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13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity

13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity

    Looking to increase your productivity? You’ve come to the right article. I don’t claim to be a productivity master (I always think there’s room for improvement), but I am very passionate about increasing productivity. I’m always looking for different ways to be more productive – stealing pockets of time where I can, deprioritizing the unimportant, getting system overhauls, etc. And I love it when I see my efforts pay off in the form of increased outputs at the end of the day.

    In this article, I have selected 13 of my best productivity strategies – tried, tested and validated. If you follow all of them to a tee, I can guarantee you that your productivity will double, triple whatever it is right now – or even more. I personally make it a point to follow these steps every day. During the days when I don’t do that, my productivity plummets. The days I do, my productivity soars. The correlation is obvious. I have also compiled a list of the best resources for some of the steps for your further reading.

    Here they are :D

    1. Set your productivity targets

    Probably half of the self-help articles out there keeps telling us to set goals and set targets. Do you know why? It’s because it really works. When you set goals, you focus your energy on the things you want to achieve. Things which you wouldn’t be achieving by default. That automatically makes you more productive.

    I do regular goal setting to maximize my output. For example, one of my goals for the upcoming month is to write 30 articles, which is an average of 1 article a day. These articles will include articles for my blog, The Personal Excellence Blog, and guest articles for other large sites, including LifeHack.Org. My average output in the past few months was only been an average of 1-2 articles per week, so I decided to set a 30 article goal to stretch me to write a lot more than I normally do. By virtue of just setting this goal and striving for it, I’m naturally increasing my output more than if I didn’t set it.

    Be clear on what exactly you want to achieve. What do you want to accomplish for the upcoming month? What is a goal that will make you feel absolutely exhilarated and surging with pride if you achieve it? Set that as your goal. From there, set your weekly goals. Finally, you can set your daily goals which become your day-to-day targets.

    Further reading:

    2. Maintain a work environment conducive to productivity

      Does your work environment encourage you to work? Or does it distract you more often than not? Your environment sets the stage for your work flow, so pick the right environment to work. What is the kind of environment that encourages you to work? This might require a bit of experimentation. After trying out different places, I find that I work best in quiet spots where there are minimal people around – such as my room, the library, cafes and in my neighborhood. So I only do my work at these areas.

      Those of you who are employed can’t exactly choose the environment to work in. If that’s the case, then modify your environment to make it conducive. Organize your work desk (next step). Decorate it with your favorite pictures and inspirational quotes. Put up a photo frame or two. Have your favorite mug there. Sometimes you may not enjoy all the work you have to do, but that doesn’t mean you have to make yourself miserable. If you feel like home, you will be more inspired to get things done.

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      Further Reading

      3. Have an organized workspace

      Having an organized work desk will undoubtedly help improve your productivity. If you have a messy workspace, you will feel disorganized and sluggish. You won’t even feel like doing anything since it’s so disorganized. Whereas if you have a nice, tidy and organized workspace, you’ll be inspired to get work done. You can find your things easily rather than waste precious minutes sieving through your pile of papers for something you saw just a while ago. If you are self-employed like I am, it’s especially important to be organized and on top of things.

      I have a small work desk in my room which I make a point to keep clean and tidy. My reports, folders and random papers are stashed into a magazine organizer (which I got from Ikea 3 years ago for a few bucks only – one of my best investments ever). Pens and stationery are placed in the stationery holders. I leave enough space for my laptop and a writing area on my right side. Throughout the work days my table will get cluttered naturally, so every few days I will do some cleaning and tidying to get things in order. Even my own laptop is considered a part of my work desk – and I use post-it notes and excel sheets to organize my task lists. All these create an inviting space for me to work at any time of the day.

      Further Reading:

      4. Put first things first

      Habit # 3 in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. First Things First refers to putting the important things first before anything else. And why does this matter? That’s because there are 24 hours a day.  There are about a million different things we can pick to do. Some will be important things that make a difference. The rest will be unimportant things that actually don’t make any difference at all. Out of this million things, we have to pick and choose, otherwise we’ll forever be drowning in work and never get anything done. Focus on the important and deprioritize the latter.

      One question I use to filter out the unimportant tasks is “Will doing this make a difference in the next 6 months?” If the answer is no or a small yes, I put it aside. If it’s a big yes, then I give disproportionate focus to it. Of course, we can never give a 100% accurate assessment since we can’t see the future, but we have sufficient knowledge to give a good assessment. For example, my key goal for this year is to develop my blog, which is an essential part of my personal development business. When I apply that question to my list of blog tasks, I automatically focus on tasks like (1) guest posting which lets me reach out to significantly more readers and gains new long-term readers and subscribers to my blog (2) writing new, quality articles to my readers and (3) writing my book which will be a personal milestone and establish a new income stream at the same time. Other miscellaneous tasks like checking emails, sorting them, editing the site and reading facebook/twitter messages get deprioritized to later parts of the day.

      Further reading:

      5. Time box your tasks

      Time boxing refers to boxing your tasks within fixed time slots. For example, boxing task A from 9-10:30am, then task B from 10:30-1pm, then task C from 2-4pm. Time boxing is good because it prevents your task from dragging on and on. There’s a saying that your work will take however long that you want it to, and I find it’s very true. Ever have a project deadline where you need to burn the midnight oil to get the work done? Most of us usually feel that we wouldn’t need to rush like that if the deadline was later on. Fact is, it doesn’t matter when the deadline is. Even if it’s 1 week later, 2 weeks later or 1 month later, the same last minute rush will still take place before. We take that long to do the work because that’s the timeline we give ourselves.

      Hence, time box your tasks. If you set a specific time period and strictly adhere to it, you will find a way to get the work done. Of course, set a time that is challenging yet achievable. If a task requires 3 hours, don’t set 4 hours because you will use up all the 4 hours. Set 3 hours – preferably lesser so you can learn to optimize your output during the period (again, provided you enforce the time box strongly).

      Further reading:

      Of course, it may be hard for the neurotic perfectionists among us to limit the time spent, because that’ll result in a compromise in quality. That goes to our next principle, which is…

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      6. Use the 80/20 rule

        80/20 refers to the phenomenon where 80% of the outputs is brought about by 20% of efforts. The remaining 20% of the output can only be achieved by putting in 80% effort.

        So let’s say you have a report due, and to produce the absolute best report you are capable of, you need about 100 hours. 80/20 rule says that you can get 80% of the quality in by spending 20 hours (20% of 100 hours). On the other hand, the finishing touches to boost this report from a 80% to 100% quality requires you to spend 80 hours (80% of the time). From effectiveness standpoint, that doesn’t cut it at all. 80/20 rule tells us to just get the 80% quality in and chuck the remaining 20% since the time needed doesn’t justify the increment in value we get.

        Hence, by the 80/20 rule, we have to learn to let go of the nitty gritty. Forget the little details that no one but you notices. You can keep revising something to perfection, but that time is probably better spent working on a whole new task. The key is to focus your energy on producing the 80% of every thing you do – which is also the 80% that matters. Draw a mental cut off limit and let go of everything that lies outside of the limit.

        Further reading:

        7. Have a separate list for incoming tasks

          If you’re like me, you are going to get a whole streaming list of random, miscellaneous tasks to do throughout the whole work day. I used to give attention to these things when they come immediately. Say extra task # 1 comes in now, I’ll do it immediately since it takes just 5-10 minutes. This is the same for extra task # 2, #3…. all the way to #15. After a while, I realized these things take a lot of my time and I don’t even get any meaningful result out of them.  Not only that, I never get to finish my real work for the day because I’m so busy with the random stuff. I may think I’m being very productive when I finish them, but truth is it’s just fake productivity.

          So nowadays, I just use a separate list for these urgent tasks. I dump all the incoming tasks into the list and focus on my daily goals list. Then at the end of the day, I allocate a time slot to clear these tasks. I batch the similar urgent tasks, then clear them at one go. Turns out I’m always able to get them cleared less than an hour, compared to the few hours I’d have taken if I attended to them in the day.

          8. Upgrade your skills

          Our limitations in output come from limitations in our own skill level. Upgrade your skills and you will increase your output. It’s like updating our computer software with newer versions so we can create more. Our skillsets are our tools that help us create. We need better tools to create better materials.

          For example, now that I want to write an average of a new article a day, I need to learn to maintain/increase the same quality of writing as before, while writing in lesser time. In preparation of that, I’m reading more A-List personal development blogs (to be more in-tuned with A-list writings) and writing blogs like Copyblogger and Write To Done to pick up writing techniques/skills. These will undoubtedly help me to write faster.

          What key skills do you use in your work? How can you upgrade them to become more productive?

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          9. Know your motivation triggers

          You know how there are times when we are really inspired to work, where other times we’ll feel like a total sloth? It’s normal. The sloth-like times come when we lose touch with our inner muse. If you are aware of your motivational triggers, you can connect with them and jumpstart your productivity.

          For example, I’m usually inspired to work on my blog, and I find I’m even more inspired knowing I have a target to achieve (such as achieving X subscribers by the month), or when there’s (friendly) competition (benchmarking my traffic against larger personal development blogs), or when there’s a cause bigger than me (recognizing that there are many people out there who stand to gain from my articles). When I sieve out these triggers and integrate them with my daily life – such as subscribing to the feed of those A-list blogs, having open communication channels with my readers (comments area, facebook, twitter, email) and talking to fellow bloggers, my momentum increases dramatically. It becomes an upward spiral that reinforces itself.

          How about you? What are your motivational triggers? When were the times when you felt inspired? How can you integrate these triggers into your daily life to reinforce your motivation? Doing this will definitely boost up your productivity.

          10. Utilize time pockets

          The time pockets refers to the little pockets of time you have in between one event to the next. Time pockets usually appear during waiting / traveling times, such as waiting for buses / trains, commuting, waiting for appointments to start, etc. Have some ready activities to be done during the time pockets. You will be amazed at how much can be done in just a short amount of time. Some activities I do include listening to self help podcasts and typing my articles on my laptop. Usually I make sure I get a seat on the bus by taking the earlier buses. In a 40-minute journey, I can get about 20% of my articles typed in a 40 minute bus journey, or about 400~500 words. That’s a good amount of work done compared to if I just slept on the trip.

          Further reading:

          11. Hold yourself accountable to your targets

          Progress tracking is essential to know how you are doing. We can be frantically working to up our productivity but if we know there’s no accountability, at some point we’re going to slow down. I have a weekly review with myself every Saturday morning, where I review my progress in my goals the week before. If I met my goals, I give myself a big hug and pat on the back. If I didn’t, I understand what went wrong. Then from there, I plan out my action plan for the next week to achieve next week’s goals. These weekly goals ladder up to the monthly goals at the end of the month, where I do a monthly review.

          Further reading:

          12. Wake up early

            This may be specific to individuals, but I’ll just share this as it’s true for me. Waking up early really does make me work faster and better. Personally I don’t think there’s any scientific rationale behind waking up early and being more productive. I think it’s more of a psychological feel-good factor – Since you are up before 99.99% of the world, you want to maintain the lead, so that spurs you on to work fast. When you work fast, you finish more things, and that motivates you to maintain the lead and do even more stuff.

            Another reason why waking up early helps is because the quietness in the morning is a conducive environment to get more done. I love being up early (5am) and hearing absolutely nothing in my neighborhood. The birds have not even broken into song yet, cars are not on the road and my family isn’t up either. Perfect time to get things done.

            Further Reading:

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            13. Remember To Rest

            We are not machines or robots. We can’t sustain the same output endlessly without rest. When the time comes, we need to rest/sleep to recover our energy, so we can continue on the next day. Remember, it’s about quality of work produced, not quantity of hours spent. I find that when I choose to continue on when I’m tired, I’m still able to produce stuff, but at a dismal pace. When I get my rest though, I can get a lot more done, even though the total number of hours spent is actually lesser.

            Further Reading:

            Let me know how these 13 strategies work for you. If you have other productivity principles, I’ll love to hear them too. I’ll be happy to discuss them in the comments area.

            Images: rberteig, aheram, danseprofane

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            More by this author

            Celestine Chua

            Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

            5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

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            1 What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It 2 5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect 3 How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 4 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time 5 How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy

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            Last Updated on November 12, 2020

            What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

            What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

            You have so many books waiting for your attention, but you just don’t have enough time! Don’t you wish you could read faster without compromising your knowledge intake? This is where a valuable learning technique comes to the rescue: speed reading.

            Speed reading is the top skill to learn in 2020. Read on to find out all about this amazing technique!

            What Is Speed Reading?

            On average, an adult can read somewhere between 200 to 300 words per minute. With speed reading skills, you can read much fasteraround 1500 words per minute.[1] Yes, that sounds impossible, but it’s true.

            In order to understand how this skill works, you first need to know how the reading process works inside a human’s brain.

            The Reading Process

            The first step is for the eyes to look at a word. This “fixation” on every word takes around 0.25 seconds.

            Next, you start moving your eyes to the following word. It takes 0.1 seconds for the brain to move from one word to the next. This is called “saccade.”

            Usually, you take in 4-5 words in your head, or a sentence, at once. After all the fixations and saccades, the brain goes over the entire phrase again in order to process the meaning. This takes around half a second.

            All in all, this means average people read 200 to 300 words in a minute.

            Speeding up the Process

            The concept of speed reading is to speed up this process by at least 5 times. Since the saccade period cannot be shortened any further, speed reading emphasizes quicker fixations.

            To accomplish this, scientists recommend that the reader skips the sub-vocalization: when the readers actually say the word in their mind, even when reading silently.

            Basically, speed reading is the technique of only seeing the words instead of speaking them silently.

            Do not confuse this with skimming. When a reader skims through a text, they skip the parts that their brain considers to be unnecessary. You may skip important information in this process, and skimming does not allow the brain to retain what has been read.

            Why Speed Read?

            Speed reading is not just quick, but it’s also effective. This skill saves a lot of of time without sacrificing information.

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            Also, it has been proven to improve memory. The brain’s performance improves during speed reading, which allows the reader to remember more information than before[2].

            Since speed reading stabilizes the brain, the information is processed faster and more efficiently.

            Believe it or not, this technique leads to improved focus, too. As the brain receives a lot of information during speed reading, there is far less chance of distraction. The brain focuses solely on the job at hand.

            Since the brain is, after all, a muscle, the process of speed reading acts as an exercise. Just like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs exercise to grow stronger, too.

            A focused brain means improved logical thinking. As your brain gets used to receiving and organizing so much information so quickly, your thinking process will become faster. As soon as a problem is thrown at you, your brain will quickly put two and two together. You will be able to retrieve stored information, figure out correlations, and come up with new solutions, all within seconds!

            Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

            Greater Benefits

            With a healthier brain, you can expect better things in other parts of your life, too. A boost in self-esteem is just one of them.

            As you begin to understand information at a faster pace, you will also begin to figure out more opportunities all around you.

            With the ability to deeply understand information in a shorter period of time, your confidence levels will quickly grow.

            Moreover, all the aforementioned benefits will relieve you of stress. With all these advantages, your emotional well-being will be healthier than ever. You’ll feel less stress since your brain will learn to tackle problems efficiently. Speed reading will lead to a relaxed, tension-free lifestyle!

            How to Learn to Speed Read

            Speed reading is a superpower. Fortunately, unlike other superpowers, this one can be learned!

            There are different techniques that can be used to master this skill. Opt for the one that best suits your learning style.

            1. The Pointer Method

            The person who is credited for popularizing speed reading, Evelyn Wood, came up with the pointer method. It is a simple technique in which the reader uses their index finger to slide across the text that they’re reading.

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            As the finger moves, the brain coherently moves along with it. It is an effective technique to keep the eyes focused where the finger goes without causing any distraction.

            Readers have a tendency to back-skip. The pointer method prevents this from happening, thereby saving at least half the reading time.

            2. The Scanning Method

            In this technique, the reader’s eyes move along one part of the page only. This can be the left or right side of the text but is usually the center since that is the most convenient.

            Instead of pacing through the entire text from left to right, the vision shifts from top to bottom.

            This method involves fixation on keywords, such as names, figures, or other specific terms. By doing so, the saccade time is minimized.

            3. Perceptual Expansion

            Generally, a reader focuses on one word at a time. This technique, on the other hand, encourages the brain to read a chunk of words together. In doing so, this method increases the reader’s peripheral vision.

            Here’s the thing: even though the fixation time remains the same with perceptual expansion, the number of words that the eyes fixate on increases.

            Basically, the brain receives 5 times more information within the same amount of time.

            This technique is the hardest to master and takes the most time to learn. You’ll need help from speed reading tools in order to practice the perceptual expansion method.

            However, once you master it, this technique will offer you the fastest reading pace with the maximum knowledge intake.

            The Best Speed Reading Apps

            The easiest tool to aid any process in any part of life these days is your smartphone.

            You can use mobile applications to learn speed reading on the go. It has been proven that regularly practicing speed reading is the fastest way to learn this skill.[3]

            Here are a few great options to look into:

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            1. Reedy

            If you own an Android smartphone, you can download Reedy to your mobile. Otherwise, get the Chrome extension on your laptop to enjoy speed reading with Reedy.

            This app trains readers to read faster by displaying words one by one on the screen. Instead of having to go through lines or long texts, Reedy prepares the user to focus on one word at a time.

            Although this isn’t an effective method to learn speed reading long texts, it is a great way to start.

            2. ReadMe!

            Whether you’re an android or iOS user, you can take advantage of the ReadMe! application. This app even comes with some e-book options to practice speed reading on.

            Start by choosing your desired font size, color, layout, etc. Other than that, there are different reading modes for the user to choose from.

             

            If you want to practice reading sentence by sentence or in short paragraphs, you can choose the focused reading mode.

            The beeline reader mode changes the color of the text to guide the eye to read from the beginning to the end at a certain pace.

            Lastly, there is the spritz mode in which the app focuses on chunks of words at once. This controls the reader’s peripheral vision. However, this mode is not fully available in the free version of the app.

            3. Spreeder

            Spreeder is available on both iOS and Android. However, users may also gain benefits from Spreeder’s website. This application lets the reader paste in any text that they would like to speed read.

            Starting off at a rather low speed, the app flashes words one by one. Gradually, as the user becomes more comfortable, the speed increases.

            Slowly, the user is trained to speed read without having to skip any words.

            This app is different from the rest because it tracks the user’s reading improvements, recording the overall reading time and speed.

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            The Controversy Surrounding Speed Reading

            Truthfully, speed reading does sound too good to be true. It’s hard to believe that it is humanly possible to attain such a fast pace without compromising the quality of information you receive.

            Perhaps as a result, there are people who do not trust the process of speed reading. They believe that when you read through a text at such a high speed, speed readers cannot develop good comprehension.

            It is true that speed reading will be of no use if you do not understand the text you’re reading, no matter how quickly you did it.

            Similarly, if you were to read slowly and still not retain or understand the information you read, that would be useless, too.

            However, there are a few factors to consider here. When reading at a normal pace, there is enough time in between every step of the process for the brain to get distracted.

            Conversely, speed reading leaves behind no time for the brain to focus on something else. It is unlike skimming. No part of the text is skipped, which means that the brain receives every single bit of information.

            If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this video to learn about reading faster:

            Conclusion

            Keeping all of this in mind, speed reading cannot be labeled a hoax or a failure. Science has backed up this technique, and numerous readers have been using this skill to improve their learning ability and reading comprehension, even when reading for pleasure.

            At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to trust this process.

            However, if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities speed reading provides, you will find a world of possibilities opening up to you.

            We live in a fast-paced world. Consuming information faster will help you keep up with that pace and find further success.

            More on How to Read Faster

            Featured photo credit: Blaz Photo via unsplash.com

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