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5 Productivity Habits That Will Rock Your World

5 Productivity Habits That Will Rock Your World

    A common New Year’s goal is to become more organized or productive and a common complaint is that it is more of a challenge than first anticipated. We all have our personal challenges; there are things we know we should do but simply don’t. Tasks that we ought to do but simply don’t want to. Habits that we want to implement but struggle to apply. Techniques we know we will benefit from, but somehow there never seems to be the time, the discipline or the commitment to follow through.

    The most effective way to make lasting change is to change one thing at a time. Small daily changes will all add up to give you amazing results. If you were to commit to one small change this month, one thing that you could do daily that would have a positive effect on your current level of productivity. After one month this small daily change will have become a habit and then you can move on to make the next change.

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    Here are a few ideas for small changes that if implemented can impact your productivity and rock your world.

    1. Inbox zero

    Having a clear inbox can be a great boost to your personal productivity and sense of control. It may feel like an enormous challenge to start but little by little you can work through even the largest of inboxes and reduce it until you can get to zero each day. I like to use the Barbara Hemphill FAT method. File, Act or Trash. Every day when it is time to process your email, make a decision based on the following criteria:

    File: If the email does not require any action but you need to hold it for reference then it should be filed. I used to file my emails carefully in reference folders, so that I can easily retrieve them when required, but what I have found is that it takes less time doing a search when I need to retrieve the email than it does to decide where to file the email in the first place so I have started to dump the majority of processed emails in the same folder. I keep a few folders for important accounts or for occasions when I know I will need an email trail.

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    Act: Follow David Allen’s rule and if the task can be done is less than two minutes do it now, if not the task will either need to go into your calendar or be added to your task list.

    Trash: If you have completed any action required and you don’t need to keep the email for reference, click on the delete button. I know many people who have an allergy to the delete button, but this allergy can be easily overcome with usage. Don’t keep an email because it has a password or a telephone number or address in it. Add all contact details into contacts. Use notes in your email program for passwords or other bits of information you would like to store.

    2. Filing

    Spend some time each day filing. Start by purging your existing files and eliminate all the unnecessary; old documents no longer required. Check your revenue requirements for how long documents legally need to be stored. Anything older should go to trash. Have a file on your desk for filing. Take 10 minutes each day to file. Make sure you are in possession of a labeller and some manilla folders to ensure each folder is clearly labelled. Until you have used a labeller for filing you will not realize the benefit. It makes document retrieval so much quicker when you are searching for a document or folder. It is well worth the investment. Keep your filing cabinet close to you desk. This will ensure that filing doesn’t become a bigger chore that it is already.

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    3. De-clutter

    Get into the invaluable habit of cleaning and clearing everyday. Clutter delays action; it disables and distracts. Clear a little everyday. Take my mother’s advice and clean as you go. For some of us this doesn’t come easy but we also know the lightness and clarity that comes from an ordered physical space. Try some of the following, clear your desk for 10 minutes before leaving the office everyday, Wash the dishes after dinner each evening, don’t leave documents and papers lying around put them all in an in-tray to be processed daily.

    4. Exercise

    Taking a walk, going for a run, swimming, or cycling everyday will do wonders for your mental health and your personal productivity. The extra energy and oxygen to the brain helps to clear the mind and allows for better mental function. Exercise is one of Richard Branson’s productivity tips. Make it a habit.

    5. Write everything down

    Don’t use your head for mental storage, it wasn’t made for that purpose. David Allen says “Use your head to have ideas not to hold them”. In order to be able to focus it is essential not to be carrying around your tasks and responsibilities in your head. Not only does it cloud your thinking, but you risk missing appointments or forgetting to do things that need to be done. Get into the daily habit of getting everything out of your head. When you have it down on paper you can organize it into your system; appointments to your calendar and tasks to your task list. Implementing this habit will reduce your stress and increase your efficiency in dealing with current tasks.

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    Each one of these new habits will take you to higher level of productivity and with commitment closer to your personal success.

    (Photo credit: model of Earth via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on July 23, 2019

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

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    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

    More to Help You Stay Motivated

    Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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