This article has everything you need to know about how to take action in life.
Our lives in the present age have become busier than ever. With the burden of activities scheduled for each day, one rarely gives a thought of streamlining.
While technology undoubtedly gives us more tools that are supposed to make our lives comfortable, we just seem to have excess to do. The mixture of our emotions, stress and overwhelming feelings are at their peak levels.
Aren’t we all repelled by hearing the word “time management”? Understanding time management can cram you even more into your already over-loaded day.
Shouldn’t each day be a day that you look forward to? Where you can marvel the beauty of life while making progress towards your goals?
I guarantee that if each day, you are stepping up the ladder towards defining what’s most important to you in life, you will feel a larger sense of productivity, inner satiation and accomplishment.
If that sounds intriguing to you, if you are curious in being more progressive, finding more time, accomplishing more, relishing more of life, being more carefree and overtly happier, then you should start implementing tips from this article right away!
Read on to find out, how you should ideally differentiate between productivity and just being busy!
Being productive is consuming your time to earn what’s important for you, whereas being busy simply means to stuff your time with as much as you possibly can.
So let’s proceed to understand the following tips on how you can drastically peak up your productivity and ultimately practice the pattern.
For me, productivity is the combination of intelligent planning and focused efforts. Learning to be productive at work or at home can be a challenge.
Every time the work day ends, odds are that you are not satisfied with what you have gained.
Productivity can be constantly improvised, however here are some pointers that have really worked wonders for me.
How To Take Action In Life:
1. Ask for help / segregate tasks accordingly
Each being in this world needs help and should never take on huge tasks alone. Two of the biggest barriers for getting help is trust and introversion.
For getting help from others, you need to trust your colleagues in helping you complete your work. If you tell your colleague what the deadline is for the project, then they will likely take it very seriously.
Make sure to give your colleague all of the resources that he/she requires such as relevant documents or spread sheets in order to reach the best deliverable.
People are not going to volunteer in helping out so you have to feel at total ease for seeking help. If you are too introverted to ask for help, then you will most likely be doing tasks on your own.
You may also end up becoming somebody else’s work-horse because you are way too shy to speak up.
So pull up your socks step out of your cocoon and do not hesitate to look for help around, because everybody has been there.
2. Don’t get sucked into worthless meetings
Time is the most vital currency in your life.
While it may be tempting to meet with as many people for the benefit of networking, the time you manage to spend at your desk is extremely valuable. Knowing what meetings to refuse is very crucial.
If your manager wants to have a one-on-one meeting, then it is obviously very important.
However, attending a meeting about whether to use a Times New Roman or Georgia font at the weekly newsletter design subcommittee get-together may not be worth your time. Well that’s none of your business, let the creative heads take the lead there.
In my line of work, I get requests for meetings/events all the time. This is why I have started to allocate two days out of the week for meetings and the rest of the time to concentrate on my core tasks.
Just to give you an example: As per, Schaffer Consulting managing partner Ron Ashkenas, the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline realized that much of their time was being wasted on unnecessary meetings.
People were spending just as much time in meetings as they were on actual drug development. This is why the company adapted a “fit for purpose” meeting process where only the people that are directly involved in a phase of the project would attend the meetings.
Parties that are interested in what happened during the meeting would receive notes outlining the most important details.
3. Create to-do lists
I know it sounds cliché but trust me it helps. In your life, there are two types of tasks – simple and complex ones. My preference is to go after the easy ones first and later tackle the complicated ones.
To stay on top of tasks, I create to-do lists and track these using Google Tasks. Since Google Tasks sync with Gmail, Google Calendar, and the Google mobile app, it makes it easier to refer to them while on-the-go.
Technology comes in handy here.
If some of the tasks are more involved, then break them into multiple smaller tasks.
For example, if you need to put together a white paper, you should make it a point to complete 2-3 pages per day rather than trying to put together one large document on the day before it is due.
Setting a timer on these tasks is worth considering so that you do not shift your focus on other items on your to-do list. There are times when you get engrossed in one task deeply while another one gets neglected.
Before you know it, the deadline for the other task arrives and you are not ready to take that up.
Now is the time to pat your back. One of the most utterly satisfying aspects of creating a to-do list is crossing off things when they are done. It gives you a sense of achievement and a visualization of progress.
When going through an annual review, the tasks that you have struck off can be a great talking point for what you have accomplished.
4. Take breaks because it is necessary
Here’s a shocking revelation – scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana recently reviewed the lifestyle of 17,000 men and women over the duration of 13 years.
The scientists found that 54% of those people are likely to die of heart attacks! The reason was because those people were sitting for most of the day. The enzyme, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), breaks down fat in the bloodstream and turns it into energy.
When people are sitting, it is likely that LPL levels drop according to Marc Hamilton, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri. This causes fat cells to build up.
If you spend more than 8-10 hours at a desk and without moving around much, then you will notice that you have less energy, you feel bloated and lethargic.
Productivity is not characterised by the number of hours you sit at a desk. It is measured by how much you get done without sacrificing your health.
One of the major reasons for obesity in the past 2 decades can be attributed to decreased levels of daily physical activity.
Health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of rigorous physical activity every day. Take a break and go for a daily walk.
5. Weed out distractions
I know a few people who are social butterflies. They have managed to set up every medium of the available social platforms. They own a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Hootsuite, Tumblr, Foursquare, Shutterfly, Pinterest, Google Chat, Reddit, and StumbleUpon accounts.
When they are not using these social media tools, they may be checking their e-mail on their smartphones or reading random facts on Wikipedia every 5 minutes. Disconnect!
In the U.S., over 12.2 billion collective hours are being spent browsing on a social network every day.
This is costing the U.S. economy around $650 billion per year based on each social media user costing a company roughly $4,452 per year, according to data compiled by LearnStuff.com.
The same study revealed that distractions are not just affecting adults working at companies.
The average college student or even a school going kid is spending around 3 hours per day on social networks while spending only 2 hours per day studying.
If you find that you are really falling behind on your work, then you should consider uninstalling the Facebook and Twitter app from your smartphone.
Some of my friends that have a major exam coming up deactivated their account on Facebook/whatsapp as a reminder that social networking is not their biggest priority right now.
Learn to prioritise, shift your focus away from these social platform that consume your time.
6. Stop watching so much television
The quality of TV shows is improving rapidly, but it is important to remember that empires aren’t built on couches.
I have spent many hours wanting to find out what crazy Walter White is up to on Breaking Bad or the shenanigans that the boys on Entourage are getting themselves into.
I’m not alone because Americans spend around 34 hours per week watching TV, according to Nielsen.
Don’t get me wrong, it is crucial to come to a realisation, learn to cap yourself. Maybe you only need to watch one TV show per day instead of watching 5 episodes of the The Amazing Race back-to-back.
That’s just such a waste of time and mental diversion. Just imagine how much productivity can be gained by substituting the hours you spend watching TV on homework instead.
Sitting like a couch potato has other ill effects too! It may deteriorate your health further.
When you are using a computer, your hands are constantly busy, but you tend to snack more when sitting in front of the TV since your hands are free.
You also have a tendency to lie or sit down constantly in front of the TV. This lack of activity is hazardous for your health.
7. Designate times to handle e-mails
Every day there is a good amount of time consumed for ideating, analysing, framing and finally composing an e-mail reply.
If you are constantly checking your e-mail (1), this could mean you have too much free time on your hands and you need to delegate this time for other tasks.
If there is an urgent matter then switch to a phone conversation rather than e-mailing. If you are spending an average of over 2 hours per day replying to e-mails, then you may want to reassess how you budget your time.
Make things easier; set aside a time for responding to e-mails in batches. You don’t need to completely stop what you were doing.
Set preferences; respond to e-mails that you receive right when you get to work. I also like to put aside 15 minutes right before leaving work to respond to e-mails.
Most people that send me e-mails receive replies within 24 hours. This is a comfortable pattern for all of us!
However you may not always follow this. You can generally detect the urgency in the e-mails by their subject line. This is why setting up push notifications for e-mail on your phone can be very beneficial.
Being able to quickly glance at the subject lines of e-mails you are receiving throughout the day saves you from having to constantly open up your inbox.
If it is urgent for you to get a response, then you should write “time sensitive” in the subject line, this makes it even easier.
8. Reward yourself, doing this gets you motivated
Show yourself some love, it is very important to treat yourself for an achievement. This could be in the form of a material possession or certain type of food or an indulgence.
For instance, if you exercised for about 20 hours over the course of a week, then you can reward yourself with your favourite food. Perhaps, you could also consider buying a new gadget or promoting yourself towards a DSLR camera.
One way I like to reward myself is by indulging in a spa, unwinding by sleeping early or watching the latest episode of my favourite TV show when I complete a major project.
9. Constantly question yourself if you what are doing presently is productive
I catch myself spending a lot of time using Facebook or participating in irrelevant conversations while at work. When I realize that I am not working on something worthwhile, I mentally scold myself and get back to the grind.
On the contrary, I reward myself when completing something crucial by doing things like stepping away from my desk to read a book or grab a coffee with a friend or shopping!
Like I said, there has to be a point of realisation, where you come to know that what you are doing is not worthwhile and you need to switch right away!
10. Spend a while preparing for the next day
This tip is one of my personal favourites. I love to get my stuff organised, that’s one of my favourite pass times. Setting up things, stacking them making everything look neat and tidy.
You will notice that while doing this you will find so many lost treasures. On Sundays, I typically decide my wardrobe for the week. I also prepare part of my lunch for the next day and week.
I even set up the coffee maker so that I just have to press the “On” button in the morning to have fresh coffee brewed first thing in the morning.
Mornings can be chaotic and the less you have to do before heading out the door, the more smooth your day will be. After all who wants to face that annoying last-minute rush!
11. Sleep early and get up early
This, my friends, is a golden rule indeed! Let the tech gadgets take a back seat when you get onto your bead. Instead try reading a book, or listen to soothing music that will, in turn, induce sleep.
Sleeping late and waking up early can be detrimental to your productivity the next day. If you are half-awake at work, then the odds are that your quality of work will suffer.
I usually shine like a bright star if I get 8 hours of sleep and start working at 7AM. Okay now that’s exaggeration! Trust me, getting good and enough sleep will make you feel dynamic the next day.
As Benjamin Franklin once said “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
12. Knock out the unwanted – Ask what can you Stop Doing
I know that one of the promises of this post was to help you get more done.
However, the first thing to understand is that there are only 24 hours in a day and we will always be able to fill up that time. So the only way to get more done is to create a vacuum of time.
Many people think that time management is just getting more done and they continue to add more onto their plate and before they know it, they are sinking under the weight of everything they have to get done.
So work out what you can stop doing or at least what can you outsource. Tim Ferris, in his brilliant book the 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, shows exactly how he does it.
For me, one of the things I do is I pay to get my car washed. This frees up approximately 2 hours of my weekend. Now that’s 2 hours I can use elsewhere.
What can you stop doing? Think!
Like I kept saying throughout, you just need to set priorities. Have you ever noticed your friends exclaiming that they don’t have time at all when you try to make plans?
Trust me there is no such thing as “I don’t have time!” It’s all about priorities. When you set daily goals for yourself, prioritise them. A key distinction to go from being busy to being more productive is to allocate your time to your highest value tasks.
What is the most important task for the day, then the next important and then the next important after that and so on.
This way, you know you are always tackling the most important task on your list and if anything comes up during the day that takes your way from your plan, you have peace of mind knowing you have at least achieved your most important goal for the day.
14. Batch low value tasks
If you have a few errands to run, or quick phone calls to make, do them in one hit. For example, rather than going to the grocery shop 3 times a week, make a list, just go once and buy in bulk if you need to.
Answering messages/voice mails is another example. Many of us are hooked to our screens. I now aim to only answer emails/voice mails twice a day.
That way I’m not interrupted from doing more important tasks. Also, by batching your low value tasks you will find that you get more done in a shorter period of time.
15. Create Chunks of Time
Create chunks of uninterrupted, focused time where you can work solidly for between 45 to 90 minutes. Aim for this to be during your prime time and eliminate all distractions during this time.
You will be amazed at how much more productive you are and how much relaxed you are at the same time.
Having large chunks of time makes you feel so much more relieved, you can indulge in your favourite leisurely activities. And then imagine the amount of self-contentment and rejuvenation you receive.
16. Single minded focus
When you work, especially during your pre-designated chunks of time, don’t allow yourself to think about what is coming up later in the day, or what your friends are up to.
Focus on your task at hand. If you are like me, the moment you focus on one thing, your mind starts bringing up other things that you also need to get done.
Don’t worry, this is a human tendency. This causes stress as you try to remember everything you needed to do, while trying to focus on your current task.
This makes it impossible to be productive and totally stresses you out.
So now, if ever a thought or a future task pops into your head, just write it down on a notepad and then keep on working, until you have either completed the task or your pre-designated chunk of time has finished.
This will make you so much more productive and, in turn, allow you to get a lot more done in less time.
17. Do not multi-task
That might sound weird in a world where we thought that multitasking is the key to increased productivity. This could not be more wrong. I know women can multitask better than men can, and while that may be true, it only applies to low value tasks.
For example, answering the phone while filing papers. Anything that involves considerable think time requires single minded focus.
I know this might not sit right with you so try it for a week. Try focusing solely on one major task at a time and watch your productivity sky rocket.
There was a report which showed that multitasking actually reduces your intelligence (2), mainly I believe, because you stop doing the hard work of thinking.
So don’t multi-task – at least not when you’re doing high-value tasks.
Do things with a single minded focus and I’d be surprised if you did not at increase your productivity by at least 30 to 50%.
18. Set ambitious, yet realistic goals
Les Brown, a motivational speaker and radio DJ, once said “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” If you can cross everything off of your to-do list in one day, you need to create more ambitious goals.
Some goals should take as long as 1 week, 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days or maybe more!
People that set higher goals have a tendency to be more content than those with lower expectations, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
One of the major reasons why people fail to reach a goal is because they did not set a deadline.
It is fine to have a goal, and strive to reach it, but without a deadline the goal stands void.
Goals have to be very specific and they should be written down. It is good to get feedback about the goals in order to refine them further.
Goals should be personal and professional. Spending time balancing your budget can be a personal goal and putting together process flow charts to make certain recurring tasks easier at work is a professional goal.
Unless you know where you are heading, it is so easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with how much you have to do.
I guarantee that your productivity in life is directly linked to how much time you spend working on your goals!
Hoping that all of these handy tips would help you optimise and achieve productivity. Good luck!