We have all been in the uncomfortable situation of asking ourselves what have we accomplished that day. We tend to go through days of just tackling the urgent and firefighting, but not having enough time to focus on the daily tasks which will help us achieve our long-term goals, if done consistently.
A lot has been said about the glorification of ‘being busy’ and how this has nothing to do with being productive.
I am no expert, however, through practice and reading several books on the subject, I have come up with the following four ways to become more productive:
Planning your days is key. The phrase ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ might be cliché but holds a lot of truth. You need to plan the three to five tasks which you want to conclude the following day, and make sure that these are included in your calendar.
Simply handling tasks which the day throws at you is a recipe for failure. A number of books recommend planning every hour of your day; however I believe that this is overkill. Planning every day from the evening before ensures that you block time for the most important tasks and also helps you be mentally prepared for the tasks you will be tackling the following day.
We all have had those occasional moments when, in a few hours, we are as productive as we usually are over a couple of days. These moments don’t just happen, but the environment around these few hours helps us to become more productive. Distractions, in the form of phones, email notifications and browsing social media are a killer to our productivity.
Placing our phones and laptops on ‘do not disturb’ works wonders for our focus and productivity. The amount of time and energy we waste to get back to our task, after we are distracted, can set us back hours.
At the end of each day, review your day to see whether you performed the tasks which you set out to do and, if you haven’t managed to do so, understand why and what needs to be done tomorrow to fix this. Reviewing our day helps us understand what is working and what is not, and helps us to ensure that we fix any problems immediately.
I am a firm believer in rising before dawn. The ‘5AM Club’ by Robin Sharma clearly illustrates all the benefits of waking up early.
Being up before dawn helps you start the day calmly and sets the mood for the rest of it. It also helps in getting things done without any distractions, since most of the world is still sleeping! I would go the extra step and suggest exercising early in the morning, as it helps with your mood and energy for the rest of the day, which ensures a higher level of productivity.
There are a number of excellent books on the topic of productivity. I highly recommend ‘18 minutes’ by Peter Bregman and ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. We sometimes overlook how small, consistent habits can change our lives and, as a result, we don’t bother with them. However, in many cases, including with productivity, all it takes is small, daily habits that will help us become more productive, and less busy!
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