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35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity

35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity

    When people first begin exploring the world of personal productivity and task management, they either don’t know where to start or can’t seem to find their footing when they do. If you’re one of these people, I’ve assembled 35 quick and simple tips for better productivity – ones you can use right away and start to see results in your work and in your life. You don’t need to take on all 35 (in fact, I’d recommend taking on far less and returning to this piece as you feel comfortable taking on more), but each of them can be used to provide you with a sample of what improved productivity feels like.

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    Let’s get started…

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    1. Don’t use email as a task manager. Email is meant as a form of communication, not as a task manager. The reason we got lost in our email inboxes is because we use them for more than what they were intended to be used for. You don’t spend hours listening to your voicemail or waiting for the postman to drop off a letter, nor do you slap sticky notes on your phone to represent every task associated with every phone call you receive. Use you email app for email; use a task management app for managing your tasks.
    2. Capture some things, but not everything. It’s a great idea to capture your thoughts, ideas and potential tasks as they come up, but if you can do something in the moment then don’t bother writing it down. Sure, it always feels good to check off a box, but if you don’t need to create the box to check off because you can do it right now – then why waste your time? It’s a false sense of accomplishment when you do that.
    3. Ritualize regularly. By building rituals for your morning, evening, your commute to work, and other regular times, you create a habit that is easier to stick with. You also end up freeing upi your mind to do heavier lifting, because it already knows what it needs to do as part of a ritual. Ritualize what you can reasonably ritualize. It’s a great time-saver.
    4. Keep a pen and paper with you at all times. It might be a pain, but when you need to capture something an your electronic device fails you, you’ll be glad you’ve got ’em.
    5. Don’t multitask. Work on one task at a time. Multitasking is a myth, and trying to do it only splits your focus.
    6. Close the door. If you need to eliminate both diruptions and distractions, close the door to your work area. If you don’t have a door, then put on some headphones and create that quietude instead.
    7. Open the window. This may seem counter-intuitive considering the last tip, but fresh air is never a bad thing. As long as you can stay focused and productive, give yourself some outdoor air to breathe in as you work.
    8. Go for a walk. Going for a walk (without earbuds clamped to your ears) is a great way to clear your head and regain focus so you can get back at it. Use a treadmill if the weather isn’t cooperating – but getting outdoors is always preferable.
    9. Take breaks. While i’m not a fan of The Pomodoro Technique, I am a fan of taking breaks. Your brain and body need to rest and recharge so you can get the most out of them on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter how you choose to spend your breaks, but make sure to take them every few hours. It will show in your work if you do – and if you don’t.
    10. Eat lunch away from your work area. Never eat at your workstation. Not only does it keep you from that time off I just mentioned, but it also invites coworkers the opportuntiy to distract you and possibly even heap more work your way. Go to the lunchroom area or get out of the office.
    11. Drink plenty of water. Your mind and body need water more than it needs the breaks. Just as water is refreshing to drink, it refreshes the mind and body so it can continue to perform at a high level. Drink the recommended amount per day – which can vary depending on the person, according to this article at The Mayo Clinic.
    12. Focus on tasks, not on time. There is a big difference between task management and time management. When you focus on time, the number of hours you have in the day seem small by comparison to what you have to accomplish. But if you focus on tasks, then you look at the stuff you need to do and prioritize it accordingly, and time becomes less of a factor – esppecially if you avoid getting caught in “deadline debt”. You’ll also end up doing the most important stuff more often when you focus on the tasks at hand instead of the time on hand.
    13. Use a meaningful object to keep you on track. I have a metal plaque that I received in my limited edition “Do The Work” book by Steven Pressfield in plain view as I write this. I also have my Vision bobblehead next to it and wear my Green Lantern ring on my finger – which I only wear when I write – all because they have meaning to me and add meaning to the tasks and projects I work on as a writer and “productivityist”. Sure, my choices of objects may be incredibly geeky, but they are mine and they work for me. Find one(s) that work for you and they may very well play a role in boosting your productivity.
    14. Be nimble. Rigidity is the enemy of productivity. You have to be able to go with the flow. Otherwise, you’ll end up miserable – because not everything will go according to plan.
    15. Don’t fight your body clock. Don’t try to become and early riser if you have a history of being a night owl. And don’t stay up late to get stuff done if you know your mind and body shuts down early so that you can get up as the sun rises. Just like you need to be nimble with what life throws at you, you need to be able to work with the way you are. I’m a night owl. I tried to become an early riser (especially now that I have kids) and it didn’t work out so well. Play to your strengths and listen to your body clock. It knows you pretty well.
    16. Get plenty of rest. This goes hand in hand with the above tip. If you are hitting the sack at 1 a.m., don’t get up at 5 or 6 a.m. the next day. Get your sleep, however you can and whenver you can. Your mind and body needs it to thrive.
    17. Be social. Get out and be around people regularly. They’ll offer you some great ideas and insights, you’ll have a great time, and it can be a form of relaxation.
    18. Exercise and eat right. If you want your mind and body to work hard, you have to prepare it as such. Exercise regularly and eat right and your mind and body will reward you for it.
    19. Laugh. Laughter relieves stress and can actually boost productivity, according to this article from AOL Jobs. Funny, isn’t it?
    20. Explore. Learn new things and explore them and yourself. Look around, Pay attention. IT not only will give you a break from that task list, but it may provide you with some insight into your work that you hadn’t come up with yourself.
    21. Read often. Not just blogs like Lifehack, but books. (Maybe even ones made of paper.) Fiction and non-fiction, read a variety of material. It expands the mind and you’ll grow as a person. And it also is a great thing to do while taking one of those breaks I mentioned.
    22. Write often. Capture your thoughts at the end of the day or week. Keep a journal. Just as reading promotes growth, so does writing.
    23. Use a system. You need to have a system or structure in place to be at your most productive. It gives you a touchstone – something you can go back to when you go off track. There are numerous methods out there, but pick one (or a hybrid of several) that works for you and stick with it. Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo talked about productivity systems on a recent episode of their podcast Home Work – give it a listen for ideas that may help you build a system and structure of your own.
    24. Spend time alone. There’s going to be no better opportunity for focus, clarity and quiet for you then when you go it alone. Spend time with yourself and your thoughts. It’ll help you get in touch with what you really want – and how to get there in a way that works best for you.
    25. Get away. This would be a big break – a vacation. Get out of your city or town and go somewhere that you’ll enjoy to recharge your batteries. Then you’ll be fired up and ready to go when you return.
    26. Visualize where you want to be. You won’t get to where you want to be without knowing what that is. Working at being more productive just for productivity’s sake isn’t the point; you need to have an overarching vision in mind. Put that in your mind first and work from there and you’ll put yourself in a far better position to get to where you really want to be.
    27. Plan ahead. In order to avoid managing time and managing tasks instead, every date must be a “do date”. The only way that can happen is through planning ahead. Take the time to do this (ideally after nailing down the vision you’re looking to aspire toward) and you’ll not only be able to produce with less stress in your life, but you’ll be able to be far more nimble than if you don’t.
    28. Curate your notifications. Take a good look at what notifications you’re getting and figure out what ones are really important. Then look at them again and evaluate once more. Then turn off those that don’t need your immediate attention in order to minimize disruption and maximize productivity.
    29. Check email less often. The postman only shows up once per day to deliver your mail, right? I’m not saying you should check email only once per day, but 3 times is what you should shoot for. Remind those that are using email as an instant messenger or (gasp!) ap hone that they should use those platforms instead since you’re not checking email as often. A service like AwayFind is perfect to make sure you don’t miss out on important emails while not allowing your email inbox to rule you in the process.
    30. Set things up rather than setting things aside.When you’ve installed a new app that is supposed to make things more efficient and effective or have read about a new strategy that would do the same, don’t start using it without setting it up properly first. By setting aside the setup process, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. Spend the time on the initial setup process now so that you can save even more time later.
    31. Digest some podcasts. Much like reading books, there are some really informative podcasts out there. Listen to them during your commute or while you’re doing some mundane task like mowing the lawn or washing dishes 9like i do). You’ll likely learn something and be entertained at the same time.
    32. Embrace downtime. Doing nothing can often make the next time you’re doing something that much better. When you have downtime, embrace it. Don’t try to fill it.
    33. Develop a budget. Do this for your money and your mind. Be honest with what your mind can take on over a month (or even a year) and budget the mental space accordingly. This is a great way to stave off overwhelm and get the best results out of what you actually end up doing.
    34. Stick with it, despite all other thinking to the contrary. There are times when you’re going to think that using a task manager is a waste of time, that doing a regular review isn’t worhtwhile and you’ll even foll yourself into thinking that you’re not getting any more done than you were before. That’s nonsense. Others will try to convince you of this as well from time to time. Keep those thoughts at bay. Stick with it and you will reap the rewards of better productivity over the short and long term.
    35. Keep track. Use lists and review them. You need to keep track of where you’ve been and where you are so that you can have a bette sense of how to get where you want to go.

    (Photo credit: Productivity Road Sign via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

    I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

    Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

    How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

    Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

    Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

    At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

    Want to know the good news?

    No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

    All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

    1. Develop a Positive Mindset

    If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

    That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

    Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

    Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

    Absolutely!

    But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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    Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

    Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

    It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

    “I’m not smart enough to…”

    “I don’t have enough experience to…”

    “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

    When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

    If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

    When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

    • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
    • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
    • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

    Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

    Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

    All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

    But this isn’t true!

    If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

    If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

    When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

    Ditch the Dwelling

    Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

    Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

    When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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    But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

    The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

    Easier said than done, right? Try these:

    1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
    2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
    3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
    4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

    The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

    Be Patient about the Process

    No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

    Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

    If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

    To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

    2. Connect with Your Purpose

    One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

    If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

    Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

    Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

    Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

    “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

    One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

    Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

    Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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    Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

    But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

    If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

    3. Find Strength in Unity

    The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

    Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

    Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

    If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

    If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

    Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

    The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

    A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

    If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

    Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

    Recruit Some Cheerleaders

    If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

    Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

    As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

    Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

    Form an Accountability Group

    Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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    Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

    Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

    Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

    Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

    4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

    Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

    As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

    We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

    When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

    • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
    • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
    • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
    • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
    • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
    • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

    Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

    Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Tying it All Together

    Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

    But here’s the bottom line:

    A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

    No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

    More About Mental Strength

    Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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