We’re all attracted to articles that promise to reveal the secrets to working smarter – not harder. When you’re completing postgraduate study you want to improve your productivity so you can work effectively, reach your goals and enjoy more guilt-free leisure time in the process.
But sometimes these tips aren’t helpful, they just make you feel inadequate. Here are seven habits of productive people you can also adopt without a superhuman effort.
1.They know thyself
One of the underlying pillars of productivity is knowing when and how you work best – and leveraging this knowledge. Are you a productive early riser, or a late night owl? Do you work best in short bursts or couple-hour-long brackets? Do you revise best by reading, watching or doing? Being aware of what works for you and then tailoring how you work to your strengths (doing the most taxing tasks when your brain is at its peak) is paramount to being a highly effective postgrad.
2. They set long and short-term goals
There’s a whole bevvy of successful thinkers and world-changers that believe in the power of writing down your goals (finish your PhD, get promoted, take over the world – whatever they might be). Writing down your goal and pinning it to your bedside wall, making it your phone screensaver, sticking it on the fridge – putting it somewhere you’ll see often – helps motivate you to stick to your guns when the going gets tough.
Logistically, once you’ve determined your long-term goal, you can work out what the short-term goals or steps are to get there.
3. They make a weekly plan – and stick to it
You have as many hours in the day as the world’s finest thinkers; it’s up to you how you use them. Drawing on knowing when you work best and breaking down your long-term goals into weekly goals, will help tremendously in maximising your productivity.
In terms of weekly goals, break that down further into daily goals that are realistic. Studies show the brain begins to tire at around the 45-to-120 minute mark, so don’t forget to schedule breaks around this time. It’s important you also take into account leisure and self-care time too.
4. They focus on one task at a time
Believe us: multi-tasking is the enemy of productivity. Instead of trying to juggle eating, checking Facebook, listening to study-related podcasts and revising or writing, focus on just one task – and give it your full attention. It’s better to do one task well, than several tasks poorly – and in the end, you’ll find it saves you time too as you won’t have to go back and re-do half-baked tasks.
Another tip here: when you’re focusing on one task, remove all other distractions. This includes getting rid of the phone, turning off the music and signing out of social media.
5. They take advantage of digital apps
What’s so bad with the old faithful pen and paper method for list-making and notation? It’s easily lost, left at home when you need it at the library, and isn’t the best way to organise your notes. There’s a deluge of great apps – that are free or fairly cheap – that you can use to organise your study – and even your life.
Evernote, for example, keeps all your notes and memos in a convenient and well-organised place. Trello is a fantastic project management tool, where you can drag-and-drop tasks into ‘to-do’, ‘working on’ and ‘done’ or ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘upcoming’ and ‘sometime’ – or whatever works for you. Workflowy is another ultimate ‘to-do list’ app that provides a clean and flexible way to organise your tasks.
Cloud-friendly referencing systems, like Mendely or Sente, are excellent for collecting and organising reference material. What’s more, many organisational apps are multi-device, so you can use them on your home desktop and on the phone in your pocket when you’re out and about.
6. They review their progress
Goal-kickers take time out each week to reflect on what they’ve achieved, what they were happy with and what could be improved on and where they’d like achieve next week. Not only is this a great way to monitor your progress, it’s also really encouraging to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work you’ve put in and how far you’ve come.
7. They prioritise their health
In order to perform mentally at your peak, you need to take care of yourself. This includes eating health meals that will sustain you, clearing your mind with regular exercise and getting adequate sleep. Highly productive people know a healthy body is the foundation for a healthy and high-function mind.
Finally, Dr Tseen Khoo (Lecturer in Research Education and Development at La Trobe University) suggests that it’s vital to stay connected to your research community and peers, no matter where you might find them or what stage you’re at.
“Having the support and energising influence of good colleagues brings about the best kind of productivity,” she said. “And if you’re enjoying doing your work, so many other things just fall into place.”
Kick your career into high gear, study a postgraduate course at La Trobe.
Prefer to talk to someone in person? Join us at the Postgraduate Expo in October and speak to our course specialists, high achieving alumni and industry partners.