A Birmingham professor gave us tips on productivity + staying focused during a pandemic

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Masks on, hands up for a new year! Photo via BSC

From practical productivity tips to what #selfcare actually looks like, this local expert from Birmingham-Southern College gave us her best tips. Don’t miss out on how to upgrade your workflow, whether you’re headed back to campus, the office, or the Zoom meeting.

Meet the Expert

Move-in looked a little different this year, but it’s still just as exciting. Photo via BSC

Dasha Maye is an Assistant Professor at Birmingham-Southern College as well as the Director of their Academic Resource Center. With a background that spans psychology, developmental education and more, Dasha is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the mind.

I just have such a passion for working with students and doing anything relating to executive function work.

My passion is just meeting people where they are and helping them achieve their goals.”

Dasha Maye, Director, BSC Academic Resource Center

Why #selfcare matters—but really

Treat yourself every now and then—pancakes, anyone? Photo via BSC

“Self-care” is a buzzy topic that most may associate with bubble baths and face masks. However, doing things to prioritize your mental health right now is incredibly vital, whether you’re a college student or a working professional.

“I’m really trying to stress to students that they need to extend themselves some grace. We’re not just going about things as usual.

We’re in the midst of a pandemic—I’m telling them to cut themselves some slack and to really build in more time for everything.”

Dasha mentioned that expanding our definition of self-care to encompass practices as simple as taking a walk or blocking out time for certain activities can have a huge impact on both our mental health as well as our productivity.

Socialization is another piece of this I was curious about. I asked Dasha about why it matters.

“It’s so key. Not just in the undergraduate experience, but for all of us.

Community is essential.”

Obviously, it’s going to look a little different these days. However, staying connected to the people around you (or the people far away from you) is vital for students and for everyone.

The Magic Productivity Beans

Whether you’re in a lab coat or sweatpants, the tips are the same. Photo via BSC

As much as we may wish it was true, we know there’s no magic recipe for getting things done. Whether you’re a college student, a professional working from home or anyone living through 2020—productivity and focus is more of a challenge than ever.

“The hardest part is just doing it. We often procrastinate on things that create anxiety for us.”

Dasha had some really practical tips when it comes to workflow that I’ve already implemented into my own life after speaking with her. Here are a few practices she recommends:

  • Having an accountability partner—whether it’s a friend, a spouse, a roommate, etc. This person can remind you, “Hey, remember, you’re supposed to be working on this project right now.”
  • Implementing a 20-minute efficiency tool. If you’re a procrastinator, this one is for you. If you have a task, just tell yourself, “I’m going to start this, and I’m going to work on it for 20 minutes.”
  • Start with recording yourself. If you’re working on a paper or anything that involves writing, use a document that will transcribe for you and just start talking through it.
Temperature checks are just part of “the new normal.” Photo via BSC

Dasha also recommends setting specific goals when you sit down to work. For a college student, it may be outlining a paper, or studying a chapter or reviewing a lecture.

For a Bham Now Producer, it may be transcribing an interview, editing a set of photos or outlining a draft.

Whatever your task, setting smaller, achievable goals and sitting down to meet them with no distractions is one of the best tools you have to increase productivity.

Can I go back to college?

Coming back to campus for orientation or those first few days was always the most exciting part of the year. Photo via BSC

I know college in 2020 looks a whole lot different than it did when I was an undergrad, but some things will never change. Birmingham-Southern College still has all kinds of support systems in place to help ensure their students’ success.

From the Academic Resource Center to Career Services, free counseling and everything in-between, BSC has a whole community there to provide whatever assistance their students need.

This is one tip that Dasha shared when it comes to succeeding as a student, but personally, I think it applies to all of us this year:

“Plan on carving out three times as much time for things as you would typically. Everything now is not only taking up more energy…

Things always take twice as much time as you think, but when you’re dealing with distractions, anxieties, you just want to make sure you’re giving yourself the best shot.”

Of course, productivity and efficiency are not the only signs of success. Prioritize your mental and physical health, invest in your relationships and find a balance. That goes for all of us.

Welcome back, BSC students! Good luck with a new year—Forward, Ever.

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Beth Cunningham
A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.
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