id you ever woke up and told yourself that today will be the most productive day of your life?
You got up, pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down a schedule for the day. 8-10 hours of hard work on one single day? No problem!
But to be honest, you know how this will end. You’re lucky if you get done half of the stuff that you wanted to achieve that day. Whether in college, school, work or as an entrepreneur, the struggle is real.
You can even think more long-term. New year, new you, right? The first two weeks in January, my gym was crowded. Hundreds of people working on their new year’s resolutions.
But now (I’m writing this in February)? Like on any other day of the year.
Let’s face it, planning things and getting things done is usually not a strength of us human beings.
That’s because our brain isn’t able to foresee problems. Everything we plan is basically a best case scenario.
But the real world ain’t rainbows and sunshine! There usually is no best case scenario. But now that we know that, we can figure out ways to get over our little getting-things-done problem. Here are my five best tips to increase productivity and get a shitload of work done. Ready? Here we go!
Fuck To-Do Lists – the better version
- Write everything down you want to accomplish in life. Think big picture. You have to do this no more than a few times a year. What is your ultimate life goal? What do you want to be remembered for? What areas of your life are the ones you couldn’t live without? And when you wrote everything down, start to categorize it. Make two to four categories. Think of this as the main pillars of your life.
- Prioritize these categories. This can be tough. But it is a necessary step. Decide which one is more important to you. If you can’t decide, ask the following question: If I absolutely HAVE to get rid of one of these categories altogether, which one would I choose? Did it? Great! Now write a number next to each category. The least important gets a „2“, the next least important a „3“ and so on… The most important category has the highest number. (depending on how much you have – I have four btw.)
- Now to the everyday stuff. Do a brain dump. Pull out a piece of paper (or your laptop or something) and write down everything you want to accomplish that day or in the future. From „Buying light bulbs“ to „Figuring out where to apply for a job.“ Everything.
- Now comes an important step for productivity: Look over your list and see which one you can delegate. Don’t do these things. If you can ask someone else to do it for no or not that much money (and the same or even better quality), then don’t to it yourself. Focus on the stuff that no one can do like you can. Time’s important.
- After that, sort the remaining tasks into your life’s pillars. Something doesn’t fit into a category? It’s always useful to make an „Other“ category, but a job that doesn’t fit into these pillars is just not as important to you. So, write a „1“ next to the „Other“ category. (Now you get why we started at „2“ with the main pillars, right?)
- Rank the importance of each task. Scaling from 1 to 10. How important is each task for you and your life?
- Last step: Multiply the task’s score with the score of the pillars. And there you have it. This is the REAL importance of a single task. Now start with the highest score task and work your way down.
Get things done – Pomodoro Style
- Look at your schedule and decide how long you want to work. And choose how many of the tasks we figured out above you want to get done starting with the highest rank (maybe it’s not even one full task you get done in that time, that’s no problem)
- Then you work on this task for 25 Minutes. No distractions. Put your phone on flight mode and close your facebook, it’s about to get down. No phone, no laundry, no coffee making. Just work.
- After 25 minutes you take a 5-minute break. You also do this whether you feel like it or not. You can now make some coffee, just relax for a moment or do some push ups to stop being tired. BUT: No smartphone allowed. It distracts you too much, and in the long run, your breaks will get too long.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’re done.
- Make a longer break after 2 hours/4 sessions. This break needs to be at least 30 minutes long.
- If you are in an environment where other people are around you, wear headphones. This way it’s much more likely that these people will avoid distracting you.
- Work in the morning. If you can perform better at night, so be it, but for me morning work trumps everything. I usually get up at 6:30 and after my morning routine I work from 7:30 to 9:30, sometimes even 11:30. It’s the best feeling in the world if you eat lunch and already did everything you wanted to accomplish that day. Everything you do from now on is a bonus, but you will do it with joy and freedom because all the „have to’s“ are already gone for that day. Of course, that’s depending on your work schedule, and not everybody has the freedom to work in the morning.
- Meditate regularly. I will do a blog post about this, too. Some mindfulness practice (preferably in the morning), will stop you from getting easily distracted. In the long run, you will be able to focus a lot longer. There are a lot of ways you can practice mindfulness. For me, the best app on the market is Calm. It has lots of guided meditations and 7-day challenges to get you going. Every day there’s a new one added.
- Have a „secret“ place you come to if you need to get work done. If you are at a college or university, discover some places where you’ve never been before. Find a place without many distractions and people. Maybe a small coffee shop. Go there just for focused work. Be offline if you can.
- If you can’t be offline due to the kind of work you’re doing, there are a lot of helpers out there that stop online distractions. One of them is Freedom. It lets you put any internet site you get distracted by on a blocklist, so you can’t access it during a set amount of time. So no brainless Facebook newsfeed scrolling anymore!
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is one of the best focus-killers out there. Drink water. Lots of water. Always have a bottle of water on your desk. You can form a habit of drinking half a glass in every break you take.
- Get enough sleep. You probably hear that often, right? But sleep is just that important. It depends on the individual but no less than 7 hours of sleep is mandatory. Usually like 8-9 hours. If I just had 6 hours of sleep, I need twice as long for a task, because I always get distracted and my brain just works way slower.
- Drink coffee strategically. Coffee is wonderful. I love coffee. According to scientists drinking up to 5 cups of coffee a day can even be beneficial for your health. But don’t overdo it! Never drink coffee first thing in the morning. Different Hormones are working that got you up in the first place. Drinking coffee is useless at that time. Your first coffee needs to be at least 1 hour after waking. For those coffee-haters out there: If you don’t want to drink coffee, that’s perfect! You don’t need it. I just found that it helps me a lot to be more focused.
- Don’t overdo alcohol. If you want to live 100% healthy, you shouldn’t drink alcohol at all. But it’s fun. I also like drinking some beers from time to time. In my opinion, life is about balance. The balance between discipline and fun, working and free time, yin and yang. And same goes for alcohol. If you really like drinking, by all means, go drink some beers! But don’t overdo it. Don’t drink so much you can’t walk anymore and don’t drink more than two times a week (1 time would be even better)
- Eat healthy snacks. While eating junk food just makes you fat and won’t boost your productivity, some healthy snacks will help you stay focused. The key here is to alternate between carbohydrates (fast and slow ones) and healthy fats. Some people tend to be more focused with carbs. Others are more productive while eating some fats. Examples of fats would be some nuts or an avocado. For carbohydrates eat fruits like bananas, apples or oranges. If you crave chocolate a lot, you can reward yourself with a chocolate protein bar (my favorite) or even some normal chocolate. (It won’t kill you. Remember, it’s all about balance)
- Workout regularly. While you don’t have to be a bodybuilding freak, some activity for your body is very beneficial. A combination of cardio and strength training would be ideal, 3-5 times a week. But if you are a beginner, even going for a 30-minute walk every day can work wonders.
Affirmations – Remember the „WHY“
- Re-evaluate your life’s pillars from above and look if something is missing or a pillar is useless to reach your dream life.
- On a separate piece of paper, write down 2-3 sentences about your dream life like if you already achieved it. Examples would be „I have an awesome girlfriend that loves me as much as I love her“, „I earned 1 million dollars this year“ or „I can bench press 250 pounds“. Keep that paper somewhere near and read every sentence ten times every morning. It works wonders. I started this two years ago and I achieved things in 6 months I thought I could never do in my entire life. Trust me, it works.
- Keep that first list somewhere also. You can come back to that list half a year later and see if you are on the way to your dream life. If not, you have to re-evaluate your goals and pillars.