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How to Boost Your Productivity with Banished Tasks

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!

    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 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

    Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

    2. Keep certain days clear

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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    7. Don’t try to do too much

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

    Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

    This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

    Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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    14. Never stop

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

    Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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