Too many people fall prey to bad habits. Maybe it’s an inability to turn off the TV, maybe they eat junk food for every meal, and so on. But there are good easy habits one can adopt that no only take very little time, but will make you into a far more productive person once they’re successfully folded into your work routine.
Here they are:
Take mornings for yourself. If the first thing you do upon waking up each day is to grab a laptop and immediately get to work, then that’s no morning at all. It’s easy to outsource your entire identity to your work and the responsibilities therein, but it’s hardly healthy. Cultivate interests, stay in touch with family and friends, and be the type of person who’s already done a few things for himself or herself before showing up in the office that day.
Shorten your to-do list on purpose. This has to do with focus and prioritization. It’s of course no problem to write down everything you need to get done in a given day, but the simple truth of the matter is that an unpruned list will only build unrealistic expectations for what should get done.
Start by writing down everything, then go through and appraise each item on an individual basis — is this important, will doing it make my life easier, and are there no other important tasks needing to be done ahead of it? If not, then kill it and revisit it tomorrow.
Then be sure to appraise your to-do list in aggregate. Do you have a realistic plan and set of expectations for the day? It’s almost certain that you’ll need to knock several items off your list if you expect to be able to clear that list before the end of the day.
Investing in your to-do list in this way keeps you committed and on track to having as productive a day as is possible.
Do your most difficult work before lunchtime. It is a nonsensical myth that people remain productive and devoted to work throughout the day. Our willpower is a limited resource, and shortly after lunchtime we begin to want to do other things entirely. People are at their most focused and alert for several hours after waking up, but it trails off quickly after that. Take advantage of your naturally being at the top of your game in the mornings and
Multitasking sucks. What a destructive idea that people can “multitask,” or effectively do several things at once. Humans can do one thing well at a time. As soon as you introduce a second task (or a third, or a fourth, and so on), the quality of your work in each task suffers. Why not prioritize and do things one at a time, in the order that they need?
You’re going to have to say “no” to things. We’ve covered this before — there is an undeniable power when it comes to saying no. Turning down opportunities and obligations where appropriate focuses you, much like the previously mentioned point about trimming and prioritizing one’s to-do list. It might be a new job, a speaking engagement, or just a night out with friends, but the end result of saying no is the same. It protects your time, and if you’re going to be efficient, your time needs all the protection it can get.
Say yes to the things you actually want to do. Say no to the things that are a hindrance or that hold you back.
Automate as much as possible. This is increasingly easy in our digitally saturated world. Set as many bills to autopay online as possible. Schedule a monthly archive of your email. Schedule your recurring meetings or events to be at the same time every time. If you put your mind to it, you’ll likely come up with all kinds of things you can automate in your own life.
In summation, apply these tips where you can and take note of if they should actually help. If something shouldn’t work, cut it out immediately and try something else. Experiment to find what works for you, then experiment some more to see if you can optimize it. You’ll be a productivity wizard in no time.