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How to Boost Your Productivity with Banished Tasks

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How to Boost Your Productivity with Banished Tasks

We live in a world full of distractions.

If you take a moment to sit back and take stock of what can pull you away from productivity, you’d probably be amazed. Here’s a brief list:

  1. Television
  2. Emails
  3. Social media
  4. Blogs
  5. YouTube

As a freelance blogger, I probably have more potential distractions that most during my working day at home. My life revolves around instant gratification – whether it be emails, blog comments, social media, or something else entirely.

Because my livelihood essentially relies upon how efficiently I produce my work without distraction, I have been forced into a situation where productivity is more than a convenience issue – it defines my future wealth.

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Quite the motivator, no? With that in mind, I want to share with you one of the most powerful tools I have in my armory for remaining focused and productive during my working day.

Banished Tasks

As the name suggests, banished tasks are simply things that you are not allowed to do within your normal working hours.

The definition of “normal working hours” is completely individual to you. For me, it is the hours in which I am blogging for clients. For you, it may be the 8 hours you spend at work, or the 2 hours you spend every the evening working on your own business.

The point is this – there are hours in your day where you should be working as efficiently as possible. In order for you to work efficiently, you must banish all tasks that fall into any of the three following categories:

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  1. Those tasks that do not directly benefit what you are trying to achieve in your normal working hours
  2. Those tasks that you would be happy to do in your “off” time
  3. Those tasks that you can multitask in your “off” time

    Let me give you some examples. I do not absent-mindedly surf theChive during my normal working hours, because it does not directly benefit what I am trying to achieve (first category). I do not analyze my blog’s analytics during my normal working hours, because I’d happily do that in my off time (second category). I do not handle “low priority” emails during my normal working hours, because I can do that whilst I’m watching the television in the evening (third category).

    You may categorize your tasks in a slightly different manner, but you get the idea. Beyond avoiding the obvious (like browsing your friends’ updates on Facebook), the key is to remove those time sucks that make you feel like you’re being productive, when you’re not. If you do that, all you’re left with is a creamy core of productive goodness.

    Discipline is Key

    Whilst you can remove the temptation of some banished tasks, others will be a little more difficult to avoid.

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    For instance, I make a point of not checking emails until my lunch break, and even then only dealing with important messages. However, when dealing with any important messages, those less important (but perhaps interesting) emails are sat in my inbox, willing me to read them.

    For those temptations that remain, you must exercise discipline in order to avoid succumbing to temptation. There is no secret to this – you just need to stop yourself and say “no – I will not do that, as it is not productive”. A voice in your head may well tell you that “it will only take a minute” – and that voice may be right – but there are two reasons why you should still not succumb:

    1. Those “just a minute” moments add up to hours in the long run
    2. The act of switching to and from a non-productive activity has a far greater effect on your productivity than just the minute you spent doing it

    If you exercise discipline consistently enough over a period of time, productivity will become a habit.

    Compromises and Exceptions

    Sometimes you have to make sensible compromises to the above approach.

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    For instance, I love engaging with my followers on social media – especially Twitter. But it is something that I will happily do in my “off time”. However, social media is time sensitive – it is beneficial to the continuing growth of my brand and blog to be present at times other than just 5pm onwards. So, I allow myself a small block of time in the middle of the day to run through my social media accounts.

    The key in making these sensible compromises is just that – making sure they are sensible. Check that you are not fooling yourself into doing something that isn’t actually beneficial to what you’re trying to achieve.

    Banished Tasks = Better Productivity

    I guarantee that you will become more productive if you follow the above advice. Furthermore, you will probably find yourself with a great deal more time on your hands, which is never a bad thing.

    So what tasks that you currently do during your normal working hours will you be banishing? And what stays because it truly contributes towards what you are trying to achieve? Let us know in the comments section!

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    Featured photo credit: Hand pointing direction isolated on white background via Shutterstock and inline photo by Zach Klein via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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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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