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9 Important Productivity Habits My Parents Taught Me When I Was Small

9 Important Productivity Habits My Parents Taught Me When I Was Small

My mother taught me more about productivity, the power of consistency, and making a positive impact in the world than any other person in my life. Someday, I hope I can be half the person she is. To honor the lessons she and my father introduced to me, I compiled these nine important productivity habits my parents taught me. Enjoy!

1. Stop trusting yourself to remember stuff.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you go to the store and tell yourself, “I don’t need a grocery shopping list! I’ll remember everything I need”, but then within mere moments of getting home, you realize you forgot something so important that you have to go back to the store again (like the toilet paper you just ran out of, or the olive oil you need for dinner preparation). Those return trips to the store can add up, taking time away from the important things, so write it down.

Or, maybe you’re at work and it’s a slow day so you say, “I don’t need a To-Do List! I’ve got plenty of time finish everything I need to do”, but then as soon as you get home, you remember that customer you were supposed to call, or that really important report you told your manager you would complete (but failed to start). Your home should be a place that is free from work-related stress, so write down your top three priorities every day and make sure they get done.

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2. Put things back where they belong.

There are few things more stressful than losing your keys when you’re already running late for work, scrambling to find a misplaced pacifier for your screaming baby or being unable to locate a bottle opener to pop open that delicious craft beer you’re certain will impress the gorgeous lady or handsome gentleman seated on your sofa after a first date that was smooth-sailing until now. I know it’s easy to become absent-minded and put an essential item in a strange place (one time I couldn’t find a box of cereal and ended up finally locating it in my refrigerator; no, I have no idea what I was thinking), but make a conscious effort to keep your phone/keys/purse/wallet/medicine in a single place, because it’s easy to get stressed out when things aren’t where they belong.

3. Get ready for big trips the night before.

Do you really trust yourself to pack for a week(s)-long trip during a single chaotic morning? If you’re going somewhere amazing like Disney, you’re going to be too excited to sleep anyway, so you might as well pack your stuff the night before. Go ahead and get everything ready minus the toothbrush and deodorant that you will (hopefullyuse one more time before you go on your trip. Then all you have to do is perform a final scan to make sure you’re not forgetting something (make sure you have a phone charger, bikini or swim trunks, water bottle, sunscreen if applicable and a few toys to distract your child while you travel!).

Please Note: You could also use this productivity habit to get fit and healthy by packing your gym clothes every night before you go to bed, making it much less likely you’ll “wake up too late” and skip your workouts. For bonus points, lay your gym shoes and socks right next to your bed to make your life super-easy. If you’d like to check out more healthy habits that will save you money, click here.

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4. Expect the unexpected.

Believe it or not, you can’t control every event in your life. Traffic jams, flat tires, wrong turns and car accidents do happen. If you are going to an interview for your dream job, a plane flight to a tropical destination or (insert your major life event here), then you better leave with so much time to spare that nothing is left to chance. Just pack a book for your journey, because if everything goes as planned and you arrive really early, you won’t have to just sit and twiddle your thumbs, but rather can escape into another world and unwind.

5. The only dumb question is the unasked one.

It is absurd to be afraid of asking a “dumb question”. No manager or supervisor or partner worth having will look down on you for asking questions that will help you perform better. Would you rather be humble enough to ask for help if you need clarification; or be arrogant enough to risk doing something incorrectly, which will just waste your time (since you’ll probably have to do it over again), and make you look like you’re unable to deliver as instructed?

6. Sometimes you just need to go outside and play.

Have you ever tried to force yourself to write an essay or prepare a report while you were so exhausted that you couldn’t think straight? If so, you surely know that it takes a lot longer to complete a task when your brain isn’t operating anywhere near its full capacity. This isn’t an excuse to put off something you need to do, because there is no denying that an all-nighter is sometimes a necessary evil when you just have to push through, but you are not the Energizer Bunny. No matter how busy you might be, sometimes you just need to walk away, because life can quickly become a miserable thing without fun and play.

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7. No matter how busy you might be, never forget about the people you care about.

What is the point of achieving success if you don’t celebrate afterwards with the people you care about? Time alone is necessary for your mental health, but we all have social needs, so don’t forget about the people who play the lead roles in the story of your life. Time with them will refresh and energize you, making it easier for you to keep moving forward.

8. If you keep taking small steps to your goal, you will reach your destination.

My mother and I have traveled to most of the fifty states in the U.S. Am I spoiled? Guilty as charged (what can I say, it’s good to be an only child!). But a lot of folks assume this also means I come from a rich family, which is hilarious to me, because it’s just not a part of my reality. We could afford to do these things, because my mom was forward-thinking (and generous) enough to save money for a very long time. A few dollars saved from a single paycheck might not look like a lot, but that same few dollars could turn into a Disney vacation within a year or two if you stick with your savings plan consistently. Would you rather cut out those Starbucks trips and soft drink purchases now, or travel the world later? I don’t know about you, but I’m 100% choosing the latter.

9. All people should be treated with courtesy and respect.

These productivity habits are a great way to boost your efficiency at work, but all of the productivity in the world can’t save you if you are lacking in emotional intelligence. If you can’t respect the people you work with, don’t expect your career to go very far, because success is reserved for team-players only.

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What productivity habits did your parents teach you as a child? Please share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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