You’ve done the hard part. You studied hard, decided which industry to explore, created an impressive resume, interviewed for various roles and finally landed the internship!
Oh wait. That wasn’t the hard part – that was just the beginning. Now that you’ve got the gig, you have to perform. That means knocking out your daily duties and long-term assignments with maximum efficiency and minimal stress-induced breakdowns.
These productivity tips will help you do just that:
- Become an expert on work processes.
Expected to do some administrative work during your internship? What are the exact steps for taking a message and scheduling appointments? What’s expected of you when you’re simply told to “research” a client? If you’re manning the company’s webmaster email account, to whom do you forward various types of recurring emails – is there a shared document to reference, or should you make one for yourself and future interns?
Learning and remembering the specific processes and protocols for your work is crucial, so don’t glaze over when you’re being trained on them, says Lauren Berger, author of “Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Career.” Ask questions so you can do your work right the first time, which will save you time and effort – and likely impress your supervisor.
- Take notes.
You’re already an expert note-taker from classes and study sessions, right? Now use that skill in the workplace to commit work duties and methods to memory. “Make sure you always have a pen, paper or electronic device with you and you’re taking notes on all of these systems,” Berger says. “Because it’s one thing to ask questions, but it’s another thing to ask questions you’ve already been told the answer to.”
Note-taking is also a way to keep you focused, says Laura Stack, productivity expert and author of “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do” and “Super Competent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best.” When you’re concentrating on a high-priority task, and you suddenly think of something else – an assignment to do, idea to research, question to ask – jot it down so you can return to it later. Then get back to focusing on the task at hand. As Stack puts it: “Write down your thoughts, but don’t follow them.”
- Know the players.
“In order to get the work done effectively, you need to understand the players,” Berger says. “Who do you go to when you have a problem? What’s the chain of command in your office?” Don’t know? Ask – and then note it.
- Make daily to-do lists.
In fact, make tomorrow’s list this afternoon, recommends professional organizer Julie Morgenstern in a U.S. News Careers article about setting yourself up for a productive day. Her point: By tomorrow morning, “the day is crashing down on you, you’re not prepared, you’re in reactive mode.”
Internships often come with several supervisors who each want something different from you – similar to your separate professors and assignments. “When you’re getting assigned a lot of work, don’t be afraid to ask: ‘When do you want this done by?'” Berger says, because then you can prioritize according to deadline.
Tracking these deadlines and to-dos will help you understand which tasks take priority and which can wait. “Each day, ask yourself, ‘What would I need to accomplish today to feel good about the day when I leave?'” Stack says. “Make sure to do those things first.”
- Come in early sometimes.
If you’re behind on projects or feel overwhelmed, Berger says coming in early can give you a “power hour” of productivity. You can knock out a few to-dos while others are still sitting in traffic or yawning through their first cups of coffee. Also, she points out: “It’s a way to take control of your inbox before everyone else does.”
- Don’t let emails throw you off your game.
Are you expected to answer emails by the end of the day or within minutes after they pop into your inbox? If it’s the latter, what about emails that pour in at 7, 8 or 9 in the evening? “It’s important for the student to take initiative to communicate your workload to your supervisor,” Berger says. “Ask: ‘Do you want me to be answering emails all day?'”
Knowing that answer will help you smoothly transition into the office workflow and perhaps boost your productivity, too. Say you’re typically allowed to let non-urgent emails sit for a few hours. In that case, consider turning off email alerts while you’re in focus mode. “Studies have shown that just knowing a message is waiting can ruin your concentration, even if you don’t answer it right away,” Stack says. However, let your supervisor know you’re available in person or via phone if needed.
- Demolish distractions.
Incessant emails are just one of the many relentless diversions you’ll have to outsmart on the job. One common culprit that robs your time and hijacks your productivity? That familiar voice saying: What’s on the front page of Reddit? Maybe I’ll text Ben. Has anyone posted to Instagram in the hour since I last checked?
In the article about distractions, Morgenstern points out that these aimless impulses are usually your brain asking for a break from work. And instead of giving it a rest, you’re forcing it to continue with what originally exhausted it – screen time. “It’s like going to the gym and constantly working your right quad,” she says. Next time you need to recharge, she suggests finding an offline activity, such as eating a healthy snack, stretching or walking outside.
- Keep it professional.
Of course, your productivity isn’t the only thing at stake when you “cyber-loaf” and make personal calls and texts. “You want to make sure everyone in the office knows you as the person who’s always diligently working,” Berger says. “Not the intern who’s always on Facebook or texting in the hallway.”