Here are a few tips to maximize your productivity:
1. Work in a field you love.
“Do what you love” is perhaps the most basic productivity tip of all. You’ll be much more productive when you do work you enjoy. Unfortunately, this tip is as obvious as it is ignored.
Doing work you love is not remotely the same thing as doing work you find moderately pleasant either. When you’re working in a field you love, your motivation is usually high because you feel passionate about what you’re doing. You don’t have to push yourself just to get going each day.
When you enjoy your work, you’ll tend to enjoy a fast tempo. You’ll also do better quality work, and high-quality work is more efficient than low-quality work. Low-quality work generates inferior results and often has to be redone.
Don’t waste your time trying to become more productive in a field you don’t enjoy. Such a struggle is a complete waste of your life. You deserve better than to subject yourself to such punishment.
I’ve heard hundreds of different excuses for why people claim they can’t do what they love — not enough money, no time, not good enough, wife won’t let me, etc. They can all be condensed down to two words: “I’m scared.”
The people who are doing what they love were also scared. They could all come up with the same excuses. But at some point they decided it was unacceptable to have their lives dictated by fear, so they opted to face their fear and push through it. They decided to overcome their problems instead of turning them into excuses. Those who remain stuck still allow their fear to rule them.
Ultimately it’s a choice. Either you commit to doing what you love, or you don’t. Which side do you think involves the most suffering?
2. Take advantage of audio learning.
Make a habit of listening to educational audio programs, ideally every day. It’s so easy to fill in the gaps in your day with education time. Listen to audio programs when you’re driving, shopping, exercising, preparing meals, or just walking around. Load up your iPod to capacity, so you’ll always have them on hand.
You don’t even have to pay for the audio programs.
Just by adopting this simple habit, you can gain the equivalent of multiple college degrees. If you want to expand your knowledge and skills, this habit is an absolute must. It doesn’t even cost any extra time if you combine audio learning with physical activities as already suggested.
The benefit of listening to educational audio programs goes far beyond the content. The simple act of feeding your mind with positive information will help you stay motivated and upbeat as well. If you feel depressed, lazy, or unmotivated, it’s a safe bet you aren’t taking advantage of daily audio learning opportunities. They will help you feel much more positive and driven.
3. Eliminate interruptions.
If you do any creative or information processing work, it’s imperative that you set aside blocks of time where you know you won’t be interrupted. This means no external interruptions as well as no interrupting yourself. You need serious blocks of time (2-3 hours minimum) with no email checking, no instant messaging, no web surfing, no phone calls, no drop-in visitors, etc.
Just knowing that you won’t be interrupted makes it so much easier to enter a flow state where you can get a lot of highly productive work done. Every time you get interrupted for a few minutes or longer, you can expect it to take at least 15 minutes to return to the flow state. A few seemingly minor interruptions each day adds up to a huge amount of wasted time every month — and for no benefit whatsoever.
You set your own boundaries, so don’t even think about trying to blame others for your lack of productivity. If other people don’t respect your time, it’s because you’ve trained them to behave that way, if only through the mechanism of silent approval. Start showing more respect for time, and clarify your boundaries with others. You don’t have to be an ogre about it, but you do need to be firm. On the other hand, if people refuse to comply, then you have to ask yourself why you’d even want such disrespectful productivity vampires in your life.
4. Log your time usage.
For a few days in a row, keep track of where all your time is going. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, log your time usage. Whenever you switch activities, write down the time and the new activity. You don’t have to go high-tech here unless you really want to. A pen and paper works just fine.
At the end of each day, take note of where your time went. You’re sure to notice many inefficiencies, so it won’t be hard to find areas for improvement. If you’re like most people, don’t be surprised to discover that 50-75% of your time each day is essentially being wasted.
You’ll likely discover that you spend way too much time on low priority tasks, you succumb to too many distractions, you task-switch way too often, and you waste a lot of time online.
Try different approaches to managing your daily routine. Try some experiments to see if you can boost your efficiency.
A great way is to try a system that manages the hours in your day such as Time Coach.
It’s a lot like the way we loose weight when we begin a diet. Part of our success is in the fact that we are now AWARE of what we place in our bodies. It is no longer willy-nilly.
Same with time. When we actually NOTICE our time use we tend to become more wise in its use.
5. Use timeboxing.
Timeboxing is a great way to deal with tasks where you’d otherwise procrastinate. With timeboxing you only commit to working on a task or project for a fixed length of time, normally 30-90 minutes. 10-15 minutes is perfectly acceptable.
Once you get past the first 15 minutes, you’ll often want to stick with the task. Timeboxing is a good way of coaxing yourself through the initial task resistance. You tell yourself, “It’s only 30 minutes. How bad could it be? I can handle anything for 30 minutes.” But then when you get through that first 30 minutes, it’s easy to keep going.
You won’t always want to go longer than the initial time period you decide upon. That’s perfectly fine. You must give yourself full permission to stop. You can always kick off another timeboxed period later and make another dent in the task. If you keep working on it little by little, eventually you’ll finish.
Again, a program such as the Time Coach can help you with this. Time boxes can be of any length – just define them and stick with them. Time Coach also makes use of the Pomodoro Technique – which is basically at 25 minute on and 5 off technique. This is optional of course. But the main thing is to assign Time Boxes to your activities. It can really put order into a confusing worls.