You - yes, you, the person reading this - you’re most likely a student or early employee of sorts. Regardless of where you are in life, managing your time effectively is the key to success, whether you’re playing chess, completing a project, or applying to jobs. There’s no real rhyme or reason to managing time - there are methods that work amazing for some, but not at all for others. The easiest way to figure out what works for you is to look at what distracts you the most. Let’s first take a look at some of the top distractions that could lead your eyes away from what’s important.
Different Types of Distractions
I am personally impacted heavily by visual distractions. This includes any notifications on your electronics, actions happening in your peripheral vision (if you’re working in a public place), or even just a messy workspace. One common issue is a desk strewn with unnecessary items - the more stuff you have on your desk, the more stuff you have to look at, touch, or read. If you’re a curious person like myself, the Rubik’s cube, books, and random snacks throughout your desk are a calling for wasted time.
Another big distraction is notifications of any kind. The best way to leave these behind is to just turn on Do Not Disturb on both your computer and your phone. Furthermore, if your phone has a limiting function - such as Ultra Power Saving mode on the Samsung devices, turn that on. Even if you have to answer a text, you won’t find yourself 15 minutes later scrolling through the Migos’ instagram feed.
On the other hand, find time to take breaks. Nobody can sit and stare at a screen or piece of paper for hours on end and not go insane. A great way to limit your breaks is to use a pomodoro timer technique. It’s a simple application on your computer that has a 25-minute timer for work, which finishes with a 5-minute break. After ten 25-minute intervals, there’s a longer break so you can watch a few YouTube videos, grab a snack, or just scroll through social media on your phone. There’s something about being under a time crunch to give your best effort that makes you extremely productive - even if it’s a simple timer on your computer or phone.
Another huge issue is sounds that break your stream of focus. This can range from music, chatter in the background, or just vibrating notifications on your phone. There’s a few ways to mitigate distracting sounds. First, try eliminating all external sounds from your environment. Make your room silent and just try working for a bit. If you regularly work with music or something playing in the background, you may feel quite uncomfortable, but you’re not singing the lyrics to the song you’d be listening to or breaking your focus to change the song. I personally found this extremely helpful, as I constantly listen to music and love to sing along.
On the other hand, if you can’t stand the silence or there’s constant noise around you that you cannot control, try playing white noise to mask the sound. Also, rather than buying a professional white noise machine, play it from your phone or computer, or use a smart speaker, like the Google Home Mini, which plays my white noise while I’m studying, working, or even sleeping. At first, it’ll seem annoying and unnecessary, but you won’t hear the normal distant sounds you usually would, such as water running or floors creaking.
Olfactory Distractions Yes - smell can be a huge distraction to your environment. Have you ever had a funky smell drift through your workspace? Or someone nearby is cooking something delicious? Imagine you’re working on a project and the smell of bacon hits your nose. Your mouth is definitely watering and your mind completely off whatever you were doing - thus breaking your focus. I’m not saying food is an inhibitor to progress, but it can often break your stream of thought, which can hinder your ability to focus.
At the same time, pleasant-smelling essential oils or candles can really boost your productivity. If you enjoy the smell of herbs or flowers, steam your room with an essential oil - I’m not exactly sure if the oil itself helps your productivity, but it can mask the smells of other things (both good and bad) and keep you constantly thinking about your work, rather than whatever’s causing that smell.
Managing Your Time
Eliminating distractions is just the first step to creating a productive environment. Managing your time effectively is the next step - and that’s a beast in itself. Here’s a few suggestions that can take you from an average joe to the next Elon Musk.
Get a planner.
Yes, I know, planners can be a little redundant. Who writes anything down anymore? Just try it - the concept of writing things down and checking them off when you’re finished with them is probably the most satisfying part of my day. Also, unlike most calendar and productivity applications, you can organize it how you want it, and see everything you have to get done in the day. Unlike the learning curve necessary with some productivity apps, everyone knows how to write, and creating a simple planner will change your life. For example, I use a planner style with the days of the week on the left and just a blank page for notes on the right. I can write down all the things I’m doing that day in its respective area, and then my goals and tasks for the week on the right. In my planner, there are no distractions to lead me away and everything is organized to how I work the best.
Know what you have to accomplish every week - and set mini goals to get there.
Life is full of challenges and accomplishments. Most of your success in life is hitting big milestones, but many don’t realize that it requires the baby steps of preparation to get there. So, every week, before you get into the swing of things, set a few goals on what you want to accomplish throughout the week. This could be as simple as getting a headstart on the next project, or taking time to relax for a bit every day. Taking a moment to really think about what you want to accomplish allows you to start developing strategies to get there, which you can write out and start working on immediately. Knowing what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it helps more than you think - having structure to what you’re doing can really boost your productivity.
Have the right attitude.
Being a student or employee is stressful, but at the same time is a privilege. Take a moment to consider the position you’re in and that you’re lucky you have the opportunities you have. Take that gratefulness and use them to act upon the opportunities you’re given. Mistakes happen, whether that’s a missed job opportunity, or a failed test, but consider the fact that you even have the chance to apply to jobs or take tests in an institution. Having a positive attitude and outlook on life can really boost your productivity, since you respect the work you’re doing just a little bit more.
Managing your time and eliminating distractions is definitely not the easiest thing to do, but it will absolutely save you headache in the future. The little bit of work you do now to clean up your workspace and organize your life can save the stress and cramming you might’ve had to do later on. If you’re interested in other career services, or are looking to optimize how you look both in person and on paper, check out Backlight Resumes for great resume consultation! Backlight is a resume-writing company that utilizes cutting-edge AI and professional, renowned copy editors to turn your resume into an impactful, stand-out document!