It’s easy to get lost during the lull of the day. Duties, commitments, and obligations pile up and distract us from getting the most important things done. Procrastination eventually sets in and, soon enough, tasks end up not being done. You tell yourself you’ll get to everything one day, but a terrible lingering feeling resides within you.
That terrible feeling that results from accomplishing nothing.
This persistent thought, combined with the guilt of how millions of people throughout the world would love another day to live, was the breaking point in my life where I knew I needed focus more. Being a young entrepreneur, I knew time was the scarcest resource I could never get back. I had to fight the inevitable feeling of procrastination by learning how to master its enemy: productivity.
My unofficial definition of productivity is – finding the most effective ways to create maximum outputs with minimal inputs. After trying many different methods of productivity over the last couple of years, I finally found three I could regularly commit myself to
1. Write a To-Do List
Writing lists is one of the greatest things ever taught to me by my father. Driving me to school everyday, my father always used to put post-it notes on his car dashboard detailing his top three tasks for the day. I grew up teasing him on why he needed notes to remind himself of what to do. I was stupid then, to realize how distracting days could be in the adult world and how simple reminders can save the day. Fast-forward to today and I can’t help but write down my top daily tasks. I would be a mess, burning myself out with menial tasks and reducing my effectiveness as a leader. If there’s anything I really recommend to become more productive it’s this:
- Write down your top three tasks for the day, with the task requiring the most brainpower being first. I’m a firm believer that high brainpower and intellectual decisions become more difficult as the day progresses. Tackle the hardest things first, and don’t check that email until you have done so.
- If you’re not into handwritten post-its, certain apps like Evernote and Wunderlist are great ways to help keep you on task.
- To keep you away from temptation while on the computer, apps like Self Control can “blacklist” select websites for a certain duration of time, motivating you to work on the task at hand. And yes, the app still works even if you close it. It’s productivity fighting temptation at its finest.
2. Schedule Downtime
Finding time to relax is crucial in order to maintain your happiness and celebrate your wins. Now, of course, everything in excess can be a bad thing, but it’s important to always find a time to wind down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. After all, true work should be a passion, not an eventual burn out. Promise yourself a trip after achieving certain goals and stick to it.
- Get unplugged and forget the digital devices. Have a trip or day where you can relax without worrying of any obligations. This might seem counter intuitive from my last point, but it’s good to just relax and enjoy yourself sometimes. I remember while I was on a speaking circuit a couple years ago, my phone died while touring the city. Having visited 15 different cities, eventual wear and tear and overall tiredness was starting to take its toll on me. Being unplugged, unreachable, and away – even just for three hours – was an amazing recharge to enjoy myself without any obligations. I now make an effort to stay unplugged for a full day during my trips in order to recharge.
- As previously mentioned, apps like Self Control helps you fight the temptation to check emails during these wind down trips. Use this time visiting new places and meeting new people.
3. Make a Routine
One of my favorite books of all time is The Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. In it, Harnish states the three things in a business that can accelerate its growth: Rhythm, Data, and Priorities. I believe this works in your personal life as well.
- Rhythm: Have an established daily routine to get your day started. Make it the best of habits. My recent routines have been working out, meditating, and writing down three things I am grateful for (as referenced from my first blog post here) first thing in the morning. These have become my morning rituals and have overall enhanced the tone of my day. In turn, my productivity and effectiveness skyrocket compared to a day where I start by doing nothing.
- Data: Knowing what works in your life and what doesn’t, is important. Write down your successes and failures in a journal. Once you do, write everything that contributes to your successes and failures, and then pick the common habits that you’re in control of that led to both. Identify what you can replicate to maximize reaching your goals and reduce what leads you away from them. For me, breaking down or identifying goals I didn’t successfully reach, helps me to prevent future bad habits from developing.
- Priorities: Have your routines contribute to your higher goals. For example, when I do three-month goals I make sure my daily priorities all contribute to what I want to reach. For example, my current goal is to finish 2 books every three months, so I break down an approximate amount of pages I would have to read every night to meet that goal (I follow the SMART goal principle for all my goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive).
- A good way to keep in check for your goals, is to put a list of your goals on somewhere you go every morning. For example, I personally keep a list of my goals on the wall of my bathroom. This keeps me motivated every morning on the task at hand.
It’s important, no matter what you do, to remember one key thing
Today only comes once and it’s your responsibility not to waste it.
Give your day respect, as everyday truly is an opportunity to move forward toward something greater. I can proudly say that after making these practices part of my daily routine, I’ve found greater success in my career and personal life. I hope you can too.
As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any thoughts, comments, or questions on how you best manage your own productivity.
One of my favorite articles that has inspired my productivity is Fast Company’s “The Art of Doing Everything.” You can check it out here. I highly, highly recommend the read.
This post originally appeared on Kenny Nguyen’s blog and is reposted above with his permission
Title Photo Credit: Unsplash.com
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