So the lack of time is keeping you from living the life you want?
– Your lack of time is keeping you from those who matter most
– Your lack of time is preventing you from investing in the things that will get you where you want to be
– Your lack of time doesn’t allow you to do the things you love
Experts are saying that time is not the problem. Rather, the problem lies in a lack of direction.
If you’re struggling with productivity issues, it just might be time to look at your time management habits.
How to Become More Productive in 10 steps
Step 1: Don’t make a list. Make the list.
• If you’re spending your time on things that don’t matter, then you’re not being productive.
• If you’re responding to the loudest distractions rather than on what needs to be done, then you’re not being productive.
The only way to gain in productivity is to get rid of the things with low or no value.
Many experts suggest that it’s important to create a daily planning ritual at the end of each day.
This enables you to evaluate your day, identify what your time has been spent on, and determine what gets on your to-do list the following day.
One study found that spending 15 minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what had been achieved made workers more productive than if they had actually worked for 15 more minutes. Take the time to organise your day and your week.
Try keeping a daily journal in which you evaluate what you’ve achieved at the end of each day and plan for the next day’s task.
Pen and paper works perfectly but if you’re looking for mobile friendly apps, check out Day One which is pretty straightforward and effective for personal productivity.
Step 2: Keep it incredibly simple
So now that you have the list things should be pretty much straightforward. But here’s the problem: people often focus on the end rather than on the means.
Think about it: let’s say you want to lose weight – you say “I need to lose weight fast”, when it would be much easier to say “I need to lose one kilo per week”.
The same is true when it comes to your to-do list. If you don’t know where to start, chances are you’ll procrastinate.
Break down your tasks and begin: “Finish project introduction” is much more manageable and less stressful than “finish project.” Being on your list doesn’t necessary mean it’s going to get done – make it incredibly easy to stick to your schedule.
Step 3: Manage your attention
Too many things fight for your attention. But it’s important to realise that you can’t spend your time on everything, just as you can’t spend your time on everyone.
Social media, which is one of the greatest distractors out there today, can be hard to resist. It is also one of the major reasons people struggle with productivity issues. The research is clear: social media dependency is a bigger problem that you think.
• Respond only to what requires your immediate attention.
• Be unavailable certain days and certain times.
• Use your time as productively as possible by allocating timeslots for social media and email.
Step 4: Know thyself
Studies showing that “most successful people are early risers” are quite common. Night owls have decided to fight back! One study found that early to bed and early to rise did not make a man wealthy, healthy and wise. Yet other studies found that smart people slept late and that night owls had higher IQs.
So, Early bird Vs Night owl – who comes up on top in this battle? It’s not a black and white issue: on the one hand, early birds are agreeable, conscientious and proactive; on the other, night owls are creative, smarter and better baseball players! If the research is to be believed, being a morning person is cool, and being a night owl is cool too.
So, it basically comes down to this: unless you can be a late sleeper and early riser, you need to focus on your optimal time of the day. Many studies have found that morningness or eveningness are often genetically-based: our bodies wake when they’re ready, and stop when they’ve had it.
It’s important, however, to determine whether you really do your best work at midnight or whether you’re a serial procrastinator. If you are, you may want to read The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.
Step 5: Put yourself on your agenda
• Accept that you deserve time to yourself everyday. Stop feeling guilty about spending time on yourself.
• Put yourself on your priority list. Relax. Do something you enjoy. Unwind.
• Don’t know what to do during your “me” time? Write a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and put them on your to-do list.
• “Me” time could be as short as 10 to 15-minute breaks taken regularly. Commit to taking some time off everyday.
• Creating a daily ritual could make it easier to take time off.
Step 6: Have a go at minimalist living
Minimalist living frees up your time and frees up your money. Having less means less stress, more financial freedom, and more time. Still not convinced, find and read The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker.
Try the minimalist approach:
• Start small. Check out everything you have. You’ll be surprised how much stuff your family owns and never uses. Make it a priority to give away or sell 10% of your stuff.
• Take it one step at a time. Your wardrobe? The kids’ toys (have you noticed how many of their toys they NEVER EVER play with?)? One room?
• Buy stuff by all means, but at least have a good reason for doing so. Are you buying new stuff because you need to or because you want to?
• The less toys kids have, the more creative they become. Next time your kids want something, find an alternative they can make by themselves.
Step 7: Say no
Saying yes to everything is a recipe for disaster. Think of your time as an investment.
Saying no means gaining greater control of your life. Saying no frees up the time you deserve for yourself.
Three good reasons to say no
• Because you want to
• Because there’s nothing to gain from saying yes
• Because the time you liberate could be spent doing something that matters
Step 8: Don’t go it alone
It’s amazing how many people think they should handle everything alone either because there’s no one else, or no one can do it like they can. Handling work and/or parenting can often be a rollercoaster – ask for help! Delegate.
Have confidence in others’ abilities. Get help for the things you can. It might be different from what you would have done, but it will be good enough.
Step 9: Don’t be perfect, be good enough
It’s synonymous with inviting stress and disappointment into your life.
Rather than being perfect, be good enough. Being a good enough worker means finishing your tasks on time and to the best of your ability.
Being a good enough parent involves a delicate balancing act between being there for your children without suffocating them and finding time for yourself and your activities.
Step 10: Be gentle on yourself
Habits can be terrible things and reversing bad ones needs a large dose of willpower. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail now and then. But how do you get back on track?
1. Get specific.
The easiest way to is to be more specific about what you put down on your to-do list. Say you want to start spending more time with your kids. Let’s get even more specific: say you want to start reading to your kids: schedule 30 minutes in your to-do list to read to your kids. Remember everything is about habits. You don’t create a habit of reading to your kids by saying “I want to start reading to the kids” but by accomplishing small regular habits – you read to them regularly for a few minutes.
2. Never give up.
So, you’ve allocated 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to read to your kids and you’re just too tired to do or simply don’t feel like it: It doesn’t matter. Read to them for 10 minutes. Still can’t do it? Make it 5 minutes. Can’t read? Tell them a story off the top of your head. Making habits is about being consistent. Even little habits can have amazing results.
3. Have a back up plan
Reflect on what inspired you to be more productive. Why did you feel the need to change? This reflection can get you back on track. What helpful books and resources helped you decide to give change a try? Go back to them and re-read them.
This post is an excerpt from my eBook “The Seven Lies Keeping You Busy: A Brief Guide on How to Add More Hours to Your Day”. If you enjoyed it, get the complete guide by signing up here – it’s free!