Time is evil. The whole day is a grueling marathon where you have to struggle to get anything then, then when you finally get into the swing of things she speeds up like anything and before you know it you have to run, just to be in time for your daughter’s play! If only there were more ways to boost productivity. Wait? There are? Tell me more!
The power of rituals for productivity
The first thing that you’ve got to realize is that our minds like rituals and habits and rather than fighting against that, we should embrace it. Why? Because we can use habits to make certain that we’re at our most focused and most precise when we want to be.
To do so, we’ve got to create habits and rituals. With that I mean that we wake up in the same way and go through the same processes every day, as much as possible. This will habituate us to this way of working and, provided you flow naturally into your work situation, will make certain that you’re at your sharpest when you do.
Set concrete, measurable micro goals
You’ve got to have goals that are measurable to make them effective. For that reason, don’t say ‘tomorrow I’ want to start writing my book’ but rather, tomorrow I want to be sitting at this desk at 9 AM to be putting pen to paper. By 10 AM I want to have my first page done. And so on.
Write down these goals and then mark them as successfully accomplished or not. Use green for yes and red for no, so that there are clear visual clues. If you do this consequently, then you can see how not meeting your earlier goals can lead to a cascade of follow up goals not being met and that makes it far more likely that the next day you will meet that original goal.
The power of public shaming
Declare publicly what you’re going to accomplish by the end of the week. Make certain that there is some way for people to know if you will or won’t succeed. Then attach some sort of penalty to not succeeding – something that will embarrass you. This will act as an extra motivator to make sure you keep going even when productivity is low.
Don’t do the multi-task thing. Research has shown that to be unproductive and to be damaging for your brain besides. So instead single task. Here the idea is that you turn off all distraction, including your phone and your email, turn off the internet (if possible) and fully immerse yourself into the task at hand. So, for example, if you’re writing a book review only let it be yourself and the book, nothing else. Try to stay immersed for at least half an hour without engaging with anybody or anything else. Only after you’ve reached some milestone allow yourself to engage again.
This has two advantages. First it uses the power of single tasking. Secondly, it means that rather than letting the outside world to be a distraction, you allow it to be a reward. If you do this consistently you will come to expect it and to boost productivity.
Write away distractions
When you’re engaged in a task there will constantly be things that come up from your subconscious to vie for your attention. They can be very hard to ignore. So have a notepad handy, where you can jot these ideas down quickly, so that they stop distracting you. Then return to the task at hand until it’s completed.
Remove subliminal distractors
Whoever said ‘man is an island’ didn’t know a thing about modern psychology. We’re not islands, we’re networks that are constantly triggered by our surroundings, both animate and not. It is therefore important that you remove everything and anything that might remind you of some activity that you would rather be doing. So make sure you can’t see the fridge, the TV or that bottle of tequila under your desk, as all of these things will make it even harder for you to increase productivity.
Go after social quality not quantity
Don’t try to stay friends with everybody, don’t try to respond to every email and don’t think that it’s the amount of connections that you have that make you social. Good quality connections are not social network chats. They are people you speak to in person, either to talk with or to laugh with. Try to have more of the latter and you’ll feel the need to have the former become much less pressing, allowing you to concentrate more on what you’re supposed to be doing and less on what’s going on online.
Play videos and audio files at a higher speed
We often have to check out videos or audio files for information, but when we do we often spend lots of time sitting around waiting for the person to get to the point already. Wait for less time by speeding up the audio file and watch the amount of time you spend on these time-eating activities drop.
Realize information is not the same as knowledge
We all seem to think that if we would just read that extra article or see that video, that we’ll somehow become smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable. Rarely is that true. So be more selective with what you consume. Read less news (it always brings your productivity down anyway) be more selective with where you go to read material (some publications are higher quality than others) and realize that you’re probably not going to remember most of what you’re about to read 10 minutes from now anyway, so why not do some work instead?
Reward the beast
Most of what we think happens subconsciously and in the animal brain and, according to Reinforcement Theory, animals can be trained through a simple task and reward system. You do something well? Reward yourself. And don’t wait too long. Allow yourself a small reward every time you’ve done something well. These small pleasure points will make it far easier to keep yourself motivated and going.