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Next Step Academy | 2015 October

How To: Increase Your Productivity (Right Now)

October 20th, 2015 by

Still trying to get that report done, six hours later? If your productivity levels are quickly and steadily plummeting to the floor, it may be time for a change or two. Sure, getting 8 hours of sleep every night will probably help, and changing your diet may benefit you eventually…but you need to get the led out ASAP. Here’s how you can increase your productivity right now…

 

Put your phone away.

Turn on silent mode, and put your phone in your purse, desk drawer, or under your chair—wherever it will be out of sight. Also, close the tabs on your browser that have Twitter and Facebook open on them. (If your job requires you to be on social media, then turn off the notifications for your personal accounts.) The internet is the ultimate distraction. Combine that with your nagging desire to beat level 181 on Candy Crush, and messages from your mom about family dinner on Sunday, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a seriously unproductive and distracted day. So do yourself a favor, and disconnect from your smart phone. The world won’t end while you’re away from Twitter, your mom won’t be mad, and you’ll be exponentially more productive.

Stop trying to multitask.

Seriously, stop it. We all love to think we are fantastic multitaskers, and we like to think that we are better at it than everyone else. Sorry, but you are not a special and unique butterfly (in this situation, anyways). The fact of the matter is that it takes us (yes, everyone) more time to complete each task if we’re trying to complete more than one at the same time, and the quality of our work suffers. It takes us time to refocus as we switch from task to task—about 1/10 of a second each time, and that adds up quickly. No wonder productivity is an issue! Instead of trying to get everything done at the same time, focus on one task at a time. You’ll get things done much faster, and you’ll produce a better end product. This will also benefit you long term.

Make a list.                                                                               

Physically write out (or type) a list of the tasks you need to get done for the day or week. Start with the fastest, simplest tasks. Or, you can start with the task you’re really dreading and get it over with (that way it’s not looming over your head and distracting you from your other responsibilities). Having a tangible list will keep you focused on the task at hand, and keep you on track for a productive day. As you go along and complete each goal, cross it off your list. The feeling of accomplishment after you cross off each task will keep you motivated, and thus, productive!

Reward yourself for each completed task.

Awesome, you finished that report! Reward yourself with a short break—about 2 minutes. Go walk around, eat a bag of Skittles, or listen to a song that makes you happy. But resist the temptation to get on social media. A “two minute” break on Twitter will turn into 20 minutes. We all know it’s true. Giving yourself a breather in between each task will keep you energized, prevent boredom from setting in, and motivate you to complete tasks, all of which leads to increased productivity!

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Steps to Improve Your Writing Skills

October 16th, 2015 by

BGW

Learning how to write well is a continuous process. Sure, we learned how to spell our names in kindergarten, and we’ve all been fluent in our native language for some time now, but writing well is not the same thing as simply being able to write. Written communication is a skill that needs to be constantly fostered, and can always be improved upon. Whether you’re a Pulitzer prize-winning author or a college student with 5 term papers ahead of you, we have some great steps for you to improve your writing skills…

1.Review the basics

Reviewing basic grammar rules will help you avoid common mistakes in writing that many of us make on a regular basis. While these mistakes are common, they hurt your credibility and muddle your message. These common mistakes can be easily avoided by simply reviewing the basics we all take for granted. Refresh your memory on sentence fragments, the proper use of semicolons, and subject-verb agreement. Of course, these are  just part of the basics. Take our Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit course to cover all your bases!

2. Change your writing process

Many of us stick to writing one draft of whatever document we are producing. Rather than producing several versions of the document, this first draft is often our final draft. Maybe we feel rushed, or maybe we are just plain old lazy about writing. Whatever the reason, this habit results in a sub-par end product that is unclear and/or filled with errors. This can easily be avoided by changing how you write. Rather than trying to spill all your ideas out at once into a cohesive document (which rarely actually works), go through the steps of writing one at a time—prewrite (brainstorm, outline, etc.), write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite

You can also change how you revise and edit (or maybe you need start revising and editing…). Don’t just rely on spellcheck! Instead, read your writing aloud and listen to find out if it actually makes sense, ask someone else to read it or listen to you read, or print it out and make notes with a pen. The more you review, revise, and edit your writing, the better the end product will be.

3. Write more often.

No one is a perfect writer, but practice does make pretty-close-to-perfect. The more you write, the more you can hone your skills and develop your own unique voice. Make a habit of writing every day for at least 10 minutes. If you can, try to read every day, too. A great exercise to improve your writing skills is to read a newspaper/online article or blog post and rewrite it in your own words. This will boost your critical thinking and reading skills, your writing skills, and give your inspiration for what you want your own writing to be like.

For more tips on how to improve your writing, take the Next Step Academy Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit course. 

 

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