1. Start Small
Commit to small steps.
If you intend to work on a new project but can't bring yourself to actually start, tell yourself that you are going to do this for 10 minutes only every day.
Everyone who tried this technique ended up doing much more than they actually planned. If you have zero willpower, the 10-minute rule will do wonders for you.
2. Challenge yourself
Challenge yourself by setting a deadline to do something.
By giving yourself a target duration to complete a task, the experience will be more fun as there is something at stake here.
If you completed the task within the target duration, reduce the time limit the next time for even more excitement and increased efficiency.
3. Be More Organized
Chaos is the number one enemy of productivity. If you want to reach your maximum capacity, it is very important to organize your life first.
- Unclutter your environment.
- Remove unnecessary items.
- Organize your home, desk, and office.
- Keep it clean and simple.
- Unclutter your phone, laptop, and desktop.
- Embrace minilimisam
4. Keep your productivity setup ready
The hardest part of getting work done is the first 5 minutes. Once you start the rest is easy.
I am a writer. What I do is that I always keep my computer ready and set up to write at any time. It really takes me 5 seconds to start typing if I decided to do so.
If my laptop is tucked in its bag and thrown somewhere around the house I would be less likely to start working due to the extra energy and time that I have to put in before I can be productive.
5. Make time-wasting activities harder to access
For example, previously I had YouTube as the starting page of my browser. Whenever I wanted to browse for information I would open my browser and get greeted with the YouTube home page with all the suggested videos. I would spend hours binging over from one video to another.
Realizing that, I set my browser home page to blank so I don't get hooked up on hours of web surfing every time I open my browser.
This is just one example of a habit that had the potential of wasting valuable time.
Look closely at your life and take note of the things that cause time depletion and make just make them harder to access.
6. Create a to-do list with exact dates and times
We are all familiar with to-do lists but most people just write down what they have to do without setting a specific date and time for each item on the list.
Unless you specify when and where exactly you plan to do something you haven't made much progress and your list is almost useless.
Once you have written down your to-do list, it is time to prioritize your activities from most important to least.
For prioritization, you may use the 80-20 principle.
The 80-20 rule, also referred to as the Pareto Principle, was conceived by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed that 80% of an outcome generally came from only 20% of the inputs.
What that means is that 80% of the meaningful productive outcomes that matter to you come from just 20% of your actions.
8. Isolate yourself
Isolate yourself while doing important and critical activities.
Not just from people but from all distractions especially phone notifications.
Interruptions are the main reason why we can't complete tasks.
Context switching is an expensive brain process and you must try to reduce it as much as possible.
9. The start is always the most difficult part
The start of any productive activity is the most difficult part. Everything becomes much easier once you start.
The most difficult part about going to the gym is actually getting ready and out of your apartment. Once you are out, that's it.
The most difficult part about writing an article is actually starting your computer and opening the word processing program.
Put your most energy and dedication into the first few minutes. If you can go through the first minutes, you will most probably succeed in whatever you plan to do.
10. Reduce Bad habits and Increase Good habits
A good habit starts with a cost but ends with a delayed reward, working out for example, it is hard and tiring but the reward comes later in terms of good health, longevity, and wellness.
A bad habit starts with a reward but ends with a cost, eating junk food for example, feels good and easy at the beginning but at the expense of diseases and sickness in the long run.
The concept of bad and good habits is very relevant in the context of productivity.
Reduce habits that waste your time, provide little value or temporary short-term gratification, like continuous checking of your social media accounts.
That is not to say that every activity has to be overly productive, you can do pointless things from time to time, but don't make it a habit!
11. Don't break the chain
Speaking of good and bad habits, try to maintain your good habits for as long as possible and refrain from the bad habits for as long as possible.
Count the days and try to keep the streak going.
When I decided to quit junk food, I actually started counting the days. I was like 7 days, 15 days, 30 days, oh yes! Eventually, I stopped counting because it became a part of me.
If the chain is broken for any reason, resume immediately. Many people on a diet slip and eat something they shouldn't eat on Wednesday and say to themselves "No problem, I will start again next week on Monday". Don't wait until the next week, get back on track the next day.
12. Don't multitask
Humans are terrible multitaskers.
Our brains are just not designed to multi-task. What appears to be multitasking is basically just quick context switching.
Context switching is an expensive neurological process.
For maximum productivity, avoid doing things in parallel.
13. Don't always strive for perfection
Don't aim for perfection from the first time, just do the job.
The problem most people face is that they want their work to be always perfect. They keep on working on it and endlessly try to improve it which leads to work being extremely delayed or never seeing the light because they are not satisfied with the end result.
Well, I hate to bring it up to you but no matter how perfect you think your work is there will always be someone out there who is not going to like it.
Aim for quick releases and improve gradually from there.
14. Benchmark your progress
Measure your progress for any long-term plan or activity. Knowing where you stand is not only important for long-term planning but it also serves as a motivation apparatus.
15. Learn to Delegate or Outsource
Do the things that you are really good at and don't waste your time with time-consuming activities that contribute very little to your prosperity.
For example, if you make $30 an hour of work and a maid charges you $10 for cleaning, it makes sense to hire one instead of cleaning your own place.
Without the maid, you would save $10 but with the maid doing her job you would be earning $20 ($30 - $10).
16. Shut down notifications
Shut down all unimportant notifications on your phone and laptop. If it is really urgent, they will call you.
You need to resist the temptation to pick up your phone every time it beeps. Just silence all notifications and allocate specific times of the day to respond, typically not more than three times.
For example, I only check my inbox three times a day: 9 AM, 12 PM, and 4 PM.
That's it. That might not be feasible for everyone but you get the point. Don't check your inbox anytime your phone beeps. Do it just once an hour.
17. Enjoy the work
Work gets done quickly when it is enjoyed, that is the secret to productivity.
Learn to enjoy the things that you do.
One way to do that is to gamify the experience. Imagine that it is a game with levels, challenges, and time limits. Once you are in the game, work gets done much more quickly.