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7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity

7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity

    We’re all busy people. Some people, though, are busier than we’d ever imagine, yet are somehow are able to stay on top of things so well they seem to go about their life in a lackadaisical manner, while we struggle to produce good work and maintain a household.

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    What’s their secret? Why do they seem to have everything figured out; always unstressed and ready to go?

    Leverage.

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    Sure, tactics like maintaining “to-do” lists (or “done” lists), setting goals, and decreasing the amount and time of meetings can all help. But really, these are all tactics that fall into a strategical category of leveraging our time.

    Leverage is an awesome force–it allows us to multiply our abilities by applying a little pressure to something.

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    In life, we can leverage our time, and here are seven ways to do just that:

    1. Get it out of your head. If it’s in your head, chances are it’s taking up valuable storage space that you can be using to get things done. Every time you think of a task, to-do item, or idea, write it down. Getting it out of your head not only lets you focus energy elsewhere, rather than trying to remember things, it also helps you clear your mind so you’ll be more effective when you do try to tackle that massive list of chores.
    2. Organize your day. Do you go to work and just “jump in” to all the work that’s in front of you? Try this instead: organize your day into chunks of time–10-15 minutes for emails, an hour for that large project due at the end of the month, etc. Focus on knocking out the most important things on the list, earlier in the day to increase your productivity. As your day draws to a close, the easier or shorter items on the list will require less effort, allowing you to de-stress at the same time.
    3. Use other people’s time. One of my favorite entrepreneurial tactics is leveraging other people. This doesn’t mean using other people–no one likes that. Leveraging other people means empowering and allowing coworkers and employees, or even outsourced help, to help you with some of your routine tasks throughout the day. If you run a website, consider hiring someone to maintain the server, site, comments, and emails.
    4. Focus on the prize, but work in “chunks.” Don’t let the looming pressures of finishing that massive report get you down. Focus on how awesome it will be, but actively seek to “chunk” it into manageable parts that you can work on steadily. Give yourself a small reward every time you finish a chunk, and yes–give yourself a large reward when you finish the final project!
    5. Allow time for yourself. One of the most overlooked aspects of the American working life, leading to stressful people who are spread too thin, is giving time to yourself. Plan and write down a segment of each day that you can take 10-15 minutes (at least) to just unwind and do nothing. Don’t think, don’t check email, don’t call your friend. Just sit, relax, and let your mind recharge. You’ll come back refreshed and more able to leverage the time you have. In addition, take a breather for one day a week or every other week if possible to increase your productivity. Do some easier tasks or the “fun” parts of your work, but don’t let yourself get carried away turning Sunday afternoon into another workday.
    6. Use technology. Technology is an evil temptress for productivity–it can suck us in with promises of simple task management, planning, and keeping us in the loop. But we can easily get caught in the vortex of more, more, more tech. Use a simple task manager if it suits your work style, but give yourself limits on social networking sites, checking email, and even text messaging (if that’s your thing). Ironically, there are really cool apps and software packages that help increase your productivity, so be careful and mindful of how you’re leveraging their help.
    7. Keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop producing good stuff. Keep reading, trying new things, and implementing them. To leverage your ability to read, start listening to audiobooks in the car to and from work, and during workouts. Don’t let your RSS feed reader bog you down during the day, but make sure you keep tabs on your favorite blogs and news sites a few times a week, if for no other reason than inspiration.

    Leverage is only useful to us if we’re using it in the right direction: if we let the pressures of our lives get to us so much that we feel like we’re drowning, leverage is to blame. But it’s leverage in the wrong direction.

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    Use leverage the right way and you can free yourself from the mundane things that you never want to do, allowing yourself the ability to create the things that motivate you, inspire you, and keep you pushing toward the weekend.

    Or a better tomorrow!

    What about you? What are some other ways you’ve been able to leverage your time at work, at home, or elsewhere in your life to give you more “you” time?

    (Photo credit: Close Up of Newton’s Cradle via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, 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.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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