In 2021 I decided – I want to be in my productivity bag.
Let me explain.
I’ve always been a pretty productive person, for the plain and simple reason being that I like to try new creative things, and so that’s what I’ve typically used up my spare time doing. When I was super young, I was writing stories, coming up with magazines with my cousins, making comics, making websites and editing together videos of my family holidays. I remember telling a friend once, way back when (and as we sat in rehearsals for our secondary school’s drama production), that I really loved being busy, and she thought the idea was really strange.
As I got older, I held on to a few hobbies, and dropped a few others. I streamlined a bit. Doing “things on the side” is a lot more timely than it used to be – partly because (i) well, I have a lot less time to spare but (ii) most importantly because I try to do things to a better standard/quality than I was of course doing when I was younger where I could slap together a 15 page story in one sitting, or draw 5 mediocre comics on MS Paint over a few hours. Now, I figure if I put all my focus into just a few things, then at least I can try to do those things really well.
Back in 2018 I went through a period where I experienced burn out for the first time. Suddenly I was thrust into the world of work and society said “go” – after a year of finding my feet in the office, and watching the clock tick to pay days and annual leave, I started to hyperventilate about where my future was going and if I would do something impactful. The answer to my panic: just. do. everything. I’d work long hours, blog twice a week, and I was working on a separate project at the time. I’d end up staying up late with my eyes literally closing as I typed away at my keyboard. I remember once feeling guilty for going out with friends for a drink – I thought… surely, this cannot be what successful people do? It sounds crazy, and I guess I was a little crazy. It was actually quite a down year for me for a period as I spent a lot of it just feeling sad and stressed, although there were still a few milestones/blessings ( touch of the “rough patch” at the end of the post).
Dying of exhaustion, and wanting to focus more on being happy… I took 2019 a lot easier. I didn’t force myself to be productive in any capacity. I still did things when I felt like it – it was the year I started my fitness page, I was still blogging but maybe only ~1-2 or max 3 times a month, and I was still trudging along albeit at a much slower pace on said aforementioned project; but I was also spending more time being lazy, sleeping in and taking it easy. It was a much needed cool down for my brain. In 2020, I decided to try and get back into some of my old habits.
Now I feel as though I’m better balanced than I was 2 years ago. Indeed I can binge watch a few episodes of Friends and Bling Empire, whilst not feeling guilty for not being “productive”, and still find time work on the other things I want to do. Me and productivity and hustle culture have reached a good equilibrium (see: “glamorising the grind“), which I why I feel confident picking things up a notch in 2021 but getting in the right place to avoid burning out.
Here’s how I’m getting in my productivity bag in 2021…
To do lists
To do lists have always been part of my “work toolbox”. Either before I leave the office, or as I start the day, I was write up everything I need to do and cross it off as I went along. It’s nothing that I ever thought to incorporate into my “real” life, the life outside of these 10 hours work days. Perhaps a few times a year when I had a a lot on during a weekend (usually if I was trying to squeeze getting many things done ahead of heading somewhere in the evening), then I’d draft a few bullets on my notes app. But this year I wanted to introduce it was a more permanent thing I do daily.
I do all my to do lists on the Todoist app now including my work in my corporate job (goodbye to the days of writing it onto notepad). And I love it because it stops me from being forgetful, it lets me plan far ahead and note tasks for myself to complete on a different day, and quite honestly it keeps my accountable. Also, the feeling up ticking off a full day feels gooood. I am loving this app to say the least.
Setting clearer goals
I’ve always been somebody who writes up new years resolutions, pretty much religiously every single year since I was a child. It’s not for everyone but I find that it gives me motivation for the year ahead. However… what I realised towards the end of 2020 as that a lot of my resolutions say a lot about a little. I could say “I want to be smarter with my money” – but… what does that even mean? Or “make strides in my career” – okay, but by doing what? This year I just wanted to set myself more measurable goals. For example – yes I want to be smarter with my money, and that is by investing £X, and paying down £X of my student loan. Yes, I want to make do well in my career, and this means I want to get X deals in Q1.
I know a few people have had measurable goals and gone off of them instead moving to something higher level – so perhaps I will move back to how I’ve always done things next year if I find this method too stressful. But for now, it’s giving me a bit of extra motivation.
Spending time doing things I enjoy
Spending time doing things you enjoy may sound simple enough – but I can’t always say this is what I’ve done myself in the past. At times, I’ve worked on building things that I believe are a good idea, but came to realise that maybe I wasn’t the right person to execute said idea as my passion lacked in some ways. Now anything I do in my time outside of work, is always going to be something that I really enjoy. Writing this blog for example – I’ve always loved blogging because I find it therapeutic, I like to share what’s on my mind and things I think others might be able to relate to, and I myself love reading a good thoughtful blog post. To some people – me, sat here in my room at 18:30 on a Sunday typing this up may seen incredibly boring. But, I like it. These days, I’m focussing on doing the things I really enjoy, from this blog, to other projects… and I’m really enjoying it.
Staying cautious about burnout
Since that 2018 with its very unique pitfalls, I’ve always been cautious about burnout and slipping back into the mindset I had. I realised how easier it was to fall into a panicky rut where I was putting too much stress on myself and not necessarily doing anything of value. Because of this, it’s something I’m always cautious about. On Sundays, my to do lists are to do list lite, so that I can spend extra time lazing around and recharng. Today, I wrote this blog post, did a workout workout, read a chapter of my book, and do a few bits and bobs for other projects. But otherwise, I spent 3.5 hours on a Skype call with my parents, and I’m half way through the final episode of Bling Empire. You can read articles, or watch YouTube videos that have you thinking that you need to be doing something productive from wake to sleep, but I think taking time specifically for downtime is so important too.
And this is how I’m setting things up this year! As well as making a few cautious changes on my social media, this blog and actually head down on something I’m really excited about.
I’m getting a bit older now, and I can say I’m probably the most satisfied with my life I’ve ever been. Life is good (dare I say it, without jinxing myself), and I feel very positive/am very hopeful about the future. I’m also the most confident I’ve ever been, and I have a lot of freedom to do the things I want to do. So really and now that I’m in this headspace, I’m ready to just pick things up a notch and hopefully make 2021 a really special one, and that’s why I’m getting in my productivity bag.