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Last Updated on May 30, 2019

13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Increased Productivity

13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Increased Productivity

Did you know that many C-level executives play computer games at work to “feel more productive”? It is ironical, but it’s the truth today. People are using whatever they can to become (more) productive and daily checklists are just one of the things.

But there is a good way and a bad way to create a daily checklist. One will super boost your productivity, the other one will be a mind-numbing task which you will stop doing in two days.

To avoid the latter, I have devised only 13 things you need to have on your daily checklist to super boost your productivity and it starts with your morning routine.

Whatever you do in life, you need to have a morning routine which is consistent. It is your anchor for starting the day and if you skip it, your entire day will be off track. There is a reason a phrase “start off the day on the wrong foot” persisted over millennia.

I won’t tell you what your morning routine should be because nobody can tell you that, but what I can tell you is that it should have certain elements and they are the following.

1. Sleep for 8 Hours

You need to sleep for 8 hours. Period. There is a plethora of research which says that you need 8 hours of sleep to be productive and cognitively optimal during the day.

But what is even scarier is that there is a ton of research done on the effects lack of sleep brings to people and the results are devastating.

So if you want to be productive, sleep would be the first thing on your daily checklist.

2. Early Physical Activity

I don’t mean an hour-long session in the gym. You can do that if that’s your things, but by this, I mean simple stretching, maybe a 10-minute walk, or a short 5 to 7 minutes long exercise.

You just need something to wake up your body and get the blood flow going. One example would be Tony Robbins who jumps into his pool and swims a couple of laps.

Use whatever physical exercise works for you for as long as you need to wake up.

3. Eat Some (Healthy) Food

Food gets energy in your body early in the morning and wakes up your mind in a different way than exercise.

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You need food in the morning and I hope you will eat something healthy because that has the best benefits for your mind and for your body.

There are multiple diets out there that tell you that their diet is the best diet. Try out a couple of different diets and stick with the one which suits you the best. Remember, the goal of the daily checklist is that only needs to work for a single person – for you.

4. Do Your Favorite Unproductive Activity

An unproductive activity in the morning in an article on daily productivity using a checklist? Yes, I understand the irony but remember the C-level executives?

You Are Not A Robot.

You are a human being and we need fun, unproductive, and lazy time. If you spend 10 to 20 minutes in the morning doing your favorite unproductive activity, you will settle down “the instant gratification monkey” everyone has inside of us.[1]

Once you’re done with it, you will clear it from your mind and carry on. Some people watch YouTube, some play Minesweeper or BubbleSpinner (guilty…), but you can do whatever you like. That’s why it’s your favorite unproductive activity.

5. Personal Reflection Time

It’s not necessarily meditation. Meditation is just one thing you can do for your personal reflection time. You can also spend a couple of minutes for yourself to center yourself for the upcoming day.

Some people call it gratitude,[2] but to me, it’s just personal reflection time. I do this by walking toward my workplace while listening to music.

It can be whatever works for your – a prayer, a minute of silence, sitting down in the car and doing nothing, etc.

6. A 10-Second Plan

Most people elaborate on their charts, sheets, daily plan through 7 different applications. And that’s why it doesn’t work.

You are smart. But like, really smart. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.

You already know what the most important thing you have to do today is. If I gave you only 10 seconds right now to plan your day to be productive, that activity would be the only one in those 10 seconds.

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That is your plan for today.

Do only that for today and your day will be productive.

But that is easier said than done. I know. That’s why we are only at the half of the article. All of these above were the things that you do when you’re home or commuting. But now, let’s go over the things you do when you get to work.

7. Get Yourself into a Working Frame by Reading

When they get to work, most people first sit down, open their browser and randomly scroll the internet for half an hour.

But not you. You know better.

You should sit down and open up a book or an article which is related to your field of work. This is really important. Once you read an article or a couple of pages of a book which is related to your field of work, your brain will put a focus on that information and it will start producing some marvelous ideas and solutions.

The most important thing here is that it can’t be scrolling over Facebook or Instagram. It needs to be something which puts your mind into the right field and working state.

Before writing this article, I reread certain parts of Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto, Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits, and Eric Barker’s Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Put yourself into the right frame of mind and you’re almost there.

8. Kill Distractions

Okay, if Jenny from the office is a distraction, don’t literally kill her- it’s just a phrase. But I used the word kill for a specific reason.

You need to behave toward distractions in that kind of a way. Kill it wherever you deem possible.

Put your front page on your browser to something which won’t seduce you into procrastinating. Use headphones even if you don’t listen to music because your colleagues will know that you mean business when they are on. Close the doors and shut the drapes. Turn off Wi-Fi on your phone.

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No distractions make you work – because there is nothing else to do and your brain is already in that state of mind.

Take a look at these tips on How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done.

9. When Tired, Rest. Don’t Quit!

Since I’m a writer, taking a nap in the middle of the day to rest is a possibility and almost a daily occurrence for me (sometimes I take a long walk instead).

You will get tired during the day and when that happens, don’t try to push through it. Simply stop working and go rest.

The problem here is that nobody ever taught us how to rest and our culture looks at that as laziness. There is a major difference between the two, but the most important thing when resting is that you 100% rest. So no working, no thinking about working, and no working (I had to re-state that for some workaholics out there).

I was writing an article which was a summary of every single personal development book I read in the past two years (90 books in total).[3] The article took me two months and 100+ hours to finish. But I learned to rest when I was tired, so I managed to finish it even though the size of it is comparable to a book.

When tired, rest. Don’t quit. When necessary, schedule downtime for yourself too.

10. Know When the Day Is Done

I’ve seen people who are super productive themselves, but they think that they are lazy and unproductive because there is always more you can do.

That is the problem of not knowing when the day is done.

Point 6 was “A 10-seconds plan.” If you managed to finish that in the day, it was a productive day and the day is done. Nothing more, nothing less. You did the one thing you planned for the day. Don’t torture yourself thinking that you need to work 16 hours a day to be productive. That’s not productivity, that’s torture.

Stop when you’re done and call it a day.

11. Track Your Day

This comes at the end of the article and the day because you need to check things off the daily checklist.

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By tracking your day, you realize what you did and didn’t do for that day. After a couple of days of working everything from your checklist, the goal becomes not to “break the chain.” This is something attributed to Jerry Seinfeld who, when asked how he became a great comedian, responded:

“I just wrote one joke a day and then tried not to break the chain on my calendar.”

Track your daily checklist because you will grow a habit of doing it.

You may want to make use of these apps to keep track of your day: 24 Best Habit Tracking Apps

12. Reward Yourself

The best thing after a productive day is the reward you get by being productive.

Don’t ignore this thing on your daily checklist. If you’ve done everything from the checklist, give yourself a proper reward for that. It will make your brain remember the activity as pleasurable and it will become easier for you to do it.

Learn to celebrate small wins so you’ll stay motivated and keep up the momentum.

13. What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

A checklist is a tool which you use; so understand that over time, your life, work, job, situation, and position will change. And alongside that, your daily checklist will change as well.

Realize that the things which got you in this position doesn’t necessarily have to be the things that will get you further along. Things change and your checklist should change accordingly.

The Bottom Line

You now have all the 13 things for your daily checklist which will make you super productive. Put it somewhere visible where it can look at you every single morning and every single evening.

That will remind you to do the activities from the checklist. And if you keep doing it, eventually, it will bring you massive results.

Every journey, no matter how long, always begins the same way – with a single step. You’ve already made two steps – you’ve read this article and learned what you need to have on your daily checklist. The third step is implementation and it’s yours to make.

More Articles About Productive Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Bruno Boksic

An expert in habit building

What Is a Routine? 9 Ways Routines Make Your Life Easier 13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Increased Productivity 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits How to Break Bad Habits (The Only Effective Way) How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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