Productivity is a buzz word in the self-development scene. It seems to have become popular due to the amount of distraction we have around us. We’ve never had apps on phones and so much ‘stuff’ that can grab our attention, and unless we are conscious we can be pulled from pillar to post without getting anything done.
“Productivity is less about what you do with your time, and more about how you run your mind” – Robin Sharma.
Productivity doesn’t mean ‘work’ in this sense. It can be applied to everything we do. How efficient are we at managing the time that has been granted to us every day?
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work” – Stephen King.
Piers Steel, the author of The Procrastination Equation, says that 95 percent of people admit to putting off work (perhaps the other 5 percent didn’t get around to completing the survey).
When I first began using the internet and had access to so much information at the tip of my fingers, I was in awe. Never before have we had such a magnificent tool. And yet, that dopamine hit I was receiving was slowly wiring my brain for procrastination.
Information addiction is genuine and is an ideal outlet for procrastination. What better way to procrastinate, than to think you are actually productive by learning something?
We can rewire our brain out of procrastination, in the same way that we got ourselves wrapped up in it – by taking small, consistent actions.
Productivity Upgrade 1 – Know When Your Efforts Yield Highest Returns
Dr Michael Breus studies sleep and circadian rhymes as the basis of his work. He has recently released a book called ‘The Power of When’. The book explains that each of us has individual body clocks and we should work with the positive and negatives of these times to be as efficient as possible with our day.
I am what Dr Breus called a Lion. Early morning productivity valuing practicality, stability and optimism. It also talks about sleep patterns and other observations. Take the test here and see for yourself.
‘Know Thyself’ – Delphic Maxim
Initiate a protocol in your own life, whereby you work to when you know you are most productive. The time of the day is irrelevant. If you work best at 2 AM in the morning, don’t let society tell you it’s the wrong thing, their standards are rubbish. It may take a little bit of time to work this out; test and measure by your productivity output.
Productivity Upgrade 2 – Begin Mono-Tasking
“Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things . . . fail because we lack concentration — the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else?” – John D Rockefeller (yes, I know his character is questionable. The message, not the messenger)
This was the ultimate game-changer for me. Monotasking is the principle of starting and completing one task before moving onto another. I tried it for two hours per day for a week, and I doubled my output over seven days.
Multi-tasking has two problems:-
- It takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to work after an interruption or switch in tasks. (according to Professor Gloria Mark from The University of California)
- It takes time to get your brain back up to speed on what you were doing before once you begin the primary task.
I found that because I wanted to complete the task, to get to the next one on my list, I became more present and acted from a more profound sense of intuition.
This doesn’t just mean other work tasks. This is also any other distractions you may have. Put your phone on aeroplane mode and be resilient with other websites, etc., not beneficial to your end.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus” – Bruce Lee.
Productivity Upgrade 3 – Strategised To-Do List
Most of the time, things are simple, and this is a testament to that. But I have a little bit more to it than writing down a list, and I suggest you create your own version of it too.
Tim Ferris recommends writing 3-5 tasks and prioritising one that must be done. Batch out the necessary time and do that 1 task first. The other 2-4 can be done later in the day/week. He says, ‘ask yourself if that 1 task got done, would you be satisfied with the day?’ and creates his priorities that way.
I have a maximum list of 6 things. I then prioritise the top 2 and put a start by them. Those 2 priorities are the most strategically favourable tasks at the time; irrelevant of the length of time required to complete. Once the two are complete, using the monotasking principle, I will start the next 2 on the list and so forth.
I’d also suggest closing your notepad once you pick your priority, to stop you from looking at the rest of the list and creating more mind chatter.
Productivity Upgrade 4 – Get Everything Out of Your Head
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen
The mind is either your friend or your foe. Most people haven’t sat down for more than 15 minutes in silence and are at the mercy of the noise in their head. Until your mind is a slave to your conscious control, it will divert your attention to anywhere but the desired task. It’ll also give you every reason under the sun to procrastinate.
The untamed mind needs an outlet. Write down your thoughts and ideas on a piece of paper to release them from the bubbling cauldron. The more enlightened drops of wisdom can be put onto a notecard for future reference to use in your own work. By writing these thoughts down, you don’t have to worry about remembering anything, it will be there for you whenever it’s needed.
Keeping the mind as clear as possible allows for inspiration. When I began this process, my mind became progressively quieter, allowing more focus on the one thing to complete. It may take a while to get used to it, and sometimes it can be time-consuming, but by playing the long game, it will serve you well.
Productivity Upgrade 5 – Stop Listening to Voicemails
This one is simple, and I love it.
Change your voicemail to something similar to the following: –
‘Hello, this is Alex Hickman, I don’t take voicemail messages so you will have to send me a message, Whatsapp or email. I will get back to you soon. Thanks.’
This does a couple of things: –
- Saves you wasting time going through your voicemails when most of them are a waste of time. People solve the problems themselves if you’re not on hand to help.
- Gives the impression that you’re a busy person who values their time. It gives you a subtle position of power, whether you want it or not.
This is another thing you won’t need to concern yourself with from now on. Notice how most calls are a complete waste of time.
Productivity Upgrade 6 – Set ‘Unproductive Days’ in the Calendar
A bit of a paradox, but this is essential.
Imagine going back 100,000 years. The hunters in the tribe are setting out to hunt for food to bring home for the others. After 10 hours of intense work and physical labour, you have enough food to bring back, meaning the tribe can eat for the next few days. On the fourth day, the tribe having eaten the majority of the food, you go hunting again to provide for the next few days.
Intense work is not meant to be continuous. Your standards will drop if you focus intently for an excessive amount of time, physically or mentally.
We must have daily ‘blockouts’ and prolonged ‘blockouts’ to magnetise ourselves again with life force.
Once again, find when you are most productive (as above). Find how long you need in a day to recover from your bursts of energy; there is no right or wrong. I do my work from 6-11 (with 90-minute peaks with a quick breathing exercise for 10 minutes). Then I’ll meditate, read and exercise from 11-3 and eat my single meal a day around 3.30. I will then have short 1-hour‘ working bursts’ after 3.30 between taking my dog for a walk and spending time with the lady.
Purposely block out days or weeks in your calendar. Do this at the beginning of every month or year and don’t change them. When you are intentionally ‘switching off’ don’t let yourself do any work and increase the amount of magnetised life force you receive. By meditating more than usual, doing specific breathing exercises and not being too excessive with working out, you will literally become energised. This energy, channelled with the right will, can produce wonders.
Productivity Upgrade 7 – Use Task Batching
Essentially, this is the grouping of similar tasks into specific periods. It is a management system for yourself in relationship to time. It will maximise concentration and creativity while minimising distraction.
Checking emails in the middle of writing an article, for example, is a flow killer. Your brain will take time to adjust back to the task and get back up to speed, around 25 minutes or so. Compounded; this is a lot of time you are not taking advantage of.
By batching similar tasks together, you give yourself the upper hand over people who are multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another. Apparently, around 40% more productivity.
The times of day that you’re naturally more focussed is an excellent idea to batch your prioritised tasks. Less critical tasks can be batched together to power your way through when you are coming down from your heightened state.
The following can be batched into half an hour/hour slots after priorities:-
Social media uploads
Productivity Upgrade 8 – Delete Social Media Apps from Your Phone
No need to go into detail on this one.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, regardless of their immense value, have destroyed efficiency. Social media should be used as a tool, you can’t be used by social media. It doesn’t take long to get addicted to the dopamine hits that cloud productivity and creativity.
Besides, you can always put them back on again if you are scratching at the walls.
Productivity Upgrade 9 – Learn How to Breath Properly
“What is God? He is the breath inside the breath” – Kabir.
Paul Chek (how to eat move and be healthy), one of my mentors, taught me how we should be breathing in everyday life. Since then, I have explored many different breathing techniques, some of them being ancient and from mystical traditions.
Why is this important for our productivity?
Breath or Chi is our life force. It is our electromagnetic energy. When we stop digesting this force, we expire and give our bodies back to the Earth.
Learning to breathe correctly and doing certain breathing techniques throughout the day will magnetise your body with this energy. You will need to practise and find times that best work for you. I have 40-90 minute spikes of productivity and then do 10 minutes of breathing to magnetise myself again.
Begin by starting to breathe a lot deeper into the belly, rather than the chest.
There are many videos out now sharing wisdom about advanced breathing. For anyone interested in seeing how breathing can assist in the development of their consciousness.
Productivity Upgrade 10 – Learn to ask better questions
‘Why can’t you achieve your 10-year goal in the next 6 months’ – Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal)
The best questions are generally the ones that sound the most ridiculous. Often, the difference between good and great is the quality of the question that you ask yourself or others.
Asking ourselves a question and answering it is what we call thinking. If we can learn how to ask different and better questions, then our answers need to be better too. It is a self-growth tool and can be utilised to make sure we are holding ourselves to our highest standards.
This applies to question others too. The better you get at asking better questions of others, the better you will ask yourselves better questions. Consider studying great interviewers such as Howard Stern, Larry King and David Letterman.
A few ideas of questions to enhance your productivity
- What is the one thing I can do today that will make me satisfied?
- Without distractions, how quickly can this task get done?
- Am I still working towards my highest ideal?
Go easy on yourself while maintaining the standards you know you can meet. Take a few of these suggestions to begin with and see how you can implement them over the next few weeks. Note which ones work for you and which ones don’t.
There is no one size fits all approach. Your productivity becomes most efficient when you test, measure and study the deeper essence of yourself. Not knowing who you are and what you are capable of is the limiting factor to you creating in the world.