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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 November 11, 2019

                  Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                  Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                  A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

                  You know how this looks:

                  • Parents constantly comparing children.
                  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
                  • Domestic violence.
                  • Adultery…
                  • And many others.

                  For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

                  Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

                  Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

                  This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

                  In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

                  If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

                  How to fix a dysfunctional family

                  In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

                  And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

                  Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

                  It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

                  Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

                  Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

                  There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

                  Dysfunctional… Or just average?

                  Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

                  The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

                  You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

                  A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

                  Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

                  Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

                  • Unrealistic expectations
                  • Lack of interest and time spent together
                  • Sexism
                  • Utilitarianism
                  • Lack of empathy
                  • Unequal or unfair treatment
                  • Disrespect towards boundaries
                  • Control Issues
                  • Jealousy
                  • Verbal and physical abuse
                  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

                  You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

                  If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

                  Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

                  How to turn it around

                  When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

                  But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

                  One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

                  We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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                  As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

                  What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

                  Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

                  Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

                  Correction is possible

                  In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

                  Verbalize it.

                  All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

                  Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

                  This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

                  But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

                  So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

                  Putting it to work in real life

                  In real life it would be something like this:

                  “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

                  Or:

                  “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

                  Or:

                  “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

                  As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

                  This is what you have to remember:

                  1-Stop.

                  2-Why it’s wrong?

                  3-What you need.

                  And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

                  It’s a family thing

                  A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

                  Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

                  In other words, you will need cooperation…

                  So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

                  Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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                  We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

                  You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

                  It’s not a free-for-all battle

                  In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

                  No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

                  Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

                  And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

                  The method

                  1. Drop the ego

                  Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

                  You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

                  Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

                  What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

                  It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

                  After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

                  Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

                  Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

                  Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

                  And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

                  You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

                  2. Not blame, but responsibility

                  When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

                  But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

                  When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

                  What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

                  Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

                  As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

                  You will do something like this:

                  “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

                  I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

                  You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

                  I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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                  It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

                  What happened here?

                  We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

                  We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

                  We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

                  And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

                  You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

                  This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

                  3. Doing the work

                  What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

                  This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

                  Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

                  If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

                  It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

                  “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

                  I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

                  But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

                  You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

                  Love is all you need

                  You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

                  That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

                  And what happens if it simply is not there?

                  What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

                  What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

                  There is only one thing you can do:

                  To break away.

                  Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

                  There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

                  “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

                  If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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                  Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

                  You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

                  Putting distance

                  So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

                  What do I mean?

                  Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

                  Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

                  Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

                  Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

                  They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

                  Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

                  I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

                  I choose my peace of mind.

                  And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

                  Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

                  Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

                  How to prevent it

                  There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

                  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
                  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

                  Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

                  You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

                  Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

                  Priorities and clear thought

                  You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

                  You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

                  You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

                  Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

                  If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

                  And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

                  Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

                  But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

                  Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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