How to Actually Get Work Done: 6 productivity tips for students, freelancers, and entrepreneurs | Ijeoma Kola

How to Actually Get Work Done

As a self-employed blogger and an advanced PhD student, motivating myself to get work done is essential to balancing all the aspects of my life. Whether in my roles as a student or a creative, I work independently with little to no oversight. On some days, I power through all my tasks, crush my to-do list, and even have time to cook! But there are definitely days that go by where the only thing I’ve achieved is catching up on everyone else’s Instagram stories. Since I’m an expert at being both very productive and unproductive – depending on the day – here are a few tips for how to actually get work done.

How to Actually Get Work Done: 6 productivity tips for students, freelancers, and entrepreneurs | Ijeoma Kola

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Do the Hardest Thing First

When you tackle the hardest thing on your to do list first, you are guaranteed to have a successful and productive day, even if you don’t get to item number 6 on your to do list. For me, writing blog posts or creating Instagram captions is way more fun than writing my dissertation. But if I start off my day with doing blog work, I’ll never get to the school stuff. By tackling the hard, daunting, semi boring tasks first, I can feel accomplished by lunchtime. For example, checking emails is easy, but can easily consume your whole day. Rather than starting off your day with email, work on the most daunting task on your to do list.

Write it All Down

Speaking of to do lists, write EVERYTHING down. I mean everything. From that presentation you need to make to reordering dish soap on Amazon. It’s almost impossible to miss important deadlines if you write everything down, and there’s a satisfying feeling when you can check things off! I find that writing down the tiny little things is also helpful because I can sprinkle those tasks in my day when I need a break from my bigger to dos.

Work in Intervals

When you’re trying to build muscle, do you do 300 squats in a row? Nah. You break your exercises into sets, and do them in intervals such as 3 sets of 100. Trying to do your work all in one go is a recipe for failure and burnout. Instead, work in intervals of 25 minutes, and rest for 5. This method is called the pomodoro technique and has been incredibly helpful for me. Rather than set a timer on my phone (which can easily lead to distractions), I actually use a desktop application on my computer called Be Focused. You can set your interval times, name specific tasks for each interval, and it will just throw up a notification when it’s time to work and time to take a break.

Eliminate Distractions

If you have an iPhone, grab it now and press the home button three times in a row. Notice how your screen is now grey? Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else distracts you is WAY less interesting in greyscale. Also consider putting your phone on airplane mode while working, so you’re not distracted by notifications. Having a clean workspace is also integral because your eyes wander over clutter and mess. If you don’t have a space at home, or if your couch and bed themselves are distractions, find a cafe, library, or working space that is clean and bright.

Get a Productivity Planner

While planners and to do lists are great, a planner that ties in all the above principles is exactly what you need to get work done. I’ve been using the Productivity Planner (off and on) since January last year, and on days I actually use it, I am able to get A LOT doneOn days I just wing it or work based off a mental to do list, I usually end up scrolling through Instagram until I get the 6pm text from Jonathan that he’s on his way home, and then I frantically try to accomplish something so I have an answer for him when he asks me what I did all day.

Create a Routine

Finally, creating a routine will help you get work done. Out of everything here, this one is probably the hardest for me because everyday looks different. Sometimes I have a blog assignment due so I need spend my morning finalizing that. But the ideal schedule for me would look something like this:

6am: wake up and workout at JCF Bootcamp (on mornings I work out, I have more productive days than when I sleep in)

8:30am: breakfast of champs – scrambled eggs with veggies

9-2pm: head to a cafe, work on academic things, in 25 minute intervals, starting with writing my dissertation then moving to new research

2-3pm: social media

3-6pm: check business emails, write/plan/edit blog content, be a boss

6-10pm: dinner, snuggle, cuddle, crack jokes, watch TV with the hubby, etc

Now I’ve probably only followed this routine perfectly ONCE in my life, but that day was BOMB. Everything got done that needed to get done, and I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. If I stuck to this kind of schedule from Monday-Thursday, I would definitely finish my dissertation on time and move on to better things. But the moment I skip a workout, skip breakfast, or start scrolling on social media too early, it’s all downhill. But the first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem right?

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Those are my tips for actually getting work done! Did I miss anything? What helps you get work done and be your most productive?

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  1. I love writing things down and planning! I started using a pomodoro technique about 2 weeks ago and I love it. I’m getting so much more done. I used to have long to do lists and then felt disappointed in myself at the end of the day for not completing them. Now before I go to bed I write down my Top 3 Goals for the next day so that no matter what if I can get those three things done I will be happy and proud of myself.
    Like you I have a perfect routine written down but actually ever achieved it once – the struggle is real!! One day hopefully we shall have a 7 day streak.
    Thanks for the great post and tips!

  2. I’m obsessed with writing everything down too! Its such a great feeling to cross something off your to-do list.
    Lots of great tips here. Thanks for sharing! xx

    Ola |

  3. This post was extremely helpful! I especially appreciated that you listed what a productive day looks like to you. I definitely need to wake up earlier to get the daunting tasks out of the way. Of course that would mean that I need to sleep earlier too but the way my night owl tendencies are set up…

  4. These tips can handy today. I am doing Lauren Messiah 10 Day style awakening challenge and today assignments is how committed are you to improve your style. Some of your suggestions I can used to improve my style. I like writing down things to do every day, exercising more, working in interval and using my productivity planner. If I set goals to complete daily, I am sure I would be more beneficial in revamping my style.