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How to be Productive After School

by Chetna Vasishth

Do you know the three things you need to manage in order to be productive after school. Do you know that working for very long hours makes you less productive and do you know what a brain dump is and why you should do it?

Let me guess, when you come back from school, you are tired. You browse your phone on your bed without changing, drag yourself out of bed only to watch some netflix shows, while munching on a packet of food. In between you text friends to ask if anyone has started working and how awful the assignment is and you decide to start tomorrow. By now you’re exhausted and depleted, but when you hit the bed you can’t fall off to sleep.

#1 Design your Farm

Imagine if you were given a plot of land and some resources to set up the most productive farm. What is the first thing you would do? You would design your farm. You will think of what crops have the most demand, how to rotate the crops, how much to invest etc. Likewise, we need to first draw up a vision of what we want to achieve at the end of the year. Each student in your class is like the farmer next door. Remember you reap what you sow. So dream big and use it as a source of strength and motivation.
Productivity is found at the perfect balance of a good schedule, high energy and attention. So the three things to manage in order to be productive after school are Time, Attention and Energy. And I will give you productivity tips for each of these

#2 Beware of Ego Depletion (Time Hack)

Will Power is a limited resource. It is like a muscle – you strengthen it and use it everyday but it gets tired. For example – after a major exam, it takes you weeks to get your self control back or if you are on a diet you are more likely to have a cheat meal. So, instead of relying on will power, the most successful people rely on disciplined scheduling.
We have some great time tables for you to refer to and I will put links under the video.
The smart productivity tip here is to schedule your time like Goldilocks. Not too much and not too little, just like how you water the plants on your farm. Enough to get us into a flow but not so much that we burn out. Chris Bailey, the author of ‘The Productivity Project’ says that working more hours makes you less productive. And Stanford researchers found that productivity drops once you reach the 50-hour mark in your workweek – which is around 7 hours a day.
At night plan for the next day. Give yourself deadlines and reward yourself for achieving them and work for short periods of time and take frequent breaks.

#3 Moments of Focus (Time Hack)

If you are a body builder you know that periods of rest between training schedules facilitate the growth of muscle. Similarly for our brain to grow, we need ‘moments of focus’. So after you have finished a longish period of engaging work, don’t immediately rush to your social media. Instead, take a warm shower, a short walk or brush your dog’s hair. In his book ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport says that these are good times to focus on a specific problem.

Scientists call this the “incubation period” for your ideas. When you relax and free up your conscious mind, the subconscious mind, which has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face, now surfaces and plant those ideas into your conscious mind. Eureka!!

#4 Morning Routine (Time Hack)

I struggled with too much to do and poor productivity for months, resulting in stress and disatisfaction. Till I found my morning slot of 90 minutes. The one common thread that runs through dozens of highly successful people is a morning productivity routine that is non negotiable.

So, I focus on the single most challenging task of the week that requires the most amount of concentration. In my case, it is writing a script for the weekly video. And every morning for 90 minutes when I have finished working with intense focus, I feel like I am ready to take on the world for the rest of the day. Try it for one week and you will see a surge in your productivity

#5 Make the most of your Commute Time (Time Hack)

Many of us spend a considerable amount of time commuting. Plan for this in your schedule and use this time to listen to audio books or podcasts. Or if you are preparing for a medical entrance exam, save important images on your phone and study them on a bus, if you are preparing for the CAT exam, you can solve puzzles.
This needs planning and it soon becomes a wonderful way to add variety to our learning experience

#6 Brain Dump (Energy Hack)

In his book ‘Getting Things Done’, David Allen asks us to think of our brain as a limited resource. Think of it as your smart phone. If we save too many photos, videos, chats and documents on our phone, it will become slow and inefficent. The same way the brain is a processor which is not designed to store information.
Brain Dump is a way to untangle your brain. Make lists, write everything down – to do lists, calendar entries, homework list, exam prep lists, everything. As you free up your brain it will be able to perform better at its core tasks of problem solving and coming up with new ideas.

So, use a small note book or an app on your phone, but write down information instead of over loading your brain.

#7 Build a Fence (Energy Hack)

Let’s head back to our farm. To protect it from encroachers and stray animals we need to build a fence around it. Similarly, we need to build a fence around our work to limit it, define it and thereby improve our productivity.
I recommend the rule of 3. Every week, set yourself 3 goals. Avoid this long list of things which diffuses our focus. Remember the vision we had set out to achieve. Make sure your three weekly goals are in line with this vision. And every day, give yourself one single big task to complete. Focussing on one single task for the longest time, is the best way to get into the flow of productivity.

This fence prevents unimportant tasks from creeping in and filling up our time. I find the chrome extenstion ‘momentum’ helps remind me of my single biggest task for the day and enhances my productivity.

#8 Tight bubble of total focus (Attention Hack)

Robin Sharma has coined this term as a method to 100x your productivity. I have tried it and it is fail proof. Cal Newport calls it a ‘bubble space’ in his book Deep Work as well. What it really means is to find this exclusive space where you can concentrate without disturbance. Make it the way you want, ideally clutter free and well lit. Do not carry your phone into this space or any other distractors. Keep this space sacred, only to study, and leave once finished.
Once you do this, you will find that you are highly productive in this space automatically and for as long as you choose to be there.

#9 Digital Minimalisation (Attention Hack)

On our farm our biggest challenge is weeds. These tiny little plants come in from no where and take up all our resources, leaving no space for our crop to grow. Similarly, in our mind, digital distractions take up so much space and resources that it exhausts us, makes us unable to concentrate on anything else and also severely affects our ability to sleep.
Cal Newport urges us to think of this question before commiting to any social media platform or app – how can I use this tool to maximise its benefit and minimise the harm it causes.

For example – for some people twitter is a great platform to get your news feeds on and follow meaningful people you couldn’t otherwise connect with. How about you choose only two reliable sources of news and follow only the handful of people. And how about you check your twitter feed only once or twice a week for 15 minutes.

#10 Just Begin

The short and easy hack to beat procrastination is to just begin, take action. Break up your task into small parts and think of what is the smallest, easiest task that you can do just now. Example, you have to write a research paper, just open a new word document, type the title, type your name and just start. And now the zeigarnik effect will take place which we discussed in our previous video, the brain starts processing unfinished tasks and propels us towards completing them.

BONUS TIP – Crop Rotation

On our farm, growing a series of different types of crops will be a good idea since it will provide various different nutrients to the soil. Likewise, for us to remain productive we need various different types of inputs coming from a variety or sources. Avoid getting into a predictable pattern, periodically change things around. Sometimes write notes, sometimes journal, sometimes study with a study buddy, on other days teach your younger brother. This way you will get a 360 degree view on your topic and also remain interested.
So, that’s all from me for now.

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