No matter who you are or what you do, you probably have to deal with a period of time that’s a little more…stressful than usual. Whether you’re prepping for a big deadline at work, studying for finals, or trying to balance a hectic personal life with your other commitments, sometimes you need to go into crunch mode. While higher-stress times may not be the most fun, there are certain steps you can take to prepare yourself—mentally and physically—to survive crunch mode like a boss.
- Exercise! I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to get to the gym right now!” Hear me out. A little exercise, though it may take some time, will make you much more productive in the hours that you are working. A number of studies have found that exercise improves focus, mood, and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. You don’t need to dedicate a huge chunk of time to exercising either (especially when you’re really busy!) According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, any amount of exercise can elicit benefits (even if it’s less than 10 minutes!) You also don’t need to join a gym – most of the research on exercise’s brain-boosting benefits have looked at walking. Even a quick walk around the block can help enhance your focus and improve your mood when it’s go-time.
- Get enough sleep. It’s tempting to want to skip out on sleep when you’re preparing for a big deadline or exam, but going to bed at the the same time and aiming for 8 hours of sleep will enhance your focus and productivity! It’s all about working smarter, not harder; getting a good amount of sleep will allow you to be as productive as possible in your waking hours (plus, being well-rested is just so much more pleasant than being sleep-deprived!)
- Plan out your tasks in advance. Writing everything you need to do on paper will save you the cognitive task of deciding what to do next. Writing down what you need to get done and when you need to do it will also save you from forgetting something important! Plus, who doesn’t love that twinge of satisfaction you get when you cross something off your to-do list?
- Take care of all your personal needs – meal prep, hygiene, laundry, cleaning, etc. – before you get down to the wire. Trust me, you’ll feel a billion times better sitting down and cranking out whatever needs to get done when you have a clean house/office space, you’ve washed your hair, done the dishes, and you have food in the fridge for the next three days. If you’re not already obsessed with meal prepping, now’s the time to start! You’ll save time and worry by making sure everything in your home is taken care of so you can focus on what needs to get done.
- Delete social media off your phone. Have you ever checked the screen usage on your phone? It’s always astonishing to me how much time I spend on my phone each day; you don’t have time for that right now! Social media will still be there for you when things settle down; your break might even feel like a breath of fresh air! Bonus points if you dedicate your previous Insta-scrolling time to sleep instead.
- Put your phone on airplane mode and keep it out of sight. A recent study found that the presence of a smartphone (even if it’s face-down and powered off) provides distraction and reduces available cognitive capacity. Try putting your phone in your purse or backpack – or better yet, another room!
- Time batch. This is the #1 productivity hack I discovered this year and I’ve been able to get so much more done because of it! Time batching is basically lumping all of your similar tasks together and doing them at once so that your brain does not need to switch between tasks. If your job entails a lot of writing as well as other tasks, this might entail scheduling all of your writing for one day, or studying one subject per day if you have exams. Consider all the tasks you need to complete (you can reference that list above!) and see which similar tasks you can group together.
- Continue to do something small for yourself each day. Treat yourself to a face mask, a bath, meditation, a good book, whatever fills you up. Even if your self-care is only a few minutes, you’ll get some much-needed relaxation that will empower you to be even more productive. Plus, you deserve it!!
Whatever you have going on this week, you’re going to nail it. Good luck!!
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