How to Improve Your Productivity
To Multi-task or not?
Everybody lists on their resume that they can multi-task. But can you really? There is an unavoidable trade off between multi-tasking and quality of work performed. Name anything, manual labor, sending an email, shooting, it all requires your full focus. Even the richest people in the world have so many hours to work and they can’t be monitoring every aspect of a business 24/7.
Maybe your dad once told you, “If you’re going to do something, you better do it right”, or something along those lines. Delivering something as done on time, is always better than nothing because you think it should be perfect. Adulting requires our attention for so many different things, how can a person be productive while juggling everything?
The first step in being productive is to know what you want to do and then plan accordingly. This may seem like a no-brainer, but people often find themselves unprepared for things they need to do, which can lead to wasted time.
The point of this guide is to help structure yourself in order to manage everything going on and do things well. A day panner and copying someone’s morning routine won’t cut it, but these tips will help you on your path. Productivity is the process of maximizing efficiency to achieve the maximum output possible. This article will explore what it means to be a productive person and how one can go about becoming one.
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Define Your Priorities
This depends on your core identity. Who are you? and what does that mean you must do?
Probably a lot of guys are providers, students, husbands, fathers, work two jobs, the list goes on. But we all want to have hobbies and make time for friends. Sometimes you have to say no or later to certain things. Hopefully most of us know to say no to drugs and committing crimes. But being a high functioning individual is more than that.
Generally it’s important to get a good night’s sleep for various reasons. But there is a difference between not sleeping in these two scenarios:
A. Staying up until 3am playing video games even though you have to go to work/school the next day.
B. Catching a red eye flight from a work trip in order to get home for your kid’s birthday.
In both instances, good sleep is not happening. But the end result is that you lost sleep for for what?
If a girl you like wants to hang out the same day you have a job interview, you need to decide – what are you priorities? Maybe a job is what you need most at that moment, or the girl is more important. A lot of times the decisions in real life are more complex than that. But the point is that you need to have an established system of values that you stick to no matter what. Consequences to these decision shape our lives whether we realize it or not.
Not all decisions have a good or bad outcome, but just different results that lead to other things. For example, deciding what city you move to, or what hobbies you spend your free time with can steer you to meet different people or find a certain job and so on.
How you make decisions is a result of who you are. So by consciously making certain decisions you will become whoever you will be.
Time Management is Really Discipline
Yes, keeping a calendar helps. But in reality it comes down to discipline.
The point of a calendar is to let you know that at a certain time you need to be doing X task. A meeting is scheduled at a certain time for a reason, your job is to be there and participate while everything else can wait.
You plan to study focused for two hours today, but are you actually going to do it?
You set your alarm to be on time for work, but are you actually going to get out of bed when it rings?
If your mental discipline needs improvement, take action. Read Discipline Equals Freedom, by Jocko Willink. It is one of the best resources out there to help improve your mental discipline.
From this book you can learn strategies and for conquering weakness, procrastination, and fear, and specific physical training to improve your mental use of time. Jocko also shares the best sleep habits and food intake recommended to optimize performance.
Ultimately you must train yourself to make almost unconscious decisions about how you are spending your time. Once you have vision of who you want to be, then you must practice doing the things that person would do.
Is it you want to be a – better student to graduate, a better father to influence your kids for good, better at your job in order to make more money, more organized so your living space feels better, budget your money to be more financially stable…
With a limited amount of hours in a day and days in a week, that time has to be spent in a way moves you closer to being that better version of yourself.
Ask yourself these questions multiple times during the day:
- Is it worth taking this time to do this right now?
- Should I be doing something else right now?
- In order to accomplish ___, what is the best thing to do right now?
Going back to your core priorities, are you efficient or a perfectionist? Do you use your time to get things done or to be meticulous on one thing? Depending on the task in front of you it may require you to be efficient or detailed. You must be able to know what the requirement is and then carry it out to meet the desired outcome.
For example, deciding to be picky about shaving and clothes can lead to being late for an important event. On the other hand, not showering can lead to a bad first impression. There is a time and place for both efficiency and attention to detail. When both are important, the difference comes down to planning.
Organization & Planning Starts with Preparation
The first step to organizing your life is to make a list of all the things that are important to you and prioritize them. Next, start thinking about what you need to do this coming week and write it down.
Usually, people are late or deliver less than satisfactory results in whatever area because they did not prepare ahead of time for X thing. Don’t think about school assignments or work meetings – consider an anniversary with your significant other, forgetting to take out the trash, etc. These “misses” add up and deteriorate your relationships, make you seem untrustworthy, and lead you down to bad habits.
Being organized is a skill that can be learned, developed and nurtured. It is not something that you are born with. The first step to being organized is to become aware of your tendencies and habits.
It is important to identify the things that make you feel most anxious or stressed. Once you have identified the problem areas, it becomes easier for you to take steps towards solving them. Knowing what your triggers are will help you in organizing your life better.
A lot of time is wasted laying in bed scrolling on phones when a person could be sleeping or getting up to start the day. If you struggle with this, take a look at the Minimalist Phone app.
Procrastination is an issue that many people face and it can be a difficult thing to overcome. There is no one size fits all solution to this problem, but there are some things you can do to help yourself stop procrastinating.
One of the most important things is to realize that there are certain tasks that we can’t put off forever. These tasks will never get easier or less stressful as time goes on, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute to do them. Some of these tasks include paying bills and going through your email inbox.
Another thing you can do is break up big projects into smaller chunks so they seem more manageable. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed by the task at hand and will be more likely to complete it in a timely manner. Realize that doing a small task now, even if you don’t feel like it, is less of a pain than it will be later.
Again, it comes down to discipline. Do it once, and then again, and again, until it is your new way of functioning. It becomes easier and then it becomes a habit.
Your Nutrition & Energy Affects Your Output
Keep caffeine to a minimum. Do not allow yourself to become dependent on it to function.
Energy drinks and coffee can build up your tolerance to where you need more and more of it to keep you going. Your body can create its own energy with a good diet and proper sleep. Some supplements can be used for good. For example, Alpha Brain can help with mental function and small doses of BCAA energy during the day can help keep your energy up, provide you important minerals and vitamin B12.
If you can’t seem to sleep well, try exhausting yourself during the day, really exhausting yourself to the point where all you want is to lay down. Then eat a good meal and actually go to bed at a decent time without any tv or phone time. You’ll find that you almost fall asleep as soon as you close your eyes.
An optimized schedule should allow you to have energy throughout the day but also challenging enough to make you tired for bed – every day.
Next is diet, in general a protein rich diet blended with complex carbs is a healthy way to fuel your body. Don’t forget plenty of water. Cut out soda, and sugar as much as possible. What you want to avoid is highs and lows throughout the day because of what you’re putting in.
Carbs are good, but not all of them. Avoid sugary cereal, pasta, and pastries. Complex carbs means white rice, sweet potato, beans, oats, lentils. Research complex carbs and find which ones you can incorporate into your grocery shopping.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
Not getting enough sleep or exercise can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. There is a lot of research that has been done to show the link between physical activity and mental health. Not only does physical activity help with physical well-being, but it also helps with mood regulation.
For example, one study found that people who were physically active had less symptoms of depression than those who were not physically active. There is also evidence to suggest that people who are more physically active have lower rates of anxiety disorders than those who are not as active. Exercise can be a form of therapy for people with mental disorders like ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder (BD), depression, schizophrenia (SCZ) or anorexia nervosa.
If you are already sold on the idea of working out, then it’s just a matter of making the time for it. We’re not talking about overtraining and not missing a day of working out. The point here is to do something physical that makes you give effort, whatever that is – going on a walk, doing squats, weight lifting, martial arts, basketball, etc.
Make it work with your schedule. Dads might have to wake up early to get in their exercise before the kids wake up, and have set up a home gym. Single people probably have more flexibility to go to a gym after work. Whatever you situation, you can make time for exercise if it’s important to you.
Summary of How to Improve Your Productivity
There is not perfect answer. These principles can help you figure out how to balance your schedule and execute it daily. Becoming more productive with your time is a goal that everyone has. It’s not easy though, but the following tips will help you get there.
1) Spend your time on what matters the most to you. Thoughtfully set aside time for work, sleep, hobbies, relationships.
2) Focus on what works for you and ditch the rest. Don’t try to do too much at once.
3) Set achievable goals for yourself and break them down into manageable tasks.
4) Delegate tasks to others when possible so you can focus on what needs your attention most urgently.
5) Get rid of distractions by turning off notifications from social media, email and other websites that are distracting you from working towards your goals.