How I’m learning to work smarter and be more productive

Evetopia - Malaysia Lifestyle Website for modern hustlers

Don’t you wish you have 48 hours in a day? To work, live, play and rest?

After a series of health and bad skin issues, I finally realize that I need to work smarter and not harder. I used to sleep at 1- 2 am every night. I felt I was hardworking but honestly, I just wasn’t working effectively and efficiently.

My goal in 2019 is to change the way I work. I want to make time for other things in life that I care about, like meeting people, traveling, building my side hustles, learning new skills.

These are some apps, techniques, tools and mindset shifts I use to be more productive.

Use Digital Tools

Evetopia - work smarter and be productive

1.Google Calendar

I used to carry my bulky notebook around until I decided to go fully digital last year. Here’s why I think Google Calendar is perfect:

  • You can set different colors for different calendars, e.g. family, work, reminders, to-dos.
  • You can view it literally everywhere across different devices. No more heavy notebooks. Yay!
  • You can visually plan your time carefully and focus on things that matter. I think it (kinda) stops me from procrastinating for too long.

Tips: Create “Goals” to track your daily habits such as meditation, writing, exercising. 

2. Trello

I am obsessed with Trello. It’s a handy tool that allows you to create lists and notes of items for each section of your life. I have different lists for work, personal to-dos, finance, short-term and long-term goals.

In each list, you can add cards for each smaller item, add due date and checklist.

For example, I have a list called Evetopia where I store all my ideas and to-dos. I create a checklist of smaller steps to complete today’s post to make blogging a less daunting task.

Tips: You can also invite different members to your board for project management and coordination.

Click here to signup!

Evetopia - work smarter and be productive

Apply these time-management techniques

1.Time-blocking – Always plan and draft before you execute

I pick up this habit when I was working in the laboratory. It’s helpful to plan and prepare before each experiment to make sure I knew exactly what to do and when to do each step. This saves a lot of time and avoids stress if things go wrong.

I usually estimate 60-90 minutes for every task depending on the complexity, and I try to stop and take a break in between tasks to make sure I don’t go crazy.

2.Use the 80/20 rule – Pareto Principle

If you are a perfectionist too, you NEED to master this principle. The 80/20 rule simply means, “Only 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.” In simpler terms, focus on the things that will bring the maximum impact. 

I’d spend hours modifying a tiny detail on my presentation slides instead of focusing on the key messages and big picture of my speech. Needless to say, the font size was super insignificant in bringing out my points. 

3.Parkinson’s Law

This law means, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” If you schedule to complete a task in two hours, stick to that time frame. Remember how you procrastinate your assignment for 1 month only to complete it in the last 3 hours before submission? That’s Parkinson’s Law in action.

Use the right tools

You cannot make bricks without straw. 工欲善其事,必先利其器. My straws are my trusty Logitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse. They have survived through my furious typing force and vigorous clicking speed. I highly recommend having a separate keyboard from your laptop’s. Personally I type probably 3 times slower on a laptop. 

Another item that I really enjoy is my Redmi AirDots earphone gifted by my partner. I can listen to podcasts when I work without the hassle of a wired and bulky headphone.

Change your mindset

Having the right tools or apps will not improve your productivity unless you also change your mindset. I am guilty as charged being a people-pleaser and perfectionist. I wasted too much time doing tasks that I honestly didn’t want to do, and way more time wondering if my work is good enough for submission.

I keep these mantras on top of my head:

1.Say ‘NO’

If it’s not a “hell yes”, say “NO” elegantly and politely. Explain why I am not in the best position to complete this task.

2.Done is better than perfect.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was writing my PhD thesis. Every day I would sit in front of the computer, worry about the data, and try to edit again and again. The cycle persisted at least for a few months. In retrospect, I could have completed maybe a month earlier. 

Have you ever experienced this? You keep wondering and doubting about something. Instead of rational accessing the situation, most probably you’re just procrastinating and feeling insecure of your work. I’ll talk about how I (am trying) to overcome this feeling in my future post.

Remember, perfection does not exist. Done is always better than perfect or not completing it at all.

Conclusion

I wish I have more time to do things that I love, but as you know, we only have 24 hours in a day. So the best way to do things is to learn to do things more effectively.

  1. Use the right time-management and organization tools (Google Calendar & Trello)
  2. Prioritize time over perfection. Use 80/20 rule and Parkinson’s Law
  3. Say “No”.

How do you stay productive? I’d love to know!


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