Easier said than doneOct 17, 2023
Please enjoy this guest post from Ryan Johnson, a member of the Platform Launchers Members' Club. To learn more about everything Ryan is doing, please visit: https://3sparrowses.com/
In our world there are constant demands on our time and attention.
So, trying to stay focused and productive is much easier said than done.
The exponential development in technology is not making it any easier either.
We live our lives in front of screens that are constantly trying to sell us or teach us something.
As I write this, I realize that I’m contributing to the problem.
However, just because we have the technology capabilities to consume content constantly doesn’t mean we should.
We all need a plan of action to stay focused and alert to be the most productive we can be for the most important things in our lives.
From a student juggling coursework, a professional striving for excellence, an entrepreneur navigating a competitive landscape, or simply an individual seeking to make the most of each day, the ability to maximize your productivity can be a game-changer.
However, executing a plan is always harder than creating a plan.
Here are 4 ways you can be more productive
- Define Reality
- Manage Time & Energy
- Make great decisions
In order to prioritize things you have to first establish clear and meaningful goals for your life.
What you don’t want is to have goals just for the sake of having goals.
You need goals that make sense in the context of your life and according to the ability to achieve them.
I’ll give you a “bad goal” example to illustrate my point.
I’m going to climb Mt. Everest next year.
This goal seems cool, certainly achievable for some people and would be an amazing accomplishment.
But if I view it in the context of my life I’ll see that it’s not achievable and really a waste of resources to try and accomplish it, especially in 12 months.
First, I’m not a Mt. Climber and have no experience climbing mountains.
Second, I can’t afford it, financially.
Third, it would take me much longer than 12 months to even plan and train to try and reach this goal.
Goals properly aligned with who you are will provide a roadmap for your actions and decisions, offering a sense of purpose and direction.
To help me do this I choose to use SMART goals:
This strategy brings clarity and focus to setting goals.
Specifically, this strategy helps you break big goals into smaller steps to avoid getting overwhelmed and failing.
The second thing that is vitally important to do in becoming more productive is to define your current reality.
I started to do this indirectly in my 3 reasons why I shouldn’t create a goal of climbing Mt. Everest in the next 12 months.
What you need to know about defining reality is that you will only become more productive when you are operating in your optimal quadrant.
This quadrant concept comes from Former President and Military Leader Dwight D. Eisenhower.
He created the Eisenhower Matrix to ensure that he could be the most productive as possible with all that he had going on as a young leader.
This is how the Eisenhower matrix works.
First, you must recognize that not all tasks are equal in terms of urgency and importance.
Second, categorize tasks into four quadrants:
- Urgent and Important
- Important but Not Urgent
- Urgent but Not Important
- Neither Urgent nor Important.
By allocating your energy to tasks falling into the first two quadrants, you ensure that you're focusing on what truly matters to you.
Doing this routinely will help you not only prioritize but also define your current reality that will help you make course corrections throughout your day and week.
Manage Time & Energy
Time is the most precious resource because it’s the only resource that you can never get more of.
We all only get 24 hours in a day.
So, we can’t control time but we do have a responsibility to manage it well.
If we can manage time well then we will become more productive.
Another benefit of the ability to manage our time well is that we get to decide what we do when we have the most energy to do it.
For example, some people naturally have more energy in the mornings so they might choose to do creative work or have meetings in the mornings.
Then, in the afternoons they may want to answer emails or prepare for the next day’s events when they have less energy.
Others may have more energy at night so they may choose to reserve some tasks for when everyone else goes to bed.
Everyone is different when it comes to their energy levels and the freedom to manage their time.
However, the important part is that you need to define your reality and build goals around it.
Here is a practical way of combining great time and energy management, it’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
For those of you who don’t know what this is, this is a focused work interval method, typically lasting 25 minutes (known as a "Pomodoro"), followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
This approach capitalizes on the brain's natural ability to maintain high concentration for shorter periods, promoting efficiency and preventing burnout.
Another way to help manage your energy is to allow a few minutes each work day to meditate.
Productivity isn't only about crossing off tasks on a list; it's also about maintaining mental clarity and sustaining a high level of focus.
Meditation practices can significantly enhance your cognitive abilities and emotional well-being.
Dedicate a few minutes each day to mindfulness exercises to train your mind to remain present, reduce stress, and improve your ability to concentrate.
You won’t regret this practice.
Make Great Decisions
Physical and Digital Spaces
Your environment greatly influences your productivity.
For example, a cluttered workspace can lead to mental clutter and hinder your ability to concentrate.
But, taking the time to declutter your physical surroundings, organize items in a way that minimizes distractions and optimizes your workflow.
The same principle applies to your digital environment; streamline your digital files, emails, and notifications to ensure a seamless work experience.
For example, To-do lists are a timeless productivity tool that offer structure and organization to your day.
If you begin each day by jotting down the tasks you aim to accomplish then you will bring clarity and focus to your daily tasks which results in greater productivity.
Why does this work?
Because when you have a plan that you believe in then you will not be wondering if these are the top 1-3 tasks you should be devoting your time and energy to.
Instead, you will give 100% of your attention and effort to these tasks and complete them.
Some people like to use digital task management tools available, such as Google Tasks, Trello or Asana.
Other people like to use a physical notepad but whatever you use, develop a system and stick to it.
Another set of great decisions that you need to make on a daily basis to be more productive is your physical health.
This means both your body and mind.
The mind-body connection is undeniable, and a healthy body lays the foundation for a productive mind.
For example, regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep contribute to cognitive function and stress reduction.
Technically speaking, physical activity improves blood flow to the brain, enhances cognitive abilities, and fortifies your overall well-being, enabling you to approach tasks with heightened clarity and energy.
Some people refer to this exercise result as a “runner’s high.”
When you get your heart rate up on a daily basis then you will be more focused and productive the rest of your day.
This is also why so many people choose to exercise in the mornings.
Just Say No
The last way you can make great decisions to be more productive is to learn the art of saying no.
If you are a people pleaser, like me, then this can be a challenge.
However, saying no is a skill that can safeguard your productivity and your sanity.
While it seems noble to accommodate every request or opportunity, overcommitting can lead to burnout and decreased efficiency.
How do you say no without burning a bridge?
You have to be sold that the request doesn’t align with your goals or capacities and doesn’t empower you to focus on your priorities and allocate your resources effectively.
If you come to this conclusion then it will be easy to say no.
However, if you focus on what others might think or say about you, if you say no then you will struggle.
Remember, if you can develop a personal system to…
- Prioritize what’s most important in your life.
- Define your current reality and where you want to go.
- Manage your time & energy by maximizing your limited time.
- Make great decisions to keep you focused on the vision you have for your life.
Then you will live a very productive and even better, a more meaningful life.
Enjoy the Process!
© Ryan Johnson, 2023
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