Being more productive creates a life that is more successful. Successful people are good producers.
People who take my success-training classes tell me that the number one reason that stops them from being more productive is procrastination. The decision to procrastinate (and it is a decision) allows you to avoid doing the thing(s) that in the short term you don’t want to do, but in the long term will make your life easier, happier, smoother, calmer, and more.
However, the uncomfortable truth is that when we procrastinate, we usually are creating more work and more strain for ourselves down the road.
So how do we learn to become more productive, and procrastinate less?
The answer is surprisingly simple – we need to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. How? We train ourselves to act in different ways. Simple, right? But not always easy! Even though these are simple ideas, they can have a profound impact in the effectiveness of each day.
START HERE: Below are four easy-to-begin ways that you can get an increase of productivity in your life starting today. Try one or more of these (after the jump):
1) CREATE MOMENTUM – Each morning, make a list of the things you would like to get done that day that contribute to your success. Then look at the list and see which is the one item that is the hardest, biggest, and/or the one you dread doing the most (btw: it can be all three of those things) – and then do that task first.
Why? We sometimes have the formula for productivity backwards. We think we’ll do all the small things first, get them out of the way, and then we’ll tackle the biggest item(s). That’s a nice concept, but what usually happens is that we use this technique to actually procrastinate doing the biggest item on the list. We fill up our day with busy work so we can avoid what we think is the hardest or biggest or least enjoyable task.
By flipping this formula around – that is, doing the biggest/hardest task first – you are creating forward momentum. You will also no doubt feel lighter and happier the rest of the day, which will positively affect how you carry out the other items on your list.
2) SCHEDULE YOUR EMAILS – Do you carry around a blackberry or smartphone with access to your emails? Do you check it frequently? I know many people who carry their electronic device with them at all times so they can see every email that is sent within moments of it being delivered. I can relate. I’ve been known to carry my blackberry, iPhone, and iPad (yes, all three) with me, and use all three to stay connected to my businesses and family members.
However, I began to notice that always being available by email meant that I was putting less attention and energy into whatever project or activity I was doing at any given time. So I tried something new: at work, I only checked my emails once an hour, giving myself 5 minutes to do so. In other words, once an hour (or so), I would take literally 5 minutes or less to check and answer my emails. When that 5 minutes was over, I would close my Outlook so I couldn’t be tempted to check my emails every few minutes, or when I was on the phone.
The result when I began to do this was that I was more attentive in the activities that I was doing – because my attention was not divided and I wasn’t constantly being interrupted by an “important” email, that truthfully could have waited until I was ready. Being more attentive to each activity meant I was more effective in each activity, and that made me more productive. I figured that if 5 minutes each hour worked well, then 10 minutes every few hours would work even better – and I was right!
It might sound counter-intuitive, but try it out for several days (not just for an hour!) and see how it can bring focus to your day.
3) ONE HOUR – Here’s a success tip that works wonders, but when I introduce it in my success-training courses, I get amazing amounts of resistance to doing it. It’s simple, easy, and will yield time, energy, and results. What is it? Turn off your television. According to surveys, television takes up several hours of an average adult’s day. Hours! By turning off the tube, my students have reported that they have more energy, get more sleep, eat less food (because they aren’t mindlessly eating in front of the screen), finish more books, connect more with spouses, children, friends and family, complete more projects, and generally have a happier, more well-balanced outlook on life. Phew! Why wouldn’t you do it?
However, I know the hold television has on our lives. So, if you find you cannot turn it off completely, then perhaps take one of two suggestions (or if you really want to see results, do both):
First, watch just one hour less of television each day. Make that one hour useful – dedicate that one hour to a task or activity that you either need to complete, or that will bring you joy. Work on your novel, paint, clean a closet, send a long (hand-written) letter to someone you love, have a conversation with your spouse, finish a work project, take a walk around the block (see below), exercise, cook a beautiful meal, clear clutter, sweep your front steps, bake cookies and take to your neighbor – there is no end to how you can creatively spend one hour each day. Doesn’t that sound better than yet another episode of b-list celebrities learning how to dance?
Second, if you have dvr capability, record only those television shows that you most want to watch, and watch only those shows. No more channel-surfing. When you record shows, you also have the added benefit of being able to fast forward through commercials or parts of the program you don’t want to see. When you watch only what you record, you are making better choices about what you watch.
I love television as much as the next person, but I know that when I limit my watching, I live a happier, more creative life.
4) TAKE A WALK – Believe it or not, if you want to become more productive in your life, it helps to take a quick break now and again. Here’s an example of how this worked for me, and how it can work for you. A few years ago, I was having a crazy, busy day – the kind of day that was jam-packed with meetings, phone calls, emails, projects, paperwork, and more. One of my clients called me up, and in the midst of our conversation she said, “You sound stressed!” I told her I was, and then proceeded to list all the reasons why I was stressed.
After a few minutes of my complaining, she interrupted me and said, “I want you to hang up the phone and go take a walk around the block.” I argued with her, letting her know that I had too much to do and that a walk was the last thing I needed. She was persistent, and insisted I go do it, and then call her back. Since she was a long-time client who was also a friend, I decided to trust her and do what she suggested. Begrudgingly, I left my office and went for a quick walk.
The funny thing was, about half-way into the walk around the block, I started breathing more, being a bit more relaxed. By the time I got back to our office-building lobby, several solutions to some of the problems I was dealing with just “popped” into my head.
By the time I came back, I felt refreshed, renewed, and ready to focus on the tasks at hand. I immediately called her back and said, “how did you know this would work?” and she replied, “a quick walk always works.” She was right.
Start adding a quick walk into your work day, and you’ll find that it enhances your productivity, and also your general well-being.
Doing even one of these easy ideas each and every day consistently will have a profound effect in your life. You’ll probably even begin noticing the positive effects within a couple of days. The more consistent you are with these four actions, the more success you’ll enjoy from them. Stay the course, strive to do all four of these techniques, and you’ll find that you are actually accomplishing more in less time!
article © Joel Fotinos