Last week, I sent Jen Dziura’s amazing article, How to Be a Productivity Unicorn, to my friend Madden. I was reading a lot about being productive, and how to spend actual time, as opposed to… faffing? Sometimes, faffing is not an option for a girl with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, and a to-do list as long as her arm. Sometimes, being a unicorn is the only option. Unicorns do not always choose to be unicorns, but have unicornness thrust upon them. Or something. Anyway, here’s my list of things to help you win at being your baddest, most productive unicorn self.
I genuinely couldn’t live without Evernote anymore. I am a complete convert. I have it on my laptop, my phone, and my Kindle Fire, and it syncs everything I add to it, so it’s there when I open whatever it is I’m using next. I have notebooks for everything, and then notes inside them with different things on. There’s notebooks for my litmag, blog, and writing stuff, a list of words I find and like, one with all the research for my dissertation, one for my poetry course…. and on and on. It’s great. You can email yourself and it saves the email, you can screenshot and annotate the screen shots, you can draw things, and share notebooks with other people (Dave and I had a shared notebook for our holiday last year, because – for some reason – he indulges me in these behaviours, and it was awesome, and it’s full of maps of Berlin and Amsterdam, and food instagrams, and hotel reservations, and copies of all our flights so we
didn’t miss any had no excuse when we missed one…)
At my most type-A-loser, I did this, and it’s been AMAZING…
Ahem. I’ve blanked out what’s in those boxes, because GOALS, and you’ll judge me. Bear with me a sec, because this is working. This notebook is called TWENTY FIFTEEN. There’s a note for each month, and there was a note right at the beginning called THIS YEAR. It’s all in caps because IMPORTANT. Ok, the THIS YEAR note has got a list of year-long goals, and some of them are big and scary. There are five. Let’s call them categories. Each month note has got a heading for each category with two tick box bullet points below it. That means that each month, I just have to achieve those two things to get to that goal by the end of the year. Easy peasy, right? Two things is not many, and breaking big, scary goals down into twelve two-point plans makes them much less scary. YAY! Goal smashing!!
Get off the internet.
Yes, I’m aware of the irony of writing this on a blog, but seriously, what are you actually doing? I’m so guilty of getting home, putting my laptop on, and then staring at it and clicking around on buzzfeed for five hours and getting no work done. Oops. Also, the internet gives you Internet Overwhelm and FOMO and all that jazz. Blarf. (As an aside on this, I really can’t say how much I agree with all the posts saying you should delete the Facebook apps off of your phone. Just do it. You’ll be free!!)
Don’t worry about inbox zero.
Inbox Zero is BS. I’ve got 900 emails in my inbox right now. Some of them are five years old. I don’t care. If you’re in gmail, label them up as you go so you can find stuff more easily, and then don’t worry about it. Does Inbox Zero really feel as good as accidentally finding an eighteen month old email with one sentence that someone sent instead of texting you at 3am so they didn’t wake you up? I doubt it. Ha.
To do lists.
I will never not have a to do list. This is a thing I have accepted about myself, and a thing that I have learned that I quite like. I like writing them, and I like crossing things off almost as much as I like adding new things on. Usually, these to do lists are scribbled on the backs of bus tickets in the bottom of my handbag, in Evernote, in emails to myself, on bits of paper on my desk, and in dedicated, physical notebooks, where I write them in different colours and draw pictures on them if I’m really procrastinating. Right now, my to do list has got four big deadline things on it; the second issue of the litmag, finishing the chapter I’m writing, reading submissions for the Talking Bodies book, and my conference paper for October. Then it’s got littler deadlines; freelance writing bits, and blog stuff. And then there are separate lists for books I’m reading, places to eat, etc. etc. I like lists. If they help, figure out the best place to keep them, and write billions of them. And then actually do the things on them.
Even unicorns can’t do it all. I am not very good at cutting myself any slack, but it is important. You can’t be productive at all if you’re too worn out to tackle anything that’s on your list. Look after yourself. Read a book, go for a walk, whatever.
Ok, that’ll do for some unicorning, I think. This post is much longer than I expected, so if you’re still with me – well done!! I’m going to go write some more of my book chapter (EEK), but I would love to know what you rely onto be more productive, or whether you are just innately a productivity unicorn, and don’t need help from mere mortal pretenders.