I’m a day late on today’s post – I’ve actually been starting to get busy recently! I had a long day yesterday and was unable to get everything done in time, so I wanted to make sure this post was completely ready before I sent it out. Coincidentally, today I’m writing about staying organized and keeping a productive mindset while at home, which I’ll definitely be taking more seriously now that I am done with school and my schedule has freed up.
In general, I’m a very organized person – I like structure, and I like having to-do lists and appointments in my calendar. I tend to be more productive when I have more to do, so while I don’t like to be overwhelmed with tasks, it helps me to have a few goals in mind each day so I can build my schedule around them. These don’t have to be major, sometimes it’s just getting a workout in and doing my laundry, but when I have loads of schoolwork and many emails to follow up on, this becomes a lot more helpful.
Keeping an organized schedule while in quarantine has definitely been a challenge, since there is nowhere for me to go, and not much for me to actually do that’s not on my own time. Luckily I’ve been able to teach a few virtual group fitness classes each week, so that has taken up some of my time, but I’ve had to fill in the rest of my days with different plans and activities. Now that I’m almost two weeks out of school, I think I’ve gotten used to my new ways of organization, and it has helped me keep a productive mindset throughout the week. Since this is something I’m sure lots of people are struggling to figure out, whether you are working full time from home, or no longer working at all, I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve found useful in staying motivated to hopefully help you stay – or get back on – track going forward!
1. Keep a regular sleep schedule.
Everything else in your day will build off of your sleep patterns. Just because you don’t have to wake up at 7am for work or class anymore doesn’t mean you should sleep until noon. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take extra rest if you need it, or even adjust your sleep hours an hour or two later, but keeping some sort of normalcy in your bedtime and wakeup time will not only ensure you get a full night’s sleep, but also create a natural and comfortable sleep cycle in your body. I am definitely a morning person, so while I’ve been letting myself wake up naturally without an alarm, I still find myself getting up around 8am every morning, since that’s what I’m used to at school. Because I’m up early, I make sure to go to bed around 11pm so that I’m fully rested (and I’m usually tired by then anyways)! Setting this sleep cycle from the start has helped me get used to a normal, daily wake schedule, and also get a lot done in the mornings before anyone else even wakes up.
2. Use a calendar for (almost) everything.
I’ve always been a fan of iCalendar for scheduling classes, work shifts, and other meetings and appointments I have during the week. This way, I can easily see when I have time scheduled, and when I have time free. Now that I hardly have anything scheduled, my calendar has been looking pretty empty. Something I’ve found extremely helpful (and also kind of fun) is planning everything I want to do each day and actually putting it all in my calendar as an event – this means blocking off an hour or two for my workout, an hour or two of reading in the morning, a walk around my neighborhood, a couple hours of work or cleaning – literally any goals you have! Of course this is all flexible, and if I wake up wanting to change my workout or schedule a socially distant coffee date with a friend, I will do that. However, I find that seeing lots of to-do’s in my calendar makes me excited to have a lot going on and not feel so bored, and also sets some structure to my day.
3. Keep a planner or journal for to-do’s.
During the school year, my planner is the most important thing in my bag. If you can’t already tell, I love to be organized, and thrive off of having structure. So, I’m always updating my planner with daily assignments, long-term due dates, and various meetings and appointments. Typically I reserve my planner for just school-related tasks and notes, so I don’t have too much going on in one place, so while this is helpful during the school year, I’m now past that point. I’ve tried keeping a separate planner for my personal life, but I find this to be too much with two notebooks at once. Once I am done with school completely, I will definitely keep a planner in my daily life, but for now just a school agenda is good. That being said, I do keep a blank journal on my desk for any other notes, ideas, or to-do’s I want to write down. This ranges from long-term wishlists, goals, and books I want to read, to daily grocery and chore lists. If I feel like I have a lot going on one morning, I’ll write down everything I want to get done on a page, and then go through and cross off things as I go. Not only does this help me plan and structure my calendar for the day, but something about physically crossing off items on a to-do list feels a lot more satisfying.
4. Create a quarantine goals list.
Right when I moved home from my apartment at school, I made a list of projects and goals I’d been putting off until I had more time. Well, now I have all the time in the world, and seeing a list of goals I’ve built up is not only motivating, but keeping me from getting too bored. This list has everything on it, from taking a few online classes and tutorials on specific subjects, to taking new headshots, organizing my Spotify playlists, and even digitalizing my mom’s photo albums. Now that I’m completely done with classes, if I find I have little to nothing planned for one day, I’ll schedule a few hours in my calendar to work on some of these. We all have things we’ve been putting off for so long because they’re only wishes, and not urgent, but now is the best time to at least get started!
5. Move around!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to move around during the day. Not only is physical activity essential to keep the blood flowing to your brain and maintain a healthy, motivated mindset throughout the work day, but actually moving your space can help too. I’ve talked lots about exercise and activity in other posts, so I won’t go too much into that here, but rather focus on your quarantine space. Obviously we are all spending a lot more time at home than we were a few months ago, and while you might start to get comfortable in one room or area of your house, I urge you all to change it up this week! While it’s important to have a set workspace where you can get everything done that you need, this can start to feel repetitive and even a bit confining if you’re only spending time in this one area. For example, when I moved home, I set up my desk for schoolwork in my bedroom, as well as my yoga mat and weights. Soon I found myself waking up in my room, moving to my desk for a full day of classes, and then doing my at home workouts just steps away from my desk, only leaving to get food or use the bathroom. I did add some more decorations and pieces to my room to make it a clean and comfortable space, since I knew I’d be spending so much time in there, but doing everything in my room began to feel trapping. So, I slowly started changing things up – doing more workouts outside, doing some of my easier schoolwork from my couch downstairs, and spending less time in my bedroom during the day, so it felt cozy and relaxing to come back to at night!
6. Other ways of list-making and organizing.
If none of this seems to fit your organization style, I have a couple more suggestions that are super easy to implement and add lots more structure to this crazy time we’re living in. Sometimes not having things to do throughout the day makes us forget or lose track of the little goals or tasks we wanted to get done, so just keeping a pad of sticky notes on your desk or by your bed can help to jot down any chores you think of, or random ideas you might want to look into the next day. When I only have a couple of things to do, I’ll make a short list on a sticky note and either go through crossing off items as I get them done, or go back and add them into my calendar or planner later.
Along with physical sticky notes, I use the Stickies app on my computer to track longer term goals and information, like credit card payments I need to make, or meetings I want to schedule in the future. I keep one Sticky on my desktop with all of this information, so it’s easy to update and I can see each time I go on my computer to do work.
Finally, the Notes and Reminders apps on iPhones and Macs can be useful for jotting down quick notes or lists. I use the Notes app more for short-term grocery lists, ideas I come up with, or workout ideas when I’m on the go and can’t write everything down elsewhere. I usually then go back into the Notes and organize them later, either onto paper or in my iCalendar. I use the Reminders app for longer lists, like books I want to read, movies and TV shows I want to watch, places I want to travel, or new restaurants I want to try. This makes it easy to keep track of all of my goals and wishlists in one place, and check them off as I go.
As you can see, I love organization and definitely stay motivated with structure! While this has been harder to maintain during quarantine, I’ve found some fun in getting my days and weeks more organized and making myself plan different activities to stay busy. If you’re feeling a similar lack of productivity, I hope this helps you to at least start following more of a regular schedule, if not start working on some goals you’ve been pushing off for weeks, months, or even years. If you have any other organization tips, I would love to hear them below, and as always I hope you are all staying safe at home! See you next week 🙂