Have you ever felt like the hours in a day are just not enough to get things done? We want to be productive people and at the same time, make time for our hobbies to relax. One moment, you’re working on one task and the next moment, you realize the day is over. We often underestimate the amount of time we think we need to complete a task. When we don’t meet our expectations, we become worn out and procrastinate, or even worse, give up.
The definition of being productive or having a productive day is different for every individual. It isn’t one-size-fits-all. Also, there’s no one specific way or shortcut that is going to make you a productive person. The best way to find out what works for you is through trial and error.
Now, before we dive into the whole productivity burrow, there are three stages to this process. The first one is the Planning, then comes the Doing, and finally, the Reflection. I’ve divided them into three categories so that it is easy to understand each process better. Step by step, you can tweak your way into what works best and focus on areas you need to work on.
Personally, I love this part. You get to plan all you want (realistic or not) and make an ideal schedule or routine. I mean, who wouldn’t love that? Anyway, before we get into the Doing, you need to have a concrete plan. Without it, you wouldn’t have a proper direction and only waste your time later.
A Solid To-do List
As clichéd as this sounds, a to-do list is the most basic and required element in your planning process. Having a solid to-do list in itself, motivates you to get tasks done. Not having a to-do list for your day is like entering a battlefield without a plan or a weapon.
Alright, now that you’ve decided to make a to-do list, you need to be mindful of the tasks that you put on there. Your list can consist of important and high-priority tasks, easy and low-priority tasks, and the tasks that aren’t important. Sometimes, you tend to get the low-priority tasks done and feel like you’ve done a lot for the day. In reality, the important tasks are left hanging.
Putting the important and urgent ones at the beginning of your list is good practice. Also, it is preferable to make a list the night before so you can start the next day on the right foot. And don’t overload your list with too many items – only eat as much as you can chew. Use a notebook to write down your tasks or use the notes app on your phone. Nothing fancy required.
Once you’ve finished all your planning and are ready to take on the day, you can put to use a few different productivity hacks that will make the process a bit smooth-sailing.
The 2-Minute Rule
Any task that can be completed within 2 minutes should be done right then and there. No thinking, just do it. Once done, it is one less thing to worry about.
Highlight of the Day
I came across this concept in a book called ‘Make Time’ and it is quite simple, yet life-changing. All you got to do is choose to focus on one task every day for about 60-90 minutes without any distractions.
This task becomes the highlight of your day. It can be any goal that you want to achieve in the long run. For example, if you want to write a book, sitting down to write for 60 minutes every day becomes your highlight. Working on this highlight is going to propel you towards your goal over time.
The Pomodoro Technique
I’m sure many of you might have heard of this but I’m gonna include this anyway because this method actually works. The drill is to set a timer for 25 minutes and work. Once you complete it, take a 5-minute break. Repeat this cycle 3-4 times.
I use an app called Forest as a timer to keep me off my phone while zoning in on my task. While I’m working on my task, the app plants a tree and if I try to leave the app before the timer ends, the tree dies. In the end, a tree is planted once a task is completed. It’s fun. Or you can just use the timer on your phone to time your cycles.
Eat the Frog
As unappealing as that sounds, it is difficult to get it done without some effort. Always complete the most tedious and important task first. As we progress towards the end of our list, our energy levels start to fluctuate. We’ll talk about the ‘energy levels’ part in a bit. It’s best to get the difficult ones out of the way to avoid falling down the procrastination hole.
Changing up your routines and trying out new systems from time to time is a great way to identify what is working and what isn’t. Once you’ve tried out a few techniques mentioned above, you’ll get an idea if it was beneficial.
At the end of your day, you can take some time to reflect on the things that went smoothly and the areas that need a bit more work. Add, edit, or remove as much as you like until you find a system that gives you the best results.
Time vs Energy
Managing your time and energy effectively is essential for a good productive cycle. It is not about how much time you spend doing something but about the amount of quality work produced in that period.
Working for long hours can drain your energy levels drastically. Hence, managing your energy level is key to producing quality work. So, the next time you work on something, note your energy level at the beginning of the task. When you feel like you’re not able to concentrate after some time, take a break. This gap will re-energize your brain to perform better.
Taking constant breaks is a prime factor to increasing your efficiency in tasks. It’s not about how much you can achieve in a short period of time because that only increases your stress levels. Instead, learn to manage your energy levels as energy can always be renewed.
Productivity Books to Check out
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Make Time by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Faster, Smarter, Better by Charles Duhigg