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One tip to double your productivity (or more!)

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One tip to double your productivity (or more!)

When I first made the decision to start a career in freelancing, I was a mess. I’d go to bed every night full of excitement and plans for the next day. I was going to change the world. I had to-do lists that were miles long, and tomorrow, bright and early, would be the day I’d start to tackle them and really make a business for myself.

But then the next day would come, and I’d inevitably find myself frustrated. Looking at the clock ticking towards noon yet again, and wondering where the morning went and why I had so little to show for it. Desire wasn’t the issue. I had plenty of desire to do great things with my life. The problem was that I simply couldn’t seem to follow through on my big plans.

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Perhaps you can relate. Over the course of my life, I’ve met boatloads of people who have expressed similar sentiments; things like “there’s not enough time in the day,” “I wish I could be a morning person,” and “it takes me forever to get going in the morning!”

Feeling stuck?

It’s easy to feel stuck in a rut because there’s so much in your life that you’d like to change that you don’t know where to start. You mean well, but it’s just so overwhelming. And so the days of stagnation increase in a never-ending pile. That was me. I had plans to start every morning with some journaling, a healthy smoothie, and a workout. I’d follow that up with hours of time well-spent on writing, interviews, and business R&D.

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As a freelancer, I was the boss of my own schedule. Sounds wonderful, right? One problem – if you don’t have anyone to enforce your schedule, it’s often much harder to stick to it. When I first started this career, I was so unfocused. I would spend my mornings getting started late, then getting distracted throughout then morning, and then forcing out some mediocre work during the afternoon, my least productive part of the day.

I knew if I wanted to get more done, I needed to get going earlier in the morning. I had always prided myself on being a morning person, but in the last few years something had shifted. It now took a monumental act of will to get me out of bed in the morning.

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One evening, before I went to bed, I decided to try a very simple experiment. I moved my phone (AKA my alarm clock) from its usual spot beside my bed to my desk across the room. I wanted to force myself to get out of bed to turn the alarm off, rather than just hitting snooze and rolling back over.

The result was astonishing.

I saw an uptick in my productivity almost immediately. I felt proud of myself and accomplished before I had even done anything. This served to consistently spur me on to more action. Since I had so much more time in the morning than I was accustomed to, I went ahead and started working in regular exercise into my schedule.

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After my workout, fully immersed in the “I-am-woman-hear-me-roar” endorphin high of actually getting through a full workout, I found that I could easily conquer the unpleasant activities I’d been putting off for months. If I was fresh out of unpleasant activities, I could knock out a killer article in next to no time at all because I was just so focused. I no longer felt an obsessive need to check my email or link-trail across the internet.

I am not trying to oversimplify things. If you want to take your life down a different track than the one it’s currently on, you’re going to have to put in the work. Sometimes, though, that work isn’t as daunting as it feels. Failure often begets failure; but the reverse is also true. Success begets success. If you start your day off with success, you will find that successes will follow you throughout your day.

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Getting out of bed is one of the simplest things you can do all day. You may be intimidated by all the changes you want to achieve in your life. But surely you can just move your alarm clock! Try it and prepare to be amazed by the changes that follow.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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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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