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A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity

A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity


    When you are faced with 101 things to do in a day, productivity and streamlining processes becomes essential. One way to optimize productivity is to use routines.

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    Doing things in routines allows you to do them quickly with a minimum of thought. You can group several similar tasks, or tasks that need to be done concurrently or sequentially into a routine so that you do them consistently and efficiently. This works very well for things that need to get done daily, and chances are you already have a routine for your personal hygiene, such as: shower, brush teeth, do hair.

    When you take a little time to create a routine for a daily task, you can consider the best placement of items, where to keep supplies/equipment or how to declutter your workspace and keep it primed for that daily task. For less frequent jobs, you can create the best way to quickly convert your workspace for that task.

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    Is there something important in your life that you wish you did more often or more consistently? Make a routine for it, and tie it into something essential or something you naturally do often. For example, if you want to exercise more often, why not group it with your daily routine of going to a coffee shop for that mochaccino you find you need every day! Re-jig your morning routine to include a quick, light bite to eat and a big drink of water, jump into your workout clothes, grab the bag of street clothes you packed the night before, head to the gym, do a fast-and-intense workout (Crossfit is excellent for that), do all your personal hygiene at the gym, get dressed, drink a protein drink, and then head to your favourite coffee shop on the way to work (or to start your day). In this way, you have streamlined your process for exercising and tacked it onto an already established routine.

    Let’s look at something you would like to do weekly. How about calling your grandma? Every time you visit, you vow to call more often, but then seem to forget. You feel it’s important, but somehow it never gets done. Why not create a routine for several weekly things, to group them together and streamline your processes? You might try something like calling your grandma every Saturday morning, right after you tidy the phone desk — you can water the plants and wipe down the bathroom sink while you chat.

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    Everything you consider *important* should be made into a routine. You are far more likely to do something when it’s a routine, and therefore far more likely to do the important things.

    What about something you find takes too much time, like checking Facebook or email? Create a routine for it. You check your Facebook while the coffee brews and when it’s done, so is your FB time. Close the tab, walk away. Email is tougher to tackle, but luckily, Lifehack has a new Lifehack Lesson for that!

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    Do you feel like your life is too routine already, and you don’t want to add more? The routine of life can sometimes get us down, no question. Why not add some fun routines? You could give yourself one or two nights a week do something you enjoy, and you wouldn’t have to pre-plan exactly what it would be; if the weather’s nice, it could be a bike ride in the river valley, and if it’s rainy, you work on a favourite hobby or go out with a friend. Perhaps there’s a weekly meetup you could join, with people with similar interests. Maybe your life is so routine, you’d like to try something really different or challenging — volunteer at a soup kitchen, go rock climbing, or join a volunteer fire department (if possible). I know being on the fire department certainly ruffles up the boredom in my life!

    No matter how you do it, making routines for the important things can really streamline your productivity and make sure you stop wasting time, too.

    (Photo credit: Full Potential Speedometer via Shutterstock)

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    Teresa Griffith

    Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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