How to get back on track: capitalizing productivity while still prioritizing fun

“I see every small thing I do as a win, as a check mark of productivity.”
(Photos sourced from: Pexels)
“I see every small thing I do as a win, as a check mark of productivity.” (Photos sourced from: Pexels)

Wake up. Snooze once (or twice). Drag myself out of bed, get into my swimsuit, sweatpants and hoodie. Grab my keys. Drive to the gym and swim laps. Shower, maybe ice-bath or sauna, do my skincare and makeup and drive home. Cook a big, balanced breakfast, watch some Youtube and, finally, open up my planner to start on homework. By now, it’s 8:30 a.m., and I feel fully ready for the rest of my day. I’m even cutting down on my caffeine intake. 

You might be thinking, “Yeah, okay, you lost me at 8:30 a.m. I just know I would never even want to do all of that.” To be fair, I am naturally a morning person. But I also am naturally a 2 a.m. social media doom-scroller and Netflix binger even when I know I have a jam-packed, energy-draining schedule the next day. And to be even more honest with you, that morning routine was way more realistic last semester than this semester.

These days, my morning routine looks more like this: barely wake up to my alarm at 5:50 a.m. and decide I’m too tired to swim because I stayed up too late last night, then promise to swim later in the day (I won’t). I proceed to fall back asleep until 9:30 a.m. because I purposefully scheduled all of my classes in the afternoon and then lay in bed scrolling on my phone for an hour (or more). I’ll look at the checklist I swore that I’d follow the night before and feel a little bad about myself. After all, there’s always tomorrow. 

So how did I ever do all of those things before? Where did my motivation and energy go? Well, for starters, I stopped prioritizing sleep the way I did. I also stopped being as intentional about grocery shopping. Instead, I prioritized late nights with lovely newfound friendships and different experiences that bring richness to my life.

It’s hard finding balance. Last semester was probably the first time in my life that I fully dedicated myself to finding a schedule that capitalized my time and efficiency. Then, as I finally found my people in college, I dedicated myself to deepening those relationships rather than dedicating myself to my productivity. Now, with less than a month left in the semester, comes the question: How can we do both?

As fun and enriching as it is to have multiple spontaneous late-night hangouts with my friends, my sleep schedule and morning routine — and thus my productivity, grades and energy levels — have definitely suffered as a result. Here’s how I plan on getting back on track:

  1. Going to bed on time: This one is annoying, but I know it’s the first step for me. I need at least seven hours of sleep to wake up without feeling exhausted. This looks like kicking out my friends by 9:30 p.m., taking my melatonin a little bit earlier than usual (I only use it to re-train myself to go to bed early) and maybe doing some reading right before bed because I’ll actually get bored and sleepy, unlike when I scroll on my phone.
  2. Standing up as soon as my alarm goes off: If I don’t immediately stand up, chances are I’m going back to sleep. Given I actually got enough sleep the night before, I tell myself that I want the results of a productive morning more than I want to sleep in a little bit more.
  3. Planning my day the night before: My notes app is my best friend. I used to be a planner girly (and still am to a certain degree) but recently I have been utilizing a daily to-do list. The first half is a detailed checklist of every little thing I want to do for myself. Wake up. Drink water. Eat a banana. Swim. Shower. Cook breakfast. Make my bed. Brush my teeth. I see every small thing I do as a win, as a check mark of productivity. It truly helps me feel like I’m already being productive, and I then can transition this basic-self-care-energy into being productive with actual school work.
  4. Plan fun things ahead of time: Knowing that I have something fun planned for the weekend (or even a bit earlier on a random weeknight) allows me to have a goal to work toward. I remind myself that freedom and fun is right around the corner. If a friend is coming over for dinner, I need to get as much done as I can during the day so I can be fully present later.
  5. Understand that it’s okay to veer off schedule: It’s going to happen, so there’s no point in beating yourself up about it. The only reason I feel so passionately about making sure I “do my mornings right” is that it makes it easier to get everything else done because I actually set myself up for success. If snoozing my alarm and sleeping in made it easier for me to be productive in life then I definitely would be doing that.

Life is more than just school and work. Experiences with good friends, in my opinion, is just as important as getting good grades. Making sure you’re sleeping and eating well enough is one of the best things we can do for ourselves in the long run.

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