1 – Writing lists and Setting the Bar Low
I’m a list writer, I have a terrible memory so unless something gets written down then it doesn’t usually happen. The lists get longer and longer and when I glance over them I’m hit with a real sense of overwhelm. I’ve got to do all that? What should I do first? What order should I tackle these in?
First things first is to get organised. I have three main to do lists, one is my “Lower priority tasks”, one is a “This week” to do list and the final one is “Today”. Each evening before bed I move the top 4 or 5 tasks from the “This week” list into the “Today” list, with the most important at the top.
Setting the Bar Low
If I don’t think a goal is achievable that day it doesn’t go on the list. Tasks only go on the list if I can realistically achieve them. I never put more than 5 tasks on the “Today” list so that I focus on those key tasks and don’t get overwhelmed. This method ensures I take care of the most important tasks first before anything else.
I always end up doing more than just those five tasks if I achieve a good state of flow. This method gives me the flexibility to handle all the extra and unexpected tasks that pop up each day i.e. doing the dishes or meeting a friend for coffee. These everyday tasks don’t go on the list as I know these have to happen either way. Only important tasks go on the “Today” list.
2 – Stand more
It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking. Like many people, I spend a lot of my day at the computer. I used to get a backache after too long sitting down and my concentration levels were terrible until I switched to a stand-up desk.
I use a simple stand from Ikea (costs less than twenty euros) and I place it on my dining room table.
I’ve found that standing really helps to improve my productivity. I have no back pain, I have more energy and when I stand up I have a greater sense of urgency when tackling tasks. This is something that takes a while to get used to, but with a relatively low investment you can setup your own desk and improve your productivity.
3 – Momentum/Flow
I find that when I start my mornings productively then the rest of the day falls into place. I talked about my “Miracle Morning” in a previous blog post and how it gets me setup and ready to tackle the day.
I know that once I’ve completed my Miracle Morning it’s time to eat breakfast. From there I start tackling the big tasks of the day, starting at task number one on my “Today” list. After task one is done, my list tells me exactly what I need to be doing next (task 2). An hour or so after eating its time to exercise and so on.
In this flow state I often lose track of time and before I know it the Today list is done and I’m moving onto something else.
4 – Remove distractions
I’m lazy, I really am and I think many people are on the inside.
I blog from home and I’m easily distracted so that means no radio or Youtube in the mornings. My girlfriend and I are often working and studying from home at the same time. We have a mutual agreement to avoid distracting one another during these periods. If for whatever reason this isn’t possible we can remove ourselves to a quiet nearby library for more focused work.
Video games are often my nemesis, I set myself some ground rules when it comes to video games because I know it’s an area in which I struggle. I can only play video games after 5 pm, for a maximum of 2 hours per day and not until the tasks on my to-do list are already done.
You can apply these tactics to any of your distractions. The whole point is to remove or limit anything that gets in the way of completing those big tasks of the day.
5 – Take care of yourself
I don’t need to go into more detail on this, you know what areas of your health need improving and only you can do something about it.
With all this being said I still have my bad days. I get distracted by cute kitten videos on Youtube just as much as the next person, but the secret is to realise when you’ve been distracted and ease back into the task at hand.
So what do you guys do to improve your productivity and keep focused throughout the day? I’d love to get some tips below in the comments.