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Goeun Park: Increasing productivity can be tough

Watching Maria from “The Sound of Music” break out in song makes me happier than a clam in clam heaven. Honestly, if her stunning rendition of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” doesn’t make your heart soar, you’re probably a robot.

Speaking of robots, I need one. As I was watching “The Sound of Music” for the 3,219th time this summer, I realized that I had things to do. Clothes to wash, columns to write, college orientations to sign up for and those are just the C’s. I half-convinced myself to reach for the remote and put an end to my idleness when Captain von Trapp came on screen with his impeccable hair. There went that plan.

By the time the movie was done, I had approximately 12 things to do and an hour to do it. This happens embarrassingly often. Saying time management is not my strongest virtue would be an understatement.

I have less than fond memories of cramming for tests the night before and frantically writing essays the morning it was due. I got away with it for the most part because last-minute panic is nothing if not efficient.

I want to fix that. I need to fix that. For one, it was unsurprisingly unhealthy, physically and emotionally. When I refused to admit that my body deteriorated after midnight and functioned horribly with less than six hours of sleep, I suffered. I was inconsistently cranky and perpetually tired.

Secondly, it was actually not that efficient. The Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, states that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. When my “20 percent of the causes” were carried out at 3 a.m. in a sleepy haze, my “80 percent of the effects” were less than flawless.

I know exactly why I chronically procrastinate: I am biologically conditioned for instant gratification. I am a raging perfectionist. I am going to do that in five minutes. I am busy.

I am now out of excuses.

The thrill of playing too close to deadlines and testing my luck is waning. My need to feel useful wins over my desire to watch another episode of “Parks and Recreation” on NBC. In reality, there are no robots to take care of my responsibilities and soon, there won’t be parents to nag on me either.

It’s time to buckle down and get to work. Here are some good tips to be a more efficient person, no robots required:

  • Write things down. It generally helps to remember the tasks that need to be finished in order to actually finish them. Wunderlist is my favorite to-do list app but a paper and pencil works just as well.
  • Use the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique calls for setting a timer for 25 minutes where you solely work on the task on hand. After 25 minutes of continuous work, take a break for five minutes and repeat the process until completion. Frequent breaks should prevent fatigue and a timer helps maintain discipline.
  • Drink water. It balances bodily fluids, energize muscles and does wonderful things for your skin. (If you’re feeling especially healthy, brew some tea instead!)
  • Avoid the distractors. Stay away from the computer, turn off the television and silence your phone. Really, is it necessary to check your email every five minutes? I think not.
  • Create incentives. It’s important to reward yourself along the way to avoid burning out and staying motivated. Reward yourself by watching “The Sound of Music” — or doing something else that won’t be as fun, I suppose — at the end of the day.
  • Make it a habit. We’re auto-piloted to avoid work and seek enjoyment but that doesn’t mean we’re irreversibly programmed that way. Make “productive” your new default setting. It only takes a month for a habit to develop. Why not start today?

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School this spring.