Increasing your productivity is hard in today’s world of constant distractions. It’s easy to make excuses about lack of productivity, too – it’s too nice outside, a big game is on TV, the President just tweeted something provocative again, etc.
Of course, you’ve likely heard that good sleep, eating well, keeping hydrated, staying active, meditating and keeping positive are common methods for ramping up productivity.
Still, to truly be effective, you should have a set of actionable ways that you can implement starting today – though it might take diligence to turn them into habits that get results.
Put Down the Smartphone
The smartphone does wonders for communication, growing your network, and increasing business, but it can be a huge distraction. You can text, see social media notices, track emails, and access zillions of apps, most designed to distract, even those for business (here’s looking at you, Slack).
Here’s how to limit the temptations:
Erase Email Inefficiency
Emails are crucial to business and personal communication, no doubt. But inefficient use of email is a productivity killer. Learning to pay attention to the important ones (personally or professionally) and ignore the time-wasters is key to being more productive.
Emails can instill you with a reactive inclination if you’re constantly replying or answering, especially if it isn’t important. But being reactionary is an albatross. Consistently being proactive is the best way to raise your productivity.
So, here are several ways to reduce email anxiety:
Break the Social Media Fixation
It happens to nearly everyone – whether reading the news, gauging people’s reactions to a breaking story, or seeing how many likes and/or responses you get from something you’ve written or posted – social media quickly becomes addicting. A simple check for something that seems innocuous, and 20-30 minutes pass like a flash of lightning.
Again, like with email, the solutions are simple:
However, you must be diligent about it until it becomes a habit.
Make (and Stick to) a Daily To-do List
For some people, this is like a slap in the face, an affront to their intelligence or memory ability. Yet, the truth is that writing down a list commits you to the act of getting something done.
Not having a to-do list puts you in the aforementioned reactive mode because you’re not tackling a list to get things done.
Follow the Maverick and Swallow a Frog
Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban, who stars on Shark Tank and owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, among other notable endeavors, claims that having developed the habit of tackling his biggest (and often most unpleasant) task first every morning before anything else is key to his success.
Cuban’s philosophy is based on Mark Twain’s “eat the frog” concept. Basically, if the first thing you do every day is unpleasant or your biggest priority (i.e., “eating the frog”), then nothing the rest of the day will be as bad or important.
Finally, a Good Reason for IRS
It’s not enough to have a to-do list and swallow a frog, though. You have to prioritize, but how do you know what is and is not important?
That why Michael McDevitt, CEO and co-founder of business advisory and consulting law firm Tandem Legal Group, conspired with other highly successful people to create an IRS that actually looks out for your best interest:
Don’t be so focused on day-to-day goals that you forget the big picture – and vice-versa. Day-to-day tasks lead to weekly targets that evolve into monthly goals, which eventually help achieve those long-term goals.
And don’t forget – any and all of them can be realigned and/or revised as necessary to hit your targets.
Americans are conditioned that rest is for the weak, that constant hard work drives greatness. But the hard work cannot be efficient or successful without small daily breaks.
Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz followed the Rule of 33 – work diligently for 33 minutes, take a short break, and then get back at it. Following this rule made him one of the most successful, highly-paid copywriters ever, while working 3-4 hours a day. It can be adapted to work for you, regardless of your profession or responsibilities.
But there’s more. Get away from things completely, if only for a few hours one evening per week. Unplug from electronics, take a long hike, nap, write a song, whatever necessary to chill and refresh yourself.