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How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip

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.

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

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It 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 August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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