04 Mar Busy vs Productive
By Jasmine R Castillo
Staying busy can feel productive, you’re in the mist of chaos, checking off your list, running frantic, like you’re getting ish done. But does is it really mean you’re being productive? Are we just adding more into our day to just stay busy, to feel productive? What if we utilized the amount of hours we have strategically, allowing ourselves breaks, treating ourselves for the small wins and feeling more accomplished in less time?
Growing up in NYC I know the hustle a little too well. Being “busy” has taken over my life, which has deprived me the feeling of sitting still for too long, not giving time for family, skipping work outs, not eating healthy, lack of sleep, feeling strapped for cash even though I’m working like a maniac, day in and night out. Yes, if you’ve been raised in NYC, you know all too well what I mean. We’ve come to build our very own #hamsterwheel of crazy. Doing the same things over and over in variations. While conceptually and physically you are busy, at what cost is it to your health? How productive are you really with your time?
How many hours a week do you work your day job? Side hustle? Networking? Social life? Online social life? Personal life?
All of these are valuable questions with much needed answers so we can end this vicious cycle of “busy!” to find more tactical ways of productivity.
By the hour and by the minute, we begin to realize how much of our time and where we’re spending it. Then, we can evaluate what’s helpful, necessary, not so mandatory, or a waste of time, out of our days.
Just as a savvy producer would do, I turned this part of my life into a production. I conducted a week-long inventory from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment they closed, Monday through Friday, and this actually made me realize the following:
- 30 mins to get my a** out of bed after hitting snooze twice (bad habit I know)
- 20 mins to clean & organize the house which includes making the bed
- 10-30 mins working out depending on the day, mood and my life
- 25-35 mins to brush my teeth, shower and get dressed
- 15 mins to take care of the babes Bunz (my bunny), Shera & Holliday (my cats)
- 8-10 mins to bundle up, grab my bag, put on my sneakers, grab my lunch made the night before and head out
About 140 mins max, over 2 hours in the am. This doesn’t include my morning writing and meditation which fluctuates from day to day and in the night, depending on priorities.
Then, once I get to a place I’m working at or out of, I then really saw drastic variables. I’m not going to go into details unless you really want me to, but I’ll let you know this much… dam I get distracted!” I realized I spend about a couple of hours on Social Media (2-3 hours per day) getting caught up scrolling and swiping through stories, DM’s, catching up on FB notifications and then sharing my updates on every platform.
Then, I get a s**t load of emails which can either put me to work/focus (which usually don’t, or distract me with classes, lessons, events or really good articles.
Then, I make friends wherever I go which can turn into a 5 to 20-minute conversation. Then I want to take a break because I’m hungry from using up so much energy. That’s when I realized, I haven’t even done any real work yet! It takes such a warm up to get myself focused and situated that by the time I start working, I’m already exhausted from the earlier activities.
I prep the night before for my next day’s goals + focus my priorities, my wardrobe, my meals, cleaning up and getting my items together by the door so I can just grab and go.
I get up earlier than I want, so if I do hit snooze it’s still early enough. Whether it’s using my alarm clock with artificial sunlight plus bird sounds, or having a friend give a wake-up call, I learned to start my day earlier so I can feel like I’m really getting a head start to my day. You’ll see the difference and begin to understand why the most successful people start their day early.
While I use my to-do list as a guide, I no longer let it consume me and instead I’ve learned to segment what is urgent, priority and can be put down on a later list. I’ve also began to time myself. I literally set alarms to keep myself focus and on track. Also, if you wanna add excitement into your routine and urgency, leave your laptop plug at home intentionally. I’m fully aware that my battery life is limited and I only have a certain amount of time to bang out my work. Creating time sensitive scenarios are great because as many of us know, we work well under pressure.
I turn off my Wi-Fi or go to a place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi accessibility in order to minimize the itch to reach for my phone or open a browser/app on my computer. For additional assistance, you can find a few apps out there that can help with this. I’ve been using a recent feature for iPhone that’s part of the most current iOS update. Screentime (image attached) has been the best thing, and FREE, to happen to me. But, if you are interested in learning about apps, you can try In Moment (I’ve used this app and it was great) which is for both Apple and Android, or Onward for iOS only.
Ah but social is where I get away from it all (as well as get distracted)
The truth behind social media is that while it’s great for building online markets and communities, it can be taxing on your energy and time. So I’ve learned not to look at social media until I take a break in the middle of the day. I don’t start my day with social, as I’m giving that time for me to start my day and focus on my own energy. Looking at social too often can have you falling into the rabbit hole of comparison traps (that deserves a whole other blog post of its own). So I suggest avoiding social media surfing in the morning first thing and at night before going to bed. I allow breaks during the day and time it for 15-20 min intervals so I can market, research, promote, DM, like/comment/share and get the hell off asap! This has been amazing for taking back my productivity time and not getting caught up for an hour or more going down the inevitable rabbit hole of social media.
So now what do I do in my downtime?
In the evening (after 6pm) I let the night owl come out of me and get creative. Avoiding consumption has been a great re-direct of energy and allows me to use my time wisely to focus and whine down. Consumption can really be draining on the brain in large quantities and doesn’t allow us to really flex our creativity muscles. Whether with a friend, lover or alone (I personally prefer alone) I also utilize my downtimes on nights and weekends to write, paint, sculpt, take a walk, go to the museum, visit the zoo, play sports, swim, take in views of the botanical garden, etc.
Whatever it is, allow yourself to physically move through an experience. Psychologically this helps eliminate stress and physiologically the body is focusing on cognitive behavior so your brain starts to wonder and dis-attach from the earlier days’ work/activities and allows you to be connected with yourself. You really start to think about life differently when you allow yourself this downtime. If you’re someone who is hard on yourself in taking breaks, I suggest either awarding yourself when you’ve gotten a win (no matter how big or small) or block off 2 hours a week to doing this activity knowing you’ll reap the benefits in your productivity. You’d be surprised at what 2 hours a week can do for the mind, body and soul.
I stop using my phone 30-60 min’s before bed time to allow my brain to whine down instead of recharging from the light and inter-activity. This time also allows me to get myself together, meditate and chill the F out. Once again, it’s about taking your time back.
I know the night owls are murmuring but… I’m a night owl too! I’m not saying these methods are ONLY for morning people. There are different parts of the day that exhibit your peak performance, so take note when are your hours of poppin’ energy. Mine are typically mid-afternoon to the evening. In the a.m. I’m not the greatest at focusing, but I try with the noted tricks above. I get in at least ONE small win so the rest of the day I’m building momentum into the later hours.
Apply the above suggested hacks as part of your productive sessions during various hours to see what works for you. My night owl peaks have provided me many productive projects and creative resolutions but I realized recently that if I want to work with others during their typical working hours and reach out to sponsors, work peers, brands, locations, job platforms, universities for interns, you name it, then I’m going to need to switch around as best as possible to balance out my business needs instead of falling asleep during morning hour train rides and taking in power naps mid-day during lunch.
If you’re unsure which hours work best, play around and test a little during the morning, noon and night. If you want to re-adapt your hours to work during certain time frames, like I’m doing with my morning routines, then take steps to waking up earlier little by little. Aim for meditating, journaling, working out, whatever it is in the a.m. that will inspire you to get up. But make it a point to find your peak hours!
So to summarize this in a nutshell…
Find what methods work best for you in staying on beat and keeping focused. Align your tasks so your decisions are all synchronous with your overall goal(s). Prioritize what is needed today, push back to what’s not important right now. Don’t let your to-do list consume you. Avoid booking back to back meetings and sessions by giving yourself breaks in between. You never want to give less than half of your all, so you’re not wasting energy and time getting distracted easily by the mid-day fluster and tasks that have nothing to do with what you really want to be working on. Bang out work during your peak hours. Discipline yourself on social media and browsers. Remember to focus on you first thing in the a.m. and last thing in the p.m.
Also keep in mind, productivity doesn’t have to look one way. What works for some, may not work for others. Make sure you create a system that allows you to put your best energy into what really matters, so your daily actions align with your intentions
so you’re becoming all you want to be, and more.
Cheers to balance!
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