Productivity is important for many reasons. From the freedom it allows you to create, to the efficiency it allows you to utilize.
Here are seven tips you can use to 7x your productivity over the next seven days.
Productivity tip #1 – Take a nap if you need one.
Your bed is within arm’s reach. All you would need to do is stand up and take a single step over. And from there, sweet, sweet sleep. Yet you can’t. Yes, your brain feels like a swamp of creamy mashed potatoes. Yes, you know how easy it would be to close your eyes for a minute or two. But the hard worker that lives inside you won’t let up. Rest and work do not go hand-in-hand.
In fact, they are enemies.
And so you march on, hoping the fog will soon lift. It doesn’t. It only grows thicker. And with each new ladle of swamp, your decision-making becomes increasingly shaky. You send an email to your boss’s boss half-finished. Your boss calls you, yelling over the phone. That wakes you up for a second. The adrenaline soon wears off though. The fog settles back in.
You submit a customer contract without checking all the details. To your surprise, the customer signs it and sends it back immediately. Turns out you forgot a zero. The contract terms are much better than what you initially agreed to. You know you’ll have to tell your boss about the mistake… and that’s another call you don’t look forward to having.
I get eight hours of sleep most nights. I wake up feeling rested. Yet more often than not, I take a quick 20-30 minute nap during the day. It helps me do what I do. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking them. After all, society frowns upon it. But then I remind myself that my business continues to grow and it’s ok to recharge. Then I close my eyes and wake up feeling great. When I used to work for a corporation, I would take naps in my car during lunch. Now that I work for myself, I take naps on my bed whenever deemed necessary.
If you need a nap, give yourself permission to take it. It requires little time and it will provide the refresh you desire.
Productivity tip #2 – Actively learn from your mistakes.
You hit send too early. The email was only half-finished and now it’s out of your hands. You feel like a dunce. So what do you do? The average person would send a follow-up email explaining the situation. Then they’d go about their day. You do the same. A week later, you’re back at your desk drafting an email. Unedited, you again hit send a little too early. This time you forget to include several details needed for an upcoming project. Worse still, it was an email to your boss’s boss. Not good. In short, you once more are caught wearing the dunce cap.
In Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, the author explains the value of actively learning from mistakes. How, whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you should write down what happened (ie. the failure or shortcoming), what you learned from it, and how you can do things better next time. Especially if you’ve made the same mistake two or more times as it means you haven’t learned from it yet.
Applying Maxwell’s lesson, I have a Google Doc where I do just that. I call it my Learn Log and when I blunder I write out:
- What I ideally wanted to happen;
- What actually happened;
- Why I think it didn’t go as planned;
- What I will do differently next time.
By doing this, I bring awareness to my errors. I actively take responsibility and chart a better course forward. At your next misstep then, try following this prompt. Learn from your past and make your future even more promising.
Productivity tip #3 – Erect constraints to better define your focus.
“Don’t you think you should be on Facebook?” someone recently asked of me. My response: “Nope.” In a world where everyone is everywhere, I am virtually nowhere. And I’m nowhere intentionally. You won’t find me on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or TikTok. Not on Twitter or on LinkedIn. Not in a house and not with a mouse. I do not like green eg– alright, you get it. I’m nowhere by design.
In an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, guest Seth Godin explains the power of constraints. How you should set them for yourself so as to make clearer decisions. Otherwise, you can get lost in the world of endless options. For example, he explains, you can set constraints as to where you will or won’t be online. Decide why you are setting those constraints and then stick to them like the walls of a hockey rink. Because without the walls, there is no game. You’re just skating on a giant pond.
In defining what isn’t, you can focus on what is. Put another way, by clarifying where you won’t be, you can put energy into the places you are.
Personally, not being on social media allows me to utilize my time in better, more fulfilling ways. Professionally, it allows me to work on the areas of my business that I want to grow, not where I feel required to grow. Instead of giving a sliver of my attention to 20 different platforms, I can concentrate on the one or two places I feel hold the most potential. By setting constraints for yourself, you can do the same.
Productivity tip #4 – Disable as many notifications as possible.
If you pick up my phone you’ll think it’s off. Unless you tap the screen, it remains black. Unchanged. Nothing pops up. No texts display. No messages showcase. It’s just black. It’s become standard practice to silence your phone. Same goes for turning on airplane mode. And still further, you’ve surely seen cries for the disabling of some of your more annoying notifications.
Well, I argue you can go one step more. Nearly 100% of the notifications on my phone are disabled. Additionally, I’ve also turned off the indicators that let me know I have messages waiting for me (you know the ones – the little red bubbles that sit atop each app). The only time I know if someone has texted me is when I unlock my phone and open the texting app. Same thing goes for email, WhatsApp, Slack, and the rest. Same thing goes for travel alerts, photo memories, and the like.
Implementing this habit is simple. Any time you receive a notification, go into your settings and disable it. Your phone will convert from a seeker of your attention back into the tool which it is. If your job requires constant communication, you can still apply this habit. Just leave the one or two notifications on that are actually necessary. Turn off as many notifications as you can.
Productivity tip #5 – Listen to audiobooks while doing menial tasks.
A pile of clean clothes rests before you. You look at it, calculating how much time it will take to fold. It’ll be close to an hour. You sigh. Laundry day is the worst day. The birds chirp outside, but your heart doesn’t match their joyous sound. Rather, you feel contempt and boredom. Why hasn’t someone invented something to fold all this? How can there be self-driving cars and not self-folding laundry? The madness!
You save the worst for last. The socks. You curse your flair for color. The heap in front of you is a smorgasbord of pinks and blues, greens, yellows, and reds. Off-whites, pure-whites, beiges, and creams. Light greys and dark greys. Blacks, browns, and tans. You never realized just how many socks you wear day-to-day. Apparently, it’s a lot. And like a puzzle you didn’t sign up to do, you’re faced with a series of potential mixings and matchings. You sigh again and once more repeat your mantra: Laundry day is the worst day.
Laundry day doesn’t have to be the worst day though. In fact, chores altogether no longer have to be… well… chores. I use audiobooks to transform tedious tasks into times of learning and enjoyment. Doing the dishes, dusting, unloading the dishwasher. These are basic activities that don’t require your attention. Like your daily commute, your mind is often wandering around anyway. Might as well fill that aimlessness with something valuable.
Use audiobooks to do just that. When you’re next folding laundry, put on an audiobook. Particularly one with an engaging story or on a topic you are interested in. Not only will this transform formerly wasted time into productive time, it may just become fulfilling time as well. It has for me. Use audiobooks to transform useless time into useful time. *Note: I use Libby to get audiobooks for free through the library. When they aren’t available there, I use Audible.
Productivity tip #6 – Don’t respond to people right away.
My job relied heavily on email. Outlook was open all day. As soon as I’d respond to one message, three more would come in. This drove me insane. I felt like I could never catch up. And because my day was absorbed in the inbox, I felt like I spent more of my time messaging than actually working. Today, I don’t do that. I may check email throughout the day, but I generally only respond at one time. Normally in the afternoon. When I’m writing an article, I can just focus on that. When I’m emailing, I can just be emailing. I no longer feel the pull of doing five things at once.
Full disclosure: I run my own business now as opposed to working for someone else. My policy is my own. However, even if you work for someone else, you can still apply this lesson. If emails flood in while you’re drafting something, put your laptop on airplane mode. That way you can compose the email without getting distracted. Another option is to set specific periods throughout the day where you will respond. Say, 10 AM and 3 PM.
To be productive, I avoid responding to communications as they come in.
Productivity tip #7 – Sit. Breathe. Do nothing.
I sat with my wife and daughter. The sky was grey and rain sprinkled around us. Under the umbrella, we discussed what to do about breakfast. We talked through several options. None of which sounded that appealing to anyone. Frustration started to grow, as often can around mealtimes. It was at that moment that I took a pause. I asked for a minute to think. I looked off into the distance, took some deep breaths, and cleared my head. A flash of insight came to me.
That insight formed the basis of what became an incredibly fun, spontaneous day.
You feel the urge to go, go, go. Just like in conversation, you fill the silence of inactivity with more activity. This doesn’t always produce the best results though. Case in point, when you can’t decide what to get for dinner you end up driving to three different places. Three different places you don’t want and don’t order anything from. An hour later, you finally end up at the place you want to eat at. It’s an exhausting ordeal. But if you had only taken some time to think instead of drive, the answer would have likely become apparent. Sometimes giving yourself time to think, if only for a minute, can give you the idea you’re after.
When deciding what to do next, not doing can be a productive strategy.
- Take a nap if you need one.
- Actively learn from your mistakes.
- Erect constraints to better define your focus.
- Disable as many notifications as possible.
- Listen to audiobooks while doing menial tasks.
- Don’t respond to people right away.
- Sit. Breathe. Do nothing.