We live in a busy, busy world so you need to be productive, here are my tips
Maybe you’re like me and getting sick and tired of not having enough time. It seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to get around to everything I need (and want) to get done.
With a never-ending to do list, I never get a chance to slow down and simply enjoy the stuff I used to enjoy as a kid.
Reflecting on this madness, I came to two conclusions:
1.) I need to start getting stuff done insanely fast or maybe
2.) I shouldn’t be doing so much crap in the first place.
Now, I’m no Albert Einstein, but I don’t think it takes a mad genius to realize that if I combined these two ideas by doing less and doing it quicker, I’ll have even more free time on my hands.
Why do we need free time?
Free time is beautiful. It’s the white space in your life: the pause between the notes that creates beauty; the space between words that makes them readable; the time between things you do that gives you a chance to breathe, reflect, and grow.
I used to run cross-country, and one of the absurd complexities of the sport is this: you can do all the running in the world, but it won’t make you a better runner. Your muscles grow during rest; they’re literally destroyed from running. So, a balanced running program leaves plenty of time between workouts, especially intense ones.
In that same way, we grow as humans, not during the experiences of our life, but during the times we can sit back and reflect on them. When we’re in the moment, we’re focused on what has to be done, not what we can learn.
You can’t just do nothing.
Some things in life aren’t negotiable. That is, if you care to keep your butt out of jail and not destroy every relationship you have. There are bills that need paid, calls that need returned, emails to check, laundry to do, dishes to wash, and the list goes on into eternity.
Plus, you need to make money somehow. Unless you’re raking in the interest off a massive inheritance, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
A lot of the stuff I do is enjoyable, and other stuff isn’t. But no matter what it is, if I don’t have enough time in the day to get it all done, it becomes a source of stress. And who needs that?
Unless you want a miserable life, stop trying to do everything.
Inevitably, some people will take this post as an invitation to turn into wild animals, trying to do everything at break-neck speed. That’s dumb, and you know it.
What I’m trying to promote is a system of time management, a simple way to accomplish more by increasing your focus. There’s a huge difference between rushing to get things done (very unsatisfying) and being productive (very satisfying.)
The difference comes in the planning: when you rush to do everything, you end up doing stupid things. But when you’re in the zone, focused and determined, you do only the stuff that matters.
The secret to why productivity matters:
You should be doing what you love. If you aren’t passionate about something, there’s really no reason to care how productive you are. I only care, because I’m excited to start new projects, spread great ideas, and meet incredible people. That’s the only reason I hustle – because life is just that awesome.
Productivity matters because it gives me more time to do stuff that makes a difference. And naturally, I’m excited to do these things because changing the world is important business.
So, on that note…
Here are 9 practical strategies to boost your productivity
1. If you’re stuck, move one.
Quit wasting your time your time when you get stuck on something. It’s stupid when you’re writing a paper, to sit there and twiddle your thumbs waiting for the perfect idea to pop in your head. Because 1.) It’s not gonna happen 2.) The more you stress, the less creative juices will flow.
2. Quit multitasking, for good.
Yeah, it sounds like you’re being productive by juggling 8 different activities at once, but really all you’re doing is a crappy job on all of them. Plus, it takes your brain a few minutes to engage a new task. So, by switching back and forth among various things, you’re not working at peak level.
Do one thing at a time. Focus all your efforts into doing it quickly and competently.
3. Set a timer and try to beat the clock.
I do this ALL the time. In fact, I’m doing it right now as I write this post. It’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked when working on something, so by capping my time, I know I can’t afford to lose focus.
It sounds silly, right? That’s because you’re tricking yourself into thinking that there’s an urgent need to be met: a deadline. Don’t ask me how, but you’re brain falls for it every time!
4. Create the perfect working environment.
For me, that means no distractions. It’s a constant struggle I face to keep myself from surfing the web when I should be writing or responding to emails.
One way I’ve dealt with this is through a simple program called Dark Room. It’s a minimalist, full screen word processor with no frills. Just you and your text. It’s nearly impossible to get distracted.
Here’s a similar program for Mac users: Write Room
Also, when I’m trying to get work done. I can’t stand noise. Well, it’s not that I can’t stand it, I love it actually, but it distracts me from being productive.
I try to keep my work area clear, for the most part. That means no papers lying all over my desk, no books left out. Just a clean minimalist desk.
5. Batch the simple stuff.
Some of the most annoying things in life are the easiest. Nonetheless, it can be overwhelming when you have a ton of little things to do. I’ve found the best way to deal with this is batching.
Batching is a term often used in computer science which means, “to arrange things in sets or groups.”
How does this apply to productivity? By grouping similar tasks and knocking them out in succession you’ll be far more efficient with your time. It’s like an assembly line for your chores.
It works like this:
- 20 minutes replying to emails
- 20 minutes returning phone calls
- 20 minutes cleaning your apartment
The alternative would be to just start going at it. And that means you’d probably bounce back and forth between calls, emails, and cleaning. See tip #2 for why this is the slow way.
6. Don’t be a machine, be human.
H.U.M.A.N – there I spelled it out for you. Now listen to me: humans are meant to have fun, be spontaneous, enjoy life, make friends, take risks, and occasionally be lazy.
If you’re trying to do it all, you’re going to end up burned out in a heap of flesh on your couch. I know that’s now what you want, so take time each day to relax. If that means dropping a few things from your schedule, do that. Even stuff you love doing can be stressful when it takes over your life.
7. Focus on what matters most.
Here’s an awesome realization my roommate just made. Our senior politics class is graded on 3 criteria:
- 60% for the final project
- 15% for participation (just showing up)
- 25% for reading 6, 250+ page books and writing a critical essay.
As far as work load goes, I estimate it actually breaks down like this:
- 35% for the final project
- 5% for participation
- 60% for reading those books and writing an essay
Oddly: 40% of the workload = 75% of the grade
Doing the simple math, we realized that our time is best spent creating an awesome final project and showing up for class because 1.) It’s less time consuming and 2.) It matters more towards our final grade.
That’s not to say that I don’t care about those books and those papers. I do. But in a world with thousands of things to do, you should sort out what matters most in order to accomplish your goal, and do that.
8. Set your priorities and stick to them.
Everyone wants to do something special with their life. That’s great; I encourage everyone to keep dreaming big.
But the problem is, few people actually do. And that’s because they don’t live by their priorities; they do whatever is easiest at the moment
I determined this fall that freedom and adventure are non-negotiables in my life. I’ve started to invest tons of time into creating really useful content on this blog, in order to gain more great readers like you.
I support myself by selling work that matters from other great bloggers across the web. The greater I grow my readership, the more I can focus solely on doing what I love: writing about minimalism (and changing the world.)
9. Work in short, explosive bursts.
I’m the king of short attention spans. But I still manage to get loads of work done.
I found that I can focus really well for short periods of time. Actually, most people can do this, including you. So instead of marathon writing sessions, I break my work into smaller, more manageable chunks. I’m happier and more productive as a result.
Some awesome resources to take a look at:
If you’re eager to learn more about simple productivity, learn from the real guru’s of time management:
Probably one of the best eBooks ever written on the subject is Leo Babuata’s Zen to Done. At his top 25 blog, Zen Habits, Leo writes amazing content about simplicity, productivity, happiness, and health.
For a real practical nuts and bolts system of productivity, check out Life Hacker’s Back to Basics Productivity eBook.
For no frills, distraction free word processing, check out these free downloads:
- Dark Room (Windows)
- Write Room (Macs)
For distraction free web browsing, download this free tool to remove the clutter around what you’re reading on the Internet. It’s called Readability, and you can find it here.
Finally, let me suggest the most bare bones (yet still practical) online to-do list I’ve ever come across. The site is called, NowDoThis, and you’ll find nothing but a simple text box to enter the things you have to get done. I get minimalist goosebumps every time I go there.
Summing it all up.
Remember, productivity isn’t about doing everything as fast as you can. It’s a smarter approach to working. An approach that sets priorities, utilizes your natural tendencies, and eliminates the stuff that doesn’t matter.
Now go ahead, be insanely productive today!
The editor of Ethical Living, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.