If you’re anything like me (and if you are, hey, let’s be friends), you feel as though you’d achieve everything you ever wanted in life if only you were more productive.
Lack of productivity is a problem that’s surely plagued everyone at one point or another, and it can seriously derail your plans if not dealt with properly.
Recently, I found myself suffering from a bout of idleness and decided to do something about it. Believe it or not, there are not only those that are super-productive, but also those who make a living from being productive.
One such person is Jimmy Naraine, who gives regular video lectures on how people can improve their lives using the online learning suite Udemy. Jimmy is the winner of the first Udemy Innovation Award, and has been featured in various business publications; he also seemed like an amicable enough guy. With that in mind, and a burning desire to get motivated, I enrolled in his online course Double Your Productivity and Get Important Things Done.
These are my key take-away points:
1. Your Goals Aren’t Exciting Enough
The first thing everyone always mentions when they talk about being productive is goals. “Set goals”, “meet goals”, “keep your goals in mind”. That’s all great in theory, but what use is setting goals if you’re not motivated enough to actually meet them?
You should definitely set long-term goals, but in order to make sure you actually complete them, you need to make them exciting. Set yourself a challenge; make them feel like actual accomplishments. Use exaggeration and hyperbole to make yourself more motivated to work. Ticking off simple day-to-day tasks won’t make you the next Elon Musk, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I bet even Elon needs to complete some daily admin.
Before you set a long-term goal, ask yourself, “Does it excite me?”
If you’re not driven to complete the goal, it’s not a good goal.
Use this process to reinvigorate your current goals, then work backwards through each one to uncover which steps you’ll need to complete in order to achieve them.
2. Follow the 80/20 Rule
Otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule states that the 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The world is predictably unbalanced, and a lot of the time we won’t receive a worthwhile return for the amount of effort we put into something. In fact, the majority of results are usually caused by the minority of inputs.
In order to apply it to your daily life, try to identify the most important tasks that benefit you the most. Chances are a lot of what you do has very little impact in the long run. Identify those big impactful tasks, and focus the majority of your efforts on them.
3. Don’t Wait; Act Now
Quit waiting around for inspiration to strike you.
If you’re suffering from a creative drought, just open a blank document and start typing. Type out exactly what you’re doing. Type what you’re thinking about. You’ll find the simple act of typing mechanically kick-starts your brain into creating content.
You can read all of the blog posts on productivity you want, but unless you’re actually actioning these tips, chances are they won’t have an effect.
Quit procrastinating and start doing.
4. Stop Putting It Off
How many times have you said “I’ll do it later”?
As much as I love leaving problems for my future self, it never benefits me in the long run. In reality, if I dealt with issues the moment they arose, I’d probably be a lot happier.
Chances are you would too. Check your to-do list and ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t complete each task. If it’s not important, take it off the list. If it’s important, and it can be done now, it should be done now. When you have to do something crucial, do it automatically.
5. Make a Not-To-Do List
If you find yourself erasing a lot of tasks from daily to-do lists, why not try creating a list of things you don’t have to do?
A ‘not-to-do’ list will keep you free from getting bogged down by those unimportant tasks, allowing you to stay focussed more on what matters.
6. Plan Your Day
Before you go to sleep each night, jot down what you’ve accomplished that day, and what you want to get done tomorrow. This will help you to realise how well you’re doing, and help you programme yourself to do more. Plan how you will manage tomorrow today. Set aside clothes for the next day and sort out the food you’ll be eating.
7. Set Up a Morning Ritual
If you can encourage yourself from the moment you wake up, chances are you’ll be able to keep that energy throughout the day.
In order to help you start off right, Jimmy suggests following a healthy routine:
Wake up and smile – by holding a smile you’ll encourage your body to release endorphins, making you feel less stressed
Drink two glasses of water to rehydrate your body – readsorb what you lose over night
Exercise and stretch – try to fit in 10 minutes of exercise and 5 minutes of stretching to keep your body healthy as well as your mind
Envision your goals whilst you shower – use the time to reflect on how you’ll achieve success
Eat breakfast and get dressed – both pre-selected the night before
Count your blessings – remember what you’ve achieved, and what you’re thankful for, as it’ll help you to remember why you do what you do.
8. Manage Interruptions
How do you stay focused when it’s never been easier to get distracted?
Keep a time log of all your interruptions. Try it today: after reading this post, keep a time log of how many times you check your mobile. I can almost guarantee you’ll be surprised by the number.
In order to deal with this, you should batch your interruptions. Note down what distracts you and give yourself scheduled time each day to do those things. Then, once it’s out of your system, you can get on with the important tasks.
9. Embrace the Art of Not Finishing
If something is wasting your time, it’s probably not worth doing. I’m not saying you should quit doing difficult things (in fact, you should relish the challenge), but why should you spend your time and effort on fruitless activities? Learn to let go of tasks which aren’t going to benefit you.
10. Learn to Relax
Don’t be afraid to enjoy your free time. Being constantly busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. Take some time out to yourself every now and again. Take a ‘cheat day’ to let your mind rest and wander; that way, when it comes to work, you’ll be much more focused on the tasks at hand.
Get Up and Get Out!
Hopefully, these tips will help you to improve your routine and become more organised and productive. I recommend watching the whole video course from Jimmy on Udemy, as he shares some great advice and offers more insights into how you can be more productive.
Got any productivity tips you like to rely on? Let me know in the comments below!