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How to Be More Productive in Anything and Everything You Do

How to Be More Productive in Anything and Everything You Do
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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 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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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