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I’ve Read over 100 Productivity Books and Summarized the 15 Most Important Tips

I’ve Read over 100 Productivity Books and Summarized the 15 Most Important Tips

Ten years ago, nearly to the day, I was given a promotion from starting-level engineer to upper management. Honestly, as exciting as the promotion was, I was incredibly overwhelmed. I felt that I didn’t have enough time to do everything that I needed/wanted to do and I began to feel that I was in over my head. Something had to give.

I’d heard of productivity books being helpful, so I decided to give it a try. I was hoping that the books would teach me how to get more done in less time. Not only did they help me achieve that goal, but other aspects of my performance as well.

After reading 100 productivity books, I have found that there are 15 key elements to staying productive and being efficient. I have compiled a list of my findings to help you to be as productive as you can be.

1. Don’t wait for others to set your deadlines, set them for yourself

While growing up with our structured school system, students are used to being given deadlines and working to meet them. This causes a problem when we suddenly don’t have a deadline to work towards. We tend to get lazy because there is no sense of urgency. This is why overachievers in school tend to be average in the real world, as they don’t have deadlines to work towards once no one sets it for them.

Successful people don’t wait, they set deadlines for their personal goals. While meeting external deadlines (those that are given to you) helps you to survive and meet the bare minimum, internal deadlines (those that you give yourself) make you push through your boundaries. The key is to be proactive, not passive.

2. Keep track of your time like you do your bank account

We like to think that we know ourselves well. But when asked to recall, we can’t remember what we did at this time on this day last week. Time is the most valuable resource we have. We need to track it like we do our bank accounts, because as the old saying goes, time is money. You can always earn more money, but you can never get back wasted time.

Keep a time-sheet to record how much time you spend on tasks. Even everyday/personal tasks. You’ll be surprised to see how much time you waste on certain things.

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3. Don’t focus on your weaknesses, work on your strengths instead

It’s common practice to improve your weaknesses. But that shouldn’t be your primary focus.  The most important thing is to first improve your strengths.  Having a strength means that you already have a foundation for it (otherwise it wouldn’t be a strength) and acquired the basic skills.  You should already have a solid idea of what to improve.  The difference is that this growth will be exponential versus improving anything else.

Weaknesses cause limitations because you’re starting from the ground up. Everything is so new and it can be difficult to identify what works.  But once you find those weak points, you can utilize your strengths (which you’ve improved) to help turn these weaknesses into an asset.

4. Rank tasks by importance, not the order you received them

Every task does not hold the same weight of importance as others might. Always ask yourself: What needs to be done right away? Regularly rank your tasks, and get the vital ones out of the way.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that because a task came earlier, it is more important than the following tasks. Some tasks have a leveraging effect, so even if they arise later than other tasks, it should be prioritized to be finished right away.

Example: You are planning to brush up on your presentation skills, so you read 20 self-improvement books to reach your goal. Then you decide to read books on speed reading. The best move would have been to read the speed reading books first, to make reading your self-improvement books quicker and more effective.

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    5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

    “You can’t eat the whole pizza at once.” Now while this statement may come off as a challenge (I’m sure some of you could scarf down a whole pizza with no issue) the point is that we think we can handle enormous tasks on our own. Taking on too much at once can be discouraging, and will ultimately lessen your motivation.

    The solution: break down big tasks into smaller, digestible tasks to create order and relieve some of the stress.

    6. Smart people know when to delegate

    Don’t feel obligated to do every little thing yourself. Doing more doesn’t mean doing better. In fact, if you have too much on your plate you are very likely to make careless mistakes because you’re trying to do too much at once. Recognize which tasks can be passed on to others so that you can focus on more challenging and important tasks.

    7. Use your brain for thinking, not remembering

    Information is unlimited, it’s impossible to remember everything. There’s a popular saying, “You have already forgotten more than you already know.” Meaning, there is just too much information to retain it all through memory alone. There’s a variety of tools that we can use to organize our thoughts and ideas for us, such as: computers, notebooks, our phones, etc.

    8. Review your productivity at the end of the day

    At the end of your day, take the time to reflect what you have accomplished, and what could be improved.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • What have I done well?
    • What have I done poorly?
    • Why did some things not work out as planned?
    • How can I do better tomorrow?

    When we don’t reflect, we rely only on natural growth. Successful people concentrate on deliberate practice, where they actively identify and focus on things to improve. Even if you feel that you’ve done a job well done, still consider what could be done in terms of improvement. There is always something!

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    9. Sometimes cutting tasks is better than adding them

    Make it a practice to regularly clear out what isn’t useful to you. This can be manual tasks, physical items, or even relationships. Think about it, physical clutter doesn’t only take up space, but it inhibits our performance as well because we have the physical impression of overload. I know that I personally need to have an organized work space, or I just can’t concentrate.

    Just like we need to de-clutter our surroundings, we need to do the same with our digital space, only making room for what it important and deleting the rest. Your device will work more efficiently, and you don’t have to sift through endless folders and files to find whatever you’re trying to access. Less is more.

    10. Estimate time for your task

    Sometimes this is something that we slack off on, going into a project without considering how much time it is going to take us. To help with this, follow the 2 minute rule. If it can be completed within two minutes, get it out of the way first.

    Neglecting to estimate your time can cause you to waste time; because you do not have a real goal in mind or deadline you are trying to meet. If you don’t set a standard, then you won’t know which aspects need to be improved upon and tweaked for efficiency when the task is repeated.

    Example: You are making an avocado salad. Before beginning, how long do you think it is going to take? 30 minutes? 15? 3? When we consider the task at hand and the time needed to complete it, we start planning on how to do it more efficiently.

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      11. Stretch your creativity no matter what your job is

      We need a bit of creativity for every task that we complete, no matter how mundane it may seem. Creativity is not always a naturally given talent, but a muscle that can be trained. Perhaps you’re not the Renaissance man (or woman) of the century, but you can drum up some out-of-the-box ideas along with the best of them. We need a bit of creativity in order to step up our efficiency.

      This could relate to tasks such as time management or production procedures. You need to exercise your creativity to make an already existing practice even better.

      12. Know when to stop as tasks tend to devalue overtime

      When the productivity of a project beings to diminish, you need to know when it’s time to call it quits. Tasks tend to devalue overtime. The longer a task is taking, the less likely it is to be successful. When it starts to seem that progress is declining, it’s time to cut your losses and reevaluate your game plan.

      Example: When a business realizes that they are losing more and more money each month, they need to change their strategy.

      13. Always assume that you don’t know as much as you may think you know

      Because the truth is, most people don’t know much. There’s an endless supply of information relating to just about anything. Never be overly satisfied, always know that there is room for improvement. Just because you have a good thing, it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be better. Always continue to strive for more and look for new insights. You’re really only the best if you look for new ways to grow. And most importantly, don’t allow yourself to be secretly arrogant. Or outwardly arrogant. Stay humble. You will gain much more respect from your peers and your followers this way.

      14. Identify your instant gratification and ditch it

      You might think that you don’t have an instant gratification trigger, but everyone has one. This is something that you don’t really need to work for, but fills you with enough confidence and feeling of productivity that you don’t feel you need to do anymore. What is yours? Identify yours, and overcome it.

      Example: Your boss is always very complimentary, nearly to the point of being coddled. Since you’re always hearing that you’re doing a good job, you feel like you don’t need to do more. But in order to improve, you should strive to do more to get to the next level of excellence.

      15. Start with the big picture, work down to the details

      Identify the ultimate goal at hand, and start from the beginning. Then, break down every task in sequential order that needs to be achieved in order to reach this ultimate goal. Double check your tasks at hand, ask yourself how it fits into the big picture and if it is really necessary. Could you time be better spent on a different task? Don’t just work mindlessly. Always consider the big picture and the moves you are making towards it.

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      The Lifehack Show: How Exercise Slows Aging with Judy Foreman 10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus How to Stay Focused at Work by Using Deep Work

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      Last Updated on January 24, 2020

      10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

      10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

      Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

      Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

      Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

      • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
      • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
      • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

      Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

      Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

      Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

      That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

      1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

      I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

      Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

      Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

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      2. Be Grateful for What You Have

      Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

      Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

      “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

      3. Smile

      Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

      Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

      Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

      Can you smile again?

      4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

      Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

      If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

      This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

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      Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

      5. Exercise Daily

      One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

      Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

      ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

      He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

      6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

      Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

      Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

      So how do you manage your time effectively?

      Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

      “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

      And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

      • Monday – Management
      • Tuesdays – Product
      • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
      • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
      • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
      • Saturdays – Taking off
      • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

      No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

      7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

      Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

      Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

      Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

      “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

      Be intentional about your daily goals!

      8. Seek Inspiration

      It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

      A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

      Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

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      Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

      “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

      9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

      I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

      However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

      10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

      Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

      “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

      It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

      Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

      The Bottom Line

      Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

      More About Habits

      Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

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      Reference

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