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Have Better Life Productivity With These 7 Tips

Have Better Life Productivity With These 7 Tips
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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