Being productive every single day is something very difficult to accomplish! It requires effort, disciple and good habits to stay on track!
We would love to be productive robots during the hours we are awake. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we are not robots. So we need to learn how we can become productive humans!
The difference between productive robots and productive humans is:
HUMANS ARE NOT PERFECT!
This is something I encourage you to repeat for yourself every day. It’s impossible to be productive all the time and do always the right things.
Anyway, this doesn’t mean you can excuse yourself each time you “don’t feel like it”.
Understanding that you will fail eventually to accomplish some tasks is one thing, and failing because you prefer to watch Netflix is another. If you need to fail, at least fail knowing you did everything you could to make it happen!
With this in mind, you can continue to read this post and learn how you can become a productive human!
1. Task Management
Things pile up in you “to do list” very quickly, right? What? You don’t have a to do list?
Having a system to storage your tasks and obligations is the first step to become more productive.
Even though trying to remember all your tasks is a good memory exercise, it usually doesn’t end up very well. Remember that last time your forgot you had an assignment to deliver? Or when you didn’t complete a work project in time because you forgot the delivery date?
It’s not fun to forget things, specially when they mean disappointing and letting others down. Losing your job isn't also very appealing, is it?
That's why I recommend you to manage your tasks every day! It’s a very simple and quick process that is necessary to become more productive and competent!
You need to decide if you want to use paper or an app/software to manage your tasks.
If you prefer to manage your tasks using paper, you should keep a notebook, a bullet journal or a planner. You must have enough space to write all the things you need to do.
If you prefer a more technological way of managing your tasks, you have different options. You should try some of the apps available and experiment with them, in order to find which one you like the most. But don’t waste much time on this.
Here are a few apps you can use to manage your tasks:
- The Notes App on your smartphone;
- Nozbe (the app I use to manage all my tasks);
I use Nozbe, and I really enjoy it. You can download the app and use it on your smartphone and also in your computer. Create an account by clicking here!
You need to write all the tasks you need to get done! Also include things that aren’t required to be done the next day.
I keep track of my tasks every evening, and I also write some of them during the day so I won’t forget later.
2. Schedule and Plan your Days
We all have 10 million different things to accomplish every day. But what do you really must accomplish? How can you accomplish those things? When do you need to get those things done? Why are you actually putting the time to do those things?
Most of the times I ask these questions, I delete tasks from my task manager. Because I realize they aren’t really necessary and important.
You don’t need to answer those questions each time you add a new task in your to do list. Most of the answers are already present in your unconscious mind.
But it’s really important to prioritise all of your tasks. Prioritising is the best way to decide which things you want to accomplish first.
By having a list of all the tasks you must complete, it’s much easier to schedule and plan your days and weeks.
Again, you can use paper or a software for planning. Most of the times I use paper or a physical planner!
For some reason, writing and seeing on paper my schedule helps me to focus and accomplish more important things. But you should choose the method you prefer.
Most people use Google Calendar to track their schedules, or they use other apps that then synchronise with Google Calendar.
Here’s the process I use to schedule my tasks:
1. By looking to my task manager I can quickly recognise which tasks require more mental effort - high intensity tasks (writing a blog post, studying, etc) and the ones that are low intensity tasks (cleaning, shopping, etc).
Then, I schedule the tasks that require more focus to the morning, which is the time I feel more productive.
I accomplish all the low intensity tasks in the afternoon, preferably during 3 to 5 p.m, which is the time I feel more sleepy and tired!
Chris Bailey, the author of The Productivity Project, recommends to establish a day per week to accomplish of all those low intensity tasks. He calls it the Maintenance Day, where he deals with shopping and cleaning. I wrote a post about his book, where I explore that concept more in depth (read it here).
2. The next step to schedule your tasks is to assign a specific day to accomplish those tasks.
For example, if you go to the gym every Tuesday and Saturday you should add those to your calendar.
Or if you need to deliver a paper work in 1st September make sure you add it to your calendar/planner as well.
The difference between a task manager and your calendar is that you have a specific day to accomplish a task in your calendar, and in your task manager you have an unordered list.
Adding tasks and commitments to your calendar might sound like a bunch of effort, but it’s not. If you keep track of your tasks every day, this process takes less than 5 minutes. And I actually find the whole scheduling and planning process very enjoyable!
When you have everything scheduled and planned it’s much easier to start working and avoiding resistance!
Planning your day becomes much easier when your tasks are already well organised in your planner. Because I know which tasks require more effort and also the delivery dates for those, I plan my day according to my long term schedule.
My daily planner usually looks something like this:
- Writing a blog post;
- Video Editing;
- Watching some youtube videos;
- Cleaning my room;
- Answering emails;
- Watching a tv series.
Make sure you also add fun activities that you enjoy doing! It’s really important to make time for fun.
3. Avoiding Procrastination and Blocking your Time
Now that you have your day planned, you just need to start doing things!
Some people focus too much time on planning and not enough time working. I used to get lost planning my days too. But now, I always make sure I’m spending much more time on actually working than planning,
which makes total sense...
If you want some inspiration to get to work, I encourage you to follow Gary Vee on Instagram or youtube! He will make you inspired enough to work harder!
Anyway, we all procrastinate. But the resistance you feel against doing a specific task can be fought by simply start doing that same task!
Here’s what Doctor Barbara Oakley says about it:
“When we see something we really don't want to do, the brain activates areas associated with pain. Naturally, the brain looks for ways to avoid the pain, by switching its attention to more pleasant tasks. But researchers found that after starting working on that specific task, the neurodiscomfort disappeared.”
In order to start focusing on a task, I block my time or I use the Pomodoro Technique.
Blocking your Time Technique:
- Choose the next task you’re going to do;
- Estimate how much time it will take you to complete that task (usually it takes more time than we think…)
- Set a timer, eliminate all distractions (no mobile phone), and focus! (I have a post where I teach How you can Focus Intensively)
- Give yourself a reward after completing a task.
This method is my favourite to finish a task in a short period of time, because I focus intensively on it (no, you can’t focus intensively while checking facebook).
The Pomodoro Technique:
- Choose the next task you want to complete;
- Set a 25 minute timer;
- Work without distractions for 25 minutes;
- Have a break for 5 minutes;
- Work for more 25 minutes;
- Repeat the cycle until you finish the task.
I use the Pomodoro Technique when I feel more tired, because I only have to maintain focus for 25 minutes.
On the other side, I use the time blocking technique to focus for more than 1 hour, usually in the mornings when I'm more productive, focused and energised.
Experiment with both techniques to find which one you prefer, or simply use both according to your needs.
4. Creating Daily Habits
When I first started exercising, my willpower would decrease considerably because I had to force myself to sweat. Because willpower is a limited resource we can’t count on it all the time.
That is why creating habits is the best way to guarantee you commit yourself to do certain things everyday.
Now, for me, exercising in the morning doesn’t take much effort. It is so natural now, that I simply wake up, put my gym clothes, and start working out. I’m currently doing the Hip Hop Abs program by Shaun T.
The secret sauce to create a habit is Repetition! When you practise the same action for a specific period of time (some say 21 days are enough to create a habit, others 66 days, others 8 months) you create a habit.
Habits like brushing your teeth before going to bed is something so natural, that it doesn’t require any willpower. This is exactly what should happen with other healthy habits you want to keep.
For me, actions like: exercising, reading, planning, studying Spanish and recently, writing, are now habits that don’t require much effort to accomplish.
There are some habits that can help you to stay productive, healthy, wealthy and wise!
Here are a List of Habits you should consider in order to Become More Productive:
- Plan your day every night;
- Write in your journal every morning (this helps you to clear your mind, which will increase your focus);
- Schedule at least one focus session every single day;
- Specific habits that will increase your job/career performance.
I am constantly experimenting with old habits in order to increase my perfomance. When I first started exercising, I started with less than 30 minutes every day. Once I felt that 30 minutes weren't that difficult to do , I increased my workout time session.
The most important thing when starting a new habit is to simply start! Even if you only exercise for 5 minutes, it’s better than zero. Then, progressively start increasing the time of the action you want to commit on doing every day.
The same happened with the habit of writing every day. I started by only writing 250 words, which took me less than 15 minutes. I also wrote 250 words even if I wasn't inspired or happy. Even if all the 250 words I wrote were crap, I wrote them anyway. Because the most important thing in the beginning is creating a habit and getting into that routine.
“How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.”
Don’t rely on willpower, instead use the human power of creating habits to increase your results and success.
Habits are always associated with increasing your productivity and performance, because they are intended to make you grow and become better at something.
By creating and keeping habits you are also building your resilience muscle. Keeping a new habit until it becomes something natural to you, takes time.
You will encounter a lot of resistance and rational reasons why you should stop that habit. Don’t listen to those thoughts. Are you really letting your thoughts control you?
Whenever I overcome my resistance by doing something I don’t felt like doing, I feel amazing. If I fail to overcome my resistance, I feel like crap!
When you feel a lot of resistance on starting a certain task or project, it usually means you found something very important and valuable to you! And why are you avoiding something really important and valuable that can bring you new opportunities?
5. Create a Morning Ritual
Morning Rituals are not required if you want to be more productive or successful.
Unfortunately, there isn't any rule that says: “In order to have a successful career or happy life you must have a morning ritual”.
But morning rituals can definitely change your life. Because rituals are a combination of pre-defined actions that will prepare you for the rest of the day!
It’s in your power to decide which actions you want to repeat everyday. Some people believe that a morning ritual consists on reading 2 straight hours before going to work, meditating for 1 hour and waking up at 5 a.m.
Tony Robbins, the most popular and amazing life coach, has a morning ritual which he calls Priming Routine. If you want to know how Tony Robbins starts his day, you can find it here!
The purpose of a morning ritual is to change your mental state (for the one you desire) and get your mind ready to work!
Before I had a morning ritual (which was one and a half years ago) I always woke up grumpy and tired!
Right now, I can guarantee I wake up feeling pretty good 95% of the time. The other 5% usually happen when I’m sick or had a terrible night of sleep.
What changed was the way I started my day! Instead of waking up late, getting dressed really quick, having breakfast in a rush and running to school, I can now do things peacefully!
I have time to read, to meditate, to write on my journal, to drink my bulletproof coffee, to exercise, to write, etc.
This doesn't mean I do all of these activities every single morning. Sometimes it makes more sense to spend more time writing, other times to spend more time meditating (which for me, means focusing on my breath for a few minutes or having a guided meditation with HeadSpace) or simply spending all my morning ritual listening to an audiobook.
It's very important to make your morning ritual something you love doing! That is why my own ritual is not always the same thing.
When most people are just starting their day, I have already done a sequence of things that make me sane and happy or happily sane!
To do all of these things before going to school, I started waking up earlier! Usually around 6:00 to 6:30 a.m.
If you are not used to waking up early, this might sound painful. It’s not!
In the beginning it might be difficult to adapt to a new schedule, but the advantages are so many that you must try it for yourself.
In the end of my morning ritual I’m always excited to start working and I feel much more productive (something that never happened before).
And the simple act of thinking about my morning ritual makes me excited! It’s so amazing to have a powerful reason to wake every day.
Morning rituals increase your perfomance, productivity and focus, which will lead you to a more happy and satisfied life!
I totally believe morning rituals can change your life! They changed my own life!
What happened after I implemented a Morning Ritual:
- I created this blog;
- I started reading non fiction books;
- My mindset changed completely;
- I developed a crazy interest to learn new things;
- I became more creative and curious;
- My ability to focus increased a lot and also my capacity to work harder;
- I became really interested on creating meaningful work;
- I became much happier!
- And many other amazing things.
I discovered a completely new world. A world that showed me there are not limits when it comes to learning, productivity, performance and specially happiness!
You can implement a morning ritual and never experience the things I did. But there’s a big chance that at least you will feel much more motivated, creative and productive.
Give morning rituals a try. They are worth it… So are you, your performance and your productivity!
6. Learn how to say No!
Usually people associate productivity with multi tasking. That’s a myth!
The same happens when you assume that being productive means doing the maximum amount of tasks you possibly can. Also, a myth.
Being productive is doing meaningful and valuable work! Productivity is also a combination of your energy, focus and time.
“An epiphany: every lesson I learned fell into better management of one of three categories: my time, my attention, and my energy.”
Saying NO is extremely important if you want to become more productive. Why should you accept a meaningless project, task or meeting if you prefer to work on other things?
Each time you say “yes” to something that isn’t meaningful to you, you are wasting time on other peoples’ dreams and passions. Remember:
“If it’s not a HELL YES, than it’s a no”.
When we say yes to everything, we are living other people’s lives and not ours. Is that what you want? Absolutely not.
So the next time you need to say “Yes!” or “No!” to something unimportant, say "No"!
And use that time to work on more important things to you!
7. Track and Review your Progress
After a full week of working productively, there are always a few thing that didn’t went so well. It’s completely normal because life is unpredictable. It’s important to accept that your plans fail sometimes, but it’s also important to understand the reason behind the failure.
Creating the habit of reviewing your weekly progress is the key to a productive long-term lifestyle! I usually review my progress on Sunday evenings, because I can start a new week implementing new plans to become better.
If you’re going to review your progress, you must have something to really look at. This doesn’t require any extra effort if you already use a calendar to plan your days and weeks.
When you first start reviewing your week, it will take you less than 15 minutes. But the more you repeat it, the less time it will take to review and to establish the things you want to improve next week.
My review process is quite simple. There’s no need to overthink things you cannot change, but to look at those failures as a way to progress and learn.
How to Review your Weekly Progress:
1. Review your task manager:
If you didn't have time to accomplish a task during the week, you must decide if it's still important to achieve it next week or not.
-If the task is still important to achieve, schedule it to as soon as possible.
-If the task isn’t a priority anymore, delete it.
2. Review your Planner:
Then, check your planner to see which important things you have planned next week. Maybe you have an exam, a meeting or a project to deliver.
According to those obligations, you must start thinking of what those tasks require.
Maybe it means dedicating 1 hour of study each morning for the next week, or starting to brainstorm new ideas for a project.
3. Making Decisions and Planning next Week:
After checking your schedule for the next week, you must make some decisions.
In case of having an exam, you probably need to dedicate more time studying by “stealing” some time you spend on other less important projects.
When I don’t have much college work, I can dedicate more time to other projects. This is a question of prioritising and it’s your responsibility to decide how you want to rearrange and manage your time according to your schedule.
The reviewing process is important because it helps you to understand your priorities. If you’ve been postponing a project for a few weeks, it’s probably best to rethink your participation on it.
It also helps you to understand how you should manage your time according to the tasks you have scheduled. Remember, you should always adapt your time, energy and focus to your priorities and obligations.
Your schedule isn’t something fixed and linear. Some weeks you have more work, others less. Trying to balance work and personal obligations with your side projects is important to a more happy and successful life.
Anyway, don’t be too picky reviewing the previous weeks and planning the next. You can change your plans whenever you feel the need. Be ok with changing plans on Tuesdays if necessary.
8. Baby Steps & Commitment
Learning how to do more in less time, is a very important skill you can apply in any area of your life. But sometimes there are so many hacks to apply, that people get lost.
There’s no need to implement every hack you read on the internet. Start by implementing the things referred in this post patiently. Those will increase your productivity right away, and progressively experiment with other hacks and techniques.
I highly recommend you to start planning your week today! It’s the best way to organise your life, obligations, interests and personal goals.
But the key to a more successful and productive lifestyle is committing yourself to plan your day, every day. Sooner or later it will become a habit, and it won’t require any effort to spend 5 minutes of your evening deciding what you’re going to do the next morning.
Implementing a morning ritual will motivate you to work every day with more passion, interest and motivation. It’s not a requirement, but I truly believe it can change your life.
Everything you repeat everyday for a period of time, will become a habit. If you turn the process of planning and reviewing into a habit, you won’t need to waste willpower on those tasks . If you have already a plan for the next day, a morning ritual and the habit of reviewing your progress, you in shape.
To increase your productivity in your daily tasks, remember to block your time or to use the Pomodoro Technique to complete tasks in a shorter period of time.
Remember, avoiding distractions while working is the most important thing you can do to increase your productivity. You will never be able to work smartly if you keep checking your phone every 5 minutes. Commit yourself to work without distractions for at least 25 minutes, and then take a break. There’s no need to spend 2 hours doing something that could only take you 1 hour…
The ability to stay focused is a very important asset in today’s world, which is full of distractions. Learning how to stay focused requires practise, commitment and willpower. But the more you practise, the better you become at this skill. And sooner, checking your phone constantly will be something easy to avoid.
Being productive is not only doing more in less time on important projects, but also to commit yourself to work smartly everyday on anything you do (yes, you can do the dishes smartly).
Summary on How to Become More Productive:
- Plan your day and week;
- Implement a morning ritual;
- Block a period of time to work with the maximum amount of focus;
- Review you progress weekly;
- Create a habit of doing these steps everyday.