You want to make money, right?
After all, who doesn't? (I have an uncle who says he doesn't but I don't really believe him).
So, as we have seen in previous posts, in order to make money you need to sell something, in exchange for money.
The more you sell, the more money you're gonna make. Whether this is a product or a service, you always need to make more. Making more always means, to increase your production. Since a day has only 24 hours and you cannot use all of them in order to produce (I know you'd like that), the only way I know, is to increase your productivity.
In more simple words, you need to increase the amount of whatever it is that you produce, on a specific time frame.
Today's environment is extremely hard for any individual who wants to be successful and productive, yet my promise is that by following the tips outlined here you will be able to increase your productivity by a big margin, whether you are an employee (in the workplace) or on a personal level.
Contrary to the average belief, a normal person can be productive for about 4 to maximum 6 hours per day. When I say productive, I mean make real, focused effort. Sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours, "pretending to work", while you skim through your news feed, or looking for a new belt on amazon, isn't productive.
Why you need this?
As usually, the single most important and difficult thing, we need to get us started is to decide that we want to do it, ie "be more productive". This is the part where the 90% of the people out there fail.
Today's article though, is not for them. Today's article is addressed to people that have already decided they need to be more productive in their life in order to achieve more and they need a blueprint to follow. I will share with you, the exact same techniques, tools and resources I use, in order to maximize my productivity.
Being productive and focused is not an easy thing, especially if you need to do it for prolonged periods of time. Having an end goal, is of tremendous help. If you know "why" you need to be more productive, like for example to get a promotion, to grow your business etc, it will be way more easier to have a constant motivation for pushing hard. If your motive is weak, you will eventually get tired and put it aside.
After setting your mind on this, let's proceed to more technical stuff. After all, there are only 3 things you need to do. Yeah really! I bet you thought it was only a click baiting title hah?
Step #1: Living on timetable
The absolutely first thing you need to do is to create a detailed timetable and live on this.
I know it sounds very hard right? Well...who said it was gonna be easy. The good thing is that after you make this schedule and you follow it for a few days, your mind will make it a reality (habit) and it will want to follow it on its own. Inside every brain there is a little system called Reticular Activating System (RAS). Among other things, RAS is responsible to make sure that you are safe and sound within every situation. It is most commonly known, for creating your comfort zone.
So for example, you wake up in the morning, you drink your coffee, brush your teeth and then head to work (which by the way, you should have already decided you want to quit and aim for something bigger). This is a habit for your brain and makes you feel comfortable with this pattern. At first, it needs some work to change the "normal" pattern of your brain.
So if for some consecutive mornings you wake up, without drinking any coffee and go to the park for running, after a few days, you will feel that this is the normal operation and you will make minimum effort to follow.
Create a very detailed daily schedule, or you can download mine here. Make it fit your life style and all the areas you want to be more productive.
For example in my schedule, I want to be more productive on my blogging, a venture I have and my reading. Design yours accordingly.
When designing your daily schedule make sure that:
- It is detailed, preferably on a semi-hour basis
- Include every task of the day
- Make it as realistic as possible
- Include leisure, rest, sleep, have fun time (you can't work 18 hours a day)
Create a to-do list
This is another very important aspect when it comes to organizing. Having in a place, all of the tasks you need to complete makes it more easy to focus on them. These short term tasks, can be as many as you like, although I would advise you to not let this list grow very big, or else you will lose your motivation on pursuing it.
You can either use:
- Post-it notes
- A sub section within your schedule (this is what I do)
- A white-board on your wall
- An app to remind you all these tasks (all smart-phones have a native app for that)
Prioritize max on 3 things
In order to be effective with all the areas you want to increase your productivity you cannot pursue many things at once. Minimize your mid-term goals/projects to 2 or 3. Otherwise you will not have enough energy to accomplish all of them.
It sounds very nice to write for your blog while learning Italian, having two other ventures and learning to play golf, all in the same time. But this is just impossible.
Make a priority list according to your needs and make sure you stick on this. Put all the mid-term areas of improvement in a shorted list and go for it one by one like this:
- Write for my blog
- Automate business venture 1
- Learn Italian
- Learn how to play golf
Among the biggest hacks, I could offer you today, is this. Simply by improving your sleep cycles you will notice a tremendous difference on your productivity level.
The ideal scenario is to sleep early and wake up early. Depending on some bio-rythms some individuals are more productive during the morning, while some others during the evening. None though is productive at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. Some quick tips to improve your sleep is:
- Try to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per day
- Sleep during the night (not the other way around)
- Don't over-eat before you go to sleep
- Aim for a dark, quiet environment
Step #2: Eliminate distractions
Boom! If you thought the first part was difficult, let's see what you can do here. Assuming you have already made a detailed schedule, distractions throughout the day alone, could kill your productivity like that. Following the steps below, will help you eliminate 80% of those distractions and step up your game.
Forget about multitasking
Here comes the first shock. Contrary again to the general belief, we humans, are not good at multitasking. That is performing two tasks in the same time. Driving and talking to the phone, having sex and reading a magazine etc.
While it is possible to be done (at least the second one), it is far from optimal. The reason behind this, is that your brain in order to perform an action takes a series of steps:
- Gathers visual and other sensory information
- Compares the live actual situation with the desired one
- Calculates all the necessary actions in order to achieve the desired result
- Commands all the parts necessary to help towards this direction
Every time you want to switch to a new task you force your brain to recalculate a whole lot of variables. While this might seem easy and trivial, it really is not. If you make your brain to make such calculations again and again you always operate at a sub-optimal level and you will get tired fast.
Imagine being in front of your pc and writing on something. Due to limited brain capacity (unfortunately each of us is given one brain) your brain makes some initial calculations/estimations when you sit on your desk. You subconsciously enter a writing state where,
- your brain allocates a lot of resources on the creative part of this writing (the part that needs to do the actual thinking)
- it takes for granted (no energy consumed) on your surrounding environment (keyboard, computer screen etc.)
While you stay at this task your brain doesn't have to make all the basic calculations again (where you are, what you look at, what you hold) so you may proceed at full brain capacity on this task alone.
Even the slightest of distraction, like your phone, the doorbell, your spouse yelling at you, will make your brain make a whole lot of new calculations again, by allocating the corresponding resources (there is no other way really).
So whatever you do try to stay focused at one thing at a time. That is why the timetable is of extreme importance. Each task has its allocated time slots during the day and you make sure you stay as close to this as possible.
Throw the TV out of the window
Not much to say here really. TV is the perfect productivity (and success) destroyer. Unless you own the TV channel, there is absolutely no fucking reason to even have a TV on your house.
99% of TV's content is pure trash. For the 1% remaining, I bet you can find the same content on Internet as well. TV's bad aspect is two-fold though. You not only lose precious time with a huge opportunity cost but you also get washed with bad social conditioning. You get *shampoo and conditioner* in one product.
Try to minimize your TV time exposure as much as possible. If you cannot throw it out all together, at least spend the least amount of time possible.
Log out from social media
This is a no-brainer either. Social media are responsible for a huge chunk of wasted time throughout our day. Chatting with your friends on Facebook or watching funny kitten videos on Youtube ain't productive at all.
There is a million other ways you can use social media to your advantage and we will talk in detail about these in future posts. For now log out from any social media distraction, at least for the time you need to be productive. You may very well schedule a particular chunk of your day dedicated on your social media frenzy. As long as it is predefined and within normal limits (max 1 hour / day), then you stay in the safe zone.
Useful Tool #1: A very nice tool I use in order to monitor my productivity on the web is called RescueTime. This tool will let you see in a glance how productive you are throughout the day. By assigning roles (distracting, productive etc) to each website, RescueTime will tell you what percentage of your time is spent to which website. It has also the functionality to lock specific domains from your browser for a specified amount of time (remember the kittens on Youtube)?
Pomodoro technique is among the best I have found around productivity optimization. It is a very basic concept based on the famous pomodoro timer, used by chefs and housemaids in the kitchen.
Pomodoro technique works as follows:
- Start by focusing on a single task for 25 minutes
- Take a break for 5 minutes
- Repeat this cycle 4 times
- Take a longer 15 minute break
It is scientifically proven that human brain likes to work in such cycles. Depending on each individual or task, you might need to change this interval, for example 45 minutes focus - 15 minutes break.
Start with the default settings and adjust according to your needs.
Under no circumstances, you should never break those 25 minutes. No distractions at all. Turn every notification, phone or door bell off and stay 100% focus on your task. Even a tiny distraction will cause your brain to lose focus. Focus that will cost energy to get back. In case some flash thought crosses your mind (something you need to do for example) switch to your notebook, note it down and get back to your main task. Don't waste more than 5 seconds on that.
Always take your brake. Never skip on your break. It is important to take it in order for the brain to take a rest. During those 5 minutes you can get up your chair, take a short walk, go to the bathroom, have a little water etc. Do whatever you want to do as long as it is relaxing. Even a relaxing song might help you here.
Useful Tool #2: There are many app designed to help you stay on track with pomodoro. I would suggest you to try them out for two reasons. First of all, you will get an extra motivation, that someone is "watching you" and therefore make you feel more accountable. Secondly, you will be able to track down all your productivity hours during the day/week/month. Moreover depending on the app you will use, it is possible to separate these pomodoros to every task/goal you want to achieve (4 pomodoros on blogging, 6 pomodoros on Italian learning etc). Here is the application I personally use, called Pomotodo.
Useful Tool #3: Something that really helps me to focus here is to have a mild background noise of around 60db's. Don't ask me again...Scientifically proven as well. Sounds around 60db's will help your mind relax quite a bit and will promote your focus ability. Here is an excellent iPhone and Mac application called Noizio that mimics some nature sounds, like the sea, fire, wind etc.
Step #3: Reward your self
Final point but a very important one. You have made a lot of effort to stay on track, you logged out from Facebook, you didn't answer your girlfriend's calls, you even broke your TV. Although all these things will boost your productivity by a lot, results on your success might not come that fast. Imagine that you might have set a goal to build a business that might takes month or even years to complete.
Every now and then (again with proactive design), you should reward yourself for the hard effort you make. That way your brain's reward center will associate this whole effort with something positive, giving you an extra motivation to push forward.
For example, once a week you can party with your friends, once a month take a short trip for a weekend or even schedule that every 100 pomodoros you will make a small present to yourself. Whatever works for you really. The important thing here is again to be proactive and have the whole thing planned from the beginning.
Buying yourself a 5k $ watch because you passed outside a jewelry shop ain't rational at all. But if you make a note to buy yourself this watch only when you accomplish a very important task (ie. earn your first 100k $ from your business)...There, this is a very nice, well thought and well deserved reward for you.
I tried to be as concise and specific as possible. I have read many many sources on this topic. I also tried a lot of different things from meditation to visualization etc. While I don't say, all these things are useless, nonetheless they are nearly as important as the points made in this article. I am a big fun of the KISS (keep it stupid simple) protocol. The truth is you don't really need 10, 20 or 99 tips to increase your productivity (despite articles that say so, just to make their title more impressive). Actually you only need two:
- Make a timetable and stick to it
- Eliminate all distractions
Hell, even by following step 2 alone, will make a world of a difference for your productivity. Bonus tip 3 is to reward yourself in order to stay motivated and focused for ever.
Take a moment and leave me a comment on any productivity tips or tools you use at the moment. Moreover if you found this article useful on how to increase your productivity, give it a like or a share.