I have often found myself at the cross roads of productivity - an inner conflict between the intention to be productive and the inability to be so, because of distractions, unorganised thoughts, desire to do / accomplish too many things at the same time, tiredness and loss of motivation. So, in my productivity quest, I came up with several strategies to enable me to improve my ability to accomplish the things I set my heart on.
1. Work out
You might think that a workout would exhaust you to the point where you don’t want to do anything after. On the contrary, I found that a workout fuels my mind with energy, clarity and motivation - it re-sets my system. I feel my most efficient after a good workout. My mind is buzzing with thoughts and ideas and is keen to materialise them.
That’s why I like to start my mornings with an invigorating workout. Even though it feels oftentimes strenuous, I know that I will come out of it stronger, fitter, more energetic and more motivated. I know I will be the best version of myself once the workout is complete.
2. Think of productive time as the time between two workouts
Once you follow the above strategy and get into the habit of working out regularly, you may find that you dread the arrival of your next workout - that strenuous, repetitive, time-consuming activity that gets you huffing and puffing. However, deep down you know you have to do it anyway (because it makes you feel good about yourself).
However, the good thing about this is that this resentment of the looming workout will make you to acknowledge that you have limited time at your disposal and therefore you will appreciate it better. You will want to maximise this limited time, enjoy yourself and make the most of “the time between two workouts”.
Whenever I look at athletes, I always admire them for having educated their minds and bodies to make every second in their waking time count – both while working and resting. An athlete’s time between workouts is even more limited than ours - we are, after all, people who only work out because we have to. So, when I see them finish a match, a game, a competition, I know they are ready to make the most of their resting time which their highly productive work time has earned them.
3. Act energetically
Make your thoughts follow your actions, in that if you start doings things and acting energetically, you will awaken your mind from the dormant state it is trying to settle into. I know it can feel like a difficult thing to do the first time you attempt to pass that inactivity barrier, but once you instigate your mind and body to act towards something, your entire system will be set in motion.
4. Look forward to something after work
I often find it very motivating to think: once I get this done, I will be able to enjoy that…Or, I’d better get this work done quickly so I can leave work on time for that event. That is why I tend to fill my diary with various interesting events that I want to attend or cool activities that I want to do, in order to have something to look forward to at the end of each day. This ensures that I stay motivated to work hard during the work day, so that I feel like I have “earned” my fun time afterwards. There s nothing more satisfying that this well-earned reward post-productivity feeling.
Even if you don’t have an event or an activity to look forward to at the end of your working day, think abut the nice dinner and gloriously good activities that you will be enjoying in your free time at the end of the working day.
Getting enough sleep is so important, yet so under-appreciated. Apart from getting the right amount of sleep, another important factor is sleeping at the right times: I find that when I get to bed at around 10 p.m. I immediately fall into deep sleep and get up the most rested, even if I get less than eight hours of sleep. There is something magical about sleeping during the first few hours of the night.
6. Eating right
Eating has such a big impact on your productivity, yet this key factor of our day-to-day life often gets sidelined. I noticed that when I eat right and in the right portions I am so much more productive, ready to act and able to focus.
When I don’t eat enough, thoughts about food tend to distract me. I also feel that I don’t have enough energy to undertake and focus on deep work, I feel lethargic and somehow limited. However, one needs to find the right balance between eating enough and not overeating, which is another self-limiting factor - often overeating makes us sluggish and depletes our body of mental energy which is employed to facilitate our digestion.
Remember, food is information that tells your body how to operate, so use it as fuel, but make sure to not under / over fuel your engine.
7. Compete with your less productive peers
My competitive nature makes me to always want to compete with those around me. That’s why I find it helpful to make myself feel in competition with lesser productive peers, to give me that great feeling of being ahead.
However, this strategy can backfire if you choose as your “productivity opponent” someone that is highly efficient. They might discourage you from your productive pursuits, as you might think that you stand no chance in beating them.
8. Think that your productivity will impact your morale
The feel and guilt of having been unproductive is one of the most crushing feelings I often experience. I despise the thought of knowing that I have wasted my time and that I have to play catch up to make up for lost time. So, whenever I don’t feel like doing something, I often think of how bad / guilty I will feel not doing it. It’s a great motivation booster.
9. Keep track of time
To make sure you don’t fall off the bandwagon, keep track of time. Keep looking at the clock every now and then, acknowledge the lapsed time and use a time tracking app like Toggl to record your working time. Knowing you will be recorded will lead you to work at your full capacity.
10. Set yourself hourly goals
Complement the above time-tracking exercise with the plan to achieve hourly goals – small wins such as finishing up that important article or report, smashing that workout, cleaning up your workspace or home. This approach will lead you to get stuff done and will fuel you with a desire to be even more efficient and produce even greater things.
The last two strategies are the most effective particularly at the weekend when many of us don’t have the work schedule and the structure that this brings imposed upon us.
Hope these strategies inspire you to make the most of your time.