree and as you continue to be productive, the tree grows. Eventually, you grow your own virtual "forest" which is pretty motivating. Plus BONUS the Forest team actually works with an organization to plant real trees when you utilize certain features on the app. Best of both worlds.

lap top, apple, mac, flat lay, candle

Photo: @backpackingbee

List apps

You can also choose to utilize notes on your phone/desktop already which has a list format, the important thing is that you're physically able to see yourself checking off or crossing out tasks. When you see this and get a sense of relief after checking those boxes, its showing gratification to yourself and releasing positive messages to your brain. Therefore you are more likely to do this again. Rather than putting off tasks and thinking negatively after, which discourages you from even starting those tasks again in the future.

Omnifocus (Desktop & Phone)

It's free for 14 days then paid, so it depends on whether this is the platform for you. Omnifocus is laid out in a way that I think really helps keep the stress at bay, allows you to label what is high priority and low priority. Sends you as many notifications as you need. What's also pretty cool about this one, is you can set categories for your tasks, or include what the task incorporates. For example, if I have to send an email to my professor today and I add that as a task, I label it a priority and below I can say it is about Project #1, and need to CC my lab partner so it leaves a reminder for that as well.

Tip: great for people who already really love productivity, this is highly next level, and just a great way to dump out everything you hold in the back of your mind.

Habitica (Desktop & Phone)

Free app, you will need to create an account to continue however. If you want to change things up and make doing your tasks into a game of sorts, this is a great way to try to motivate yourself if you're already struggling. Tip: great for gamers with procrastination issues!

Fantastical (Iphone, Desktop, Apple Watch)

Free for 14 days, then it is a monthly payment (however cost is low on this one!). What I like about this option is it gives you both the calendar view and list view consistently and simultaneously, whereas other apps I've noticed you always have to toggle between the two different views.

Tip: great for those who have everything Apple related, including the Apple Watch! It is very user friendly and great at setting appropriate reminders.

Photo: Wix

Reset your space.

Prepare to have a separate space for your work. Your work space should be comfortable, a place where you can concentrate in peace, motivate yourself with the right things around you, and should be clean. Get the cleaning done first so you won't try to procrastinate in the moment, or distract yourself with tasks that actually could be done at a later time.

I like to make my space happy and motivating. I often make sure I can sit up straight and keep a good posture. I light a ton of candles. Put plants around me and play instrumental scores or lo-fi music to get me focused and ready.

Photo: Wix

Write down who inspires you & why?

Every month or so I come up with a list of people who inspire me -- whether it's spiritually, creatively, perhaps I like their work ethic or how they maintain themselves professionally. Whatever you come up with, go into detail of what inspires you about them. Be specific about the qualities you want to grow in. Write down attributes you know you already have but might want to excel in. How do you see your future? What in the present do you feel you want to change, but never do? This is ultimately the root of your goals. Your essence of motivation. Your why. In order to be more productive (especially if the issue runs deep, like procrastination) these are things that need to come to light. The next part is making all of this your habit, so it truly does matter how you choose to motivate yourself. How you speak to yourself and value what you want in life.

Plan a month in advance.

Sounds crazy, I know, but I always like to look ahead a few weeks and write everything in my planner. This way I can check and maintain a "safe distance" from the fear of what lies ahead. In order to feel comfortable and in control, its better to be aware of what is coming up, acknowledge it and plan to have each assignment ready a couple of days before each due date. This allows you to have room for error. Things go wrong, that's life so why not prepare for it when you are able to?

Have a separate (attainable) daily plan.

In the morning, after you take time to wake yourself up, meditate, journal, whatever it is that works best for you, what I want you to try out is to look at what you can attainably get done for the day.

Create a small list of these things. The point here is--if I haven't mentioned it enough yet-- that it's attainable. These are the lists that aren't meant to stress you out at all. These are you basically to make you feel more put together and shrink the anxiety a bit in knows that little by little, you will get these things done.

Consider saying this to yourself:

"Here is what I will most likely get done today, and if I end up taking more time than I thought on a task, that is okay, because I am ahead of schedule already"

Side-note: Why I think having a physical planner helps

Just doing a little spiel here but personally I've seen more benefits not just with me but with others around me when they put tasks to paper and physically have to check things off so something to consider is maybe the issue is that you don't work well with being online 24/7. Here are a few of my favorite physical planners:

Mal Paper - Productivity & Gratitude Planner

Happiness Planner

Passion Planners

Consider this: What would you like doing in the morning instead of watching something?

Watching something can be good, don't get me wrong. I'm talking about starting off your day in the best way possible though so if you choose to watch something my recommendation is a TED talk or small motivational videos/docuseries that interest you. The point is it also needs to be short, train your brain to take in some small information in the morning, the rest of your time should be spent with some me-time. You deserve to spend your mornings reflecting on how to prepare for your day, this way you are able to take it on, no questions asked. No overwhelming anxiety about the tasks you have to do or not having enough time for yourself. Cause priority number 1 here is you and your mind and body. Personally, I like to do podcasts that are self help related or give me business ideas, etc. It always motivates me, plus I can listen to this as I eat and wash my dishes before I leave my apartment for the day.

Side note- I'm also starting a podcast! Surprise! So if you do decide podcasts are for you check out the latest episode of @makeitfirepodcast in a couple of weeks.

Photo: @soulthesea

Beautiful yogi soul in Bali, Indonesia. Follow her for more content!

Take time to move. Every single day.

It's crucial to keep your blood moving and avoid burn out if you want to create long lasting habits here. At the end of the day you won't be able to do the things you want to do if you aren't taking care of yourself first. You'll end up sick, or unhappy with your mental or physical state in the long run. Never let your goals create an unhappy self. Your goal should always begin with the priority of YOU. Your best self. The person you enjoy and love. If there's a problem with that, I'd say there's more time in reflection that needs to be had.

One of my favorite ways to start my morning is with a little yoga sesh, its a way to connect with your body, be in the moment, connect with your breathe and find some peace to start your day off in a good mindset. Whatever gets you to this is what you should start your day with.

Note - I also wasn't always a morning person, believe it or not I used to hate mornings. I would sleep in all day and just feel cranky until I got some coffee in me. (Well thats still partly true). The thing after watching ted talks and listening to motivational speakers constantly I realized a lot of them were spewing the same mantras, the same information. Constantly talking about why CEOs all wake up so early and utilize their mornings. I felt down on myself for not being one of those people. Funny thing is, this is something I was always completely in control about. I understand being upset about something that's out of your control but with something so minor like this?

I decided to change and it was tough honestly, but I got to where I am and now love watching the sunrise every morning. Love moving my body and making myself the priority.

Photo: Wix

The phone needs office hours.

Put the thing away. I think now more than ever we are all realizing boundaries have to be set with loved ones, school or work, whether these are emotional, physical, etc. Well our phones need it just the same. Looking at it first thing in the morning and as the last thing we see at night is toxic. It's proven to show negative mental health effects as well as physical effects including sleep deprivation and overall decline in daily motivation. What works for me: I immediately bought an alarm clock that has a light effect that moves with the sun, it makes me feel good especially since Paris (where I live now) is so dark in the early mornings. I keep my phone far away from my bed, and remind myself that I don't need to have my phone as an extension of myself constantly.

Here are a couple of scholarly articles to back me up though just in case you need some extra motivation:

Bedtime mobile phone use and sleep in adults

Electronic media use at night -- depressive symptoms

Photo: Wix

Find things to enjoy every single day.

The goal is to keep your motivation every single month. To create habits. Long term. In order to do this the key is to incorporate kindness and self care every single day. Finding ways to motivate myself was crucial, sometimes my long term goals don't do it for me. I'm human, I go through dark periods and have to readjust. But what really helped me get through those times is treating myself to little rewards. Whatever that looks like for you, whether its having a spa night every few days or doing an extra long yogi night after a long day of writing (what I tend to do to recenter myself). Especially when trying something new, its so so important to be kind to yourself. Learning a new schedule, re-training your brain, these are things that can be frustrating and creating habits is not an easy task. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can.

It's knowing what makes you feel good, and taking the time to sit with yourself to figure that out is also an act of self care in itself. - Bee

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