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7 Things You Need to Focus on If You Want to Be More Productive

7 Things You Need to Focus on If You Want to Be More Productive
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If you’ve ever been in situation in which you felt like everyone else around you was able to work like a machine while you were left dragging behind, you’re not alone. But it’s not simply that the hard-working people around you were programmed any differently; they just think differently. In order to be productive, you have to actively want to be productive, and want to change your lifestyle. It might sound like a daunting task, but it’s really not so difficult. Once you get into the swing of productivity, you’ll find it hard to stop moving! You’ll get there eventually if you do the following.

1. Get to know yourself.

Productivity is not one-size-fits-all. Some people are able to focus for hours on end on a single task, while some need to mix it up every twenty minutes or so. Figure out which type of person you are, and don’t fight it! Instead of swimming against the current and holding yourself back, let your mind and body tell you what you want to achieve, and how to achieve it.

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2. Prioritize your tasks.

You most likely have a lot on your plate, especially if you haven’t been productive as of late. Rather than haphazardly attacking your list of obligations, figure out the most pressing issue you need to face. If you get the large tasks out of the way first, you’ll have less on your mind while you go about completing the easier errands. On the other hand, if you leave the big things until last, you’ll constantly be distracted while performing the lesser duties, knowing you have much bigger fish to fry later on.

3. Form consistent habits.

I hate to tell you, but you aren’t going to be able to just flip a switch in your brain and automatically be productive through every waking moment. You have to get in the habit of being busy and working hard. But, again, you’re not going to just dive right in and try to get everything done all at once. Once you figure out a system that works best for you, stick to it. Once you get used to being productive, you’ll start to actually become addicted to hard work. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s much better to be addicted to improving your life than destroying it, right?

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4. Focus on one task.

When you prioritize your to-do list, you also segment your tasks into different time slots throughout your day. Keep to this schedule! Don’t overlap your errands, no matter what. Multitasking only serves to split your focus between two or more areas, and you’ll lose time in between even if you don’t realize it. Set out to finish one task at a time. You won’t break your concentration, and you won’t waste any valuable time going back and forth between tasks.

5. Consolidate your to-do list.

I know I just said you shouldn’t multitask, but that’s in regard to tasks that require 100% of your attention. But there are other times throughout the day that you’ll be able to do two things at once without losing any productivity. For example, if there’s a podcast or TED talk you’ve been meaning to listen to, don’t just sit there listening to it for 20 minutes; do some laundry or clean up the house while you listen. Obviously, use your discretion here; you don’t want to be reading a book while you’re supposed to be listening to an important message. As long as the secondary task you choose doesn’t require much brainpower or attention, go for it.

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6. Analyze your procrastination methods.

Everyone procrastinates once in a while, but we all do it for different reasons. Some of us are afraid of failure; some are afraid of success. Some of us, of course, are just plain lazy. Figure out why you’ve procrastinated so much lately, and figure out how you can make changes to your lifestyle and mindset to break free of whatever’s been holding you back. Use the Internet as a resource for this, or even seek out professional help. There’s no shame in acknowledging a need for assistance, but there is shame in knowing you need a change and not working toward it.

7. Take frequent breaks.

Don’t feel as if “being productive” means you have to keep moving 24 hours a day. Everyone needs at least a little bit of time to recharge their batteries. In fact, if you’ve truly been productive, you’ll likely have more time to relax after all your work is done. Think about it; instead of wasting a minute here and there throughout the day, you’ve usedall of that time to finish everything you’ve set out to do, and end up with a large chunk of time to do whatever you’d like during the evening. It’s a much better way to live, isn’t it?

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Featured photo credit: Less Hours, More Productivity! / Gina via farm1.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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