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10 Simple Ways to Double Your Productivity

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10 Simple Ways to Double Your Productivity

I rarely find anything more satisfying than ending my day feeling like I accomplished what I wanted—apart from accomplishing more than I expected. Time is the resource we desire the most of, but we handle it so badly. Many of us in our youth never really accept that deep-down knowledge that the four hours spent doing quite literally nothing are hours we will fight tooth and nail to gain back. But we never will; time doesn’t work like that.

Being productive sounds daunting and downright preachy to many. It’s pushy. It’s guilt-ridden. I could give you an infinite amount of stories about how people who know they have no time left have accomplished so much with so little. But that’s not what you need to hear.

It’s not hard to make incremental moves towards freeing up hours of your day—hours that turn into days and weeks that you can proudly say you earned. Before you step onto the highway of Evernote, GTD and Scrum, start the little things that build towards a real and permanent change in your use of time.

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1. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk

Every day on the way home I see the same people queuing at the supermarket at 6pm with one or two items essential for making their dinner. The queue at this hour is unbelievable—at least 15mins, but usually more. Add that up over 5 days and in just a single week you’ve spent at least 1hour 15mins in a bloody SUPERMARKET QUEUE! Do math and count how many days a year that is. Then there comes the food prep. It’s ridiculously simple to add or double the ingredients and store it for eating the next day or day after. I usually bulk-cook on Monday (for Wednesday) and Tuesday (for Thursday) and so on. This way I don’t have to eat the same thing two days in a row, AND I only need to cook every second day. That’s 2 – 3 hours a week saved, plus half the washing-up to do.

Action: Do a huge shop one day a week for perishables and once a month for non-perishables. Buy foods that can make multiple kinds of dishes so you don’t get bored. Don’t choose dishes where you have to buy specific ingredients just for one serving. Go with a potato dish, a pasta dish, a salad dish, a fish dish, a rice dish, a pie dish, a wrap dish etc. that involve ingredients that can be mixed and matched.

2. Keep spares in strategic places

…and I don’t just mean a spare tyre. This is unique to everyone, and I will describe how I do it for myself. Have an overnight bag of  essentials in the boot of your car or under the desk at work. I would also recommend a change of top/shirt in case of on-the-spot meetings, a spontaneous night out or a spilt coffee. Nothing stops my productivity more than the stress of feeling unprepared.

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Action: Identify three or four repeated instances in the past where you had to rush off to buy something, or you were otherwise caught unawares. Prepare something to solve that issue.

3. Use your commuting time wisely

Commuting time is useful time. It is not just about the trip from A to B’; trip time of over 15mins is especially easy to convert to productivity if you have the equipment.

With your smartphone, get a bunch of emails out of the way, set up social media content, browse for info/content to read later or create your to-do list for the day on whichever app you use. A trusty Moleskin diary can also be used to map out your day and maximise the use of it. By the time you hit the office you’ll be ready to hot the ground running.

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4. Take breaks

When you are setting up your to-do list for the day remember to place breaks at regular intervals to refresh your mind. Be strict about ensuring you get enough stops to re-energise your thoughts. 90 minute sprints with a 5 – 10min break work really well. It depends on your task, of course, to know what is possible. Just don’t make it a one-hour break after an eight hour marathon—that is counter-productive!

5. Regular sleeping hours

Not to be an old granny… but I find how screwed up my to-dos can get once the routine has been upset. Working whilst tired is not fun, and we’d all rather be happy at our jobs. Being rested is a major contribution to the happiness of our jobs. And the quality. I’m not against a good party—hell, we need to cut loose every now and again! Pro tip: start the cocktails earlier, finish earlier, and things will work out better than a late-night collapse of exhaustion into bed :)

6. Eat well: no highs or lows, just steady energy!

The stench of a vacuum-packed microwaved curry often hangs around the office kitchen space. One glance at the label is enough to give anyone the jitters, which is probably why they are bought guiltily and the wrapping hastily ripped off. Do your utmost to make them an honest once-off. The salt content alone will drive your blood pressure through the roof, let alone all the other rubbish. Keep snacks like raisins, apricots, fruit and nuts nearby (yes, to stop you from popping out for a bag of fries as a quick fix!) and bring bottles of juice and yoghurt to change up the tastes. And yes—bring a salad for lunch!

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7. Organize as you go

I don’t mind labelling emails as they come in, but sit me down to 100 for labeling and I get seriously cranky! To make a comparison, it’s more daunting to clean a week’s worth of pots and pans at once than to simply do the dishes daily. Do all that little stuff in chunks during your day and save yourself the mountain of a repetitive mundane task once a week.

8. Add positivity: celebrate the little achievements

There’s nothing that gives a person more energy than feeling like they have accomplished something. Milestones give hope and satisfaction in a very personal way, and the good feelings influence our actions. Personally, I don’t have many huge accomplishments to celebrate every week, but I do have little milestones that I give myself a pat on the back for. Completing a part of a project, passing an exam, losing weight at the gym… it doesn’t matter. You did it! Remember to congratulate those around you for their achievements too. It may well brighten their day.

9. Turn the wifi off

If blocking software doesn’t work for you, get the router plugged out of the wall. If you work a lot on the internet, this can be tough. If you have an offline option for the tools you use, it might just be that you need to spend a portion of your time in technological isolation so as not to get distracted.

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You can handle being off the internet for a few hours, I promise :)

10. Tell yourself that you can do it

A simple but oft-overlooked productivity booster is convincing yourself that you can do it. Demotivation and low confidence are productivity blockers that you yourself can overcome. As someone once put it to me “How hard can it be—people do this [task] every day!” He was absolutely right. If you do find yourself in over your head on a task, and you truly do not possess the required skills to do it (like when I tried to rewire a socket…) let it go. Do some research or find a colleague who can get it done.

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Andrea Francis

Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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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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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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