Amid all of the excitement of graduating college and landing your first job, no one warns you that the wonderful, carefree life you once knew is basically over.
It's as if the thriving twenties you dreamt about as a teen have suddenly morphed into a bad horror film starring a less-appealing version of yourself on a constant replay trying ever so hard to make it to Friday. Is this what we daydreamed about while gazing out the window during 5th period English?
A quick glance into my life as of late:
Just recently, the company that I work for underwent some organizational changes. Roughly two weeks ago, I received the news that in addition to being the Marketing Manager for the OrderUp Iowa City market, I am now also taking on a new market: Providence, Rhode Island.
My first order of business? Google-Image search PVD. My second order of business included booking a flight out East, and the rest was history.
Since then, I've spent many early mornings & late nights at the office feeling overwhelmed with to-do lists I have yet to even make. I guess you could say drowning in work is kind of my new hobby. Didn't you know that 8 to 8 is soooo the new 9 to 5?
I've found that combining a bigger workload with spending more days in airports than at my desk means that a greater level of productivity is needed in order to get to bed on time. Here are a few tips that I've stumbled upon during this major transition, AKA -the things that are literally saving my life right now:
1. Make to-do lists, but not too many
I am a notorious crosser-offer. I'm that person who tweets, "Ahhh, there's no greater feeling than crossing something off your to-do list!" upon finishing a task. *insert rolling eyes emoji*
However, my need to write things down & then cross them off became so ridiculous (& messy) that I found that my to-do lists were legitimately stressing me out MORE. I had so many that I couldn't keep track of what task needed to be done when and before I knew it, my grocery list somehow found itself into the body of an email to my boss, and my work budget was mixed in with my personal budget... which I'm sure you can imagine, didn't go very far...
Needless to say, I needed to make a change. Despite my undying need to write things down and cross them off, I decided to give digital list-making a try. One of my best friends introduced me to Wunderlist, and I'll never look back!
Wunderlist is a lovely little list making tool that serves as a website & an app (I use both), and it files all of your life's to-dos into virtual manila folders. Wunderlist has changed my productivity game, mostly because I don't spend half my day trifling through paper lists, looking for the task that is most pertinent. With Wunderlist, you can file away different items such as big work projects, household tasks, grocery lists, and anything else you may need to remind yourself to do. You can set due dates and reminders for yourself, while updating the item's description to include a link to an online call, task guidelines, or even the ingredients for that new trendy smoothie you saw on Instagram. It's the organized gal's dream come true!
Added Bonus: Once you check something off a list, the most satisfying little *ding* blares through your computer speakers. Talk about accomplishment!
2. Prioritize Your Tasks
It is imperative that when more items fill your to-do list, you prioritize them based on their urgency. It's not rocket science to realize that sometimes, it just can't all be done. For example, if you have a crazy workload that keeps you at the office after 7PM, it's probably not necessary to clean out the fridge and vacuum the vents when you get home- despite it occupying precious lines of real estate on your nearly empty to-do list. Go home, eat, hit the gym, and relax before doing it all over again the next day. The fridge and the vents can most definitely wait. Your sleep (& sanity!) cannot.
It's also important to delegate when you can. I'm really lucky, and I have a team of interns. Since taking over Providence, my team of OrderUp Brand Ambassadors has grown from 9 to 17! Managing a team of people who are basically your same age is terrifying, but once I got over the fact that I didn't want to annoy them by assigning them things to do, life got so much easier. Sure, there are some tasks that ultimately I have to oversee, and unfortunately- they can't attend meetings for me... but I've given over our Instagram to them, let them dabble in some graphic design work, and have them help plan & schedule events.
Obviously, not all of us are in a situation where we have a team of 17 people to help when needed (and TBH- finding things to do for 17 people is a headache in itself, so count your blessings!), but essentially my marketing department is a team of 1. If I didn't have the Brand Ambassadors, I'd literally be drowning in work at every second of every day with no end in sight. However, if you already work in a team-like setting, try delegating tasks for each project your team is assigned. Most people probably do this already - or are advised to by their supervisors - but you'd be surprised by how much you can get done after you realize that though girls may run the world, we can't do it alone!
3. Turn off the Distractions
My phone normally sits right by computer's side throughout the workday, and every time it lights up via iMessage, Snapchat notification, email banner, or my mom calling to say hi- I stop what I'm doing and attend to it. I've found though, that the days where I turn it on silent, hide it under a notebook, or simply leave it in my purse are my most productive days. Stopping in the middle of a task to answer a text message disrupts my flow, and whatever productive run I was on is subsequently stopped.
My company uses an instant messaging system called Slack, and I receive upwards of 40 emails a day. As you can imagine, these little disruptions call upon my attention and per usual, I typically stop what I'm doing to check Slack or answer an email as it arrives in my Inbox.
This one is a maaajor work in progress for me, but I'm experimenting how productive I can be if I block out an hour of my day to solely answer emails, check Slack, and respond to messages on my phone. Think if the other 7 hours of the workday were spent without disruptions, how productive could you be? Considering I check all my communication tools every other minute... I'm thinking I could start a revolution with all my free time!
5. Don't be the Yes Girl
Here's the deal: we're young, and chances are- we're learning something new everyday. (If you aren't, start looking for a new job ASAP!) In these early stages of my career, I LOVE when someone outside of my department or higher up within the company personally asks me to do a task outside of my job description.
A.) It shows that my work is worthy of being done, and someone values that I'm the one that does it. and B.) I'm gaining a new tool to add into my tool box! The more skilled of a professional I am, the more prepared I am for the next challenge. I say, bring on the extra work!
But there's a difference between helping out a co-worker or getting something done for your boss, and simply being the go-to girl for any and all things.
Don't commit to doing something you know you can't get done. If you already have a huge pile of work sitting on your desk and know you have to leave the office at 5pM for a personal matter, and yet someone asks you to complete a budget report for them ASAP... chances are you probably won't be able to get it done. I've learned that by being honest with your co-workers on when and how you can get things done will get you a lot further than pretending you can take it on while ultimately setting yourself up for a sucky situation of working overtime and most likely, doing a sub-par job on the task anyways.
It's best to not let someone down by giving them hefty promises you are unsure you can keep, and rather- give them an honest answer such as, "Absolutely! I can have it to you by Wednesday at 5pM!" If the task was urgent enough for the need to be done ASAP, chances are the person who gave you that task would've done it themselves. I'm all about teamwork, because where would we be in this world if we didn't help each other out? But that being said, don't take on more than your workday can handle to the point of hindering your work's value.
6. It's okay to let loose
When you're feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it's more important than ever to give yourself some much needed me-time. Take a Wednesday night bubble bath, and kick back with a good book + glass of wine. Treat yourself to a spa night jam-packed with a mani + pedi, and pick up an ice cream cone on the drive home! Walk around TJ Maxx for a mid-week pick-me-up letting your eyes wander across all the designer savings- bonus points if you find something you can't live without!
It's important to always keep a focus on yourself during stressful times, because otherwise you'll lose her amidst the meetings, emails, & paperwork. Do what makes you happy, and relish in that time of being with yourself while recharging for the next day. By taking time out of our busy schedules to just simply relax, we're doing ourselves a major favor while in turn increasing our productivity in the office because we're less inclined to feel resentful towards our work. I mean, isn't it an unspoken rule that if you work hard you must play hard too?
7. Don't take things too seriously
Lastly, don't let your work get the best of you. At the end of the day, any and all jobs are just a job. We aren't defined by what our title is at work, or by which tax bracket our yearly income falls into.
We're defined by what we put out into the world. There's already so much negativity, so don't make your contribution blend in among the masses. You were born to stand out!
Don't let your job turn you into a sleep-walking zombie who scowls at any and all who pass her. Don't bring work-related stress home to the dinner table. And when you're enjoying much needed girl time, don't let work-talk consume the Friday night conversation.
No matter how much you have to do or when your project deadline is set, just remember that you'll get it done. And if you don't? It isn't the end of the world. Life goes on! There are millions of jobs out there, so just because one didn't work out or isn't working out doesn't mean you aren't destined for professional success. Remember, not every pair of shoes in our closets are stunners. Some we bought on sale, because the price couldn't be passed up- but in reality, those shoes never quite make it off our shelf, because they don't actually fit our style (and... they literally don't fit- note to self: I'm a 6.5, NOT A 6!).
But hopefully after all this, I don't have you fooled. I've got a long way to go before I can consider myself an efficient worker who doesn't mosey on over to YouTube mid-day to watch Ellen's latest scare.
How "productive" am I if I get off work at 7PM, just to come home and plop down on my kitchen counter, opening my laptop before the door can even close behind me? I'm still trying to figure out this whole "work/life balance" thing that I read about so often, but for now I'm choosing to make the best of my situation. I'm learning just as much as the next girl, but keeping an upbeat & lighthearted attitude about my increasing workload simply helps me get by. And hey, having a productive day at the office will forever be in style in my book!