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“If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.”
Interesting words to live by, right? This pearl of wisdom comes from none other than former NAVY Seal Admiral William H. McRaven. You’ve probably heard his famous address to the graduates of the University of Texas. In that same speech, which you check out here, he points out the value of being productive and accomplishing all tasks. Even things as simple as making your bed can make you feel like you’ve done something meaningful that day.
Still, you and several others might struggle to be productive. Whether interrupted by errands or distracted by messages, you might find it hard to focus on a task. If you want to do something, you need both your attention and your mindset to align. Otherwise, if you don’t feel productive, how can you feel confident in finishing something you started?
Before you can use these hacks to improve your life, you should understand what it means to be productive. For many people, productivity is when you are able to do important and meaningful things with the time you have. Simple tasks like washing laundry or cooking can be as productive as working at the office or paying bills. So, how do you know if you are being productive?
The toughest thing about being productive is managing your time. Many people feel that they are interrupted or forced to postpone their plans. It can be frustrating when you set out a goal only to get sidetracked. The problem is that these people assume that it’s completely out of their control.
Those who are productive, however, feel a sense of control over their actions and time. They know how to focus their efforts on one task, whether it’s chores or paperwork. While they can’t control time itself, they can control how they use their time to make it matter.
To illustrate it better, consider how much time you’ve spent on social media. A report from EarthWeb revealed that people spend an average of two and a half hours a day on social media. Imagine how much you could do in that time. You could read a nice book, study a new skill, or build your investment portfolio. There’s a lot more time in the day than you think. The question is: how will you use it?
While productive people have a sense of control over their lives, that doesn’t mean they can handle everything. Sometimes, circumstances change and they have no choice but to follow. For example, bad weather could cancel their vacation plans or cause serious damage to the house.
If you want to be productive, you can’t try to change the impossible. There are people who might mope or whine about how unfair things are. Even if it’s true, complaining won’t solve that. What you can do is learn to adapt and move forward. If your vacation is canceled, what else can you do with your time? If you lost money from repairs, how will you rebuild your funds? By being proactive and productive, you can turn challenges into opportunities.
If you look at an average work schedule, you’ll notice that there are eight hours a day to cover. You might roll your eyes at the idea that people have to be productive throughout that time. Funny enough, you’re right in a certain way. It’s difficult for anyone to be highly productive for long stretches of time, especially eight hours a day.
That said, what matters isn’t the amount of time you spend. Imagine instead that there are certain periods where you feel the most effective. If you believe that you can focus on a task for two hours, then those two hours should be your productive period.
Productive people know that they have specific times of the day for the heaviest tasks. During these times, they make sure to limit distractions to keep the in the zone. For example, one of the best productivity hacks is to shut off all notifications or work with white noise. By limiting what distractions there are, productive people can maximize their time and thoughts to make things happen.
Lastly, one of the key signs of a productive person is that they don’t switch between tasks. Nowadays, it’s a popular idea to go and multitask in whatever task you have. People have written emails while playing video games or messaging friends online. However, the mind isn’t built to do multiple tasks at once. Instead, it only shifts attention from one task to another.
In other words, multitasking is impossible. It’s more like task-switching, which can be very confusing. It’d be like reading chapter one of a book, then switching to another book. By the time you get back to the first story, you’d be confused and out of context. Those who want to be productive keep their eyes on a single task at a time. They only move on after one task is finished, instead of trying to divide their time.
Now that you know what a productive person looks like, you might be wondering how to become one. The truth is that being productive requires a lot of discipline and determination. You have to stick to whatever tasks you have and avoid losing your focus or attention to something else.
However, there are productivity hacks that can help you become more efficient. With these tips, you can learn how to better prepare your time. Here are eleven useful productivity hacks and why they work.
The first step to being productive is to know what you plan on doing for the day. Oftentimes, you might feel unproductive because you don’t know what to do. Sure, you could rest or sleep around but that’s not ideal. You want to live a life where each day has a purpose and motivates you to do something meaningful.
One of the productivity hacks to try is setting a list of goals each day. Consider what you want to accomplish and how you can do so. For example, writers can set aside an hour or two to focus on drafting their stories. Stockbrokers can spend part of their day reviewing the stock market and any important news. Even janitors can spend their time collecting all necessary supplies.
To make it easier, try writing down your tasks as doable actions. Anyone can say that they’ll write, but you can be more specific. For example, you can set an hour to focus on writing three pages of an article or story. By making it doable, you give yourself a strategy to getting that goal accomplished.
Productivity hacks aren’t only tips on how to use your time; they also cover what to avoid or limit. In this case, putting away your phone for the time being can help you stay focused. How many times have you been writing an email or filling out paperwork when a message ping gets your attention? It happens a lot more than you think, and sometimes it can take up several minutes of your time.
If you want to stay offline, make sure to update people that you’re busy or at work. That way, you won’t be bombarded with messages while you’re at your desk. In addition, putting your phone on silent or in another room can keep you from checking it throughout the day. The more you learn to avoid distractions, the faster you’ll get your tasks done.
You might’ve heard people do something called “time blocking” or “time chunking”. This is what happens when they look at their schedules and see a chunk of time available. They then use this chunk to focus on a specific task so they can be productive. So, when I say bulking your time, I’m talking about putting blocks or periods for your tasks.
For example, let’s say that you have to write several documents or articles in a single day. You can dedicate three or four hours of your time to start writing and filling out your quote. How you divide your time is up to you. Some people like to get the task accomplished in one go, while others try to complete portions per period. Either way, you can make your day feel productive once you block your time to fit any plans or goals.
One of my favorite books is called “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy. It was a guide on how to avoid procrastination and make the most of my time. It helped me in my early years and taught me the importance of time management and prioritization.
One of the most important lessons there is called “eating the frog”. Basically, it’s when you put your most hated and difficult tasks first to make the rest of the day easier. Not only does this make you feel productive, but it also removes your biggest challenges first.
For example, let’s say that you have to pay your bills on a weekend. You might want to watch TV or catch up with your friends to unwind instead. However, imagine if you paid your bills first. By doing that chore right away, you leave a lot more time and space for yourself. You get more time to relax, reflect, and refocus your energy to take on any other tasks. Most importantly, it’ll feel easier because you already solved the hardest problems first.
If you think about it, these productivity hacks tackle how you approach a task. But what about the reason for each task? If you have to do something, there has to be a reason why it matters. So, have you ever asked yourself why you need to do something?
Believe it or not, knowing the purpose of a goal is also one of the best productivity hacks! Many people get lazy or unmotivated because they don’t know why they do certain things. If you reorganize a cabinet with no explanation, you won’t try to do a good job. However, if you reorganize it to clean up your things, you’ll pay a lot more attention.
The same goes for any task you have for the day. Whether personal or professional, knowing what your task means can help you stay focused. For instance, designing a logo can be fun but tiring. If you know that it’s for a company willing to pay you money, then you’ll feel more motivated to do a good job.
I cannot stress this part enough. You might’ve heard me say this before, but it still bears repeating: multitasking does not work. The brain cannot divide its attention to different tasks at the same time. There’s a reason why people are warned not to text while driving. It’s hard to focus on driving safely and avoiding hazards when your eyes are on the phone, instead of the road.
The same goes for any job you have. If you’re trying to learn a new language, don’t use that time to cook food or write an assignment. Sure, you’re doing more things but you won’t be focused on any of them. Instead, stick to one task and devote your mind and attention to it.
Knowing the purpose of a task is a good way to keep your efforts going. However, if you feel like you’re getting lazy or you’re uninterested, add some stakes to the task. Deadlines and rewards can be good productivity hacks if they push you to do a better job.
For example, I like to motivate myself by promising to donate to charity if I fail. Ideally, that sounds like a win-win scenario. However, I challenge myself to donate to a cause or advocacy that goes against my personal views. Why? By doing so, I add pressure to do a good job and finish my tasks before the day is done.
There are plenty of ways you can pressure yourself to do so. For example, you can say that you won’t each lunch until you finish a specific task. You could also set a deadline for a day in the week to submit all your quotas. Experiment a little and see which one feels the most effective to you.
The phone can be distracting, but it’s not the only way you can get sidetracked. Some people lose track by speaking to their officemates or taking time to explore their social media. These small distractions, even if it’s only five minutes, can derail the focus you’ve built.
To maximize your productivity hacks, make sure you limit how many interruptions you encounter. For instance, you can log off your account or put your phone on airplane mode. You can also set up a “Do Not Disturb” sign at your cubicle or room when it’s time to get busy. It might sound extreme, but it’s to make sure you cut out as much distraction as possible. You have plenty of time for the other fun things in life, anyway. So, when it’s time to work, get to work.
You might assume that being physically active means doing workouts or heavy exercises. While they can contribute to your health, those alone won’t suffice. I’m talking specifically about living a physically active lifestyle. Workouts can be great, sure. However, if you exercise only 15 minutes and spend the rest of the day in bed or at the desk, it’s not much of an improvement.
Instead, use your waking life to add more movement and activity. One of the productivity hacks you can try is walking around or stretching every hour or so. You can move around your local neighborhood or workplace to get your body awake and alert. Plus, you can also use that time to enhance your mind. For example, you can walk around the block while listening to a motivational speech or an Audible book.
Of all the productivity hacks we’ve covered, none are more crucial or effective than getting a good night’s sleep. You might see yourself as a night owl who can sleep four hours and then go to work. Sure, you can do that. However, having less time to sleep only impairs your thinking and concentration. I’ve spent weeks where I’ve not slept the eight hours I need to; before I knew it, I wasn’t as sharp or as perceptive as I used to be.
To keep your sleep steady, make sure to wear a watch or time yourself to see how long you sleep. If you reach seven or eight hours of rest, you’re in good hands. If you’re doing less than that, however, you might need to change some things. For example, I recommend putting away your phone an hour before bedtime. That way, the blue light won’t keep your brain awake and force you to stay up past midnight.
Does a friend suddenly message you and ask for lunch together? Do coworkers go to you to make chit-chat while at the desk? Have you ever looked at your phone or social media account and thought about checking it? More likely than not, you’ve let yourself say yes to all of these things at some point.
The most important of all productivity hacks is learning how to say no to all these temptations. Refusing something can make you feel bad, but it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If friends try to meet up while you’re at work, you didn’t plan for it. Why should you say yes when you didn’t even agree to it beforehand?
The harsh truth is that learning to say no to things, especially fun or interesting distractions, is tough. However, doing so will most likely keep you from making a big mistake. If you have a deadline, you need to know when to focus on that first. It might be tough to say no, but it’ll make you a lot more effective and productive at work than you expect.
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