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Ascent Blog

5 Ascent Interns Share Their Best Productivity Tips

As the school year approaches, it’s a great time to get back into a routine that leaves you feeling refreshed and on top of your A-game! 

We asked 5 Ascent interns about productivity tips for balancing academics, work, and other commitments. 

What are some things you do that help you stay productive?

KayleeI like to work in quiet spaces, I keep my door closed so as to not get interrupted when completing my assignments, and I try to keep my cell phone farther than an arm’s reach away to prevent myself from getting distracted and sidetracked on social media or other apps.

OliviaMy productivity is highly influenced by my environment. To be productive, I pick a comfortable, clean space to do work. I like to keep my phone out of reach when studying or working to not get distracted. I also find light background music to be helpful when trying to stay focused.

HaixinSetting timers are super helpful for me to both stay focused for a while and also take periodic breaks to rest my eyes or relax. My favorite time management system is called the Pomodoro technique which gives you 25 minutes to work on a task, then a 5-minute break. This repeats for four cycles, after which you take a 15-30 minute break. Putting my phone on disturb mode is also really helpful.

BrookeI like to utilize physical checklists to mark things off when I’m done. I also listen to certain playlists on Spotify, like coffee house sounds and jazz.

Gemma – I love to use my physical planner to stay productive and on task. Being able to see my daily to-dos on paper and cross them off is satisfying and helps me get my work done. I also like to change work spots a few times throughout the day so that I don’t feel burnt out. 

How do you approach a difficult task that has multiple steps? 

KayleeI like to break down my tasks and figure out what is the most important or time-sensitive, I complete those steps first before moving on to the following steps.

OliviaWhen approaching a difficult task, I like to start by writing down what I know and trying to identify what I still need to figure out to complete the task. Then I like making an ordered list of my next steps to find the information I need and complete the project.

Haixin I try my best to pace myself on the steps. The hardest thing for me is taking the first step and making a plan – after that, everything else goes pretty smoothly. 

BrookeI like to make an outline first and then create a checklist for each section. 

Gemma – I typically will write out an outline for what my action plan will be when approaching difficult tasks, then break the task up into chunks.

How do you manage distractions at school/work? 

Kaylee I prefer to work in silence, but when working on campus or out of the office, I like to have my earbuds in listening to music to drown out other noises.

OliviaIf it’s too quiet, my mind can wander while studying or working, but music has a way of keeping me present.

“I find study music to be the most helpful tool for managing distractions.”

Haixin This is an important part of finding where to work for me. Most recently, I’ve found that going to local cafes and working in a public space does wonders for increasing productivity, especially if you bring a study buddy. 

BrookeI usually hide my phone so I won’t reach it, or if I’m working from home, I’ll play music from my phone, so I won’t use it. 

Gemma – I manage distractions by putting my phone away, listening to instrumental music, and being in a calm environment. If I am in a workplace that I like and feel comfortable in, it is easier for me to focus on my work. 

How do you stay organized?

KayleeFirst thing I do is check my emails and my calendar for any meetings or classes I might have for the day. Then I create a list of tasks I need to get done. At the end of the school or work day, I then review my work and the list to ensure I didn’t miss a task. Occasionally I use a planner and often use my notes app to create to-do lists and check them off as I complete them.

OliviaThe notes app and calendar app on my mac devices are my main tools for staying organized. Every Sunday, I plan out my to-do list for the following week in my notes app making sure to cross-reference with my calendar. The notes app is great for keeping a more detailed list of tasks for each day while the calendar is great for re-highlighting any timely events or deadlines with calendar reminders.

HaixinNotion has been a great help in organizing my work and studying for school. You can create custom tables, webpages, and references all by yourself, and there are a lot of great resources online to help you build your base as well.

BrookeI live by Microsoft Excel. I use the pre-made checklist to keep track of all my school due dates. For work, I use my whiteboard calendar and the calendar in my email.

Gemma – I stay organized using a written-out physical planner and an online planner. Being able to see my work and meetings for the day helps me prioritize tasks and commitments.

How do you reward yourself after you finish important tasks/projects?

Kaylee I like to remind myself that I need to keep a work-life balance so after I’ve finished all my important tasks I spend time with my friends and family to unwind.

OliviaTypically, when working or doing class work I am sitting at my desk inside. I like to reward myself when I complete big projects by getting in some movement or getting outside. This could mean taking a minute to step outside or heading off to the gym. 

HaixinThis is not a sustainable method for me, but I’ve gotten into a bad habit of doing a little bit of online shopping or going out to eat with friends when I finish important tasks/projects. For now, I’m transitioning more to playing games or reading instead – you know, things that don’t wreck my wallet.

BrookeI usually like to watch the current show I’m binging on Netflix.

Gemma – I reward myself by taking short breaks after I have finished important projects along with doing things I enjoy, like getting outside or talking to a friend. 

What is your favorite form of self-care? 

KayleeI love getting out in nature, whether it’s relaxing on the beach or taking a hike up in our mountains. It brings me back down to Earth and relaxes me. Recently I have been going to SDSU’s turtle and koi pond just to watch them swim around.

OliviaFor me, self-care is about finding time to do the things I love. My favorite form of self-care is getting in a workout, whether that’s going to the gym, playing beach volleyball, doing yoga, or going for a run. 

HaixinDrawing or doodling are usually my go-to’s for self-care, but so is reading, listening to music/audiobooks, or going for a stroll outside.

“Doing something creative always helps me unwind.”

Brooke Going to the beach or hiking!

Gemma My favorite form of self-care is going for a walk on the beach, grabbing a coffee from a local cafe, or doing some sort of workout!

Have you learned what your most productive time of day is?

Kaylee I found that I am the most productive around 11 am.

Olivia Currently, I find my most productive time of the day to be the late morning from around 9 AM to 12:30 PM.

Haixin If I’m studying or doing homework, then it’s definitely at night. I’ve found that my recall and understanding of the material are best when I review it in the evenings. For work, my most productive time is during the morning.

Brooke Either Tuesday or Friday, not sure why, though.

Gemma I’m most productive in the morning… once I have my cup of coffee, I feel ready to take on the day!

Any additional notes you would like to add?

Haixin – To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of trial and error to find what works for me, and I’m still experimenting. If you’re just starting your college experience, feel free to continue with what you’ve been doing throughout high school if you wish, but don’t hold back from trying some new productivity methods and explore when/how you work and why it works for you.”

“College is all about discovering and creating yourself anyways!”

Gemma – Routine is key… finding a good schedule that works with your goals and expectations for the day is a great way to be productive!

What are your best productivity tips? Share them with us on Instagram (@AscentFunding)!

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