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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

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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