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The 5 Biggest Productivity Questions Answered…by You

The 5 Biggest Productivity Questions Answered…by You
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    You’re here because you want to get tips, tricks and insights on how to amp up your productivity or discover how you can “hack” your life. The things you’re looking for can vary from business needs to lifestyle changes, from software recommendations to quick and easy recipes that make your busy life just a little less busy.

    But before you dive into all of that, before you dive into what could very well be a wellspring (or overload) of information, I’d ask you to look deeper than the surface reasons of why you’re here. In fact, you need to ask yourself some of the biggest questions you can about productivity in order to really get the best from what we’re offering – and from yourself.

    The reasons these questions are big is because of the sheer honesty with which you need to answer them. They’re not about the little things you want to life hack; they’re about the life you want to lead as a whole. If you don’t answer them with brutal honesty in mind, you really aren’t answering them at all.

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    So here goes…the 5 biggest questions about productivity you need to ask yourself…

    What Are You Being Productive For?

    What are you doing that requires you to be more productive? What are the reasons behind it? Furthermore, is the “what” really worth being more productive for? Is it what you really want to be doing?

    This doesn’t have to be applied to anything huge…but it often leads to it. It can be about a task you keep trying to become more efficient and effective at, but it’s not something you’re really getting much out of. It can also be a job you’re doing that you’re not happy doing. The “what” is the first thing you need to look at, because once you’ve done that then you can move on to the other questions with a lot more clarity.

    Who Are You Being Productive For?

    Who are you trying to get better for? You shouldn’t have to think too hard about this. Because if that first person isn’t you, then you’re doing it wrong.

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    Without making these efforts for yourself, they won’t have a lasting or genuine impact. They are based on not what you want, but the wants of others. You need to put your own self first when shooting for improved productivity. Otherwise, those that you are doing it for won’t get the full force of what you really are capable of.

    When Are You Being Productive For?

    Are you thinking long term with your productivity tweaks? Or are you just trying to get better at the day-to-day?

    I’m not suggesting that daily tasks aren’t important, but if you don’t make the “when” have some longer term aspirations in mind then you’re really not making progress. When driving a car, we’re taught to look far ahead down the road so that we can react better should something unexpected come into our path. But how many of us who have been driving for years have allowed that scope to shrink? I know that I have from time to time, and when you think about that from a safety perspective, it’s kind of scary.

    Make sure you have more than just today as your “when”, or else you won’t be able to avoid the obstacles that may impede you tomorrow.

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    Why Are You Being Productive?

    Why do you want to level up? Is it for a promotion? For a better family life? For both?

    This is perhaps the biggest of the questions because it has multiple answers. The thing is that all of the answers had better align with each other in some form or another and yet not interfere with each other as well. It’s a delicate balance, but if you are really honest with yourself and are willing to take the risks necessary to better align yourself then it can also be the biggest contributor to enhanced productivity.

    The Big Follow Up Question…

    After each of these questions, you need to ask yourself this question: How come?

    How come you’re only looking at a daily to do list instead of setting goals for the future? How come you’re taking on improving your productivity for other people before yourself? How come you’re doing a “what” that you’re really not enjoying?

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    With some honest answers to the follow-up question, you’ll find that you’ll also start looking at how you can change things for the better.

    And that’s why you’re really here…isn’t it?

    (Photo credit: Businessman Standing Alone via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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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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