24, Or, How to Make the Most out of Your Day

For the UAS Whalesong

Whether you’re in college or not, sometimes it’s just really difficult to feel like you’re being a Productive Person. It’s also sometimes particularly demoralizing to feel unproductive, whether it’s because you know have a lot to do that you’re not getting done or because your friends are all really busy while you’re not. Either way, sometimes you just need an idea of things to do that will make you feel like an Effective Human Being – and which will hopefully kickstart you into gear to do the rest of the stuff you have to do.

Early to bed, early to rise – I find that it’s best not to have one of these things without the other. Especially if you’re more night owl than early bird, it might be difficult for you to adjust your schedule to accommodate this; more than that, you’re probably wondering why you would even entertain such a ludicrous suggestion. Personally, I find that I tend to associate evenings and nighttime with doing fun stuff – movie nights, video games, YouTube marathons, sleeping – and that makes it harder to sit down and focus on the things I know I need to get done. However, providing you go to bed early enough the night before, I find that there’s something about early mornings that motivates me to be productive. Maybe it will do the same for you; there’s just something that induces a pleasant smugness about knowing that you’re up getting things done while most other people are still asleep.

Make your bed – This goes hand-in-hand with the above,  because if you get up early enough, you’ll actually have time to make your bed in the morning. Making your bed is an easy way to sort of set your affairs for the day in order; it’s your first productive task of the day, and it makes your room look just that little bit neater and more organized. Plus, a neatly made bed is easier to sit and work on – if you’re one of the enviable class of people who can do that without immediately falling asleep. And then, at the end of the day, if you don’t feel like you accomplished anything, you can always look at your bed and realize that you’re wrong.

To-do list – These are pretty much a staple of both college and adult life, but there are few things more demoralizing than getting to the end of the day and having just a few things (or worse, nothing) checked off. So do what I do, and cheat the system by writing things on your list that you know for sure you’re going to or have to do. Easy things, like “eat lunch” or “drink water.” If you’re really having a rough time, there’s no rule that says you can’t add basics like “go to class” to the list. It also helps to not put too many things on your to-do list; it’s easy to look at everything you have to do, get overwhelmed, and end up panic-procrastinating, which results in minimal productivity by the end of the day. I use a productivity app called Fabulous that made a great suggestion: in the morning (or the night before, whichever is more convenient), write your list. Then write another list that only contains your absolute top priorities for that day. For example, staples of my lists are often do laundry, tidy room, make dinner; on busy days, I’ll cut those entirely. Laundry and cleaning can wait until after your deadlines, and sometimes you just have to stop trying to make dinner happen.

A flip side to the to-do list is something that I learned about from popular YouTuber and star of My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah Hart – the to-done list. Instead of writing a list of the things you have to do that day, keep an ongoing list of the things you’ve gotten done. This list can be as long or as short as you like; the point is that it’s easier and more motivating than a to-do list, and is good for days when you just have small stuff and no screamingly urgent assignments to complete.

Have an evening routine – This is something that I read about recently, probably in a BuzzFeed article or something. Regardless, it struck me both with the simplicity of the concept and the fact that I had never thought about it before. I think a large problem among college students is that after we’re done with the day’s classes, we tend to come home and crash. Whether it’s taking a nap or settling down to marathon TV, the chance to be further productive is usually pretty well gone as soon as you collapse on your couch or bed. But if you have a routine you follow when you get home for the evening, that can help you be just that little bit more productive that can help make the next day easier. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all, but it’s worth a try! Mine’s still a work in progress; at this point, all my evening routine really amounts to is making a cup of tea when I get home. But that’s one more thing I’ve done in the day that wasn’t procrastinate or sleep, so it counts as a success!

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice! One of the benefits of UAS as a college is that the campus is really tightly-knit. Ask a friend, advisor, or counselor what their tips and tricks for being productive are. Call your parents and ask them. You can even ask yourself, which is a little brutal sometimes (i.e. “what can I cut out of my life to contribute to my productivity? Maybe stop playing the popular online video game Destiny for 3 hours every morning? I mean, maybe”) but can ultimately only help you.

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