There’s no secret to productivity. We all have the same 24 hours in the day and ultimately we decide what to do with those hours. Productivity is a matter of staying on task and getting shit done that you may not want to do, or you’re too tired to do, or don’t have the discipline to do.
Much like everything else, your productivity muscle can be trained and improved. You’ve just got to find what works for you and make it a habit.
From research and experience, there are a number of things to try to get productive:
Wake up earlier
You probably saw that coming didn’t you? Sorry but you’re not gonna find a productivity article without the suggestion to wake up earlier. There are many reasons to wake up earlier.
First of all, you’re going to add time to your day if you’re someone who sleeps 10 hours or so. Aim for 7-8 hours and adapt your body to less sleep and GOOD sleep. This was you’ll get more done.
You are also going to experience the peace, quiet, and darkness of early mornings (depending on where you live of course). It’s the best time to meditate, journal, read, stretch, whatever you like…without all the noise.
When you start waking up early (when you don’t have to wake up that early), you eventually develop other characteristics. Characteristics such as more drive, more motivation, desire for change/improvement, etc. It all around shapes you and gives you more discipline.
Take a break
Remember to take breaks when you need to, otherwise you may end up burnt out or finding yourself making a lot of mistakes. Throughout school I was always told to take breaks every 50 minutes, I think you have to find what works for you. Many of us have the ability to focus for a couple of hours without breaks, some days you may need a few after 30 minutes of work.
Find what helps you get the most done, set timers if necessary, then properly break. A break doesn’t mean check e-mails. A break should be a walk outside, grabbing a snack, dancing to music, looking up your horoscope, whatever takes your mind off work.
I don’t mean go on a shopping spree or to take a 3 day break from whatever it is you need to get done, but rather reward yourself with something small but still excited you. For example, maybe only after you work for 1 hour straight, distraction free you can make yourself a coffee or tea, watch a YouTube video, go for a walk, enjoy a snack, and so on.
Personally, I don’t think much else can benefit you more than your physical wellbeing. Think about how great you feel after a workout or a full day of clean eating. Then think about how crappy you feel if you miss days of working out. Exercise helps you sleep better, focus more, it improves your bodily functions, promotes feel good hormones, etc.
The better you feel, the more you can focus and work. Exercise is also a great confidence booster, which will overall lead to greater work.
Listen to music
Personally, I prefer music that doesn’t have lyrics. Music can really put you in the zone and extend your focus time. Classical, jazz, trance, and “chill” are my personal favorites. One of the best I’ve found is this guy on YouTube.
Break large tasks into smaller tasks
Usually a large or important task is the most daunting. We constantly hear phrases such as “Eat the Frog,” but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Why? Because big and important tasks can be intimidating, boring, hard, or a combination of the 3.
Breaking down your large task into smaller tasks automatically tricks your brain into thinking it’s easier. You can look at that list and think, “Oh that’s not so bad!” Smaller tasks make it easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Here’s an example, let’s say you have to write an essay:
Big task: Write essay
1. Create an outline for essay (Intro, body, conclusion — what are the most important things to cover in each section?)
2. Do research on the big ideas and any background info
3. Start writing the body (don’t even worry about grammar/proper sentences)
4. Write the introduction
5. Write the conclusion
Doesn’t that make it so much easier to see the steps you need to take to finish? Complete each step before moving to the next and it’ll be completely finished before you know it.
Write down your goals
If you’re having trouble focusing on doing what you gotta do, write down your goals. I do this all the time, especially when I start getting sleepy while working. If I start feeling tired while I’m blogging or editing videos for example, I can make excuses to either take a nap or distract myself with social media or food. When I write down my goals it actually wakes me up because those goals are my why.
If I allow myself to give in so easily I’m not working toward the future that I want so badly.
Take advantage of tools
By tools I mostly mean phone apps because there are so many options these days. There’s apps with timers, habit tracking apps, apps to make lists, apps to create a schedule, you name it and you can probably find it. I also love to use a simple pen and daily/monthly planner. I can write down what I need to get done and cross them off as I go. Notebooks are another great thing to always have around because you can jot down thoughts or ideas as they come to you.
Even automation tools help a ton. I love to use TailWind to schedule other people’s pins and my old blog posts to Pinterest. Otherwise I would have to manually pin every single day and sometimes that’s not feasible.
Water can help energize you. Your brain, your cells, and all parts of your body need to be properly hydrated to function. If you’re dehydrated it’s going to be more difficult to think straight and stay awake. Also, you’ll have to use the restroom more which may be annoying but it’s making you stand up and walk therefore you’ll be more alert.
Just get started
One of the hardest things is just getting started. It’s what makes procrastinators, procrastinators. I know it’s not what you want to hear but usually if you just force yourself to work for 5 minutes you can get a good flow going and you’ll finish a lot more than you thought possible. Otherwise you may need to save it for another day.
Focus on one task/project at a time
Humans love to think we’re good at multi-tasking, and while it may seem like we can be, we’re simply not. Focusing on one task/project at a time or each day can take your productivity to a whole new level. I recently started designating specific days to specific tasks and not allowing myself to do anything except those things. For example, Mondays and Tuesdays are for YouTube (filming, editing, thumbnails, etc.) and Wednesday is for working through a course (for blogging, Pinterest, editing, etc.). This working style has allowed me to manage everything in my life more effectively and has reduced overwhelm.
Work with others
If possible, figure which tasks you could delegate to others to take stress off yourself. Otherwise, try working with/around someone else or a group of people. No one wants to be that person who gets off task and distracts others, so the productivity will rub off on you.
Make it a habit
OR break the habit of procrastinating. Basically I just mean to make it a habit to get important shit done when you need to. You simply can’t rely on motivation or willpower to do anything, those come and go.
Clear the clutter
A cluttered/disorganized space actually affects your work and mind a lot more than you realize. It can cause more stress and be more of a distraction. I hate when I’m working and then I look over to the floor and there’s junk everywhere. Take a 15 minute declutter session, which will also will get your blood flowing a bit and give you a break!
Do your best to keep your work area clean and organized on a regular basis.
Empty your inbox
Am I the only e-mail hoarder? If an e-mail isn’t urgent I won’t open it and then 3 months later it’s still unread. Unfortunately I end up with hundreds of unread e-mails which I can’t stand. Every so often take the time to clear out your inbox, read the things you want to, and delete all the junk.
Change your environment
This could be a number of things. So you could clean up your space like the tip above suggests, change things up, or completely relocate. For example, maybe you could add some photos or motivational canvases to your workspace. Even adding a plant or two can make the area feel better.
Sometimes I struggle to get things done in my room so I’ll go downstairs to work at the kitchen table. Better yet, get dressed and go to a local cafe!
Have a word
For the New Year I decided on a “word of the year,” something that will get you back into your zone and focus on the bigger picture. My word for 2018 is action. If you ever start slacking off or procrastinate say your word outlaid or write it down. Use it as a tool to keep yourself in check.