There are days when it all comes together for you, but this might not happen to be one of them.
Some days you’re able to just crank through one task after another. Your “sent” folder brims with solid work before noon, your contribution to the afternoon meeting is well received, and you even manage to wrap up with enough time and energy to hit the gym before dinner. If only someone could bottle up days like this, you muse. Alas.
Many factors of productivity are beyond your control. Sometimes your train is late, or your building’s fire alarm goes off, or a key collaborator whose input you depend on comes down with a dire case of plane tickets to Hawaii. In such circumstances, there’s only so much you can do.
But what about the rest of the time? Amid the many variables at work (and everywhere else), what little things can you do to optimize each day? There are some constants worth keeping in mind—and perhaps a few habits to address. With diligence, the tactics we’ve gathered here might make you more productive at, well, just about everything.
Care for yourself, and be equipped for the task at hand.
Here’s one recurring challenge you should prepare to keep dealing with: you are an alive person. (If not, stop reading and seek assistance.) In other words, you’re going to need food, rest, and an occasional change of scenery—and maybe also fresh socks. Failing to address these concerns can undermine your sanity, to say nothing of your productivity.
1 Avoid going hungry.
It’s hard to stay on task when you’re hangry, so plan accordingly. If you have a desk drawer, keep a few snacks in it. If you carry any kind of bag, a pouch of trail mix will have future-you thanking current-you for being so thoughtful.
2 Know how much rest you need. Same goes for caffeine.
It’s not uncommon for workers to plow ahead even when they’re exhausted—and for their efficiency to plummet as a result. One solution may be to quit binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer before bed and actually go to sleep. Another is a legal, affordable, performance-enhancing drug known as caffeine, which many offices just give away for free to anyone willing to brave the befuddling machinations of the break-room coffeemaker.
Just be careful not to overdo it, lest you get jittery after that third cup.
3 Keep a backup of the essentials handy.
People make mistakes, like casually throwing away their own passport two days into an overseas trip. Devices you rely on can crash, break, or disappear. You can’t always prevent such fiascos, but with preparation, you can limit the fallout for your productivity. While you can’t realistically pack a duplicate of everything, it’s worth making copies of key documents and backing up crucial files.
As for equipment, your Plan B needn’t be identical to your Plan A. For instance, when a reporter’s field recorder runs out of space during a run-and-gun interview, she might not have time to dig out a fresh memory card—but if she turns quickly to the voice memos app on her smartphone, she might just get the quote she needs anyway.
Manage your time.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” the saying goes. Being productive means budgeting your time and staying focused. Start by writing down what you need to get done, and in what order. Set priorities and give yourself deadlines. Set a timer if you have to—anything to keep small tasks from sprawling endlessly.
Also, if your typical day involves a steady churn of notifications, you might turn away from the screen and resort to a pen and paper for parts of this process. While some degree of distraction or interruption may be inevitable, be judicious about what you let alter your timeframe.
4 Say no occasionally.
This isn’t always an option, but when you’re already spread thin and someone brings you a last-minute project on top of other deadlines you’re facing, sometimes you have to be realistic about how much you can take on. (That’s true in social contexts, as well: don’t let fear of missing out keep you from taking a needed night in to recharge.)
If you can’t—say, if an important client insists it’s urgent, and “no can do” isn’t an option—then consider seeking an extension on your other deadlines. Having to pull an all-nighter—pretty much the antithesis of a productivity booster—should be a last resort.
5 Log off sometimes. The mute button is a friend.
Part of budgeting your day is not allowing diversions like social media to continually siphon off small increments of your attention. Seriously, those cat GIFs, political rants, and wedding pictures can all wait. If your roommate from college and twenty other people are all in a thread debating who will bring salads and dessert to next weekend’s cookout, it’s a fine time to turn off notifications and actually, you know, work.
Don’t just think about what you should do—do it.
Sometimes your productivity is hindered by knowing what you want to make happen but not feeling certain you can pull it off. But the surest way to accomplish less is to attempt less—so if you want to be more productive, you have to surmount those doubts.
6 Ask for what you want.
Maybe you’d like a promotion and more money. Or maybe you have an idea for a cool project, if only your boss would give you the go-ahead. Asking can be scary, but the idea of not asking—and potentially wondering how different things might be, months later, if you had—should be scarier.
Take it from Lisa Chow, host of the podcast StartUp: “I went through most of my career never negotiating anything. And then suddenly when I did I was like ‘oh wow—this works!’” she says. “I think in our heads, you think, ‘oh if I ask and if they don’t say yes then I might actually lose the job or I might lose the job offer. And I think that is very rarely true.”
One final note to improve your productivity: don’t beat yourself up in the event things don’t go as expected. It happens. Finding ways to learn from such experiences, adapt, and move on will make you a lot more productive in the long run.
Being productive takes a serious amount of determination and thought. To really double down and get the most out of your time, here are 30 fast tips for becoming more productive:
1. Get rid of it.
If it’s not absolutely necessary, take it off of your to-do list.
2. Daily goals.
Know the plan for your day before it arrives. This helps curb distractions. Set simple goals for the day, and then accomplish them
3. Peak levels.
Figure out your peak times for getting things done. Schedule your high-priority tasks for those times. Schedule less important tasks before and after.
4. The worst is over.
Knock your worst task out first thing, and clear it from your stack of work. This will create momentum and set a “victory tone” for the rest of your day.
5. Pump some iron.
Daily exercise increases productivity in addition to keeping you healthy enough to remain productive in the long run.
6. Race the clock.
Give yourself a concrete amount of time to make a dent in a large project. Don’t focus on whether the project was completed. Just put in the time and watch the progress.
7. Catch the worm.
Get an early start. It’s no secret that the more time you have available for productive work, the more you can achieve.
8. Cross the finish line.
Set clear, well-defined deadlines for your projects. Use them as focal points to stay on task.
Completing similar tasks together in batches helps you free up time that would otherwise be lost to the admin work associated with task switching. Use this process to handle things like phone calls, emails, or errands.
10. Become accountable.
Tell others of your plans and when you’ll have projects complete. They’ll expect results, and you’ll get things done on time to avoid disappointing your peers.
11. Relax. your workspace.
We all work better in stress free environments. This includes your workspace. Read up on how to relax your workspace so that you’ll be more comfortable each day.
12. Practice the art of delegation.
If someone else can do it, let them. The task will still be complete, but your time will be freed up for more important projects.
13. T-minus 60 seconds.
Once you have all the information you need, make small decisions in less than 60 seconds. Once you’ve chosen an option, move on instead of lingering on your choice.
14. One and done.
At the end of the day, laser in on one final task, finish it, then call it quits. Don’t let yourself be distracted by a bunch of half-done tasks that you’d like to mark off your to-do list.
15. Slice and dice.
Break down complex projects into bite-size chunks and complete them one at a time.
Whatever it takes, stay on schedule; and if at all possible, show up early. Being punctual to your various commitments gives you the buffer needed to handle any unexpected responsibilities.
17. Create agendas.
Before beginning your phone calls, have a clearly formed agenda of what you expect to cover and what the possible outcomes will be. This will help you steer the conversation and end it sooner — saving time for everybody involved.
18. Research and pregame.
Upon entering a meeting, remember the exact reason for it and the necessary outcome. If a topic isn’t relevant to the primary reason for the meeting, don’t discuss it. If control of the meeting is out of your hands, at least try to steer the conversation back on track.
19. Get out of your head.
Present your ideas and projects to others. They’ll have a different angle to bring to the table, and you can use them to brainstorm ideas for improvements that will ultimately save you time.
20. Never good enough.
Constantly look for ways to improve your techniques and methods. Last year is outdated; leave your old ways behind.
21. Educate yourself.
There are over 80,000 books on productivity on Amazon. Try to read at least one of them each month. Getting Things Done is a good place to start if you’re new to productivity reading.
22. Reap the rewards.
Have small rewards in place for early or on-time completion of tasks as incentives. You’ll work a lot faster if you know there’s a benefit hanging on the line.
When an unproductive task is placed in your hands, try to reroute it to someone else who’s more invested in the outcome.
24. Check yourself.
Review your progress each day and find ways to improve. The most productive people out there are those who are honest about what they’re doing well and where they need to do better.
25. Triage your projects.
Think of your work schedule in the same way an emergency room nurse evaluates incoming patients. Let dying projects bite the dust and spend the saved time on ones that still matter.
26. Question everything.
When someone gives you a new task, have them explain why it’s absolutely necessary. If they can’t come up with a good reason, there’s a good chance the task should be assigned to someone else or dropped altogether.
27. No trolls allowed.
Only associate with positive, successful people who encourage you to stay productive. Banish the negative influences from your life.
28. Chuck the tube.
Turn off the TV. You’ll instantly gain back several hours for your business or your most important projects.
29. Enough is enough.
Evaluate any clubs, subscriptions, and groups of which you’re a member. If the time spent on them can’t be justified, drop out.
30. Keep it fun.
Not every to-do item has to be boring. Fill out forms in bright colored ink, make phone calls with an accent, or spike your hair before you go to the bank just to watch the reactions.
Being productive isn’t always easy, but the rewards are more than worth it. When you’re productive, not only will your business grow — you’ll reduce your stress along the way.
What else do you do to stay productive? Share any suggestions you have in the comments below:
If your efficiency and effectiveness is waning, now might be the time to realign your expectations to match reality
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Jess Baker is a business psychologist and leadership coach
As we enter our second year of the pandemic, it’s clear that each of us, to varying degrees, is experiencing a heightened level of tension or anxiety.
If you are hoping to be as effective and efficient as you were pre-Covid, now is the time to realign your expectations to match our new reality.
Before I share some psychological insights and, perhaps, slightly unusual tips, take a moment to ask yourself: Am I expecting too much of myself at the moment? Am I expecting too much of others? To what extent am I meeting my own needs, as well as those of my colleagues and clients?
Become consciously aware of when your energy levels fluctuate during the day
Small adjustments can have a huge impact. Below, I’ve focused on eight specific themes that might help you to make a few tweaks to your own way of working that will help you to be more productive.
How much control do you actually have over your workload? Are you taking on too much and not pushing back when you ought to? Do you have more than one manager making demands on your time?
While workload can often feel out of our control, there may be alternatives. Consider:
- politely pushing back, explaining that you have other priorities in the immediate term but could focus on this in a few days’ time
- being transparent and asking your manager which tasks you should be prioritising
- managing your time as effectively as possible (easier said than done, I know!)
Does the idea of being on a group call excite you or fill you with dread? The more extroverted you are, the more you’ll find engaging with other people energising and uplifting. The more introverted you are, the more drained you might feel afterwards; you might prefer to space your video calls throughout the day to give you time to recover.
One of the keys to being productive is to know your energy levels and how to maintain your momentum. We tend to over-work and under-rest, which leaves us tired, deflated and even demotivated.
Become consciously aware of when your energy levels fluctuate during the day: are you more alert in the morning or evening?
Be aware, too, of your hormonal cycle (23-33 days for women, 24 hours for men) and the shift in your ability to focus or your level of confidence. Does your energy change throughout the week? I’m much more focused on the detail from Monday to Wednesday (better for writing assessments and coaching reports), and much more sociable and creative by Friday (better for Zoom meetings and planning new projects).
As you regularly charge your mobile devices, you also need to keep your ‘operating system’ topped up.
Even if you deeply enjoy your work and find it rewarding, participating in meaningful activities in your personal time is essential. Try listing five activities that feed your soul, restore your energy and help you keep things in perspective. Aim to do one of them today and commit to doing the others throughout the coming week.
Humans have a self-destructive love for quick fixes. Is this you? You don’t spend time developing systems ( snooze ), but you do read “53749 tips to boost your productivity” articles. It makes sense; you want to throw as much stuff at the wall and be pleased if anything sticks.
Instead of reading tips lifted from other people’s personal experiences, there’s something more sustainable you can start right now, and it’s not just a hack. Here are some of the key things to understand about how your brain works, so you can start working with it, not against it.
You Have A Magic Number (7 ± 2)
Picture this: you’re worrying about leaving the door unlocked when you walk to the store because you’re already trying to remember the shopping list, your urgent tasks, and the name of that song stuck in your head. Sound familiar?
As Getting Things Done author and productivity master David Allen puts it, ”People say, ‘I’ll do that,’ but they don’t write it down, and it goes into a black hole. That would be fine if it were just one thing, but it’s hundreds of things … Your head is for having ideas, not holding them.”
In fact, the magic number of items you can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. And unfortunately, your brain isn’t great at determining which pieces of information are the most vital (no offense). You could have 5 to-do list items pushed out of your head by 5 inconsequential thoughts.
Get into the habit of writing down everything that’s on your mind. Use an Evernote notebook or WorkFlowy list called ‘daily brain dump’ where you can note down anything that has popped into your head. At first, the mechanics of this may be hard to grasp: which things should you write down for this tactic to be effective, or how long should you spend doing it, and what’s ‘acceptable’ to write?
You don’t need to write a detailed captain’s log. Writing about 10–20 bullet points in 5 minutes about everything from what you’ve done today, what needs doing, and fleeting, nonsense-thoughts that pass by are all noteworthy. It helps you know what needs doing and manage your tasks properly .
Your Brain Likes Multitasking, But Your To-Do List Hates It
According to a study conducted by the Ohio State University, multitasking gives your brain the illusion that you’re getting things done, when in reality you just have a lot more on your plate.
As Zheng Wang, lead researcher and author of the study, states, “[people] seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”
Wang also says that multitasking is a formed habit, something that can be strengthened over time and beaten by replacing it with constructive behavior.
Instead of accepting your erratic task-switching as a time when you’re ‘going to be unproductive anyway,’ find something to distract the buzzing part of your brain that needs constant gratification. Perhaps it is listening to a certain type of music, moving to work in a cafe for an hour, or going to make a cup of tea.
Energy Vs. Time
When you start to document your productivity (and lack thereof) you will discover something peculiar. The urge to start flicking between tasks often comes at predictable times.
According to Ultradian rhythm theory , it’s possible to map your body’s energy levels by the clock. In the same way you cycle through REM and non-REM sleep, you also cycle through periods of high and low focus — productivity and exhaustion.
Similar to REM cycles, the most effective times for getting stuff done come every 90 minutes, with 20 minutes in between.
For more on this, Yulia Yaganova’s article on finding your most productive hours outlines a true science-based productivity strategy, not an empty hear-say hack.
Program yourself to notice when your productivity is dropping, and take a 20 minute break. According to productivity author Tony Schwartz , you should “intermittently rate the quantity and quality of your energy.” If you’d rate yourself at 5 or less, the best option is to take a break.
Get A Status Update On Your Sleep
REM sleep is the most valuable kind of sleep, and you only get around 4 or 5 cycles per night. Unless you’re tracking your REM sleep or punishing yourself with a brutal alarm, you’ll happily sleep for several cycles longer than necessary, which can be awful for productivity.
In a Time interview with acclaimed sleep researcher Daniel Kripke, he says “sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping for 5 hours.”
Without tracking your REM cycles, you’ll wake up late and feeling disheartened to have wasted the day, not to mention sluggish from oversleeping. It’s easier (and healthier than the obnoxious alarm) to start tracking your sleeping patterns and ensuring you wake up at the end of a full REM cycle, not somewhere in the middle.
If you find you always feel tired when you wake up, your alarm is probably set to go off in the middle of a REM cycle. Using a sleep tracking alarm like Sleep Cycle can help you find out the ideal time to wake up in less than a week. It works by not setting a concrete waking-up time, but an upper and lower boundary. For example, if you set the alarm for 6:45, it’s actually set to go off any time between 6:15 and 6:45, at a time when you’re ready.
Figure Out Your Own Systems
There are no quick fixes for starting a project, waking up earlier, or feeling more motivated.
If you want to rewire your brain to instantly get “3000% more work done,” you are going to spend the same time fooling yourself as you could spend on self-awareness, monitoring focus, and working out the most productive hours in your day.
After all, your brain isn’t a computer that can be hacked, however it can be programmed.
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter ( @trello )!
If you’d like to learn how to become more productive so you can accomplish more on a daily basis, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of Addicted2Success.com, Joel Brown.
Last night, a friend of mine (let’s call him Jameel) took me to his mentor. He was going to get some business advice and wanted someone to tag along for the ride. Having nothing to do for the rest of the day, I decided to go. After waiting for about an hour at his office, we finally got that chance to meet him: A simple looking guy (supposed to be a guru in his field) with a twitchy left eye.
Jameel and his mentor talked for about half an hour or so, and I sat there quietly nodding my head. To be honest, the entire discourse was quite engrossing and truly inspiring to say the least. But if there is one thing that clicked (and that I’d like to share it with you guys) is his reply to my friend’s doubts of failure.
“I am doing everything right,” asked the now vulnerable Jameel, “but there is this looming fear, this doubt that is eating me alive. What should I do about it?” “I am not the kind of person you should be asking this question,” was the reply. “I have never had the fear of failure so I don’t know what to say to you. All I have ever done in my life is done each day’s work to the best of my abilities. That’s it, and I would advise you to do the same.”
“Will you succeed?” He went on. “Will you fail? No one can guarantee that. That is something out of your jurisdiction. Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance that you might fail. And even if you do fail, then what? Will the Earth shatter? Or will the skies fall over? Businesses fail, that’s the fact of life and you should be strong enough to take that bet.
Either you do everything right, one step a time, one task a day and trust the journey and increase your chances of success. Or you keep on obsessing about the future, fretting about failure, instead of doing the actual work and increasing your chances of failure.
Your best bet is to do each task to the best of your abilities and leave the rest to God.”
The reason this mini-speech hit me is because that is exactly what I did to become a better person than I was a couple of years ago. And even if you’re not a proponent of fate or a believer in God, there’s a practical truth to what the mentor said. In fact, the great stoics also had a similar approach to life.
“Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” – Lou Holtz
What did the ancient stoics say?
Stoics are proponents of Stoicism , a philosophical school of thought that believes human virtue lies in knowledge, and the wise are the ones that are at peace with providence (good or bad).
The great stoic Epictetus put forth his “dichotomy of control” illustrating that the world is divided into things that are in our control (thoughts, emotions, and actions) and things that are out of our control (possessions, looks, or privilege).
If you carefully differentiate the things that are in your control from the things that are not, you influence the things that are in your control to make your life the way you visualize it. You also stop worrying about things that are not under your control. You come to realize how pointless it is and that saves you a great deal of time and energy.
Putting the philosophy into practice
What’s the point to philosophy when there is little to no practicality when it comes to actual meaningful changes in your life? That is exactly why I am a strong proponent of Stoicism as it is the most practical of all philosophies.
Still, being stuck in a place for too long tends to make it difficult to get out and one needs a little more than philosophy to get one out of the mess.
Here are a few practical steps that I took to make my life a little bit better:
1. Write down your goals
I know how big of a cliché this is, but there’s a reason why it is such a big cliché, it works. Take out a pen and a paper, and write down all of the things you want to achieve.
Think of something that you want to do or need to do. It can be anything from your homework to an art project or maybe as trivial as cleaning up your room. List out as many things as possible.
“Everybody has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” – Seth Godin
2. Prioritize your goals
Divide them based on priorities. An assignment due this week should be at the top, an art project, a bit lower.
3. Break them down
Break down each goal into little ones that you know you can easily accomplish. Make sure to also spread them across a few weeks or months (depending upon the estimated time for the project).
For example, if your goal is to read a book. Don’t force yourself to read a hundred pages in one go because that’s plain stupid. Think about it this way, if you want to become a swimmer, would you simply dive into a sea or would you first start learning in a pool?
Start by reading 10 pages a day. After a week, turn it up to 12 or 15 a day and keep on increasing each week until you have reached your goal of reading 100 pages a day.
4. Become accountable
The ultimate goal is to live a better life and to do that we have to take one step at a time and for that we require consistency. How do you ensure consistency in productivity?
Here’s how I did it:
At the start of my freelancing career, I only took projects when I felt like it. Some months I’d earn more while on others I’d be asking for financial help. After months of going nowhere and almost sabotaging my career, I decided to do a simple thing that changed everything for the better.
I committed myself to writing 1000 words a day, except weekends, for the entire month. This was an easy goal because there were days when I wrote 2500-3000 words a day when one of my deadlines was tight.
The idea was to become consistent. To keep track of it, I decided to create a simple spreadsheet on google docs. The first couple of days were easy because I was feeling motivated. The third day was a bit difficult because I was losing motivation. The magic happened on the fourth day when I didn’t feel like doing the work but ended up doing it because of the sheer fact that I had to report it on my spreadsheet.
At the end of this little experiment, I had earned more than I had ever earned in a month. If there is anything that I would like you to take away from all this is to set yourself a goal every night and complete it every day without fearing the outcome.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Productive people appear to have the ability to do it all, but that’s only an appearance. The truth is they’ve figured out some important lifestyle habits, that while simple, most of us have not yet mastered.
Here are 10 simple things that productive people are doing better than you — at the moment:
1. Get enough sleep. Your body literally restores itself during sleep. In the four stages of a healthy sleep cycle, the first three are all dedicated to what is called Non-REM sleep and specifically act to restore the physical body. You know from experience what a bad night’s sleep feels like the next day. You feel slow, sluggish and foggy. Your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders. You body is craving carbs and sugar. You need to make sleep as important of a priority as your waking day and devote yourself to at least six hours of good sleep a night.
2. Take a break. You aren’t meant to sit at a desk or computer for eight to 12 hours a day, and yet many people do. While that may be the reality of your entrepreneurial path, mix it up by taking breaks in your day. Get up, walk, move and stretch. Try a standing desk platform for certain work portions of the day. Take a real break to enjoy a healthy meal for lunch and follow it up with a walk. Time is always precious, but breaks and moving will make you more productive and help your body to stay well adjusted in the long run.
3. Outsource to create time. Speaking of time being precious, get some time back by outsourcing anything and everything you can afford. Get a virtual assistant, hire a freelance designer, book your first CPA — just start outsourcing as much of your business as possible to get some time back.
4. Work at the best time. One thing that’s great about the entrepreneur lifestyle is the ability to be flexible. Really productive people know when they’re at their best. Some love to cram out huge productivity sessions after 10 p.m. when the family is in bed while others know they shine first thing in the morning. Whatever you body’s naturally most productive time, do most of your work then.
5. Prioritize everything. Productive people know that there are urgent things and then there are important things. They’ve mastered the skill of letting go of “urgency” for what’s actually important and a priority. You won’t be able to do it all every day. Prioritize and plan to make the most efficient use of your time.
6. Take actions vs. overanalyze. Productive people know that good planning doesn’t work without taking action, too. It’s important to plan, but many will get lost in the perfectionist trap. It’s better to take action on a good plan then to sit on a perfected plan and wait. Productive people create the future by taking action.
7. Get organized. If time is always of the essence, productive people understand that having an organized life means saving time. It takes less time to label something properly or put something back properly than it does to try to find it later in a heap of disorganized junk. Get organized in every aspect of your life for maximum productivity.
8. Don’t multitask. Some people make the case for multitasking and some have even managed to pull this amazing feat off, but let them be the expectation and not the rule. Productive people realize that multitasking is a myth and they choose to stay focused. So should you.
9. Create And uphold boundaries. Boundaries tie together many of the things productive people do. They keep productive people organized and help them prioritize. When you make boundaries and uphold them, you save yourself a lot of trouble in the long run trying to figure out and analyze all the exceptions. Boundaries are a great way to organize. Come up with your own and try them out.
10. Shop online. Productive people know the value proposition of time, and when possible, shop online. It’s a simple trick that can save a lot of time. There are shops online that sell literally everything. From grocery service delivery to bathroom supplies and more, most of your everyday needs are available online to be delivered to your door. That saves a lot of time, and in most cases, money.
Being a productive and healthy writer sounds too good to be true. Like that ‘one weird thing’ headline that you see in your Facebook feed, and want to click on but don’t.
This, however, is not a trick…
How do you measure ‘move more,’ anyway? How much more is more?
Besides, we’re starting to understand that it’s not always about moving more, but moving more often.
I want to be a productive and healthy writer
We’ve all read dozens of articles on how to work more efficiently, all the while we’re not actually working.
Instead of working, we’re following the links to yet more articles on how to…
Yeah, we are easily distracted, by anything and everything on the internet, just like we are by the squirrels in the neighborhood.
We know we need to limit ourselves, but we don’t want to, so Facebook and Twitter time comes between us and our productivity.
We want to, but we don’t.
5 minutes is all I ask
That’s all the time it’s going to take to read this, and it’s all the time you’ll need to get your body healthier AND refresh your mind.
5 minutes will immediately make you a more productive and healthy writer, and allow you to do better work, faster, and still allow you to have time to do what you love. …or at least can’t resist, like Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.
And yes, there are studies. I used something called science, so references at the bottom.
The Pomodoro Technique
Sure, tomatoes are healthy, but can one really make you a more productive and healthy writer?
Meaning tomato in Italian, this time management and productivity method was named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer of the inventor.
It is based on the concept that we can concentrate well for small, defined, and manageable chunks of time. In the case of Pomodoro, it’s based on 30-minute cycles, where you work for twenty-five minutes, and refresh for five minutes, then repeat as necessary.
Pomodoro, in and of itself, has nothing to do with health; it’s about time management and productivity, but it works perfectly with studies that have shown us that similar cycles of work and breaks lead to better health.
Better health, in this case, is defined as improved cardiovascular function, lower blood sugar levels, and reduced insulin response.
American Diabetes Association –doi: 10.2337/dc11–1931
Before the idea of ‘light breaks’ scares you away, in the case of the studies, these breaks were merely getting up and walking around for 5 minutes. Not walking hard. Not exercising. Walking.
In fact, they also looked at people who took higher exertion breaks and found that harder wasn’t better.
It was the breaks that mattered, not the level of exertion.
Easy. …and only 5 minutes.
- 25 minutes of work
- 5 minutes of movement break
- Resist the urge to keep going after 25 minutes. Mark your place, take your break, and come back better than ever!
- Repeat up to 4 cycles, after which you take a 15–30 minimum break before doing more cycles
- The longer breaks are the perfect time for lunch, walking to the coffee house, or checking in on Facebook.
“Dude, I just pomodoroed the $#[email protected] outta my day.
I think I got it. You are correct re: simplicity.” — Dani
Use a kitchen timer as the inventor did, or just use the built-in timer on your phone. You can find apps on your phone or computer, or even use your microwave oven. Don’t worry about the perfect tool today, there’s plenty of time to get geeky later.
Planning is simple because each cycle is 30 minutes, you can easily see how your day can be broken into many manageable chunks.
You don’t have to sit down to do Pomodoro. Trying to use a standing desk? 25 minutes is a manageable amount of time to stand, especially when it’s new to you. Add more standing Pomodoros later.
Keep movement breaks easy by starting with walking to the bathroom, puttering around the house, making coffee, taking out the trash, walking the dog. Start off easy, and refresh your mind and body before getting back to work. More frequent breaks and movements are the goals, not perfection.
The Role of Low Energy Expenditure and Sitting on Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease, db07–0882v2, 56/11/2655
American Diabetes Association –doi: 10.2337/dc11–1931
Let me know how the Pomodoro Technique works for you!
PS. If you don’t have it yet, be sure to grab my free guide, 5 Steps to Author Productivity.
It’s almost euphoric, the feeling of ticking away boxes on the to-do list, at the end of a long day. It’s like you have seized the day or something. With cell phones buzzing every minute with notifications or ringing with a large number of versatile options, it can be hard to maintain focus on your work, and be productive. Luckily with a little determination and following some tips, you can be productive, provided you either cut down on certain things or give them up altogether.
Here’s a list of twelve things you need to give up if you want to be productive.
1. Give up the unhealthy lifestyle
It’s not easy, it requires a lot of effort but remember that if your body runs on little to no sleep or a bad diet such as junk food, then only a handful of energy is left for your brain to use! These days people are so focused on saving time that they are hesitant to spend it on shopping for a healthy meal, let alone cooking it for themselves. To save time they forget the cost which is the loss of attention and focus, which they lose when they aren’t consuming the right kind of fuel for their body.
2. Give up trying to save on business tools
A good lumberjack spends 70% of the time sharpening his ax. Why? Because the quality of your tools is a deciding factor to how good your output will be as well as how efficient you will be in achieving the desired outcome. Start by picking up your bulk email service or your CRM as it is a long-term game and solving it sooner is going to save you time in the long run.
“Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway
3. Give up on transactional relationships
Building relationships takes a lot of time and effort. Throw in the introductory or get-to-know them phase and you have spent a lot of time. Plus, imagine spending so much time doing all that and having to let them go at the end of the month because of their incompetence. Therefore, If you are going to invest time building relationships, invest in the long term. For example, train one employee to stay with you for years instead of hiring low-paid assistants that you will have to say goodbye to in a few months.
4. Give up multitasking
Juggling way too many tasks isn’t healthy nor beneficial for your potential productive day. It will be draining and demotivating if you fail to achieve all the tasks on your list. It is the ultimate mistake of busy entrepreneurs. You think you are achieving more, while in fact, you are achieving less.
Statistics show that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity as well as a 10% drop in IQ.
5. Give up that solo-fighter mindset
People need people to achieve goals and to aid each other in reaching desired destinations. Look around you and see that there are so many answers and solutions to your problems in your immediate circles, and even more – in your online communities. You are not alone in your battles! Give up the idea that you need to do everything by yourself and start asking for help.
6. Give up working on the weekends
Ok, let’s rephrase. You can work any day of the week. Just make sure you have a day off or a time out so that you could move your body, stir up some creativity or be social; If not for the joy of it, then at least in the name of productivity. Some CEOs advise as little, as 4-day work week for maximum productivity. Studies show that stepping outside your business gives you a much-needed perspective and allows you to come up with creative solutions. Plus, take the example of Wordsworth and other late poets who used to go out for walks when they wanted to conjure up new ideas for their masterpieces.
7. Give up working for the sake of work
Solidify the roadmap to your desired goal. Be clear about the kind of outcome you are aiming for. Take a closer look at the steps and break them down. Identify the actions which are pushing you towards your goals and those which are taking you and your time away from them.
8. Give up people-pleasing
Following the last point, get intentional about the things you say “yes” to. Does it contribute to your immediate goals? Does it help to build long-term relationships? Is there any joy in them or are they providing you with peace of mind? If none of the above then learn to say no.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney
9. Give up your social media addiction
Addiction, by definition, is something we can’t give up so easily. To curb it, firstly start by introducing a “ mindful consumption ” of social media. For example, whenever you open any application, start by asking yourself the question “What am I here to do today?” If your answer is say, engaging with your followers then say it out loud, for better effect. Once you achieved what you came to do, you can even say—out loud again— “I’ve accomplished what I came here to do.” then close it and move on to do some of your work. Take baby steps to tackle your addiction.
10. Give up the need to control
You do not need to be in control of everything let alone introduce others to your business by yourself. Work on building systems that would allow others to know the state of your business at a glance. From weekly reports, to project management tools, spend extra time developing the system, so you can save time.
11. Give up anything that has to be done more than once
By looking at everything that you are doing repeatedly, try to turn it into a system, and systems can be automated or outsourced. Unless, of course, the repeated action is something you truly enjoy.
12. Give up working without a to-do list
When you let emails, messages, and requests replace your to-do lists, you feel like you are working and checking things off. However, in reality, you aren’t progressing towards your chosen goals. Try to tick off one thing before you turn on the chats or open emails. Trust me, the feeling of accomplishing small tasks off your list is thrilling !
Have you ever experienced that feeling of dread in the late afternoon when you look over the work you’ve completed so far, and think, “Why is this taking me so much longer than it should?” Then, when the day’s over just an hour or two later, you’re bummed you didn’t spend it more productively. I’ve been there. Some days I felt like I’d been working so hard, but had gotten very little done.
Then, one day it hit me: There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard this before. But have you really thought it through and contemplated those times you’re sitting at your computer all day, but don’t end up with a lot to show for it?
Yes? Here are the most common reasons this happens to you (again and again):
Problem 1: You Set Too Many Priorities
Who hasn’t replied to “How are you?” with “Busy!” It’s not so much a lack of priorities (which more often leads to idleness), but having too many of them. When you put the same emphasis on work, family life, lunch, exercising, hanging out with friends, volunteering, updating your social media profiles, reading three newspapers each morning—you end up starting a lot of projects, and finishing very few.
Solution: Cut Your List
The very word “priority” implies that you’ve decided something is more important than everything else. Translation: You can’t have 20 “priorities.” Having just three or four important items on your list will help you accomplish much more. You’ll begin to see that productivity is measured by how much real work you do on a couple of projects rather than how much superficial progress is made on many. Having trouble identifying what you should put first? This article is a great starting point.
Problem 2: You Try to Fit in All the Meetings
Are you always running late and changing meeting times (or cancelling them altogether!) at the last minute? It’s probably because you’re over-committing and trying to balance it out by squeezing engagements into realistic time slots. You know what I mean: Booking three back-to-back status meetings with only five minutes in between each one, even though conversations can run over and you’re going from one end of the office to the other. It seems like you’re making the most of your time, but in the end, you’re so busy being busy that you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to actually move a project forward.
Solution: Say “No” More
The first step here is to recognize that “no” isn’t the worst thing you can say. In fact, “Yes, I’ll be there” followed by “Sorry, I’m running 20 minutes late!” actually makes a worse impression. If you spend your whole day shuffling from one meeting to the next, and then wasting time apologizing and explaining, you’ll end the afternoon exhausted and feeling like you didn’t accomplish everything you set out to do.
Be honest with yourself about deadlines, the time commitment required, how your skill set fits in, and similar details to determine what you should devote your time to. You’ll learn to say yes strategically rather than saying yes to everything.
Problem 3: You’re Constantly Distracted by the Internet
How long has it been since you checked your email or Facebook? Be honest: Are those sites open in another tab this very second? In fact, the average person has five social media accounts and spends almost two hours on these networks every day. Considering the fact that most people work eight-hour days, that’s nearly a quarter of your day!
Solution: Practice Self-Control (or, More Realistically Install Apps to Curb Usage)
The ultimate way to protect yourself from online distractions is practicing self-control. If your job doesn’t require you to be constantly accessible via email, set a designated time to check them, preferably not during your “golden hours.” For me, that’s in the afternoon when I start to feel tired of writing and struggle to stay motivated. That’s when I spend about 30 minutes answering non-essential emails that I ignored earlier, brushing up on my social newsfeeds, and reading a couple blog posts.
Of course, some days I just want to sit on email and check Facebook and do nothing else. At that point, I’ll use a blocking system that prevents me from accessing certain websites during designated times of the day. I like the browser plugin Focus, but there are countless other blocking systems, both free and paid, that’ll do the trick.
Problem 4: You’re Multi-tasking
Jumping between tasks, staring at long lists of to-dos, and trying to accomplish multiple tasks at a time all lead to a busy life. It’s difficult to get anything done when you’re trying to do everything at once. When you have so much going on around you, it’s no wonder that you feel like you’re drowning.
Solution: Try Another Strategy
While it takes a few extra minutes on the front end, approaching each task with focus and clarity will result in a better end product. Whenever you feel tempted to move on to another task, ask yourself: Is it a good idea to switch modes right now? Do I need to take a break? Or, am I in the zone right now and just letting myself get distracted by my ever-growing to-do list?
Considering what we know about multi-tasking time loss, it’s probably better to test out a productivity method like the Pomodoro Technique or The Action Method if you feel like you need to accomplish a lot of different things in just a few hours.
Problem 5: You’re Expecting Productivity to Just Happen
Sorry, but it’s not that simple. Going to work and being productive seem to be falsely identified as synonyms. People assume that when they walk through the door, they’ll feel magically motivated to get things done.
Solution: Find a System That Works For You
There’s more than one way to organize a to-do list. Even different scheduling apps have different purposes (a.k.a., no just using Wunderlist to write down every single thing on your mind is not the most efficient way to handle all projects).
To figure out if a new system’s working, keep a productivity journal where you track what time of the day you worked best, what helped you get your various tasks done, and how you felt when you left the office. As time goes on, you can look back, find patterns, and identify where improvements are needed. There are so many systems and apps out there, that there just has to be one for you. Whether it’s as basic as playing ambient noise on noise-blocking headphones, or as complex as multiple browser add-ons.
Productivity is only as good as the effort you’re willing to put into it. But as basketball coach John Wooden says, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” As you put in the work to become a more productive individual, keep the end goal in mind: You have to put the time and effort into making all the tips and tricks you hear work for you.