Table of Contents
- How to be More Productive in the True Sense
- 9 Proven Productivity Improvement Techniques
- Summing Up
Many people struggle with and are clueless about how to be more productive. The way to increase productivity has a science behind it and there’s an art for implementing it in your life. Being more productive, you increase your changes of being happier and successful. Read this post to clear your conceptions of productivity and know the techniques to achieve your goals, be 10X times more productive and improve your quality of life in all aspects. ~ Ed.
Okay, a show of hands. How many agree with the following?
Today, productivity is synonymous with being busy. It’s considered to be directly proportional to the number of hours we work.
Our culture prides itself on working long hours. Hence, to be more productive, we must work longer.
Is this true? Do you agree?
Isn’t this what you see around you every day? To fit in, you must embrace this culture. You must add to the noise. You don’t have a choice.
And yet, despite working long hours, despite ticking all items off your to-do list, you feel a nagging dissatisfaction.
You simply don’t get enough time to do what’s important. You don’t feel productive enough.
Does this happen with you?
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Turns out, we’ve forgotten the true meaning of productivity in today’s analog world.
How to be More Productive in the True Sense
“Productivity,” according to bestselling author Charles Duhigg, “is about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way.”
But today, distinguishing between urgent and important is like separating noodles from spaghetti. We make heroes out of people who sacrifice more, who ‘hustle.’
Is it possible today to sacrifice less and yet achieve more?
Yes. If you look closely, you’ll find truly productive people who are doing everything you want to while sacrificing less. Where do they find the time? How do they transform into high-level achievers?
More importantly, can you ever be like them?
The answer again is a reassuring “yes.” Being genuinely productive is easier than it looks. All you need is some self-discipline, and to understand a law known only to the insiders of the productivity circle.
Ready to know the insider’s secret which will change your life?
The Law Which Makes 10X Productivity Possible
In 1955, British historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson observed what was later declared as Parkinson’s Law:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Haven’t you noticed this? The more time you have to complete the task, the more gross it appears. Eventually, it becomes a mental monster. Then, you miss deadlines, compromise with the quality, and nobody is happy.
Achievers understand this. And they take action to counter it. They set stringent deadlines and pursue important tasks till they accomplish their missions.
Here is how they do it, and how you can be more productive, in the workplace and life.
9 Proven Productivity Improvement Techniques
As stated before, being genuinely productive is easier than it looks. Parkinson’s Law can help you experience real satisfaction and fulfillment by pursuing what you want to do.
As promised, here are the techniques:
1. Ask Yourself ‘Why.’
Productive people possess a messianic sense of purpose. Use this to increase your ability to complete what you consider important.
Ask yourself why you want to do something. Is it because somebody wants you to? Or is it because you want to do it? Choose what falls under the latter. The more you do what you love, the more motivated you’ll be to do it.
Your ‘why’ will keep you going when you want to give up. Over time, it will also make you an expert in the next point.
2. Say “No.”
Most important things get ignored because we fail miserably at saying ‘no.’ We’re afraid of being judged by others, of missing out on something good, of being left alone.
As a result, we keep saying yes to people and tasks which pull us away from ourselves. In Tim Ferriss’s words, “we keep inventing things to do to avoid the important.”
Productive people, on the other hand, spend 80 percent time working on what’s important to them. They say no to everything else.
Be assertive and guilt-free when you deny others’ requests. Research shows that people are not as offended when you say ‘no’ as you think.
As for tasks, remember Derek Sivers’ quote: “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say ‘no.’” Secure your oxygen mask first. You can only help others when you don’t neglect your own needs.
3. Reduce Consumption
Consumption is a task we invent to stay away from what’s important. News, social media, mainstream media, email, parties, and more, place us in the comfort zone. They let us judge others rather than being judged for what we create.
Judging is easy. Creating is difficult. Judging makes us feel empowered. Creating makes us afraid. But creating also makes us more productive.
The more you consume, the less you do. Hence, reduce consumption. Don’t stop it altogether, but don’t waste time on what’s useless.
Within a week, you’ll witness a 10X jump in your output. Plus, you’ll be happier and motivated for the right reasons because you’ll stay away from the mindless clutter out there.
Unless you’re lonely or trying to avoid work, consumption is a distraction. Yet, it’s unavoidable. Phone calls, emails, and social media banter – you’ll indulge lest you become a recluse.
But these distractions are a huge cause of your low productivity. According to research, it takes up to 23 minutes to return to a state of focus after being distracted. Count the times you’re distracted and add the numbers. Now tell me you aren’t shocked.
So, chunk your work. Chunking is a proven technique to increase output tremendously and be more productive.
Club similar tasks and do them together. For instance, allot a chunk of time every day for deep focused work. Separately chunk the tasks of making phone calls and checking emails. Don’t engage in them when you do deep work.
Want to surf the web and social media? Allot time for it (but not too much). Enjoy helping people? Allot a specific time each week and spend it only helping them.
Rather than ‘sprinkling’ tasks – doing everything in short bursts at various times – start chunking. Experiments prove that over 80 percent people felt more energetic when they started ‘chunking.’
I practice chunking too – I check email just thrice a day, and I browse social media twice a day, for a total of thirty minutes. I keep the phone in another room when I do deep work. As a result, I consistently surpass deadlines and keep improving.
Chunk your time into dedicated blocks during each day. And during those blocks, follow the next step.
5. Work in Cycles
The popular Pomodoro technique is an effective chunking technique. For the uninitiated, it means working in cycles to maintain your productivity.
Work deeply for twenty-five minutes followed by a five-minute break. This is one Pomodoro cycle. Rinse, repeat. Eight cycles like this and you’ll experience one hell of a productive day.
Gradually, increase your focused time from twenty-five minutes to forty-five. Eight Pomodoro cycles will give you almost three focused hours more each day. Imagine how much you can achieve with three extra hours!
6. Focus on Systems
Most people suck at being productive despite good intentions because they cannot sustain their effort. They try something but give up if it doesn’t work twice.
But this acid test is where productive people distinguish themselves. They persevere. They test and optimize the process. To discover your optimal process, you must focus on a system too.
Setting goals is good. It reminds you why you’re doing something. But it can overwhelm you too. For instance, a goal of writing a book within a year might appear so daunting that you might never start. But if you write just 300 words a day, you’ll write over 90,000 words in a year – equal to one and a half books.
Create systems which improve your efficiency and output. Experiment. Optimize them. Find out what works. Then stick to it.
7. Embrace Constraints
No restrictions make you work like a tortoise, believes Scott Belsky. To be productive, you must embrace constraints instead of running from them.
Leaving free space during the day is an effective constraint. Spend this time away from work and your phone. Invest it on other constructive pursuits. If you work for yourself, then schedule only mundane tasks after noon. Or do nothing at all. If you work for an organization, stop working hard after 3 PM.
When you impose constraints, you subconsciously avoid distractions. You’ve experienced this, haven’t you?
When an important deadline loomed over your head, you blocked the world and finished the assignment within the specified time. Felt awesome, didn’t it? You can experience the same feeling every day. Just embrace constraints for being more productive.
Meetings don’t count as work for me. So, when I attend meetings or chill out with friends, I count it as half a workday. On such days, I complete tasks like clockwork. But when I have the whole day to myself, I procrastinate and work slower than dial-up internet.
You do remember dial-up internet, right?
8. Hold Yourself Accountable
For achievers, the fear of not trying outweighs the fear of failing. Hence, they do what Jon Morrow suggests – they put a gun to their heads (figuratively).
Many people set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG), but fizzle out due to lack of accountability. Staying accountable is an essential part of the productivity journey.
Accountability keeps you on track and enables measurement. And what gets measured gets managed.
Make yourself accountable to achieve short (and long) term goals. It’ll keep you going. If you can’t put a gun to your head, hand it over to someone trustworthy and ask them to do it to help you be more productive.
9. Create Mind Space
Enviable productivity is possible only with calm, thinking mind. A cluttered mind will never let you focus on what’s important. Instead, it’ll jump from one task to another.
All productive people practice mindfulness every day. Emulate them. Spend ten minutes each day practicing mindfulness, preferably in the morning. Read spiritual books. They reinforce the significance of being calm and insulate your mind from the daily clutter.
Most people are capable of reaching their goals. But they don’t because they focus on too many things. As a result, they move a millimeter in each direction – hardly a formula for productivity.
Your life can be different. You can be more productive.
Imagine waking up each morning looking forward to the day, knowing you’ll pursue what you love.
Imagine becoming an indispensable asset to your workplace, with your work speaking for itself. And, imagine being buffered from despicable office politics. Imagine not feeling drained in the evenings, but enjoying them with family and friends.
Imagine doing everything important with minimum sacrifice. You’ll be known in your circles as one heck of an achiever, someone who can get stuff done. Somebody who knows how to be more productive.
I’m not selling you a pipe dream. You can achieve all this and more. Follow the techniques mentioned above and watch your quality of life exceed your own expectations.
Will it be difficult? Yes. Will it be worth it? You bet!
Over to you –
Which of the above hacks have you tried? Which ones will you try? And how do you stay productive? Do share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.