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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Sleep, Routines, and Productivity by Katie Brown

School can be stressful and fun at the same time–especially when you’re in college. However earning your Graduate Degree is a whole other ball game, and Katie, one of our Dojo members, can attest to this.

She functioned on 2 hours of sleep during weekdays and tried to catch up on sleep during the weekends. It didn’t work out.

Let’s go through Katie’s journey in her quest to do well in graduate school without incurring so many of the personal costs.

Introducing Katie Brown

Katherine Brown

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to.

My name is Katie, I am a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh specializing in international affairs, security and intelligence. I have a Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Illinois as well as a Master’s in European Union Studies from Illinois. I am currently wrapping up my time here at the University of Pittsburgh and am currently on the treacherous and always daunting job hunt. Like many graduate students, I’m assuming my best bet is to throw a thousand copies of my resume off a tall building and hope for the best.

What is the backstory that ignited you to get started on becoming more productive?

I would say I’ve always been more Type A oriented and had perfectionistic tendencies… But I hit a huge brick wall when I entered graduate school. As many people can attest, it is absolutely nothing like undergraduate studies, and it was frustrating. I was learning exactly what I wanted to learn and finishing assignments with decent results… But at a huge personal cost. I became known as the girl who never slept, who spent more on coffee than on actual food. I would sleep all weekend and sleep maybe 2 hours every night during the weekdays. Sleep deprivation does not make for a very friendly person either (god love the people who put up with me). Something had to give.

What was the wall or problem that you ran into that stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted?

My doctor recommended I build a routine – a routine when I wake up, and a routine when I go to bed. Googling about routines is what led me to Asian Efficiency! I started listening to the podcasts and they were incredibly motivating for me. I had all of these goals I wanted to achieve, but if I was barely sleeping and finishing all of my assignments at the last minute, how the heck was I supposed to achieve the personal goals? Listening to the podcasts and learning more about productivity made me realize that I was a barely functioning mediocre version of myself – and I could do better.

What was the transformation that you experienced?

If I’m being 100% honest, knowing what is best and doing what is best are two very different things, and I still struggle to go to bed at the same time every night… Old habits die hard! But my grades have improved and so has my writing. I’m not waiting until the last minute because I learned to eat my frog and do the most important tasks early in the day when I have the willpower to do it. I learned to put my phone on do-not-disturb and I could hear my own thoughts again! I found that exercising in the morning and meditation help me focus and stay goal oriented. There are a million more things that have changed since finding AE, but I think those are the big ones for me.

If you have one piece of productivity advice for someone who is struggling to make progress toward their goals, what would it be?

My advice if you’re struggling with achieving your goals are two things: first, don’t get bogged down in the length of time the goal will take. If you want to complete a 90-day diet – don’t think about the 90 days. Think about today. If you mess up then think about tomorrow instead of quitting altogether. Second and more generally, put that phone on do not disturb! It is disgusting how much time I wasted and continue to waste from time to time on my phone. There are only 24 hours in a day… Do you really want to say you took away from your goal-getting time by browsing funny videos of otters? (Although I highly encourage this endeavor in recreational free time.) When it is time to work, work.

As I always say, go do the things!

What Does it Take to be A Productivity Champ?

Thank you Katie for sharing!

A Productivity Champ is not just about someone who has overcome the hurdles they have encountered in their productivity journey, but it’s also someone who continuously works on being better despite the hurdles. This is true with Katie as well. She’s still trying to better herself but she keeps on winning because she’s not quitting. Wins, no matter how small, are still wins and should be celebrated.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or distracted, you can overcome that and become a productivity champ too:

  • Review our TEA Framework for mastering productivity and become familiar with the 3 Pillars of Productivity.
  • Take our super-quick Productivity Quiz, which will give you actionable insight into where you should get started.
  • Pick one (only one!) action step and schedule it on your calendar to implement it.

If you think we should feature you as a productivity champ, get in touch and let us know!

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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