Productivity is a school we never graduate from. The plethora of seminars, courses and books on the subject corroborate the fact.
In an age of unending distraction, juggling multiple priorities – careers, relationships, side hustles, service and all, we all have need of better and simple ideas to stay on top of things.
These simple ideas I want to share with you can help you overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed, distracted and the confusion that interrupt our daily lives.
The essence of productivity is to not to do everything but to do what matters. These 7 tips will get you started:
1. Set goals
We all want to feel as if what we are doing now is contributing to our vision for the future. But what is we are not clear about it?
One of the things you must do as we embark on the remaining half of the year is to review your goals or reset them. What has happened in the past six months shouldn’t determine what happens in the next six months. It’s time to get excited about your goals again.
Go back and carefully review them – your career, relationship, spiritual, academic and personal development goals.
Clarity about what you want out of your life is the first step to peak productivity. Don’t engage in the labour of fools.
2. Decide your MITs (Most Important Tasks)
This is very important. Every day, you need to determine your most important task and I advise you limit them to 3. I got this suggestion from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and I think it just makes sense.
Your three MITs constitute the task that unless they are done, you won’t consider your day a successful one. You must be sure that they are task that help your organization move forward, earn income, help your boss solve a difficult situation, improve your ability to do your job and contribute to your success at work.
Always determine what these 3 MITs are. Then add other small tasks to them that are also important or routine. Do these after you are done with your MITs.
The key is to ensure that you eat your frog, that you do your most important task first thing in the morning. This is a difficult habit, executing on your priorities but this is the stuff peak performers are made of. They put first things first and let others wait.
Also do the same for your week. Identify 4 – 6 MITs and schedule them within the week.
3. Practice superior focus and concentration
Now you know what your MITs are but that doesn’t mean you will do them. This step requires all the forces of self-discipline you can muster because you must focus on the task at hand without distractions.
You must resist the temptation to check your social media accounts, smart phone, chat with a colleague, argue about the latest news or any of those things that can break your focus.
Don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. The brain is in training for a new habit. With time your power of focus will increase.
I suggest you divide your work in time blocks. Start by focusing on a task uninterrupted for 20 minutes – 45mins, then take a 10mins break afterwards to refresh your mind.
Don’t think this is easy until you try it. If your thought wanders, bring it back to the task at hand. Set a timer so you can track your progress. Work uninterrupted in time blocks and your productivity will take a new leap.
4. Avoid multitasking
I have learnt this the hard way – the brain doesn’t function optimally when multitasking. Stop trying to do 2 or 3 things at the same time.
When you permit distraction in the form of multitasking, you undermine your ability to do great work. Focus is a key factor in the achievement of excellence. You have it when you can bring the mind to bear on one thing and keep it there for as long as you decide.
Select a single task and work on it. Do nothing else but that thing which you have determined is the most important use of your time now. If any interruption comes up, as long as it’s not urgent, write it down on a to-do list and tackle it later.
5. Develop and review your to-do list
As a time management tool, the to-do list won’t be going away any time soon. You need to always have a place for collecting all the task, ideas and information you want to work on.
Like they say, the faintest pen is better than the sharpest memory. Except you are a memory expert, please use a to-do list. There is something magnificent about thinking on paper. Always begin your day on paper.
For me this is a habit I have mastered for quite a while now. I hardly can have a productive day without a to-do list. But I discovered that is not all there is to achieving productivity.
I need to regularly review my to-do list during the day to ensure I’m in touch with my priorities. I need to check off the task I have executed so I can gain momentum for task completion.
Whether you use a paper, which I prefer or the various mobile apps e.g anydo, colour notes, etc., just ensure you have a system to list and organize your task based on priorities.
6. Develop a routine
If you are like me, you hate routines but not until I realized it was the most important secret to my productivity. I now realize that the more order I can get into my life, the more I can achieve.
A routine is a powerful system that is consciously developed to ensure you do something in a consistent and predictable manner. As John Maxwell said,
“The secret of your success is in your daily agenda.”
Having a routine simplifies your decision making process so you are not subject to your feelings or whims. You know something must be done at a certain time in a certain way and you do it regardless of whether you feel like it or not.
You will never harness your potential until you develop routines to help you accomplish your most important goals. Don’t trivialize this.
7. Design a reward system
Your brain likes rewards. One of the best ways to motivate yourself is to design rewards around your task. To avoid procrastination, determine why you need to work on the task and the rewards that will come out of it. Also you can choose your rewards.
Reading can often be a source of distraction for me. Just one blog article or newsletter can lead me to so many others while my MITs are begging for my attention. So I try to organize my distractions as a reward for task completion.
For you, it can be your favourite cup of coffee, guilt-free time with your lover, video games. Whatever. Just know the rewards that work for you and ensure they don’t become distractions in themselves.
Let’s have a conversation
What has been your productivity struggles and which of these ideas addressed them? What helpful tips can you share to help readers supercharge their productivity?
Please comment and share to help others.