How do you stay productive while working full-time?
June 15, 2006 5:48 PM   Subscribe

How do you stay productive while working full-time when there may be elements of stress and burning out involved?

What Ive figured out is that in order to stay productive while working full-time I need to have good time-management (productivity) and stress-management skills and be able to do my job with a positive attitude. The productivity I know a lot about, the other 2 Im lacking in ability.
I find that when I work (not working right now, in university) I dont want to do anything when I get home either because I find it too stressfull to be telling myself when I get home 'OK, now the real work begins' and try to do everything on my to-do list, or I just feel burned out from doing some monotonous / miserable job and I feel completely uninspired when I get home.
The positive attitude thing, I unfortunately have a hard time not scowling at work sometimes... lets face it, work sucks. But I recognize that its not an acceptible behaviour.

Do people just wait until the weekend to get things done? In my experience by the time the weekend comes around I want to do absolutely nothing... Hopefully after I graduate I'll be able to get better jobs, but I would like to master the art of working a crappy job just so I know I can thrive in whatever situation I find myself in... thanks!
posted by dino terror to Work & Money (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe try the Getting Things Done system?
posted by k8t at 5:55 PM on June 15, 2006

I used to be the same way, and one thing that always helped me was not going straight home. I knew that when I got home, I'd invariably sit on the couch and be worthless for the rest of the night. So, I joined a gym by the office (great stress-management, by the way) and work out after I leave work. If I need to, I can shower there and then go run some errands or whatnot and then go home. Yes, I'll save larger projects such as gardening, home maintenance, etc. for the weekends, but the little things such as grocery shopping, dry cleaning, etc. I can do in some extra time during the week.

If I am not home, I can't be lazy, so the problem solves itself. YMMV, but this worked great for me.
posted by galimatias at 5:59 PM on June 15, 2006

Make a schedule: especially activities that involve other people. It's a lot easier to cancel something for yourself than with someone else.

I've done this in that past and it works very, very well for hobbies, social things, and physical activities.
posted by plinth at 6:08 PM on June 15, 2006

stress management = detach yourself a bit (emotionally etc) from your sorroundings. It does wonders. It'll also allow you to 'watch yourself' with a sense of humor, even in the most ridiculous situations. Lot of problems will just roll off your back.

break down tasks so they seem less like huge commitments and more like tiny, easy commitments. For instance, I used to dread working out every day, it seemed like a big disruption in my day. Until I finally told myself - I'll only go for 10 minutes; beyond that I wont promise anything. 10 minutes is an easy commitment. It gets me on the treadmill. Over the long haul, the important thing is to "show up". Often my 10 minutes becomes 1/2 hour, but the point is I wouldnt have gotten on the treadmill if I thought ahead of time that I was going to do it for 1/2 hour. Thinking "10 minutes" gets me there; momentum does the rest. Its psychological and thats how I beat it. Smaller, easier tasks, but done more often, with an emphasis on discipline and 'showing up' rather than on perfection.
posted by jak68 at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

It's worth spending some time getting everything to the point of 'maintenance only' (cleaning the bathroom only takes 10 minutes if you do it every week - it takes a lot longer if it's not been done for a couple of months). Then if you set aside one or two nights a week for chores, it's manageable, and the other nights you can go out or veg in front of the tv. Set yourself mini-goals - I'll cook dinner after I've done X, Y and Z.

As for weekends, I tend to set aside weeknights as 'chore' nights - weekends are sacrosanct when you're working full time! And you can enjoy them so much more if you've done your chores during the week.
posted by bella.bellona at 6:29 PM on June 15, 2006

If you're in university right now, I'd say the solution is simple: pick your job carefully. I know it probably sounds stupid or impossible, but find what you love to do either at home or at school, and find a job that most closely resembles that, so you don't have to go into a soul crushing job everyday.

The moment I realized this was the solution to my personal work woes, my life changed after that point. Of course, it helps if you get your dream job in a new field soon after you decide to switch to something you love, but once you get there, work doesn't suck, it's actually a fun thing to do every day.
posted by mathowie at 6:33 PM on June 15, 2006

Indeed it is my ultimate plan to do something that I enjoy for a living, but in the meantime, if I could just tap into the work ethic of someone who has a monotonous job where the people suck, and it doesnt affect them at all. I know those people are out there, whats their secret?
posted by dino terror at 7:09 PM on June 15, 2006

You mentioned a to-do list, but is it a mental list, or an actual list? I find when I'm particularly stressed that it helps to write things down so I can see what it is I have to do and prioritize accordingly. To take the itemized list further, I will sometimes schedule these items into my day so I have an idea of when I'm supposed to do what. I don't always keep my "appointments" but it makes a long list feel more managable.
posted by phoenixc at 8:11 PM on June 15, 2006

Oh yes I am all about writing things down. As I mentioned the productivity I am pretty good with (when Im not working). As for the burning out and stress, Im starting to think I should be looking into occupational health psychology...
posted by dino terror at 8:24 PM on June 15, 2006

I know myself well enough to realise that when I get home for the evening and sit down to relax, I'm not going to get up again. So when I get home, I don't allow myself to sit down until I've completed at least one chore. Whether that means hanging up the clothes I put in the washer earlier, doing the washing up, putting the plates away. Once I've completed one task I sometimes have the energy and enthusiasm to do a second and then a third. But if I don't, I know I've already done one. And at that point I can give myself permission to switch off for the evening and relax.
posted by talitha_kumi at 5:03 AM on June 16, 2006 [2 favorites]

The ways to cope long-term with job stresses are:
1) Work in something you're passionate about. Then it won't be a stress (aka "Live to work")
2) If work isn't or won't be something you are passionate about, then get something else in your life that you are passionate about: an art/craft/hobby, a sport, and most importantly, get involved with a group or community that share this passion. Then work is no longer central to your life, it's just a means to support your real passions. (aka "Work to live")

No amount of discipline, list-making, conditioning, etc will beat the effect of being passionate about something.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:20 AM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's a hard one. Spending your best hours each day at work does sometimes leave you too tired in the evenings to do much. And, if work has been especially stressful, you'll often desire some mindless entertainment. The couch + TV thing is seductive.

But nine-to-fivers can also try finding some leisure activities for the evenings that are less soul-sucking than couch + TV. My two favorites are reading and playing a musical instrument. I never feel that I'm wasting my life if I'm reading a good book (classics or promising contemporary fiction) or playing my bass. Exercise is, of course, also a great option.

The strategy of doing 10-15 minutes of chores every day when you get home (before couch + TV) is a great one that I've been trying to do more. It really helps keep your house up without much trouble, which, in turn, makes it easier to concentrate should you want to work on something serious.
posted by wheat at 6:32 AM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Probably read blog like for tips to stay productive.
posted by neoblue at 6:46 AM on June 16, 2006

This sounds really corny, but it worked for me: in the morning, do a few minutes of visualization/meditation- picture yourself doing some of the things that need to get done. The first time I did this, I pictured myself writing up an assignment, tackling a pile of papers, and doing some housework... Sure enough, I was amazingly productive that day.

I also write down everything I need to do, and assign different priorities to each item. "1" needs to get done right away, "2" is dependent on "1" OR is something that can wait, etc.
posted by elisabeth r at 7:34 AM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

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