So one of my older posts 10 Tips for Living Purposefully has been really popular among subscribers and someone asked a question via email regarding tips for productivity so I thought I’d write this post.
Now don’t me wrong, I have bouts of being incredibly unproductive and in years gone, I was so unproductive I almost went back in time. But I’ve improved greatly. Although this post is my own, everything I use to be more productive I’ve learnt from someone else. There’s some great stuff out there regarding productivity and I’ve got to give a nod towards the works of Stephen R. Covey, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn and many others in teaching me what I needed to know to be more productive.
Having said that, this is a compilation of the ten most useful tips that helped me to start living productively.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
– Stephen R. Covey
Set the Right Goals
What’s even more important that setting goals, is setting the right goals. Spend some time defining your values and organise your goals around them. You could be putting in a lot of effort just to wind up getting to the wrong place faster. Work out what’s most important to you; the places, the people, the ideas, the tasks, and write them down. Write a mission statement for your life and organise your daily tasks based on this.
This act alone brought amazing clarity into my life and allowed me to let go of unnecessary tasks and hobbies that simply weren’t contributing to my mission statement.
The ‘To-Do’ list is your friend. Carry a notebook, use your phone, use a personal organiser, whatever works for you. I personally do a combination of all three.
Plan your Week
This idea, although seemingly simple, finally helped me get ahead. I was already making daily to-do lists, but I just couldn’t get around do doing everything on them or even putting the right things down on them. When I started utilising the weekly to-do list, it turned everything around. I could allocate only one difficult task to each day which massively lowered my stress around certain activities. I could look at the week as a whole and determine which day would be best for certain tasks. I would then break this down into daily lists and if something didn’t get done one day, I could simply pull out my weekly planner and find out where else to slot it in instead of just rolling it over to the next day. Try it out!
Do the Hardest Thing First
Brian Tracy wrote a great book, which I highly recommend, called Eat That Frog!: Get More of the Important Things Done – Today! (affiliate link – it costs you no more, but helps me out!) which is a fantastic book on productivity. But the most important message is to do the hardest task first. Therefore, whatever else you have to do that day will be easy! It’s hard to do at first, but trust me, it works great!
Be Held Accountable
This works with everything productivity-related, be it goals, targets, habit-breaking or forming, whatever you can think of. If you really want to succeed, become accountable for your actions. Tell the people around you what you plan to do. Maybe it’s just, “Hey, I’m planning on sorting those bills out Saturday.” or “I’m going to finish that assignment by the end of the week.” Whatever it is, tell your friends, your partner, your colleagues. People love to say, “I told you so!” Use this to your advantage. It won’t before people start reminding you of what you said you’d do. After all, we need all the help we can get, right?
The Two-Minute Rule
David Allen coined this in his superb book, Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity. This is a great read for all you procrastinators out there. (I should know because I’m one!) The idea is, if a task can be done in under two minutes, then it should be done immediately. After all, most of the things you’re putting off, probably won’t take that long. We just build them up in our minds to seem like huge and daunting tasks.
Change your Perspective
The late and great Jim Rohn has helped me massively in all areas of my life. In particular, changing my perspective. Here are a few quotes that helped propel me towards great productivity:
“Get from the day, not through it.” This just transformed the way I see each day as it slips off the calendar. We don’t have all the time in the world, but each of us has 24 hours in a day. Use them wisely!
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” Come on, you’re in control here! This is your ship! Were do you want it to go? Grab your map, pick a destination and set those sails!
“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.” It’s time to take responsibility. Stop looking outside of yourself and blaming circumstances. They’re probably not going to change anytime soon. But you can! You can change right now! Work hard. Become a better version of yourself. If somethings hard, become stronger!
Jim Rohn also teaches that what’s most important about achieving success, is not the attainment of your goals, but who you become in the pursuit of them. By the time you reach your destination, it won’t matter if you lose it all. Because you’ll have learnt the skills necessary to do it any time you wish!
The thing about the carrot and the stick is that they only work for a short while. You beat the donkey too much, and he’ll flat out kick you in the teeth. But if you keep dangling the carrot, he’ll just go right ahead and wise up that he’s never getting fed. You’ve got to let it get the carrot every once in a while. Reward yourself. Take breaks. Spend time with your loved ones. Allocate time for recreation on your lists!
Create a Work Space
It’s amazing how much difference this makes. I’ve always worked at a desk with a large comfy office chair. It’s my favourite place to sit. But this last year, I’ve not had one. My productivity took a nose dive! I just can’t be as productive sitting on a couch or lying on a bed. I need my space, my zone. This last week I’ve set up a home office once again and I love it! My productivity is picking up as well. If you’re able to, then grab a desk and chair and have a designated area for you to sit and do you work or your planning or your thinking. You’ll be as amazed as I was to notice the difference.
Break Down your Tasks
Whatever you do, don’t sit there and write some huge goal on your list. Well, yeah, do that, but then break it down. Break it down to yearly, monthly, weekly and daily steps. And in accordance with this post, break it down into two-minute tasks if you can, because then you’ll have no excuse.
Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a bunch of tiny things that you do every day that change the direction of your life. These habits will make all the difference in the quality of your future. So come on, you can’t afford not to do it!
As always, good luck!