“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
What are some ways to be super productive?
Have you had days of great productivity where everything just moved along effortlessly?
Have you also had days where you found it difficult to focus and get the things done that you had envisioned for the day and the week?
There are some habits and structures when set up and practiced consistently allow you to be super productive.
I have found the following practices to enhance and supercharge my productivity:
1. Make a List Of Three To Five Things To Complete The Next Day
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” -Pablo Picasso
You may find that spontaneity works great if you are able to focus on the correct tasks and find yourself on a roll.
But you have a much better shot at being productive if you follow this small productivity tip.
Take a few minutes every night to list your 3 to 5 most important tasks that you want to accomplish the next morning.
Begin with task 1 and check it off after completing it.
Move on through the list to get a great boost of accomplishment.
Why does the short list work?
Usually if you have your entire to-do list in front of you, you have a greater chance of getting overwhelmed and sidetracked.
Often, you may doubt which task is the most important to do first.
By creating a simple and numbered list the previous night, you take the guesswork from what you need to do the next day.
Research has shown that our conscious minds cannot process more than 60 to 100 bits of information per second.
Having a huge to-do list is a recipe for overwhelm and information overload.
“Think of many things; do one.” – Portuguese proverb
2. Manage your energy, Not just time
“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”– David Allen
Whenever I attempted to only manage my time, I ended up less than satisfied with the results.
This is because experiencing tension and stress over time makes it more likely to be poorly managed.
Prioritizing chunks of time and managing them is an important quality.
The problem is that there are always things that creep in that take more time and make time management tricky.
Instead of grappling only with time, figure out your energy level blueprint and how to manage your energy.
Your energy level blueprint makes you aware of the time periods during the day or evening when you experience the most elevated amounts of energy.
When you schedule your most important and significant tasks when you have high energy, your productivity will skyrocket.
Also, make an assessment of your food intake, hydration and exercise patterns and if they are allowing you to have high energy.
For example, having well placed out and smaller meals may be a better idea to maintain high energy levels.
I always feel sleepy if I have a huge meal at lunchtime and my productivity dips down.
Make sure that you are well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Finally, make sure that you steer clear of energy vampires and energy drainers.
Excuse yourself by telling them that you have something that you need to attend to.
“Energy and persistence conquer all things. “ – Benjamin Franklin
3. Chunking Your Tasks Together
“The most efficient way to produce anything is to bring together under one management as many as possible of the activities needed to turn out the product.” – Peter Drucker
Chunking is the act of taking your list or your tasks and grouping them together on the basis of what is common between them.
When you group common items together, you focus and align them towards a common goal and outcome.
For example, I group all my self-care items into one category, my writing and creative efforts into another and so on.
This diminishes a big list into graspable chunks of information.
I have a hard time getting around many different tasks and items of information and chunking them really helps.
4. Chunking Time: Cut Off distractions By focusing On One Task
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”― Bruce Lee
One way to super charge your productivity is to divide your day into chunks of time for specific tasks.
A chunk of time that works well is 40-45 minutes for bigger tasks and projects.
Anything more than 40-45 minutes and my attention begins diminishing.
There is research to show that attention depreciates after 40 to 45 minutes of concentration.
This is called “attention decrement” and is avoided by taking a short break after 45 minutes of intense concentration.
You can also chunk smaller periods of time for smaller projects such as the Pomodoro technique’s 25 minutes.
When I am short on time, I usually set the timer for 10 minutes and do the best that I can during that time.
For example, I set the timer for 10 minutes to do some household chores and cleaning as a welcome distraction from my work.
You can also set the timer for 10 minutes to catch up on your social media engagement.
5. Eat That Frog First
“You cannot eat every tadpole and frog in the pond, but you can eat the biggest and ugliest one, and that will be enough, at least for the time being.”― Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog
This strategy is from Brian Tracy and is based on Mark Twain’s quote and works wonders for self-confidence. The idea is that you tackle the most difficult task or the frog for the day and eat it first thing in the morning.
For example, if making customer calls is the frog of the day for you, you take the plunge and eat that frog first.
It is all-uphill from eating the frog because the next sequence of tasks is always going to be easier.
Moreover, you receive a great motivational and courage boost by tackling the frog first.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”-Mark Twain
6. Have A HOPE (Hour Of Power Everyday) Practice
“It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.” – Tony Robbins
I learnt about this practice from Tony’ Robbins. HOP stands for your custom, blend of Hour Of Power practice and it sets the tone for the day.
When you take an hour every morning to practice and engage in self-sustaining practices, you are more happy and centered to face your day.
My hour of Power includes the following:
Yoga and Pilates
After my HOPE, I feel energized and powerful. I feel like I am ready and inspired to take on my day.
Many top entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and other top performing CEO’s have a practice of exercise and self-care that forms the core of their daily routine.
If you can wake up before others wake up and put in your HOPE, it is highly preferred.
But if you are not a morning person, no problem at all. Simply schedule in some time to set up your own blend of the HOPE practice.
The beauty of the HOPE practice is that it does not have to be one hour long.
Sometimes I have to shrink it to 20-30 minutes. I still do all the components even if they have been shrunk in time and length.
It gives me continuity and confidence to maintain a practice instead of giving it up because I do not have one hour.
7. Schedule Social Media And E-mail And Minimize Distractions
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus”― Alexander Graham Bell
One of the biggest time sinks is social media and e-mail. I love social media updates and engaging with others.
However, there are times when I intend to be productive but end up spending too much time on email and social media.
I also love to go through my many e-mail messages of the day, looking at deals and updates from blogs that I have subscribed to.
A good solution is to set up “leisure time” to do what you want and go through e-mail and social media and schedule it in if it is becoming a huge time sink.
A good rule of thumb is that if you send an update within a few seconds, do it.
If you want to implement a social media strategy or engage for longer periods of time, schedule it in.
8. The 2-minute Rule
This tip is from David Allen, the GTD or Getting Things Done guru. David says that if there is something that you can get done in a few minutes or a very short period of time, go ahead and do it.
David in his own words in an interview to Success magazine:
“I have a two-minute rule that says: If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it. If you don’t avoid the question about what’s the next step, lots of two minute items could be done right then.”
David says that there will be things that will take longer or will have many steps that you will not be able to complete in a short period of time.
“Now, there are many times that you have a next step that’s going to take longer amount of time, like drafting some big new spreadsheet. You wouldn’t want to do that in two minutes.” – David Allen, Interview to Success
9. Declutter And Organize: Put Everything Back In Its Designated Space
“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein
One of the great productivity busters is trying to find things that have not been put back in the place where they belong.
A good system of organization is vital for productivity and also for effective creativity.
Having a lot of clutter that interferes with function is another way to make sure that your productivity decreases.
10. Have Shorter Meetings Or Scheduling A Walking Meeting
“What did get me moving was a social interaction. Someone invited me to a meeting, but couldn’t manage to fit me in to a regular sort of conference room meeting, and said, ‘I have to walk my dogs tomorrow. Could you come then?’ It seemed kind of odd to do, and actually, that first meeting, I remember thinking,’I have to be the one to ask the next question,’ because I knew I was going to huff and puff during this conversation. And yet, I’ve taken that idea and made it my own. So instead of going to coffee meetings or fluorescent-lit conference room meetings, I ask people to go on a walking meeting, to the tune of 20 to 30 miles a week. It’s changed my life.”- Nilofer Merchant, TED talk, Got a Meeting, Take a walk.
One of the significant attention fragmenters and productivity busters is having long meetings through the day.
There are several ways that you can get around that dilemma:
Schedule shorter meetings of 30 minutes and stick to the schedule.
Clump your meetings together for one time of the day.
Have an unconventional meeting like a walking or a workout meeting. I came across this idea from Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk.
Unconventional meetings are becoming more popular now.
Not only are walking meetings a great change of environment, but they can also have great health benefits.
The rule of thumb for any meeting is to stick to the agenda.
It is a good idea to refuse to get sidetracked with crises and issues that pop up or engage people who prolong meetings.
11. Prioritize Your Tasks And Schedule Them In
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
Having a weighted, and priority based system is a wonderful way to be super-productive and get a lot accomplished.
A simple priority system is to divide actions and tasks based on when you need to do them.
The categories are the one task you need to do now, the few tasks you need to get done during today and the upcoming rest of the tasks for the week.
This type of focused task management gives you today’s snapshot along with the big picture for the week.
I found that this saves me much anxiety and worry because I have listed all the important tasks for the day and the week.
Scheduling in the maximum priority tasks in your calendar is a wonderful way to tell yourself that you have made a commitment and blocked out time.
12. Say No To Overscheduling And Delegate
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.” -Elizabeth Grace Saunders
Saying “no” to the ever piling list of tasks is not only productivity savvy but also essential for your sanity.
You may hesitate to say no because you want to do it all and please others.
However, it always ends up being counter-productive because overwhelm makes you miss important deadlines.
Develop the art of effective delegation. Match the task with the skill set of individuals and then do not hesitate to delegate.
Many of us land in a productivity pickle because we take on too much in too little time.
Being realistic about your time will save you much trouble in the future.
13. Use Technology To Be More Productive
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” –Sir Arthur C. Clarke
I consistently use technology to be more productive.
For tasks I have to remember and get done, I use apps like Due that bug me to finish something and will keep reminding me till I get it done with.
I use notifications to keep me on track with my projects.
I use timers to set a quick timer and get going on the task.
I use note and idea capturing tools such as Evernote and other notebooks to capture and even make sketches of ideas that I receive.
I use wonderful writing tools like Scrivener to get my writing organized and completed. Here is more information about Scrivener in the Resources page.
How do you use technology to be more productive?
14. Sleep More, Take Naps And Stay Hydrated
“Rest and be thankful.” ― William Wordsworth
One of the secrets of great productivity is getting enough sleep to make you last through the day without fatigue and burnout.
Taking a small power nap during the day is also highly effective.
When you get overworked and under rested, you feel tense and on the edge and it has a huge negative impact on your productivity.
15. Do Things Less Perfectly
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire
Perfectionism that has run wild can wreak havoc on your productivity.
When you become the person who is the most difficult to please, it becomes possible to lose touch with reality.
You may keep improving a project but in reality, you need to get quick feedback to assess if the work is nearing completion.
When you expect the world and a lot more from your work, you lose sight of the true expectations of your customers and your colleagues.
A quick way to snap out of perfectionism is to become clear about the expectations, receive feedback and then set a deadline and stick to it.
16. Environment Matters
“We need space to be productive, we need places to go to be free.” – Laure Lacornette
Companies like Google, Pixar and IDEO show us that environment matters for making productivity fun and engaged.
Ask yourself if your environment is facilitating productivity or if it is blocking it.
Pay attention to clutter, colors and other elements of your productive work spaces.
Read up on Feng Shui or the Chinese art of effective space and environment management.
17. Use The Pareto Principle
The Pareto principle says that 80% of your work results come from 20% of your work effort.
Make an assessment of what work produces the most results on a consistent basis and focus most of your time and attention there.
Delegate the tasks that do not produce the most results.
18. Become Intentional With Your Time And Your Work
“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
You can become intentional by:
Giving up multitasking for unitasking.
Taking up the tasks and work that you enjoy most.
Being grateful for the little victories and accomplishments.
Developing a Kaizen or continuous improvement mindset.
Taking small but consistent steps.
Letting go of analysis paralysis and taking action.
Doing less and not more.
“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” – Francine Jay
19. Script The Critical Moves
“Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves.”-Dan and Chip Heath
This tip comes from Dan and Chip Heath from their book, Switch.
The idea is that you need a clear and easy to implement action plan.
The plan should script the critical moves in a manner that avoids confusion and overwhelm.
The authors explain that often resistance to change manifests when you are ambiguous or lack clarity on how to take the next step forward.
This is true because having a list is not enough if you lack key information on how to implement the list.
I think this in a nutshell explains the dilemma of the information overload and lack of forward progress.
As an example, They say that the food pyramid gives such a wide array of ambiguous choices that people get lost in the details.
Instead of telling people what one key behavior that they should change, the pyramid gives options and choices that are not easy to put in place.
The authors point out that telling people to switch to 1% milk in a West Virginia community was more effective than telling them to “eat healthy.”
20. Setting Up Structures And Habits That Work For You
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”– Jim Rohn
Intentional productivity depends on the habits and structures that you have set up in your life.
Identify the areas that are creating issues for you and plan ahead and set up structures to simplify them.
Structures and habits should:
Eliminate and automate the unnecessary worry of bothering with the small details.
Focus on your big goals and allow you to make a big splash in the key areas.
Have triggers and cues that motivate you forward towards joyful and engaged productivity.
Have rewards built-in within them to motivate you.
Make you more relaxed and engaged and not the opposite.
Address the key “why” and “how” questions.
“Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” – Stephen Hawking
Now over to you, awesome readers! What are some of your tips and ways to be super productive?
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Nathan Ambrose says
Yes, it’s very important to specify exactly what tasks we need to do, then prioritise them. This certainly helps.
Thanks a lot for your comment, Nathan!
Whenever, I specify exactly I want to accomplish and follow through, I am focused and ready to go. When I am not, my focus is diffuse. Even though some days it feels good to simply get inspired randomly and be creative without having too much on the agenda.
Have an inspired week!
James from GTDNext.com says
Great comments. These are some of my favorite productivity ideas. I actually wrote a blog post about “Eat the Frog” where I outline the 3 best ideas from that book- You can find it here. http://blog.gtdnext.com/the-best-3-ideas-from-eat-that-frog-by-brian-tracy/
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