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Last Updated on March 17, 2021

How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life

How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life

Everyone assumes that being more productive is simply about getting more done in less time. If you are a productive person, you definitely accomplish more in months than many people do in years. This is why so many strive to learn how to be productive.

However, productivity is more of a way of being. You could be doing less, and, at the same time, be more productive. What do you think of when you think about being more productive in your life?

On your search for being more productive, you are likely to come across a wealth of information on different tools, techniques, and tips to employ. Most of the time, it may seem like common sense; however, common sense is definitely not common practice, and this is why many individuals struggle to increase their productivity.

Most of what you will read will improve your results, but another contributing factor is that some of the suggestions just don’t seem to resonate with people or cannot be easily applied.

I am not going to tell you where you can buy a magic pill to take away any effort you need to make to achieve what you want, but I am going to share with you 4 tiny tweaks that really work as you learn how to be productive.

It is not only about applying the best practices but also applying yourself more and in different ways.

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1. Get out of Your Own Way

Sometimes, all you need to do is stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way in order to develop productive habits. Sometimes self-sabotage can be obvious, like when you completely avoid moving forward with projects. Other times, it can look like perfectionism, where you are never satisfied with the end result and so never quite do your best work.

You might tend to look at all the extrinsic factors of why you can’t be more productive, and you might blame, complain, and point fingers at everyone and everything, except yourself.

When the blame cannot be directed externally, you might then resort to using excuses, desperately searching for a justification that will give you comfort because “you have no control over what happens.”

How many excuses do you have and live by each day? “I couldn’t do this because…or I don’t have time to do this because…” Your excuses might be valid, but in the end, they’re really only slowing you down; it is an avoidance technique that we subconsciously use when we don’t feel capable of completing the important tasks at hand.

Not dealing with procrastination is a clear example of standing in your own way. If you don’t tackle it, it will be there the next time you attempt to do whatever it is that you are procrastinating on. If that’s a problem you’re facing, you can check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

Put results before comfort if you really want to change how productive you are. It may be difficult to find your focus at first, but once you get out of your own way and stop making excuses, you’ll find that life gets easier overall.

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2. Talk to Yourself Differently

Productive individuals think very differently than others. You need to challenge your thoughts and develop a productive mindset. A productive person avoids thinking about all the things they won’t be able to do for X or Y reasons.

Instead, they think:

  • I need to do this and this. What is the best way for me to get everything done?
  • What is causing the stress, and what needs to change so that I manage this situation better?
  • What can I do to improve this, considering the current circumstances?

The words and phrases you use immediately empower you, or they don’t; they either make you feel better or more stressed. You can use positive affirmations as a form of positive self-talk if you aren’t sure where to start.

The words you use to talk to yourself are pivotal to everything in life because they will be your guide, whether they support you or not[1]. Being more productive will get much easier when your words build you up instead of tearing you down.

3. Adjust the Suit to Fit Your Body

Time management supports productivity, so it’s an important skill to develop when you want to know how to be productive. Most people often overlook the fact that time management is not a cookie cutter skill though, and what might suit you won’t necessarily work for your colleague or best friend.

You need to take the advice given from a meta view, and then adjust it to your specific situation.

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Think about clothes shopping:

Sometimes the suit doesn’t fit, and you need to make adjustments and tweaks so that it fits your body perfectly. The same is true with time management and being more productive. You need to personalize what you read to your needs.

If some tips and techniques don’t work for you, instead of throwing in the towel, find a way to adjust them to suit your situation. Maybe time blocking won’t work for your specific job, but can you set a timer and work on something only for a certain amount of time?

Adjust when necessary to find the best way or organizing your time.

4. Identify Your Time Thieves

We all have time thieves, but most of us haven’t yet identified them. For some of us, it can be the apps on our phone that we scroll through. For others, it can be the bad habit of constantly checking email or spending more time taking breaks than actually working during our peak productivity hours.

If you can identify your biggest time thieves, the activities or situations that throw you off course, distract or interrupt you, or the bad habits that keep you from performing better, you will improve your results much more quickly and better learn how to be productive on a daily basis.

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If you try to study, apply different techniques, and you ignore your current thieves, the effort will remain fruitless. Productive people know that eliminating time thieves is key to staying focused in the long run.

If you just aim to change one of your worst time management habits, you will change your results immediately. It will most likely also give you the impetus to change what else isn’t working once you feel the reward of your efforts and see the clear connection between what you do and what your reality is.

Think about one thing that, if you changed it right now, would have the biggest positive influence on your productivity. Write this down, think about what causes or contributes to this, and what your solution will be moving forward.

If you aren’t sure what has been distracting you, this guide can help you: How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus.

The Bottom Line

When you’re learning how to be productive, don’t forget to put results before comfort, if that is what you really want. Most people give up without ever knowing that they really can achieve their goals, meet their objectives, and transform their lives. Follow the 4 tiny tweaks above to get yourself moving in the right direction and learn how to be more productive.

More on How to Be Productive

Featured photo credit: Madison Yocum via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psych Central: 5 Tips to Improve Your Self-Talk

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2021 Updated) How to Be Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks to Make in Life 10 Negative Thoughts We All Have and What to Think Instead 22 Hardest But Most Important Things You Must Do To Achieve Success

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Published on May 3, 2021

What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

How often have you had the experience of needing to make tough decisions that pull you in different directions? You go round and round in circles and, in the end, you either flip a coin or make a snap decision because you’re just too tired to think anymore. Or maybe, you simply put off reaching a decision indefinitely, which is sometimes easier than making a tough call.

Can you relate to this currently? If so, then you’re likely suffering from decision fatigue. Poor decisions are made not because of incapability but because arriving at one or more choices takes its toll—to the extent that it severely weakens our mental energy.

Now that we know what decision fatigue is, let’s explore the primary ways to combat it to enable a stronger mental state coupled with better decision-making.

1. Identify and Make the Most Important Decisions First

If you have a busy personal or work life where many tricky decisions are on the table every day, this can easily and quickly become overwhelming. In this instance, create mental space by initially laying out all situations and challenges requiring a decision. Use a basic software tool or write them down on paper—a notepad file or word document is sufficient.

Once you have your complete list, carefully pick out the most important items needing a conclusion sooner rather than later. Be mindful of the fact that you can’t treat everything as urgent or requiring immediate attention. There have to be some things that are more important than others!

Prioritize and Declare the Appropriate Options

Equipped with your most pressing items awaiting decisions, add another layer of scrutiny by prioritizing them even further. The result should allow you to identify, in order, your most urgent and important tasks without any conflicting priorities.

The last part of this exercise is to highlight all of the options to consider for your most important decision and work through them one by one. With the visual representation of options and most critical decisions out the way first, you’ll be able to think more clearly and prevent decision fatigue from subtly kicking in.

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2. Implement Daily Routines to Automate Less Important Decisions

“Shall I have a healthy lunch today?” “Should I wake up earlier tomorrow?” “What time should I prepare dinner tonight?”

As trivial as these questions appear to be, each one still requires a decision. Stack them on top of other straightforward everyday questions in addition to more significant ones, and things can start to add up unpleasantly.

Small or less important decisions can eat away at your time and productivity. When many other decisions need to be made in parallel, it can lead to decision fatigue. However, there’s a method to avoid this. It involves streamlining aspects of your life by automating repetitive decisions, and this drives the ability to make better decisions overall.[1]

It’s Your Routine—Control It to Create Time for Other Activities

Instead of having to decide multiple times per week if you should have a healthy lunch, create a daily routine sufficiently ahead of time by dictating what healthy food you’ll eat for lunch every day. In doing so, you’re putting that particular decision on autopilot. Your predefined routine commits you to a decision immediately and without hesitation.

Invest time into highlighting all of the trivial and recurring situations requiring decisions daily, then implement a collective routine that relieves the need for you to give them much thought (if any thought at all).

3. Put a Time Limit on Every Decision

Making complex or big decisions increases the risk of draining your energy. This is especially true if you struggle with the fear of making the wrong decision. The doubt and worry bouncing around inside continuously are enough for the majority of people to become fed up and exhausted.

To make good decisions, you need to be in the right position to act. A tactic to deploy is to essentially force yourself to act by setting a time limit on your decision-making process. What might seem a little daunting—given that it can create a sense of added pressure—actually provides clarity on when you need to conclude since you can see the end in sight.

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Grow in Confidence by Reducing Hesitation

After making the decision, it’s time to move on. You’ll feel good and build self-confidence knowing that you didn’t linger on the choices available.

Only consider revisiting a previous decision if something unexpected occurs that impacts it. If that’s the case, then follow the same process by ensuring you make the revised decision before a new deadline.

4. Seek Input From Other People—Don’t Decide Alone

There’s a time and place to make decisions alone, but sometimes, it’s appropriate to involve others. If there’s any degree of struggle in reaching a verdict, then seeking opinions from people in your network can lessen the mental burden of indecisiveness.

Do you feel comfortable seeking input from other people to help make decisions? Trust and feeling secure in your relationships are crucial to answer “yes” to this question.

Explore the Thoughts of Others and Gain a Different Perspective

An insecure business leader likely won’t trust their team(s) to help them make decisions. On the other hand, an assured and secure business leader realizes they don’t “know it all.” Instead of going solo on all work-related decisions, they install trust among their team and get the support required to arrive at the best possible decisions.

The ability to make a great decision can depend on the information related to it that’s at your disposal. When faced with a difficult choice, don’t be afraid to lean on the relevant people for help. They can offer valid alternatives that are otherwise easy to overlook or hold the key to you making a well-informed decision.

5. Simplify and Lower the Number of Available Options

You’re standing in the store, facing an aisle of more than 20 varieties of peanut butter. You have no idea which one to choose, and although there are subtle differences, they all look fairly similar. No doubt you’ve been in this situation at least once in the past (maybe with a substitute for peanut butter!).

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This is a classic example of having too many choices—an event that makes you prone to decide to do nothing or waste time by continually pondering on which product to buy.

According to the psychological concept known as choice overload, simply having too many options can be disruptive and overburdening, causing decision fatigue.[2] Using the example above, you might make the easiest choice of avoiding any further thought, which often results in the purchase of the wrong item.

Extract Meaningful Information and Evaluate Options With a Binary Outcome

To simplify and lower your range of options, leverage the information available and extract what’s most important for you to make a decision. Is it the price? The protein content? Whether it has sustainable packaging or a combination of multiple details?

Keep a tight lid on having too many important components. Prioritize if necessary, and implement a binary outcome (of “yes” or “no” / “true” or “false”) to help arrive at decisions earlier, such as defining a limited price range that the product must fall within.

6. Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

Arguably, attention is the currency of the modern world. The ability to concentrate better than the next person can mean the difference between a successful student, a thriving business, a happy parent, and a great decision-maker.

So, how can you improve your attention span to make better choices and avoid decision fatigue? There are many strategies, and one of the most optimal ways is to eliminate distractions. Today, the easiest distractions are a result of technology and the devices running it—all of which are at your fingertips 24/7.

Create Extended Periods of Time to Increase Focus

These distractions might be small or large, but the broader issue is the frequency of them, and they repeatedly cause a break in your focus. Dealing with this while trying to make the right decision can be mentally debilitating.

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Technology distractions commonly relate to email, instant messages, push notifications from mobile apps, and scrolling through social media feeds. Access to all of these technologies and tools must be limited to scheduled time blocks (ideally, using a calendar if it’s during a working day).

Switch off notifications entirely to all of the above to prevent distractions (where possible) when it’s not time to look at them. This enables you to think more deeply and focus for prolonged periods of time, ultimately boosting the chances of making good decisions.

Final Thoughts

Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon that can deplete energy levels and increase stress. It can affect anyone who has to make decisions, whether they are minor or major ones.

Overcoming decision fatigue needs patience and dedication. By applying the best practices discussed in this article, you’ll be on the path to implement valuable changes. These changes will increase your productivity, as well as drastically improve your consistency and ability to make the right choices.

More About Decision Fatigue

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] FlexRule: Decision Automation
[2] Behavioral Economics: Choice Overload

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