Short And Sweet Productivity Guide.

Are you excited to start cramming for that final?! Are you pumped to finish that report?! Are you like, STOKED to spend an entire day preparing a meeting or presentation?!


Me neither.

But alas angel face: There is no way around it.

Having to do stuff? Is a part of life. And sometimes a part of life is having to do A LOT of stuff.

And that’s when we have to take our efforts up a notch and really get on it. Whether it’s school, business, personal or priority-NOS*, you gotta do what you gotta (wanna) do. To help you with that, here’s a little productivity guide from me on how to get to work. I use it a lot and I find it effective. Follow me.

1. ORGANIZE: If necessary I can focus right in the middle of Mess Apocalypse Now. But a good general rule of thumb is that the less things are around to distract, the better.

If I really have to bite down and get to it, I organize my desk or dining room table before getting to work. Only the bare essentials like a laptop, the necessary literature, my Moleskine notebook, my to-do list (see 2), my iPad (see 5) and a cup of Lipton Russian Earl Grey.

…Fine. And chocolate.

2. TO DO LISTS: Write down what you have to do. Trust me.

I look at it like this: For optimal productivity, you need to empty  your desk as well as your mind. Get rid of external and internal clutter. You get rid off external clutter in step 1, creating a to-do list as step 2 deletes the internal clutter. ‘Cause you no longer have to think about what exactly you have to do. You don’t have to remember anymore: It’s right there. You can just read it, and then go do it. You literally save cognitive space and energy by doing this.

So. If you really want to go on a productivity-bender, you should really make a to-do list. It clears your head, gets your priorities straight and you can use your clear head for the task at hand. Click here for my Ultimate To-Do List Approach.

Not in the mood to click? Usually, I work with subcategories (work, writing, home, miscellaneous) and I rank items from A to E on level of importance. Brian Tracy taught me that. Recently, I’ve also added deadlines to the Ultimate Approach. Not only does it come in handy to look up when exactly an item on the list is really due, creating a sense of urgency works for me.


3. ELIMINATE ALL DISTRACTIONS: If you don’t need the Internet for what you have to do, turn off the WiFi. Tumblr can wait. Put your phone on Airplane mode. Lock your cats out of the living room. Tell your boyfriend to go on a magical quest for the elixer of life (read: make him do groceries and buy wine).

4. TURN ON MUSIC: Clutter gone, add something that helps: Music.

Music is an incredibly effective tool for concentration and focus. For one thing, a good song can really make you feel all motivated and awesome, like you’re in a movie montage of someone working hard and succeeding. Second, if you’re prone to getting easily distracted, you give your brain something to process that’s not invasive or overshadowing the work you actually have to do.

My focus-music of choice is sometimes classical music, but mostly techno. I like Cari Lekebusch, Daniel Wilde, Pan Pot as well as the epic CLR podcasts (don’t hold it against me, but the Sensation White podcasts always work for me too.) My golden go-to album though? Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk, including the remixes. Look it up on Spotify: Ever since a friend recommend it to me, I have been OBSESSED with it.

5. GET A TIMER: This is just another trick that saves you the trouble of paying attention to the clock yourself. Also, you know you can’t get up until you hear the beep. I need to know I have to stay seated for at least a certain amount of time, because otherwise I will get up and do all sorts of other stuff.

Use a timer, set it for the amount of time you can remain focused on one task and use ALL of that time on the task at hand. I usually set the timer for 20 to 30 minutes (hello short attention span Sally) and force myself to keep at it the entire time.

Myself? I’m a huge fan of the 30/30 app. I think writer Chinouk Thijssen mention it once on Instagram and considering she’s written tons of books, I figured this could be something good. And it is, because ever since I downloaded it, I’ve been using it. It took some getting acquainted with the interface but it’s versatile, easy, colorful and gets the job done. Get it on iTunes here.

6. FIVE MINUTE BREAKS: Five minutes. Enough time to pee/walk around/get tea/pick your nose/change into sweatpants/text your friend, but not enough time to get out of your flow or start doing something else entirely. Seriously. Try it. 5 minute breaks, and then when your brain really needs a longer break, go for 30.

7. FOOD: If you’re going to be using your brain, throw in some good fuel. Bananas, (green juice), coconut water, avocado, nuts, tea, toast with peanutbutter and lots of water and tea. Pay attention to hydration, healthy fats and electrolytes.

My favorite thing about this plan though? Because it actually works, afterwards I can escape and do fun things without having to worry about anything. Like reading, TV, video games, and hanging with the Manfriend. That, my friends, is the ultimate reward.

I hope this system works for you too, and if you have your own (semi) fool-proof system, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Cheers!

*Not otherwise specified. 

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  1. Blijkt dat ik toch best goed ben hierin als ik alle punten zo lees 😀 ik gebruik de Pomodori extension op Google Chrome, dat werkt echt fantastisch voor mij. 30/30 is inderdaad ook fijn.

  2. Bad karma. After reading a lot of stuff on the internet this morning, I arrived here and oops, your article reminded me I’m actually busy finishing an assignment at this moment. So alright, alright, I will shut down my WiFi 😉 (after downloading the app!).

  3. Lol, loved the intro 😀

    Yay, for productivity! I could really use one of these articles..
    and here it is =P

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. Ik vond het altijd erg fijn om even te gaan lopen/rennen/iets van sport. Klinkt misschien stom gezien de “verloren”tijd, maar daardoor ging het leren wel veel beter!!
    Liefs Susan

  5. After a whole day of procastinating (… again) I stumbled upon this post, which gave me just that little push I needed to get to work. I immediately followed the staps and now I’m almost done with my stuff (having a short break to show you my appreciation hehe, 5 minutes I know!) and I can go to bed at a “normal” hour..THANKS 😀

  6. this is exactly what i needed right now. i have to work on a paper, of which i had to change the subject completely around yesterday, and have to finish by next friday. and then present it on a symposium. ugh.
    xo, cheyenne

  7. Het is geloof ik heel gek, maar ik maak liever geen to do lijstjes wanneer ik veel te doen heb. Als ik het op papier zie dan denk ik “ja, hallo, daar heb ik echt geen energie voor!” Wanneer ik gewoon begin (en ik vergeet zelden iets) dan kom ik daar op een gegeven moment wel overheen.