Do you ever struggle with staying focused and motivated in grad school? Do you ever get so overwhelmed that you fall into a black hole of procrastination, from which there is no escape? Ok, that was dramatic. But it’s happened to me! So I’ve come up with a method to get get you out of your unmotivated, unproductive funk. It’s called the Productivity Accelerator Method.
But I do have to warn you. It shouldn’t be used all semester long. Just when you have a lot of work to get done and you need a boost of productivity and motivation.
The inspiration for this method that I came up with for you was taken from the tech industry. Often, a team will have a large project that they have to complete in the future. So to optimize productivity, they break their larger project into smaller two-week sprints.
And that’s what the Productivity Accelerator Method is! A two-week focused and productive sprint. So if you are ready to learn how to, occasionally, implement this method into your grad school routine, let’s jump right in.
The Productivity Accelerator Method
The Productivity Accelerator Method is a two-week productivity sprint to help you be more focused and productive in grad school so that you can actually get stuff done instead of stressing over the amount of stuff you have to get done. This method consists of three major components: planning, accountability, and follow-through. So if you are good at planning and setting goals but struggle with actually following through and implementing those plans, the key piece you are missing is accountability. And the Productivity Accelerator Method will help you with that missing piece. But first, let’s start with the plan.
Planning your Sprint
The first thing you should do before you implement your sprint is to set the dates. Look at your calendar and find find the two weeks that you want to do the sprint. Then, make a list of all of your due dates and deadlines that you will have during those two weeks as well as a week after your sprint dates.
When you have made a list of your assignments, papers, presentations, and lectures that you want to get done during your sprint, determine how much time you need to spend on each of your tasks. And make sure that you are being realistic. Don’t write that you only need two hours to write a paper when it usually takes you 5 hours.
Once you know what you need to get done and how long you need to get those things done, go through your weekly schedule, or create one, and schedule productivity chunks. Productivity chunks are big blocks of time set aside to get stuff done. They can be anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours. But it must be time that you dedicate to productivity and not messing around on Facebook or your email.
Related Mini-Course: How to Create a Productive Weekly Schedule in Grad School
So schedule your productivity chunks during your two-week sprint. I’m normally an advocate for moderation, but I would recommend scheduling more productivity chunks than usual. Remember, this is a two-week sprint and not something that you should try to endure for any longer! I can’t stress that enough!
Finally, create a progress chart. You can set this up however you want. By days or by assignments/tasks completed. You are going to want to keep track of how much you get done so you can celebrate your wins each day!
Once you have scheduled your two-week sprint, you need to find a way to keep yourself accountable. I don’t recommend doing this on your own. I recommend getting an accountability partner. I stressed the importance of having an accountability partner you need in one of my recent YouTube videos.
First, determine the kind of accountability you need. Do you need regular check-ins, reminders, planning sessions, co-working sessions, or all of the above? Decide what you need and then find an accountability partner to sprint with you. They don’t need to be working on the same things as you or even at the same time. They just need to want to get stuff done and be open to some accountability.
If you don’t have anyone to ask to be your accountability partner, check out my Facebook group for grad students. There are over 200 grad students in my group who are committed to success in grad school. It’s called The Academic Society for Grad Students and this is your official invitation.
Facebook Group: The Academic Society for Grad Students
Once you have an accountability partner, set accountability check-ins. I would suggest meeting either in person or via video at the beginning and end of each week to set a plan and recap what happened and determine if adjustments need to be made. You should definitely be in contact with your accountability partner 3-5 times a week but planning and reporting sessions don’t need to happen that often.
Now let’s talk about the final, most important, and longest component of The Productivity Accelerator Method. This is what you actually do during your two-week sprint. Now that you have a plan with accountability, how do you actually get stuff done?
Each day, I want you to create a realistic to-do list for your productivity chunks. Write down the tasks and assignments you want to get done each day. Then I want you to implement the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. In grad school, I think you can stay focused for longer than 25 minutes so I recommend working for 45 minutes straight and then taking a 15 minute break and repeating the cycle until your productivity chunk is over. This techniques keeps you from feeling completely drained and burned out after two hours of working and calling it a day. After each break, you will feel a bit refreshed and ready to take on the next task. It’s a way to game-ify your productivity.
I also recommend having one goal per pomodoro. You want to be able to singularly focus on the task at hand. When you multitask and have to switch what you are doing in your brain, you actually decrease your productivity by a lot. So just work on one thing during your one pomodoro. You have the next one to work on something else.
After you have finished a productivity chunk, I want you to acknowledge what you were able to accomplish and celebrate the win. You can share it with us in the Facebook group or treat yourself to your favorite self-care activity.
Facebook Group: The Academic Society for Grad Students
Of course, self-care is a part of The Productivity Accelerator Method! It’s me, Toyin, advocate of self-care in grad school, writing this blog post. So yeah, it’s included in the method. Not sure what is considered self-care? I’ve created a checklist in my #GRADBOSS planner of self-care activities you can do in grad school to help you decompress and feel less stressed.
And after you’ve done that, get some sleep and repeat the follow-through process the next day. That’s it!
I do realize that this is a lot of work but that’s why it’s called a sprint. And you will, for sure, be focused and get a lot of work done! So, if that’s what you are into, The Productivity Accelerator Method is for you!
Don’t want to do it alone? Well, I’m inviting you to join me and a few other grad students to do The Productivity Accelerator Method together at the same time. Periodically, I will be hosting a live Productivity Accelerator to give you a boost in focus and productivity.
During the live program I will be setting up accountability groups and planning co-working sessions so that we can (virtually) work together and pomodoro at the same time and have dance parties during our breaks!
Are you in? If so, you can sign up for the waitlist to be the first to know when the next live Productivity Accelerator is happening. Also, by signing up for the waitlist, you will get The Productivity Accelerator Method planning worksheet to help you set up your sprints whenever you are ready to implement one.