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How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip

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How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip

It may have come as a shock. As a college graduate, you entered the workforce to discover that your new colleagues are… well… a bit slow.

Not that they aren’t smart. They have the credentials and the experience to prove they are an impressive bunch. It’s just that they have become accustomed to a slower pace of working that, compared to what you just left behind at college, is leaving you bored.

People tell you to “be patient” and that you have to “spend time learning the ropes.” Of course they are right, but does it have to happen so slowly that you lose interest and start to fill your life with other interests?

Relax for just a moment. There is a way out. You don’t have to force yourself to adapt to a style of work that resembles elementary school rather than college.

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Step 1: Own Your Type A Tendencies

In a recent article here on Lifehack, I gave some good reasons to own the productive side of Type-A tendencies. If you have some of these traits, you are probably organized, time conscious, internally demanding, driven, and likely to commit to more than you can comfortable handle.

Even though people around you (especially at work) cannot understand your Type A productive behaviors, it’s OK… you are different. Own this fact and move on to the next step. It’s good news.

Step 2: Stop Winging It

Your ability to push yourself hard, while ignoring adverse symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue, is a plus. However, it needs to be harnessed in the right way as to not waste a single, precious ounce of motivation.

Like lots of other Type A individuals, you chase down tips, tricks, and shortcuts, as long as they promise a scintilla of improvement. You are a veritable expert compared to the average person in the office who probably couldn’t care less.

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However, there is a more efficient method. Instead, establish a baseline for your current, core practices and a custom plan for steady, continuous improvement. The idea is to pour your improvement energy into the  handful of areas that will yield the greatest improvement, rather than directing it at random at the latest idea in a flashy infographic, cool video, or listicle. The result will be more progress for less effort in a shorter time. It’s the difference between following a custom improvement plan that fits your existing habits, practices, and rituals, rather than something generic.

Step 3: Follow The Pathway To Managing More Tasks

The most important tasks for Type A individuals are those which are self-generated. They are called “time demands,” and each one is an internal, individual commitment to complete an action in the future.

Research shows there is a path that must be followed in order to deal with an increase in time demands, much in the same way that you might upgrade the engine of your car in order to achieve faster speeds. Here’s a summary in a nutshell.

You can probably remember being a preteen who managed time demands using your memory, but at some point, like most Type A individuals, you graduated to using written lists. If you attended college, however, and faced an even bigger time crunch, it’s likely that you switched over (or tried to switch over) to using a calendar to manage all your non-habitual tasks.

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Unfortunately, you may have realized the hard truth: it’s hard to keep such a calendar viable. Even if you kept it on a smartphone, it was still difficult because inevitable, daily disruptions made the ambition impossible. (A few people do power through, teaching themselves the custom habits required, but most quit somewhere along the way.)

However, once you graduated and joined the workforce, you discovered that some of your colleagues didn’t even keep a written list — they were back to using their memories to manage time demands… just like kids do. At that point, like all recent college graduates, you had a choice.

When your new colleagues asked you “Why are you working so hard?” in a tone that was a bit unfriendly, did you buckle to peer pressure and delete your calendar and To-Do list, joining the “Hakuna Matata” club of memory users? Or did you resist?

Thankfully, downgrading your capacity isn’t the only feasible choice. Your colleagues have just forgotten what it’s like to willingly put oneself under high pressure. Instead of limiting or slowing down the time demands you create, like they do, keep on creating just as many. You’ll still have the problem you had before, but the good news is that there are better tools available to help be as productive as you want to be.

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Remember that problem you had of trying to put all your time demands in a single calendar? Well, there is a new class of tools that’s tailor-made for Type A individuals who routinely create lots and lots of tasks… far more than can be fit in a day or a week.

These tools are called “auto-schedulers.” Back in the 1970s, a few programmers had the idea that you could use computing power to reschedule your tasks. It was an impossible dream at the time and the first attempts were quite limited. Now, recent advances in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the existence of multiple calendars on platforms like Outlook and Google are changing the game for Type A personalities.

Last year, Lifehack.org covered Timeful, one of the first of these apps, just before it was purchased by Google in a deal worth several million dollars. They immediately took it off the market. I use an app that’s in Beta called SkedPal, and it’s one of a few emerging programs that do the same thing — allow you to get over that problem you faced trying to schedule everything. SkedPal and other apps do the job for you.

Now, as a Type A personality, you have the tools to manage a dramatically increased number of tasks. Instead of lowering your capacity just to fit in, you can prepare yourself for what is likely to come: marriage, owning a home, managing your finances, and having children. Plus promotions at work as you climb the career ladder.

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At the moment, you are in the post-graduation dip, but it won’t last forever. Rather than dipping like everyone else, stay as productive as you want to be using this new kind of app, while preparing yourself for the future. Others may not understand, but that’s OK — these three steps aren’t meant for them. They are meant for you, and match your high energy and extraordinary commitment.

Featured photo credit: picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

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