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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)

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    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 April 22, 2021

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

    Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

    In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

    One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

    Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

    Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

    Motivation Is Not the Answer

    How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

    If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

    We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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    Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

    Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

    How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

    Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

    1. Define What a Win Looks Like

    In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

    Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

    Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

    When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

    4 Steps to Define a Win
    • Know the outcome you desire.
    • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
    • Write the outcome down.
    • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

    Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

    As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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    Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

    2. Evaluate Your Activity

    Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

    Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

    Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

    Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

    • Do now
    • Plan to do it later
    • Delegate to someone else
    • Delete it

    Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

    • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
    • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
    • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
    • Does this activity have to be done at all?

    Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

    3. Prioritize Your Calendar

    If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

    First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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    It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

    “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

    Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

    “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

    Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

    It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

    4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

    We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

    Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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    Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

      But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

      “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

      Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

      Use these questions to reflect on your day:

      • What went well?
      • What didn’t go well?
      • What can I change?
      • What do I need to start doing?
      • What do I need to stop doing?

      The Bottom Line

      Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

      Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

      “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

      Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

      That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

      More on Creating Healthy Routines

      Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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