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The Guide to Productivity That Will Change Your Life

The Guide to Productivity That Will Change Your Life

“If only I were more productive,” “If only I studied more,” “If only I took action.” Sounds familiar?

I think I already heard these ifonlystic whinings, and quite often. And “If only” I had a penny each time I heard one of those whinings, today I would be a millionaire! You can stop this useless, disempowering and prejudicial behavior. You can take action and change everything.

The importance of wanting the change

If you want to see results, first of all you need to do is to desire the change as intensely as you need oxygen to breathe. In other words you need to dream of it! So, the first thing you need to do is to change your mindset and understand what you really want, what your goals are, why you want to be more productive and where you want to go. The second step is thinking that if we look for what triggers our emotions and makes us excited and passionate about our future, we will find the right motivation, which is everything we need in order to obtain what we want. And it makes us unstoppable.

The importance of keeping your mind clear

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open for everything.”
— Shunryu Suzuki

I love this quote. It’s so true and useful. It reminds us of the importance of leaving as much space as we can in our mind, in order to use our brain efficiently. The first step towards productivity is being relaxed and always having both short-term and long-term plans well-organized. But in order to be relaxed, you need an “external storage” where you will keep all the detailed information about what you are going to do. In the next paragraphs I will explain better what I mean with “external storage”.

Guide To Productivity

    Image: Brain Power

    Overloading your brain, keeping all that information in mind, will cause stress, pressure and anxiety. Not only is it inefficient, but it will also prevent you from being productive and getting things done. So never forget the importance of keeping your mind stress-free.

    The tools of highly productive people

    As promised I’m going to explain what I mean with “external storage”. The “external storage” is the combination and coordination of some efficient tools that you can use to be more productive and organized.

    Post-Its Notes

    Write your 3 most important daily tasks on 3 post-its and stick them on your computer. It’s very useful.

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    Productivity

      Image: Post-It Notes

      The daily to-do list

      You probably already know what a to-do list is. It’s a very efficient tool to get well-organized and to motivate us to complete our daily tasks. It’s a list with all the concrete actions we need to take during the day. But, why is it so useful? Well, you have to fill your days, being as productive as you can, in order to achieve your goals, and a to-do list will help you getting things done and increasing your self-esteem as well. Plus, it’s very important that you cross all the items off your list, every day. If you can make this your daily goal, you will achieve a lot in the long run.

      Here’s an example of a to-do list:

      September 9, 2015
      – Meditation
      – Appointment with mortgage broker 30 min
      – Gym 1 h
      – German course 1.5 h
      – Completing Report at Work
      – Lunch with business partners 1.5 h
      – Writing article on personal blog

      Productivity

        Image: Keyboard Light

        The agenda

        It’s very similar to the daily to-do list, but in this case you will put all the items in a chronological order and you will put each item at its scheduled time.

        For example:

        – 1 pm – Lunch with business partners
        – 5 pm – Gym
        – 7 pm – German course

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        The weekly to-do list

        The weekly to-do list is very similar to the daily one. There are just a few differences. You write it before the week starts, and you write on it all those tasks you intend to complete during the week, but you still don’t know when exactly. Every day you write your daily to-do list, you will refer to your weekly to do-list, in order to make sure to cross all the weekly tasks off the list. Remember to be specific on the weekly list too. For example instead of writing “Go to the gym”, write “Go to the gym for 4 days”.

        Here’s an example:

        – Gym x 4 times
        – Buy German Student Book
        – Talk to Ann about Lauren’s birthday
        – Go to the Post Office
        – Studying for Marketing Exam

        Productivity

          Image: Business Planning with Plan-Too

          The Silver Page

          Sounds interesting! But, what is that? The silver page is a good tool to get well-organized in both the short and long-term. It will greatly improve your productivity, especially if you will combine its use with the above mentioned tools (daily and weekly to-do lists).
          It is a page where you will write down all the ideas and goals that you intend to reach in the near future. Here you don’t need to be very specific, you only have to write down ideas. Remember to update the page frequently, and to refer to it every time you write down your weekly to-do list.

          Here’s an example:

          – Write a book
          – Take the GMAT exam
          – Take the French DELF Certification
          – Look for a new job
          – Buy a house
          – Learn to play tennis

          How to use the tools

          Transferring items from the Silver Page to the Weekly To-Do List

          Every time you will move an item from the silver page to the weekly to-do list you will “bring it into reality” – very exciting! – so before doing that you will have to “transform” each item in one or more actions, and write those actions next to the item. For example, the silver page item “take the GMAT exam” will be translated as “buying the GMAT book,” “starting a GMAT course,” “studying 4 hours a week.”

          So, all you have to do is to pick up one or more actions every week from the silver page and transfer them to the weekly to-do list. Here you won’t need to be specific, you will only need to copy the actions from the silver page to the weekly list. They will automatically become weekly items.

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          Tools Productivity

            Image: Post It Notes

            Transferring items from the Weekly To-Do List to the Daily To-Do List

            You will do the same thing with the daily to-do list. But in this case you will need to be more specific. For example in a daily list, the weekly item “starting a GMAT course” will become “first GMAT lesson at X English School.”

            Transferring items from the Daily To-Do List to the Agenda

            Very simple: all you have to do is write the to-do list items on the agenda next to the respective hours, on the right daily page.

            Agenda, Productivity

              Habits For Productivity

              Set A Timer

              Setting a timer while working or studying is a good way to get things done. Maybe you already know the “Pomodoro Technique“, a time management method that breaks down work into some 25-minutes sessions and it separates them into 4-5 minutes breaks.

              If during these 25 minutes you manage to stay focused and you don’t allow anything to distract you, it is really efficient. Once you get used to it, you can switch to the “Orange Technique“, breaking down the work into several 30-minutes sessions, without changing the length of the breaks.

              Productivity Set A Timer

                Image: Stopwatch

                Wake Up Early

                If you become a morning person you will definitely improve a lot your time management. Setting your alarm earlier than usual, you will have more time in the morning for some rituals that help productivity such as drinking water with some lemon juice, having a great breakfast, working out, meditating, and you will have more energies and a stress-free mind during your day.

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                But, don’t set your alarm too early. Instead, wake up five to ten minutes earlier every day. Let’s say for example that your purpose is getting up at 6 am. If you are used to get ap at 8 am you have to progressively get used to wake up earlier, so the first day you will set your alarm at 7:50 am, the following day at 7:40 am till the day you will finally wake up at 6 am.

                Consciously Ignore Procrastination Instinct

                “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
                – Christopher Parker

                I can’t stress it enough: procrastination is the worst enemy of productivity. And it’s a disempowering mental behavior that if we want we can neutralize and avoid. Procrastination is that stupid but convincing voice in your head that gives you excuses such as: “Maybe I don’t need to do it today,” “Let’s skip class,” “I can postpone it to next week,” “In the end I don’t have enough time, so it’s better if I postpone this project.” The secret to eliminate this attitude is to recognize it and consciously ignore it. It’s not easy, but it’s something you can learn with practice.

                “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
                – Pablo Picasso

                Learn As Much As You Can About Productivity

                Learn Productivity

                  Last but not least, a very useful habit is reading a lot about productivity. You can buy a good book, read some articles on the internet, or be inspired by some quotes. For example you can search on Google, Yahoo or Bing keywords such as “Productivity,” “Time Management,” “Quotes About Productivity,” “Quotes about Success,” “Quotes About Productivity and Tenacity” etc… This will help you feel motivated and be more efficient in the long run.

                  Image: Learn

                  Featured photo credit: Backside Of My Desk via flickr.com

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                  Sira Masetti

                  Productivity Blogger

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                  Last Updated on January 24, 2021

                  How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

                  How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

                  Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

                  For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

                  But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

                  It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

                  And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

                  The Importance of Saying No

                  When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

                  In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

                  Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

                  Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

                  Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

                  “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

                  When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

                  How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

                  It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

                  From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

                  We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

                  And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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                  At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

                  The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

                  How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

                  Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

                  But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

                  3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

                  1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

                  Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

                  If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

                  2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

                  When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

                  Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

                  3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

                  When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

                  6 Ways to Start Saying No

                  Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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                  1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

                  One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

                  Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

                  2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

                  Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

                  Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

                  3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

                  Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

                  Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

                  You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

                  4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

                  Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

                  Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

                  5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

                  When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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                  How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

                    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

                    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

                    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

                    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

                    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

                    Final Thoughts

                    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

                    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

                    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

                    More Tips on How to Say No

                    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

                    Reference

                    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
                    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
                    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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