Productivity is one of those topics that’s overwrought with complicated jargon, long-winded rhetoric, and pontification.
Every other week there’s a new “hack” that someone came up with to help you reach your goals. I’ll admit it, I’ve been guilty of clicking on one or 100 of these articles in my time.
But over the years, I’ve found that the basics is what gets it done. The basics are effortless and easy to remember.
I live by the beach. So in no way am I interested in the “hustle hard all day” culture. I love to get out there on the sand and soak up some sun.
I use the basics of discipline, conscientiousness, organization, and consistency to get what I want out of life without having to break my neck for it.
Here are 6 steps you should try if you want to stay as productive as you want to be.
Make A Short To-Do List Every Night Before Bed
How many times have you laid in bed thinking about everything you have to do the following day?
When you make a to-do list before bed, you put your mind to rest, and you’re able to get some much needed, quality sleep.
When you get quality sleep, you’re able to tackle your tasks—one by one—with the full strength of a well-rested mind.
Another key point is to keep the list short. The idea is to bring your mind to rest not keep it in overdrive by writing out every single detail.
Strike a balance with your to-do list. Write down just enough tasks so that you get the essentials done without having to overwhelm yourself the following day.
Start Your Routine As Soon As You Get Up
As soon as you wake up, start crossing items off your to-do list.
Resist laying in the bed for too long. The bed is for sleep, not for lounging.
When you get up and immediately start your tasks, you’ll build momentum. Once you get this momentum going, you’ll begin crossing things off your to-do list quicker than you’ve anticipated. Next thing you know, you’re done for the day.
Having a clear vision for what needs to be done for the day is effortless. You’ll get most of what you want done before most people even brush their teeth.
Jocko Willink has a book called “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” I love that phrase because discipline actually leads to freedom.
- Discipline with money leads to financial freedom.
- Discipline with exercise gives you the freedom of health.
- Discipline with education leads to intellectual freedom.
There are many situations where freedom gives you the benefit of freedom.
Imagine this scenario. Your alarm goes off, you immediately get out of bed to start your day.
You either skip breakfast—because you’re intermittent fasting—or you have breakfast then get to work.
You’re done with work for the day. You look up and see that it’s 2pm. Now you can either get started on tomorrow’s tasks or you can screw around for the rest of the day. In my case, I head to the beach.
This is what discipline equals freedom means to me. Do the hard work now, so you can play even harder later.
Work On One Task At A Time
Forget multi-tasking. Focus on one thing at a time because when you multi-task, you succumb to attention residue.
Attention residue is when your mind is still working on a previous tasks after having switched tasks. The easiest way to combat this is to work on one task at a time.
If you want to access the true power of “deep work”—a flow state of deep focus and creativity—stick to one thing at a time.
You’ll find you get more work done in less time and the quality of your work will improve.
Give Yourself A Short Time Frame
You’ve heard of the Pomodoro Technique and other techniques like it before.
These techniques are predicated on Parkinson’s Law—the theory that states that work fills the time allotted to it.
For example, if you give yourself 3 hours to complete an article, you’ll probably get it done within those 3 hours.
But what if you give yourself 2 hours? Or how about 1 hour?
I’ve even heard of writers banging out the first draft of their articles in as little as 30 minutes and gaining wide spread exposure from the finished product.
Setting up this short time frame allows for you to access the power of flow. It’s that “deep work” mind set I was talking about in the previous section.
On the other hand, if you give yourself too much time to complete a task, you’ll end up procrastinating. It’s easier for distractions to make its way into your proximity—essentially diluting you’re concentration.
Set a timer for 30-45 minutes and get to work. See how much you can get done in such a short time frame.
Give Yourself A Deadline
Giving your self a deadline is a way to guarantee that you hit the publish button at some point. In his book, Linchpin, Seth Godin calls this “shipping.”
Sure it’s cool to be the artist or writer who wants to make sure that they’ve crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s, but it’s easy to get mired in the small details to such a degree that you never get your work out there.
People like myself—who are perfectionists—hate deadlines, so I get it. You want your work to be polished before people see it.
But what’s the point of engaging in your craft if your work is in a perpetual state of drafting?
Take Your Time
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
I love that adage. Mainly because it reminds me of one of my favorite stories: “The Tortoise & The Hare.”
Resist the urge to sprint. You’ll burnout if you don’t.
Don’t pay attention to the people who are publishing 2-3 times per day because:
1. Most of these people have perfected their process. They’ve been at it for a long time and have streamlined their creativity.
2. This may not be your style. You might be a slow bloomer, and working at a breakneck pace is sure to overwhelm you.
Take you’re time. Do quality work and you’ll have a huge impact in your lane.
By the way, it’s not even a race, so why are you comparing yourself to others?
Know When To Take A Break
Pick a day to be lazy—and by lazy, I mean do no work.
As a recovering workaholic, I make sure I take 1-2 days a week to do completely nothing. There’s no need to grind all day every day if you know how to tap into a state of flow on the other 5-6 days of the week.
On these “lazy ” days, make sure you have some fun. Do things you enjoy. Spend time with family. Work-life balance is essential for productivity.
A Final Thought
This is not the typical “grind hard all the time” message. This is basic, grounding principles that we lost sight of in a sea of electronics and distractions.
The quickest way to get these done is through discipline and organization. That’s it.