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8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

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8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

We all have those days: we show up to work after not getting enough sleep, or getting too much, and find ourselves with our chin in our palm staring blankly at the screen. While it’s hard to get out of this mood, as we try to keep our eyes from falling shut, we have to keep these principles and quotes in mind for when we wake up and get back at it.

1. We should hold periodic meetings

Meetings are a great way to touch base with our team and make sure that everybody is on the right track. Keep in mind, however, that most actual work gets done outside of these meetings.

As Thomas Sowell said: “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”

Let’s keep meetings brief, with a clear focus, and make sure to summarize key takeaways at the end to ensure everyone is on the same page.

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2. We need to test new ideas

We should be careful not to get comfortable simply doing what’s “good enough”. Let’s make sure to continuously test new ideas in search of a more productive or efficient method to complete our workflow.

Mark Zuckerberg was right when he said, “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

3. We mustn’t multitask

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand,” said Alexander Graham Bell, “the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

When approaching our work, we should give our full attention to one task at a time. Time spent transitioning between tasks can add up to hours out of your day. Not to mention, when we dedicate our focus to a single task, we’ll surely produce higher-quality results.

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4. We need to give ourselves a break

If we find that our productivity has hit the wall, let’s try getting away from our desk and giving our mind a chance to refresh. We need to take a a nap or spend the day at home.

“Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity. All we are really saying is, give peace a chance.” -Tom Hodgkinson

5. We have to “Automate”

With so much new technology, many human processes can now be replaced with apps and programs. Where automation isn’t possible, we can try to create a simple process that can be recreated.

“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more,” said Henry Ford.

The easier our process becomes to repeat, the more time we’ll make for what’s most important.

6. We should delegate when possible

A wise man, J. Paul Getty, once said, “I’d rather have 1 percent of the efforts of 100 people than 100 percent of my own efforts.”

He had a good point. Our energy should be put to use to accomplish tasks that require our brainpower and expertise. Keep in mind, once we delegate a task, we have to let our team take care of it. Hovering over the tasks once we past them down wastes as much time as keeping them on our desk to do ourselves.

7. “Never mistake motion for action”

Just because we’re writing a to-do list and organizing our email doesn’t mean we’re actually getting things done. Let’s put aside small distracts that get us off track, and make sure we recognize the difference between busywork and actually getting work done. Do we really need to color code those sticky notes?

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8. We should get to work early

Our hours probably look like something from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Rather than walking in the door at 8:59 AM so we can clock in right as the clock strikes 9, let’s try showing up 10-15 minutes early. This will give us time to focus in on the work in front of us, so we can hit the ground running as soon as we punch in for the day.

Now perk up! It’s time to get started.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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