Routines for a Healthy Fall: Work & Study Habits

Part 3: Work & Study Habits

Fall is a great time to establish or re-evaluate your work and study habits.  With bigger workloads and schedules comes more stress.  Creating good habits can set you up for success and help you manage the extra load.  Here are some tips to help you get started:

 

Frame of mind:

The best approach to getting things done is to have a positive attitude about it.  When you are in a calm, focused and positive frame of mind, its easy to produce quality work or to concentrate on learning something new and retaining that information.  It is when we are distracted, upset, overwhelmed or clouded by negativity that it becomes difficult to focus on the task at hand.  If whatever is bothering you is out of your control and cannot be addressed before completing your work, take some time out to do a few mental exercises to help you switch gears.

  • Going outdoors for some fresh air and a brief walk can be great for diminishing stress.  If that is not available, take a walk in your imagination.
  • Visualizing yourself in nature can have just as powerful an effect as the real thing.  Close your eyes and use all of your senses as you picture a favourite scene – feel the warmth of the sun on your face as you walk in a wide open meadow filled with the perfume of flowers and grasses baking in the late afternoon sun while butterflies and fluffy clouds slowly floating carelessly by, or drink in the cool and earthy smells of an old growth forest as you sit quietly on the soft mosses under the vibrant canopy of trees overhead, enjoying the stillness and solitude, or feel the soft sand between your toes as you walk along a vacant white sand beach, the refreshing waves splashing your feet and the sweet- salty smell of the ocean breeze lifting and stirring your hair…. feeling better yet?
  • Breathing exercises can also help you shift your body and mind into a more positive mode.  Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 4, hold for 2, then breathe out through your mouth slowly for a count of 6, hold for 2 and repeat.  Do this 10 or so times, until you are feeling better.

 

Environment:

It is difficult to be focused and productive when surrounded by clutter or distractions.  The best environment for productive work or study will be a quiet, clean, organized and well lit space.  If you work from home, have a dedicated space like an office or secluded desk so you can have a physical boundary between you and distractions unrelated to the task at hand, such as the dishes piling up in the kitchen.  If you don’t have the luxury of a space in your home that can be dedicated to work or study, you may want to seek refuge outside the home somewhere you find inspiring, like a quiet coffee shop, library, community centre or even and indoor public garden.

 

Distractions:

The ultimate killer of focus and productivity: distractions!  Limit distractions by being prepared.  Have everything you need for work or study so you don’t need to keep repeatedly getting up for this or that.  Turn off notifications for apps & email on your computer so you can check updates at a scheduled time, not when they keep constantly streaming in.  Keep your phone on airplane mode and check messages periodically throughout the day.  Set a timer for 90 min ‘sprints’ of focus, then take a 5-15min break in between, depending on how long a day you have planned.

 

Outline:

Stay organized and prepare for your project in advance by creating a simple outline.  Break down the work or information into smaller chunks and prioritize what needs to be done first.  Establish a timeline and schedule accordingly.

 

Procrastination:

One of the most destructive work/study habits is procrastinating.  By putting off the start time of any project, you create extra pressure that will inhibit your concentration when you finally do get started.  You can avoid the seductive trap of procrastination by breaking up the project into small, easy to manage steps, motivating yourself with rewards for completing those steps, and making a commitment to others so you are forced to be accountable to more than just yourself.

 

No Multi-tasking:

When it comes to mindless, routine tasks, multi-tasking can be quite effective.  However, when doing anything that requires concentration such as reading or writing, multi-tasking is a big No-No.  Case in point: you are talking on the phone while writing out your shopping list.  You listen to your friend describing their new bike and you find yourself writing down ‘blue’ instead of ‘bleach’.  Productivity goes down and errors increase when you multi-task so avoid doing other tasks while working or studying, including taking phone calls and especially watching TV.

 

Task Family:

Another easy and effective trick for good study/work habits is to group similar tasks together.  You will have a much easier time getting things done when you do the same things all at once.  Respond to all your emails at one time, knock off writing assignments when inspiration strikes, or schedule all your meetings or appointments the same day(s) so you only have to prepare once for all of them.  This will help you stay focused and power through larger chunks of work rather than flitting around doing different things.

 

By implementing these work & study habits, you can make your life easier and your projects more enjoyable.  We hope our Routines for a Healthy Fall will inspire you to make changes, stay balanced, and avoid stress as you get Back to Busy.