10 Productivity Habits (I Learned The Hard Way)
Productivity is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter how much experience we have, we always want to be more productive and stay ahead of the competition to keep ourselves relevant in the market.
The problem is that it’s not easy to become highly productive. Most people feel like they’re stuck and can’t ever get ahead and make progress towards their goals because there are too many distractions, meetings, admin, family, and other responsibilities that tend to take up all of our time.
However, you don’t need a magic pill or some kind of super-human powers to be more productive; what you need is a little bit of organization and planning as well as consistency in implementing those plans on a daily basis.
I have a ton of hobbies, my pets are high maintenance, I need my daily workouts, I have a million and one things that need to be done in a day, my work is demanding, and I have a special somebody (my daughter) who needs all of my love. At some point, I was completely losing it.
I was sad, overweight, stressed, tired, and extremely unproductive. I couldn’t understand where all of my time was going. Until one day…
I sat down with a cup of coffee (matcha with almond milk and spirulina) and literally mapped out how I am spending my days; it took me about an hour or two, but the results were amazing.
I re-vamped my schedule completely — waking up earlier, working out harder, waking up my daughter on time for preschool, allocating specific times of the day to take care of specific tasks, and generally staying more organized.
I realized that I wasn’t so much unorganized as I was mismanaged; because the truth was that I didn’t have a daily planner or any kind of agenda to follow. With this new plan in hand, my days were completely different — not just for me but for the people around me as well.
Here are some tips that helped me become more productive, stay organized, and finally take control of my life again.
Use a planner to manage your time wisely
This is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself; if you don’t schedule your day accordingly, things will get messy very quickly.
Use a planner to map out your day, which means setting up specific times of the day for specific tasks and sticking to them consistently. You can use the Pomodoro technique and work in 25-minute sprints with 5 minutes breaks, you can set up 15-minute blocks of time for different activities — whatever works best for you.
Once you have mapped out your day, stick to it no matter what. It is very easy for things at work or home to pop up and derail your plans, so be prepared for this eventuality by practicing a little bit of flexibility.
Create a schedule that works for you
There’s no universal standard when it comes to managing your time and if you’re not careful, you will end up like me: disorganized and fully lacking in control.
I used to be a night owl who slept from 4 am-11 am every day, but I had no idea how much I was hurting my productivity because when the rest of the world wakes up is when I was at my least productive.
You might be a morning person; if so, then set your schedule accordingly and work during those hours. If you’re not a morning person, then sleep in as long as you can and work late into the night. It’s completely up to you how long you wish to sleep for and what time of the day you want to be most productive.
I used to stay up for days in a row, watch movies all night long, read books in the dark, and basically pretty much do nothing at night because I was either too exhausted or too distracted when I woke up.
That is not how you should live your life; if there’s something you need to do, then do it; don’t wait until the nighttime to get anything done because your mind is on standby and will not be as clear as during the day.
Do the most difficult task first thing in the morning
People who do the most difficult tasks in the mornings, report having less stress and performs effortlessly throughout the day. As a result, they accomplish more within a stipulated time. It is one of those habits you must develop as early as possible.
Go one step further by doing the most difficult tasks in the mornings; I don’t care if it is just learning something new or working on an important project — do it first thing in the morning and get it out of the way.
I used to leave everything, including household chores and business projects, until after lunchtime and I noticed that my performance plummeted in the evening when I was tired and completely uninspired.
What’s worse is that by exerting less effort during the day, you tend not to make much progress and might even leave the most difficult tasks for last.
Don’t be like me; wake up and start your day with the most difficult thing on your agenda — it will help you make more progress than if you did it at night.
Take time off for yourself
This doesn’t mean only getting time off work, but also getting time off for yourself. It’s amazing how little time we spend thinking about ourselves, considering that time spent should involve some form of reflection, contemplation, and just plain thinking.
I used to work for 8–10 hours straight, then spend time with my kid, taking care of pees needs without any time to myself and I began hating life because I wasn’t living it; I was just obligated to do things.
I fixed this by taking at least an hour off each day to go to a bookstore, watch a movie, or just sit in peace and quiet to contemplate my life. I do what makes me happy, not what would make other people happy — if I don’t like it, then I walk away.
This is also applicable to work; you don’t have to work all the time because it will make you miserable. You are human, not a machine; get some time off for yourself every once in a while and you will be able to accomplish more in the long run.
Don’t let the urgent get in the way of the important
The hard part is to distinguish between the two and only focus on what matters. Many of us get caught up in day-to-day tasks that are not really useful in the long run, which makes us unable to accomplish the important things.
I used to work on anything and everything that came my way, whether it was important or not and I realized that a lot of the time I would end up not finishing what I had started.
This was not a productive way of wasting time, so I started being more selective with the tasks delegated to me.
I also got rid of the tasks that were urgent, but not important — if it wasn’t contributing to my vision, I would rather not do it.
It isn’t easy to say no because people will get offended; however, you have to do what is best for you in the long run, not in the short term.
Get into a routine and stay disciplined
Routines and disciplined help you accomplish what you want without having to worry much about it. Do the same things at the same time every day, whether it’s waking up early in the morning or going to bed at night, and sticking with your schedule will make life easier because you will know exactly what comes next and how long it should take.
I used to wake up in the morning and rush out of the house, not having time for breakfast or drinking my coffee and it became a habit; I started waking up later and later because my body was accustomed to it.
Getting into a routine helped me reverse this negative cycle; when you do something at a certain time every day, your brain gets used to doing it and looking forward to it, so sticking to the schedule is not as difficult as you think.
This also applies to other things; if you want to go jogging in the morning, wake up early and do it before breakfast or after dinner — make sure it becomes a habit and plug yourself into this routine until it becomes second nature.
Break your tasks into smaller ones
If you have a big project ahead of you, don’t think too much about it until you actually start working on it; breaking the task into smaller pieces will help you accomplish more and reduce the stress that comes with having to focus on one thing for too long.
I used to take on big projects that required creativity and I would spend hours just staring at the empty page, not knowing where to start.
I realize now that it’s important to actually start doing something instead of wasting time thinking about what you have to do first, so I started writing down everything that came into my mind for this particular project — no matter how silly or irrelevant it seemed.
Once I got the ball rolling, the ideas followed and everything started coming together; there’s a lot of truth in “action speaks louder than words.”
Reward yourself for your accomplishments — invest in yourself
One of the most important tips on productive living is to reward yourself after you accomplish a project or reach a goal.
When you make yourself the most important person in your life, it becomes easier for you to prioritize what is best for you in the long run instead of focusing on how others see you or what they think about your decisions.
Pampering yourself every once in a while will motivate you to accomplish more and try harder next time because this success is just as precious to yourself.
I started rewarding myself with healthy things I liked — I would go jogging, eat healthier food, or order something exotic, go to a spa, or a weekend getaway; one day I realized that giving myself these rewards became an addiction and it helped me stay productive even when there was no big project ahead of me.
Investing in yourself can also be done financially — if you know you are good at managing money, reward yourself with a new gadget or clothes; this motivates you to accomplish more and work towards earning more money.
There are always obstacles in life — this is something we cannot change, but the way you deal with them can be changed.
The more you practice being adaptable to stress and change, the easier it becomes for you to stay motivated even when faced with huge challenges that seem impossible at first glance.
I started jogging in the morning; one day I woke up late and had to rush out of the house without eating breakfast; I was exhausted after my run because I didn’t have any energy throughout the day.
Now, my alarm is set 30 minutes earlier and everything has become much easier since then.
Never forget what remains.
I was very hard on myself in the beginning; I wanted to accomplish so much in such little time that it felt like everything else around me became insignificant.
In reality, if you forget about your tasks for a single day or spend too much time surfing through social media, all the progress you made up until this point will be gone, and starting from scratch can feel impossible.
It is important to remember what remains when you stumble upon something new — no matter how big or small it seems at first glance.
Even if someone managed to accomplish a goal faster than you have, this does not mean that they are better people — everyone has their own set of unique qualities and different obstacles to overcome every step of the way.
Remembering that others are fighting their own battles will remind you to be kind and compassionate towards them, as well as yourself.
I know it might be hard at first because everything feels so daunting and confusing, but once you get used to juggling your responsibilities and priorities without forgetting what remains unfinished, this becomes second nature.
The more organized you become towards accomplishing your goals, the faster they will get done — after all, time is our most valuable resource.
If this article was helpful in any way or if you have any tips or tricks of your own which helped you along the way, please let me know and message me 🙂