4 Simple (Yet Effective) Habits to Improve Your Productivity
How to use effective habits to improve your productivity.
Goal: To get promoted by January 2021.
Reality: Spends all spare time on Facebook, laughing at cat videos on YouTube and being envious of that friend from school that has just landed the dream job, now has a title ‘head of’ and is traveling the globe.*
*not that I think these are things to be envious of but that’s for another article.
We are ambitious with our words and we are lethargic with our actions.
Ambition is a good servant but a bad master. – unknown
Words are cheap. Getting stuff done, creating habits that reflect your goals. Being productive. That’s the difference between achieving your goals and writing down the same New Years Resolution for the 5th year in a row all the while thinking ‘this is going to be the year’. What was it that Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
Part of the problem is we don’t know how to be more productive. We know we should do more with our days. We shoot high with our to-do lists and our thoughts just before bed.
“Tomorrow, tomorrow I’m going to wake up earlier. I’m going to speak to my boss about my goals and ambitions. I’m going to figure out what I could do on the side to be more successful.”
Tomorrow comes around… and the inevitable happens: no conversation, no research. And then you repeat the above. Tomorrow, tomorrow is the day.
“Procastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” Napoleon Hill
We all want to do more. I don’t know what it is about us humans that we can’t just settle. We need to do more. To achieve more. To be better. It’s a blessing and a curse and if you’re here I can assume that you possess that gene. The gene that tells you to do just a little bit more. The gene that lands you on articles like this talking about things like productivity.
So how do we do more? How do we use effective habits to improve our productivity.
#1 Change Your Scenery
“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all it’s flavour.”
― William Cowper
If you look at your to-do list and every item on the list is pretty identical you’ll become fatigued quite quickly. A to-do list like this:
Write article on productivity hacks
Research productivity tips and tricks
Write thoughts about next week’s articles
Google best article titles
Is lacking that ‘spice’ of life, variety. Those are all pretty similar tasks, in the sense that they all involve sitting at your computer and staring at the screen. If you’re not careful you can end up sitting at your screen all day long. Computers are great. But they come with the disadvantage that you can quickly nip onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… and a plethora of other things. Y
ou need to be careful of task slippage. And one of the biggest reasons you might start to slip off task is because you are bored. Us humans seem to concentrate incredibly well on novel things and not so well on things that are familiar. It gets old and we get bored. So, with that in mind try and create a to-do list with a mix of activities in. Something like this:
Research article productivity tips and tricks
Hoover the stairs
Write article about productivity
Wash the pots
Write down ideas about next week’s article ideas
Google best article titles
It looks longer but hopefully you’ll find that the variety adds more novelty to your day and you end up being more focused in the tasks that you need to do. You will have, if you’re anything like me, a huge list of things that you could be doing around the house (the to-do later list). Being at home more during this time means that, inevitably, things end up messier than are in normal circumstances.
This technique is a good way to sprinkle in some house work and be productive in both work and home. By adding in variety you’ll find your brain focuses more readily on tasks that you need to get done and you’ll welcome the break and change of scenery.
Variety of tasks order from CareerHealth
#2 Have a ‘To-Do Later’ List
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”
– Peter Drucker
We’ve just talked about adding variety in. Well we need variety to add variety. We all have a hundred tasks around the house, around the digital house (your computer) that we could be doing. It’s those niggly little things that you never get round to doing but you know you should. Things like this:
Organise folders on desktop
Title photos in folder
Organise emails — flag the ones to respond to
Sort out calendar to organise time
All those little tasks that we never get round to doing because there never seems to be enough time? Well we need a big fat list of them… why? Because in between your ‘normal tasks’, you’ll want to sprinkle them inbetween. The last thing you want is to be ready and willing to do a small task to break up the day and not be able to think of one. If you have a ‘to-do later’ list at the ready you’ll always have something to do in between. Effective habits.
#3 Get up earlier
“Lost time is never found again.”
Ah, the morning routine. I know the view is pretty split on this topic but there is no denying that getting up earlier gives you more time. If you can get up a little bit earlier you can maximise you day. Now, when you first start getting up earlier, you will fall asleep during the day, you will find yourself tired at odd times and that’s just normal. It takes a while for your body to get into the swing of things. I’m just about to try a new morning routine that involves getting up at 4:30am. Gulp. But I figure now is a good time to test it and it could fail miserably.
Getting up earlier has countless benefits. Mostly it sets the pace for the day. Up early and already tackled three things on the to-do list? Well it’s going to be a productive day then isn’t it?
When in comes to morning routines I find that experimentation is your best friend. Try different times, different tasks and figure out what works for you. The benefit of the morning is amount of quiet. It’s the best time (I think) for getting time to focus intently on whatever you want to get done. No interruptions. One of many effective habits.
Side note here: morning routines are not for everyone. Being productive is about understanding your own energy and when you are most productivity. One option is optimising the morning. Another is optimising the night.
#4 Spend no more than a minute thinking about a task
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Effective habits? Should I do the pots or do the hoovering? Should I write the email or start an article? I’m not sure what it is about us humans but we are incredibly good at thinking about a problem. I can’t tell you have many problems I’ve solved in my head but not solved in practice. It’s easy to sit and think. To ponder. It feels like a good use of time but it isn’t. Thinking, if left untamed, unstructured, leads to some of the most wasteful time in the world.
Limit yourself to one minute of thinking time. Now this isn’t things like planning a video or planning a trip. I’d worry where you’d end up if you spent one minute planning your next holiday. But this is for things like choosing tasks, contemplating which ones best to do right now. It doesn’t matter pick one. The more time you spend thinking about doing something, the less time you are spending actually doing it.
We all want to do more. We all have the same amount of time in our days. Hopefully by adding some variety to your tasks, having a ‘to-do later’ list, getting up a smidge earlier and not overthinking what tasks to do when, you will be a little more productive. Effective habits are the key to productivity.