We’re in the twilight of summer, with the weather turning from unreasonably hot to pleasantly sunny, which means I’m allowed to start writing posts about Fall.
Fall is more than just pumpkin spice lattes, the best holidays, and the clothing style that most fits my #aesthetic: whether you’re headed back to school (or your kid is) or you’re just still closely tied to the back-to-school mentality, the arrival of September seems to scream “get your shit together!”
Here’s how I plan on doing it.
1. Develop a planning system and don’t overcomplicate it.
There are a ton of different planners and planning systems out there – I’m personally partial to Bullet Journaling, an incredibly flexible system developed by Ryder Caroll that essentially boils down to write shit down consistently using these coded bullet points. But it’s important to find the planning style that jives with you and fits into your regular routine.
Even though I’m the one that sent Grace down the planner sticker rabbit hole, I can tell you from the other side that the important part is to not get too precious about it. It can be relaxing to turn your planner into an art project, but if your need to keep it pretty is keeping you from consistently recording everything you need to know, its okay to have an ugly page or ten in your planner.
2. Try out calendar blocking.
Amy Landino, a productivity youtuber, once said that she doesn’t believe in to-do lists and I felt personally victimized. But to an extent, it’s true. I know firsthand that things on a to-do list don’t necessarily get done. Calendar blocking combats this by approximating the time it takes to do each task on your to-do list and scheduling every part into your week. Amy explains it way better in this video:
It sounds good in theory, but I was resistant to it at first. The process of sitting down and planning nearly every hour of my day was anxiety-inducing. It also isn’t the most flexible method in the world. But it is a good starting point for seeing exactly how much you have on your plate and how much you can realistically get done.
If you’re starting to become overwhelmed with what you have going on, this can be a hard but powerful step to help pull yourself back under control. For the overachiever or people pleaser, it also serves as a great test of when you need to start saying no to things: if not everything fits into your week comfortably, it’s likely a sign that something needs to give.
3. Use the Pomodoro technique.
After summer vacation, my focus is even more scattered then usual. The Pomodoro or Tomato Timer technique is what I use when I need to buckle down. The premise is simple: 25 minutes of solid, distraction-free work, followed by a 5 minute break. Each block of 25 minutes is called a “pomodoro.” Four pomodoros can be followed by a longer 15 minute break.
The Pomodoro technique is an excellent way to overcome any resistance you’ve been having with a difficult project. There are a lot of cute apps that follow this timing system, but the timer on your phone is all you need to get started.
4. Create rituals.
When I need to deep dive into a project, I always make myself a cup of tea and light a candle. It’s a nice, gentle, pretty way of getting myself into a more focused headspace, and every time my attention starts to wander, I look back to my flickering candle and pull myself back into focus.
Candles are a favorite here at HTLYT, but rituals can take any form you like. Maybe it’s a particular playlist or album (or even just a song, I used to listen to R U Mine? on repeat while writing papers in undergrad). Maybe it’s as simple as starting up your diffuser or closing your blinds. Think of something small but pleasant and use it to incentivize your work.
5. Be gentle with yourself.
Burn out is real and I truly believe that our subconscious works out problems when we give it space to do so.
When you’re calendar blocking or making a list of everything you want to get done this fall, make sure to include time that’s genuinely yours and leave yourself with a little room for impulsive fun. A day with your friends and a good night’s sleep can make your whole week brighter.
In the same vein, don’t be too hard on yourself when you haven’t done as much as you’d hoped. Stress breeds stress, and stress and self-flagellation aren’t helpful. Combat this by making a list of the things you did get done and the things you’re grateful for. Often, reevaluating a mediocre week can help me recognize all the progress I’ve made.
Appreciate yourself. Drink a pumpkin spiced latte. Here’s to a wonderful fall.
And if you have any productivity tips, please share them in the comments! I need all the help I can get this semester.
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image from brooke