I’m not gonna pretend that I know how can we be more productive and I’m not doing this simply because everybody is different and I’m still testing these methods myself.
It’s been only 9 months since I’ve started working for myself at home. Or in Thailand. Or in Bali. Before that I only had to deal with the workload at work and the bigger challenge was how to stuff as much tasks into my life outside of work. You know things like travelplanning, exercising, volunteering, traveling, blogging, learning new skills, etc. Sometimes I envy people who just finish work and they have nothing else to do only watching netflix or drinking wine. But then I realize that I must be just tired because I know that my life is (was) happening outside work and I like it busy, full of experiences and personal improvements.
So, here are a few things I’ve started to implement into my days so that I can be productive and not just busy.
Yepp, that is the most important element for me and I like covering my ass saying that the way more wisers than me feel the same way.
Actually a good morning routine starts at the evening. That’s when I give myself a tap on my shoulder to appreciate the day’s little success stories even if there is only one tiny bit of those. I do this only for getting in to a good mood before bedtime.
I „switch off” my brain, I close the day and I don’t watch any screen (smartphone, tv, laptop) in the last half an hour. The light and the „new info” is not helping to silence your inner chatter, slow down your thoughts. In the morning it is also a mistake (actually a huge one) to start the day with your smartphone. The news, the emails, the notifications can wait a little longer.
That’s when I lay down the fundamentals for the day. I look inside and don’t want my mind to wander or the „important” news on facebook distract me.
Then I do some energizing breathing exercise that I learned during at the freediving course, then a refreshing cold shower followed by 15-20 minutes of mindfulness meditation with a little visualization to set my mood for the day. If I exercising in the morning I do that before the cold shower.
Highlight of the morning: a nice, nutritious breakfast.
Tip: you can watch a good motivational video to set yourself in to „unstoppable” mode.
Only this time I turn on my phone.
So it doesn’t matter if you have to check in the factory early in the morning or you work from home, a good morning routine is going to be highly benefitial for you, I promise!
Set 1-3 goals for the day
But no more! Make a list of your tasks and then narrow it down to the maximum of 3 most important ones. These can be batches with subtasks. Be realistic. For me it can be pressuring when I deal with 5-6 projects at a time.
Setting goals for the week can also be very helpful because it make easier to set my daily tasks.
Tip: write down your goals, your tasks and set a timelimit for each of them.
Parkinson’s Law and the Pareto Principle
Two of my favourites. Parkinson’s Law says "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". So, basically if a task would require only 2 hours to get it done but you have 10 hours, then you’re more likely going to complete it in 10 hours.
Solution: set realistic (but still a bit tight) time limits for each task. It is easier when we have a little pressure on our shoulder and helps us to avoid procrastinating.
For example I like to deal with a blog post for 2-3 days. For this particular one I gave myself 3 hours including researching for info and nice stock photos. Plus an extra hour next day to translate it, put up everything on to the website and schedule the post on social media.
The Pareto Principle helps me to pick only those tasks (or actually anything in my life) which are really important and/or beneficial for me. The principle says that roughly 80% of the effects/results come from 20% of the causes. Honestly, we spend a huge amount of our daily energy on to things which are producing only one fifth of our required results.
That’s where Tim Ferris’s information diet comes in initiating for me to look after and absorb only the relevant information and no more. The rest is just irrelevant, distracting and timewasting. That’s why I don’t watch the news. 90% of it is just irrelevant for me, doesn’t affect my life or just simply out of my control. So why bother? Thanks, but no thanks.
But all of the tasks belong here which are not serving my best interest like videogames, scrolling down on facebook or insta in every 5 minutes, etc. Basically everything which are not important or there would be a better, quicker solution for them (like delegating them). Just once, please write down everything you in a day. If necessary, minutes-by-minutes. You’ll be amazed to see how much time you would have if you have some discipline and willingness to reorganize your schedule. With this we arrived to our environment.
Clean up the mess around your workstation
Basically under „mess” I mean everything that can be a distraction. Your phone, tv, books, people, anything. We need a place where we can create, where we can work undisturbed. Set slots for „dealing with” facebook, instagram, emails, phone calls. Like 2 or 3 times a day, so you don’t have to pay attention to them and give 100% of your focus to your actual task. You’re not only going to save time but the results can be even more outstanding.
Deal with easier tasks first
It’s not only important for giving yourself the motivation to carry on but to warm up for the bigger tasks. It’s like a physical training. You don’t begin them with 400m of sprint or a half-marathon and you don’t „pick up” the heaviest weights first. You warm up your joints, your muscles, you stretch, you raise your heartbeat, etc. You need to get into the flow state.
How do you get into flow state?
It’s the state when you can focus deeply, work faster with fewer mistakes. Like Neo in the Matrix.
First find your peak time in your day, that’s you can be the most productive, creative, fast, unstoppable. For most people it’s in the morning.
Then eliminate everything that can be a distraction to you. #phoneisyourenemy. No FB, no Insta, no email, nothing.
Focus! One thing at a time, do not want to be a multitasker. That just doesn’t work. Give 100% to the one actual task.
Listen to music! No, not heavy metal or your favourite hits. Find something more repetative, trance, techno or classical. The point is to keep the external and internal distructions at a minimum. I know, it’s shocking but listening to techno works for me. I know, me and this type of „music”... but it works.
A few more little things
Eating, drinking enough water and resting. Your brain and your muscles need to be well fed and hydrated all the time in order to be able to give your maximum. Simple as that. Also, we need to take regular brakes to refresh the system. A little stretch, some exercise can be your magic tricks. No, coffee and smoking break don’t count. Those just slow you down in the long run and eventually smoking will kill you.
I hear a lot that „I will meditate and do sports when I’m fine, relaxed, when there is not much work, when the business doesn!t need me that much, when I have time, etc.”
Hold on a second and think.
I practice meditation and do sports in order to be better in everyday life, to be mentally and physically healthier, stronger and more effective. In a long run I want to keep these up hopefully until my last moment here.
So the cause is not the successful work which will result in being able meditate and exercise more. The lattest ones help you to be more active, effective, productive either in a short or a long run.
Look after yourself both physically and mentally. Lay the fundamentals down every morning, set your goals accordingly and always eleminate the distracting factors. Try to reorganize your day, avoid everything that can break up your day. Write lists, use post-it reminders, work in timeblocks. During breaks try to refresh and don’t let your smartphone keep dranining your brain.
So regarding with how can we be more productive I would say to observe our days and reorganise accordingly. Test different methods and the ones which best for us. The ones I listed above usually work for most of us, so just try!