Effectively Efficient at Excellent Endeavors: 16 Ways to Become More Efficient

Before I begin, I want to say that I got published again at Thought Catalog. Woohoo! Please take a minute to head on over and read it. Here is the link: “12 Ways to Secure that 4.0 GPA in College.”  They changed my original title, but whatever. I got published again!

Anyway . . . .

I learned this week that as part of my PhD work and teaching assistantship (it pretty much pays for everything plus a stipend so, woohoo!), I will be teaching two classes this semester as well as taking my own classes. Now, if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to school. I have never gotten anything lower than an “A” as a final grade for my honors undergrad and for my master’s work (read more about that here), and I did it all legitimately (you know what I mean). I don’t intend to change that pattern for my PhD work. Why? Because I’m a give-it-your-best-and-have-no-regrets kind of gal. I also intend to give those students my best efforts and prepare them for their future writing endeavors the best that I possibly can.

Unfortunately, I spoke with a friend about this, and was told that something has got to give, and that I can’t do the quality of work I’m used to doing, do high quality teaching, write what I want to, read what I want to, and still spend time with my family and fish. Luckily, I thrive on people telling me that I can’t do something.

I can give on the reading what I want to, and I’m willing to give up some sleep (that’s what concealer is for) but . . . that’s about it. I’m just not willing to sacrifice quality work, quality teaching, family time, writing time, or fishing time. What about dating you ask? Bwahahahahaha! If I ever hear anything from Jeremy Lin, then I’ll worry about dating. But, for now, I’m good.

Well, if I’m not will to sacrifice the above things in my life, then what can I do? The only answer is to become more efficient with my time. Therefore, I have done some research on how to use my time more efficiently than I have been using it, and the majority of my research has pointed to the following list of tips. Perhaps you can find some tidbit of wisdom that you can use too.

Those limbs don't look like they grew in the most efficient way, but maybe they did.  Either way, it sure looks neat. Photo By: Elizabeth Preston
Those limbs don’t look like they grew in the most efficient way, but maybe they did. Either way, it sure looks neat.
Photo By: Elizabeth Preston

1. Set realistic, not ambitious, deadlines for tasks. Eh, I’ll still make them a bit on the ambitious side, but I can work with this one.

2. Organize my workplace. Does disorganized organization count?

3. Stock up on caffeine.  I’m not sure how efficient or correct this is, and, admittedly, no source suggests this except me. However, I know me, and I know that I’m going to need caffeine.

4. Cut down on multitasking. I don’t think that I can disagree with this one.

5. Cut down on the time spent on social networks. Noooooooo!  I can’t argue with this one logically but . . . nooooooo!

6. Have a routines built into my schedule. Kevin Daum writes in “8 Things Really Efficient People Do” that “efficiency fanatics create standard routines in their schedule so they can achieve a disciplined approach and be read for the important events.” Um . . . this one make take some time to figure out and implement on a regular basis.

7. Time your activities. Daum also writes that timing the activities I do will help me to identify where I waste time. This is perhaps his most useful piece of advice. Here is an article that explains how to make an “activity log:” “Activity Logs: Finding More Time in Your Day.”

8. Religiously take a multi-vitamin. This may sound strange, and I didn’t see it in any articles I that I read, but hear me out. When I’m busy, I don’t eat well. I simply forget to eat. Forgetting to eat leads to a run-down body, which leads to inabilities to concentrate and an increased likelihood of getting sick. Neither of these can be options for this upcoming semester.

9. Embrace the sticky note. Abby at Sixteen & Successful states in her “Study Tips for the Stressed Student” that sticky notes are a colorful and efficient way to jot down and remember tasks that may pop up. An excuse to shop at Office Depot? Count me in.

Cute sticky notes.  Check. Sticky Notes By: Post-it Photo By: Elizabeth Preston
Cute sticky notes–check.
Sticky Notes By: Post-it
Photo By: Elizabeth Preston

10. Make lists. Oh, I can make lists. I love lists. In fact, you can read about my love of lists here: “Listception: A List of Why I Love Lists.”

11. Reward yourself if you stick to your plan or get your tasks done on time. James Clear even suggests in his “8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings” that you should use food “as a reward for working hard.” I better stock up on chocolate.

12. Prepare for the next day the night before. Clear also states in the aforementioned article that by writing a to-do list for the next day the night before and by also writing an outline for an article that night as well, he can save up to “3 hours the next day.” I’m not sure about that, but I do like the idea of prepping for the next day (i.e., setting out outfits, writing to-do lists, getting my stuff together and ready to go, fixing lunch, etc.) the night before.

13. Prioritize tasks. Figure out what is most important, or due the soonest, and finish that project first.

14. Take breaks. I keep seeing this piece of advice in multiple articles. Most of the articles suggest something physical as your break, such as a walk. Well, I guess I found out when I’m going to find time to exercise. Catch up on my favorite TV shows? No. Read fun fiction books? No. But exercise? Yes. Oh, goody.

15. Work on similar tasks back-to-back. Forbes’s “10 Easy Ways to be More Productive at Work” suggests that you should lump similar tasks together and accomplish them one after the other. I guess that this is based on the assumption that it takes time for your brain to switch to different modes. Logically, I can see that. I can also see giving your brain a break by switching to something else, which is what I usually do. However, this is all about trying to be more efficient and trying new things, so okay. I’ll give this lumping thing a go.

16. Get good sleep. Yeah. That’s not going to happen.

Honestly, I don’t know if I will be able to do everything that I want to do at the quality level that I want and still remain sane. My friend may be right (she usually is).  However, I’m going to give it a try. I also don’t know why many of the articles that I read kept saying “easy ways” or “quick ways” to become more efficient than you currently are. This isn’t going to be an easy or quick change for me. It’s just not. Nevertheless, it looks like a semi-manageable process, and that, my friends, is a good enough starting point for me.

Here are some of the articles that I used for this post. Feel free to check them out.
“6 Steps to Becoming Hyper-Efficient”
“7 Ways to be More Efficient at Work”
“8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings
“8 Things Really Efficient People Do”
“10 Easy Ways to be More Productive at Work”
“Activity Logs: Finding More Time in Your Day”
“Getting to the Nitty-Gritty”
“Study Tips for the Stressed Student”


19 thoughts on “Effectively Efficient at Excellent Endeavors: 16 Ways to Become More Efficient

Add yours

  1. Congrats on your success. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words on “Rough Canyon. 🙂 Don’t forget to go fishing!

  2. Very interesting article. Especially 7. I’m going to go read that. I’ve gotta get back on a cleaning schedule that will let me do both clean and enjoy blogging. And I’ve learned — in my opinion and now being backed up by science — that it is not natural for human beings to multitask. The articles I’ve read say we only have a finite amount of “attention” so when we split it up between several different things, none of them is getting our best effort. I sure have found that to be true in my life. Great article, Elizabeth!

  3. Thank you, Calen! I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and I’m glad that what you’ve read and experienced confirms that multi-tasking is not the most efficient way to complete tasks. I hope that you will let me know how your cleaning and blogging schedules go and if you use any of the techniques mentioned in my post. I’d be really interested to see if any of them stood out as particularly effective.

  4. I’m doing many of these things on the list and I can say that it’s pretty effective up till now! I wouldn’t stock up on caffeine because it doesn’t work on me; I still go to sleep with or without it. I think the most important ones are to organise your tasks and reward yourself because they are the cornerstones of my management of workloads. It’s going to be tough for you to handle everything at a top standard but you seem to be able to have the determination, so I guess it’ll work out alright!

  5. Thank you for you for reading, and thank you for the support. I hope that everything turns out alright. I’ll make sure to organize all of my tasks, and I’ll try to do the reward system. If you don’t mind me asking, do you usually use food as rewards, or do you do something else?

  6. My reward is just not doing anything related to my work. It doesn’t really matter what I do, as long as it isn’t work 🙂

  7. Well congrats! A couple of ways leading to efficiency for me are waking up super early and having a bit of dark chocolate!

  8. Thank you! Really, dark chocolate? Is it the sugar in it that helps? I’m more of a milk chocolate kind of gal, but if there’s some secret to dark chocolate, then I am very willing to switch. 🙂

  9. Ahh – it’s a powerful source of antioxidants, rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and flavonoids. Plus, I have to avoid dairy, so I usually start from 70%. It does have some caffeine and theobromine (but in this case, the other benefits outweigh the small amounts of caffeine).

  10. So, I now have an excuse to eat chocolate? Yippee!!!! In all seriousness, I think that I will take your advice and incorporate more dark chocolate into my diet. It doesn’t sound like it can hurt if done in moderation. Thank you! 🙂

  11. Yep, I have a dose almost every morning. But it must be minimum 70% cocoa, or you don’t get all these benefits.

  12. Mark Twain said, “I suppose if the first thing you had to do every day was eat a frog, the rest of the day would seem easy in comparison.” Make a list the night before and put things you don’t want to do at the top. These are frogs. The next morning, eat your “frog” first and the rest will get easier as you go.

  13. That’s a very good idea, and it’s quite logical. Thank you, I will do definitely do that. Any suggestions on how I can minimize the amount of frogs that I have?

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