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Have Better Life Productivity With These 7 Tips

Have Better Life Productivity With These 7 Tips

Productivity in life seems to be something that we all struggle with and strive for. Even people who are well-organized and focused are always in pursuit of strategies to make their time even more productive, allowing them to get more done each day and to enjoy their non-working time more.

These seven tips will allow you to have better life productivity starting as soon as you implement them. And they’re easy enough to start now and to make into regular habits, so why not give it a try today?

List everything you need to do

I’m a big fan of paper lists, but you can use a to do app on your smartphone or tablet, or even just work in a notes or word processing document.

Write down everything that’s on your mind that needs to be done, from that phone call you need to make to finishing a project and getting a haircut. Whatever has been weighing on your mind, whatever deadlines you have looming, get it all down.

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We think that we’ll remember everything we need to do, but it isn’t always the case. Writing things down frees up your mind to work on the tasks and problems before you instead of just remembering that they exist.

Prioritize and pare down

Now that you know what needs to be done, how do you know where to start? First, look at the list with an eye toward things you can ignore, eliminate or delegate. Sometimes things are nagging us that aren’t really that important, and consciously letting go of those tasks can be really freeing.

Once you’ve dealt with any items you can delegate or simply cross off your list altogether, it’s time to prioritize what’s left. What needs to be done by a certain time or in a certain order? What do you really want to do? What will it make you feel great to have finished? There are lots of different ways to prioritize, including making a numbered list or lumping tasks into categories like “urgent,” “important” and “not pressing,” but this step is essential to making your life more productive.

Set a time limit

When you have your priorities in order, the next key is to think about how much time each task–or part of each task if it’s a big job you can’t do in a day–ought to take. Be realistic, but don’t allow yourself more time than you should reasonably expect to need.

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For example, I might set aside five minutes for an email response, 10 minutes for social media promotion, and an hour to write a blog post. Sometimes I’ll give myself just a little less time than I really think I need, set a timer and race myself. Often I’ll finish before the bell rings.

Do the most challenging thing first

The thing it would make you feel great to have finished is often a good place to start, because that task that has been nagging you or that feels like a really big challenge will end up being the thing that makes you feel super productive once you’ve finished it.

Often you’ll be surprised by how little time that supposedly awful thing actually takes. For instance, when we moved I put off changing my address on my voter registration just about as long as I possibly could because I was sure it would be a hassle. In reality, it took 26 seconds on the phone.

I know I spent a lot more that 26 seconds thinking about it and avoiding it, so attack the challenging thing first and you will feel amazingly energized for the next task.

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Automate where you can

Today’s world makes it easy to automate and schedule recurring items in advance. Whether that means having bills paid automatically, putting money into savings as soon as your paycheck comes in, or setting reminders in your electronic calendar to replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and schedule doctor’s appointments, the less you have to think about those sorts of tasks the less you will worry about them.

I always forget which months I’m supposed to pay estimated taxes, for example, so this year I’m adding reminders to my calendar so I won’t have to think about it other than those four times a year. Getting things out of your brain is one of the best ways to have better life productivity.

Set up today for success tomorrow

A big part of leading a productive life is setting yourself up for success. How you finish your day is just as important as how you start it.

At work, that might mean cleaning off your desk and setting your top three priorities for the next day, or doing one more of those nagging little things so you can finish the day off feeling productive and successful.

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At home it might involve setting out your clothes for the next day, programming the coffee pot and having a plan for breakfast and lunch. You could also write down what you’re grateful for or the best thing that happened that day to remind you of the high points.

Learn to say no

To end almost where we started, one easy way to feel more productive is to make sure some things never make it to your to do list at all. If you know what’s really important in your life, you will know what to focus on and what you can so no to–whether that’s a committee assignment for your child’s school, an offer to help a friend with work you’d usually get paid for, even a job–and really honor those choices.

The last thing any of us wants is to die with regret because we let those ultimately unimportant, small things keep us from what was really important to us. And being more productive, in the right ways and with the right things, allows us more time for those things that are really important.

Featured photo credit: Events Calendar/Yandle via flickr.com

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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