Did 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!

 

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. – Walt Disney

Fuck To-Do Lists – the better version

 
 
To-do lists are great! Well, theoretically…
It sure has a lot of benefits to plan your day in advance, and it’s also very beneficial to write down everything you want to accomplish that day.
But you guys know how this will look in reality, right?
You have a big list, and at the end of the day, you haven’t accomplished the important things. You did the easy stuff first.
That’s how our brain works. It hates difficulty and likes simplicity.
So, to upgrade your To-Do list (and make your life as productive as possible), I work with a 7-step process. Think of it as the Lamborghini of the to-Do lists:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?)
  6. Rank the importance of each task. Scaling from 1 to 10. How important is each task for you and your life?
  7. 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.
It seems like a lot of work for a to-do list, but it’s worth it. This way you do the stuff that’s paramount to your life. And remember that you have to do the first two steps just once (or once in a while).

Get things done – Pomodoro Style

The Pomodoro technique is a real game changer. Have you ever been so productive you worked for 6 hours straight on a task and got a shitload done? No? Me neither. Humans don’t work like that. It’s just not possible. We need breaks to be productive. But how many breaks? And how long?
On the other hand, you probably know times when you couldn’t focus on one task for more than five minutes. Your phone rings, you remember this one thing you have to buy on Amazon, you scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook and so on and so forth.
So, Pomodoro solves both problems, because it lets you work laser-focused. But with breaks.
So the basic concept is pretty simple:
  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’re done.
  5. Make a longer break after 2 hours/4 sessions. This break needs to be at least 30 minutes long.
Seems simple, right? That’s because it is. But it helped me to get so much work done, it’s just amazing. I encourage you to try it for yourself. I would love to hear from you how it worked! You can write me at felix@project-wolfpack.com 🙂
For more information about this technique click here.

Stop distractions

 
 
I could make another blog post about not being distracted (and I probably will) but for now, here 5 practical tips to remove distractions from your work time.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Be healthy

 
 
As a nutritionist, I have to mention this part of the equation. If you are living an unhealthy lifestyle and eat crap all the time, there’s no way you will be super productive. So here are a few healthy habits you can adopt into your life to become a productivity beast:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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“

 
 
If you followed the 7-step process above you already know that the task you’re working on is important because it is beneficial to one of your life’s pillars. But why is this pillar of your life important? Why do you want to go to the gym? Why do you want to have that job? Why do you want to meet new people tonight?
To have lasting motivation and discipline you have to know your „why“. Ultimately we all want to be happy. The pursuit of happiness, right?
But sometimes we try to reach a particular goal, and when we achieve it, we realize that we aren’t happier now. Because we see the next thing, we want to achieve. Sure, having big goals and constantly adapting them to your current situation is mandatory, but being happy in the process is just as important.
So, I want you to do a little exercise right now. Yes, right now, in this very moment. Put your phone on flight mode and get a pen and paper (or open an empty Word/Evernote document)
Now, I want you to listen to your favorite motivating songs. Songs that put you in a good mood and let you dream. Because that’s what we are going to do now.
Listen to the music and start dreaming of your perfect life. Visualize it as exact as possible. Think without mental boundaries. As soon as you catch yourself having thoughts like „No, but I can’t do that“ or „But I don’t have the qualifications for that“ or something similar, stop that thought! And continue on this path of thinking. Be free. And be happy.
Now write all that down. What kind of a job would be your ideal job? What kind of house do you want to live in? How does your body look? What are your friends like? Your family? Do you have pets? What are your hobbies? Write everything down. And then, when you think you wrote down enough, look at it. You should do three things with that list now:
  1. Re-evaluate your life’s pillars from above and look if something is missing or a pillar is useless to reach your dream life.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
So now, that’s it. These are the habits, tools, and tactics I use to be productive and reach my goals. You are free to adopt some of these into your life. If something that works for me doesn’t work for you, that’s totally fine. Think of your life as a cake. You build your own unique cake by taking lots of pieces from other people that inspired you. And I would be honored if I am one of these people.
You are unique. You are awesome just the way you are. You are a wolf amongst sheep.
Keep shining,
Felix
Felix Wunnike
Felix WunnikeFounder of Project Wolfpack