Being productive is in my DNA. While enduring the biggest medical nightmare of my life during a collective 26-day hospital stay and a six-month medical leave of absence from my university teaching and administrative job, I remained quite productive. Even though my body needed to be put back together again, my mind was fully functioning. I wrote four doctoral papers and six book reviews.
Setting goals and balancing a productive academic, writing, running, and family life has helped me to thrive. When I was in academia, I taught full-time and directed the campus writing center. I also drove two children one hour each way to school in a bordering state. I wrote a book proposal and landed a book contract. The book was published two years later. While writing the book, I trained for four ultrarunning events (three 50 milers and one 100k ultra). I also took five graduate classes, and created and chaperoned a study/travel study course to Puerto Rico. I’m often asked, “Where do you find the time to do all of that?”
As I reflect on my productive ways, I find that practicing the following facilitates productivity. These 7 tips will encourage you to be productive and to thrive.
1. Remember there are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours or 10, 080 minutes in a week. If my math is correct, there are 524, 160 minutes in a year. So relax! There is plenty of time to be productive and to thrive.
2. To help you be productive, get up every morning and make a list of goals. Or make a list of goals the night before to keep you on track the next day. One to five goals is reasonable. I write my goals in a small spiral notebook that I can fit in my purse. I buy the notebooks at the dollar store. List goals you want to accomplish at work, at home, and in your personal life.
3. Give your self deadlines. They will keep you focused. Sometimes life will throw you a curve. It might take you an afternoon, a day, a week or much longer to meet that deadline and accomplish your goal. That’s OK.
4. Pace yourself. Sometimes a perfectly feasible goal can become overwhelming. But your goal to purge junk from your attic or clean out a closet does not have to be daunting. Reserve 2–3 hours a day or a week for that task until you finish and meet your goal.
5. At the end of every day, take a look at the goals you set for any given day. Check off the goals you met, partial or full. Transfer any unmet goal into tomorrow’s goals’ list.
6. At the end of every day, add any goal that unexpectedly pops up and that you accomplish. When an unexpected opportunity presents itself, make it a goal. Writing this piece for Thrive Global was an unexpected goal.
7. A yearly examination and reflection of all goals and productivity met and unmet is an important exercise. To do this exercise for the first time, sit down and write an examination of your productivity and goals achieved in 2016. Look back on 2016. Make a list of all your 2016 accomplishments in your work, career, family, home, and personal life. Then make a list of your accomplishments, victories, and triumphs in each area. You will find some. Next, make a list of your lows and defeats in all areas. We all have them. They make us grow. Finally, make a list of your 2017 goals in all of these areas. You’ll be happy you did.
At the end of December or in early January, I examine and reflect on my previous year’s goals and productivity, and set new goals for the New Year. Spend some time engaged in this exercise. Take your time listing feasible goals for the New Year. Don’t rush. Once you have completed this exercise, tuck it away. Sitting down to reflect on the past and setting new goals for the coming year is a productive exercise.
Three weeks ago, I reviewed my 2016 examination of goals, triumphs, and defeats. I found a defeat — the end of my dissertation journey after the program closed a week after I got a new advisor. But I’m proud of my ABD Th.D. status (all but dissertation in theology). And I found a triumph. While one of my goals was to run two ultrarunning events, I ran three events (two 50 milers and a 24-hour ultra). Placing was never a goal. But I placed third in my age group in the women’s division in one event; third in my age group and fifth overall woman in the 24 hour ultra; and ran a personal best in one of the 50 milers. I was pleasantly surprised and felt very productive.
Toward the end of 2017, pull out your completed exercise. Exam and reflect on your productivity for 2017. Set goals for 2018. Carry over any 2017 goals not yet achieved. This productive exercise will help you discover your triumphs, defeats, and goals not accomplished, and help you to start fresh.
It is not too late to be productive in 2017 and beyond. It’s not hard. If you feel you’re not as productive as you can be, it’s not for lack of time. Remember — you have 10, 080 minutes a week to be productive, set daily goals, and reflect on your productivity at the end of the year. You can be perfectly productive. Be productive and thrive wherever and whenever. The support of others will help, too. I wrote this piece during a three-hour — that’s 180 minutes — car ride while my husband drove.
Originally published at medium.com