There’s nothing worse than going to bed at night and feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing since you kicked off the covers that morning. Or maybe you never did kick off the covers or even change out of your pajamas. That happens sometimes too. And as much as I hate to admit it, pajamas or no, I get this feeling a lot.
And I think this is a common occurrence for lots of people because no matter what your schedule is, where you work, or how you choose to spend your time, you always have something you’re working toward and you can always benefit from more productivity. So what’s the secret? How can you minimize the lazy days and maximize the productive hours? That my friends, is the ultimate question.
The 5 Productive Habits
Productivity has three main parts. Time, energy, and attention. And it’s finding the way to balance and manage these three things that can really help you make the most of your day. These five steps each contribute to at least one of these three parts, and work together to create a productive day.
1. Your Critical Three
One problem that I run into when trying to be productive is making long to-do lists. I love to-do lists. My favorite part about to-do lists is checking things off the list. Sometimes I’ll even put stuff on the list that I’ve already accomplished earlier in the day just so I can put a neat little check next to it. Soon enough it’s the end of the day and I have a lot of neat little checks, but not a lot actually done.
So this is where your critical three comes in.
At the beginning of the day, ask yourself what three things you need accomplished by the end of the day. And keep coming back to these three things. If you find yourself getting distracted, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing helping me accomplish one of my critical three?” If the answer is yes, keep doing it. If the answer is no, then its time to get back on track. This way you can be sure that all your time and effort is spent in the most productive way.
2. One Thing At A Time
This is another hard one for me because I’m always trying to multitask. If I ever have to go upstairs to get something I’ll look around the room and see if there’s anything I need to take upstairs to save myself a trip. And once I get upstairs I’ll see if there’s anything else I need to take downstairs while I’m up there. But then I remember that I forgot one more thing downstairs, and by the time I’m back down I realize I forgot whatever it was I needed in the first place upstairs, and soon enough I’m just doing laps up and down the stairs. Granted, it’s great exercise, but not so great productive-wise.
Although two birds with one stone sounds like a time-saver, you’ll actually be better off focusing on each task individually. Really concentrate your effort on each project and don’t let yourself get distracted. The more you focus in on one specific task the more you will find yourself getting done, and the better quality your finished product will be.
3. Cultivate Your Energy
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down with complete motivation, committed to work, and ready to tackle a difficult project, only to wake up two hours later drooling on my keyboard. It doesn’t matter how organized and focused you are, if you’re energy is low, nothing is getting done.
Make sure you’re doing the simple things so that you have the energy to accomplish your goals. Eat healthy and well. Elevate your heart rate at least once a day. Get the full eight hours of sleep. These are things we so often push aside to make room for deadlines and extra shifts, but they are crucial in keeping your body and mind functioning properly. Exchange your time for energy, it will all even out in the end.
4. Disconnect From Your Phone
Oh man, do I STRUGGLE with this one. Welcome to the digital age where you can carry the internet in your pocket, buzzing every two minutes with news, notifications, and plenty of other things to suck away your time and even your VERY SOUL.
Did I tell you struggle with this one?
One way to combat this distraction is to change the way you view your phone. Think of it as a nicety rather than as a necessity. You don’t need to be constantly checking Facebook and Instagram. You don’t need to watch a new hilarious video. These things are nice, but they are not necessary. If you think about it, most of most of your important work isn’t done on your phone, browsing the internet. So put it on silent, turn it off, or put it away. Or if you’re like me, do all of those things and then lock it up in a separate room, and lock the key in another room. Do what you need to do to keep yourself from the distraction.
5. Relax and Daydream
So this last step might sound counter-intuitive, but I promise it makes sense. If all you do every day is GO GO GO, you’re gonna burn out pretty quick both mentally and physically. Taking breaks is just as important as the work you do.
And when I say “break” I don’t mean whip out netflix or swipe around on your phone. I mean take time to relax and let your mind wander. Write in your journal. Take a short walk. Sit at the park and think. I have just recently rediscovered the magic of doing this, and I can’t believe I ever let it get away from me.
There’s something truly strengthening about taking time out of your day to focus on yourself, to live inside your mind, to just breathe. It’s in these moments when you can really evaluate yourself, your day, and your goals. Where you can connect dots in your head, and come up with brilliant ideas or meaningful epiphanies. This is where true genius happens.
Living The Productive Life
The productive life is made up of one productive day at a time. So start with today! And if you get off track, or you slip into a lazy day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Trust me, I’ve tried it many times and it never helps. Just start right where you are and move forward.
To be productive literally means to produce. To achieve. To get results. So get out there and make it happen!