Guide to Getting Things Done
BY TINGHAN WANG '23?
High school is overwhelming. After last year’s chaos, our return is bound to be bizarre. Beyond ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, high school’s typical challenges—such as organization and motivation—present equally annoying obstacles.
Breaking the cycle of unproductivity is difficult, but you’re here and ready to get your life together! And who better to dispense sage advice than someone who has made all these mistakes before?
Back-To-School season comes with a mountain of homework and unfinished (or unstarted…) papers. Long to-do lists seem overwhelming, but that’s where priorities come into play. As assignments flood in, strategize: rank each by their point worth. For example, if Chemistry has less total points, then a twenty-point Chemistry assignment may be worth more than a twenty-point Latin assignment. I sort by due date, number of points, and strictness of teachers, but you’ll discover what works best for you. You can also schedule tasks so you finish difficult work before sports practice and wind down with a more enjoyable subject afterward, completing the same amount of work in half the time.
Say you’ve got your prioritized list ready. It won’t be much use if you forget about it, will it? Visibility is key! Try writing the most important list items on a sticky note and leaving it on an item you’ll use often, like a water bottle, or perhaps your phone.
You’ve prioritized your work now, which is arguably the easiest part. Studying is arduous with meager instant gratification. So how do you muster up the motivation to finish all those tasks?
Breaking work down into bite-sized pieces can help you get started. The Pomodoro study method has gained popularity recently, and with good reason. It claims that humans can only focus on a task for a set amount of time, so we work better when we take breaks or switch subjects. Experiment with study and break times to see what works for you; maybe you easily bore of one subject and can move on to another with renewed focus, or perhaps you have to stand back from your desk for a quick stretch.
When taking a break, exercise self-control! If you pick up your phone right after promising yourself, “just five minutes!,” you’ll never stop scrolling through social media. Instead, take a quick walk, hydrate, or call a friend—someone who’ll let you know when time’s up.
Getting things done happens one step at a time, but hey, persistence works!
Another tip: make sure to acknowledge your accomplishments lest you find all the joy sucked out of you. Recognizing your successes is an excellent motivator because it supports a cycle of positive reinforcement that makes you go “huh, I can do it,” creating the desire to aspire higher. It’s not bragging--it’s self-empowerment.
There you have it! A guide to productivity written by a disorganized procrastinator for disorganized procrastinators. Prioritization and breaks will create miracles since both account for that annoying human tendency to get overwhelmed by the big picture. Chin up! You’ve done five days a week before… a long time ago… but still! Coming back won’t be all that bad.