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How to Be More Productive in Anything and Everything You Do

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How to Be More Productive in Anything and Everything You Do

Picture this: Two people—let’s call them Billy and Betty—both work at the same marketing firm. They have the exact same job description and work load and they both sit at their desks and perform pretty much the same sets of tasks. But at the end of the each day, Betty always outperforms Billy. She makes more calls, closes more deals, and delivers better results.

Is Betty smarter than her co-worker? Not really. Is Billy given fewer hours each day? Nope. After all, one of the indisputable laws of the universe is that every person on Earth, regardless of the amount of money they have or where they are in the world, gets 24 hours in each day.

Betty gets more things done each day because she knows how to use her time well. She applies specific productivity techniques and time management strategies that let enable her to get things done quickly and easily.

How would you like to be the Betty of your workplace? Follow the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to becoming more productive and doing more in less time.

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Jot down your goals

Develop the habit of writing down your goals and tasks. Write down your tasks every morning (or the night before) and let that to-do list guide you throughout the day.

Do the same thing at a larger scale. What do you plan to accomplish by the end of the month? Where do you want to be in 6 months or a year’s time? Think about the answers to those questions, cook up a plan on how to achieve them, and put that plan on paper.

Having your goals on paper and keeping them in front of you helps you stay focused on what you need to do. Your to-do list will give your day more structure. It will help keep you on track so you won’t deviate to doing unnecessary tasks or things that aren’t part of your plan.

Break things down

Got a big major task sitting in front of you? Don’t stare helplessly at it. Instead, bring out your (metaphorical) samurai sword and cut that assignment down into bite-sized pieces.

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The key to not getting overwhelmed with the whirlwind of tasks sitting on your plate is to break them down into small, manageable tasks. Focus on one part at a time, and finish doing each part before moving on to the next one.

Think of it this way: If you’re planning a wedding, it wouldn’t be wise to select your officiant, choose a caterer, book your venue, and send out your invitations all in one day right? (Unless you want to go crazy.) Nope, you handle those tasks one by one by taking care of the most pressing ones first, like selecting a venue, before moving on to the next task.

Don’t multi-task

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll get more things done faster if you do them all at the same time. Doing so only leads to confusion and overwhelm so avoid multitasking when you can.

Instead, do only ONE thing at a time and stick to that task until you’re done with it.

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Automate

Make a list of the routine tasks that you perform and see which ones you can automate. For instance, I use a service that automatically shares my latest blog post on Facebook and Twitter, so I don’t have to manually do so.

Get rid of all that clutter

Clutter is one of the top enemies of productivity. All those scattered post-its, paper scraps, and magazines on your desk are distracting you (both at a conscious and subconscious level) and keeping your from getting things done.

A tidy work environment is conducive to productivity. You’ll find that neatness and efficiency go hand-in-hand, so always be vigilant when it comes to cleaning up the clutter around you.

Do tasks in batches

I picked up this tip from Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, and I have to say, it works like a charm. Doing tasks in batches means grouping similar tasks together and performing them within the same time frame.

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For example, when paying your bills, it’s better to round up all your invoices and pay them in one sitting, rather than choosing to pay your phone bill in the morning, your internet bill in the afternoon, and your credit card the next day.

Batching helps you accomplish tasks quickly and more efficiently because it saves your body the time and effort from having to switch gears from one task to the next.

Use tools if you need to

There are numerous productivity tools out there designed to help you save time and get more things done. Check out the productivity category of your app store and see which apps can help you be more efficient.

One of my personal favorites is RescueTime, a software that keeps track of your computer’s activity to help you determine how effective you are in managing your time. Then there’s Evernote, the app that lets me keep save and track my tasks and notes across multiple devices.

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What do you do to stay productive? Do you use any special tools or apps? Share them in the comments below.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer 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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