How to be productive every day
I often have this feeling that I can never finish what I wanted to do for the day. My to-do list usually gets too long. I think time and self-management is an issue most people can relate to. We all have professional and private goals we want to achieve, even though there’s many obstacles in our way. What’s the best ways to be and stay productive? It requires far more than just making a simple to-do list. Your whole mindset has to improve if you want to increase your productivity and realise your long-term goals. Let’s break it down.
I’m going to be honest straightaway: I’m far away from realising my ultimate plans and goals, even when it is about writing this blog. But I make slow progress here and there and I know I can improve with time. Today I don’t have any groundbreaking insights to tell, just my personal thoughts from experience and learning. If you know it better anyway, you'll surely find your way soon.
Humans aren't as efficient as robots
What’s the best way to stay productive? We’re talking here about achieving as much as possible throughout a day without a burnout. We aren’t robots, we are primarily human beings with physical and emotional needs and you can’t just push a button in our head to make us run efficiently without any break for 12 hours.
We need pauses, and even with all the pauses after a few hours you reach your level of interest for the day. The threshold will vary from person to person, but at some point during the day you lose your motivation to continue with the same task. You need to take a break or switch to another task. It’s really important to be smart about the way you work, how you work and when you work.
There’s no clear answer to that because everyone is different, but there’s certain methods and techniques based on certain theories. You can browse them online to find them. I’m sure you can find some tips and tricks that will be helpful for you.
to-do lists make you more productive
I've worked with to-do lists for many years. First, I was prioritising tasks for my private projects. Over time I started to make short notes about work-related stuff. Nowadays I have mixed to-do lists for my work and for my private projects.
A major realisation I had from planning my days was that you quickly realise that one bullet point of your to-do list might actually have several sub-tasks before you can finalise it. It happened many times that I thought I could start and finish a task and then realised that the bullet point will actually take more time because I needed to do more than initially expected.
That’s what happens if you don’t break down your tasks in enough detail and just stick to generic statements. Here’s my tip for you: analyse your tasks, even if they’re simple and see if you can discover little hidden sub-tasks that might take more time than you expected. I can give you a specific example.
an example for a bullet point
I used to write ‘do video editing’ in my to do list and left it like that. Then in praxis I realised it’s not just about editing a video. There will be more time required than just simple editing to finish this task. The video needs to be rendered as a file which can take 1, 2 or 3 hours sometimes. Then I need to upload it to Youtube which can take another 10, 15, 20 minutes depending on the length of the video.
But even then I’m not finished, because a video needs also a title and description, perhaps I want to include some relevant links, and add good tags to make the video searchable on Youtube. This might require doing a quick research on tags, we can take even more minutes than previously expected. Once I do all this, then I can cross out the bullet point ‘video editing’ which, it turns out, included far more than mere editing.
If I wanted to see more clearly the scope of the whole task, I could have broken it down into something like this: video editing, video rendering, video upload - 3 tasks instead of one! Here’s my advice to you: be more specific and check if your simple task is really that quick and simple to do. Don’t underestimate the scope. Unfortunately, I tend to do it all the time.
regular meals boost your productivity
Another issue to consider is that it’s very easy to forget the meals during your workday. It’s important to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner, and perhaps some snacks in between. And it’s foolish to skip your main meals only because you are invested in your tasks and projects so passionately. Yes, it’s good you love what you do. But with a neglected body your mind won’t be able to continue for long. You’ll be making mistakes, will feel weak and this will have a bad impact on your mood.
You can’t work productively in a bad mood. Take care of your body, have your meals. I understand sometimes it’s impossible to plan it, emergencies happen or we lose track of time. That’s fine. Just don’t make a habit out of it. Nourish your body and eat regularly. I didn’t tend to cook for quite a long time. But now I’m pretty efficient with preparing my meals, so I take my time for the food preparation and keep this in mind when I plan the day.
Also, eat healthy food and in moderation. If you eat much and eat really badly, your intestines might be full of inflammations. This will have a terrible effect on your inner wellbeing and will be slowing you down. As a result it will also be slowing down your mind, because at the end of the day the working of your mind has a biological basis, and the health of your own biology will feed back on your mental capability. I’m not a nutritionist, but I can tell you that much platitude about food.
exercise your body regularly to stay productive
Another important aspect to consider to stay productive is to exercise. I don't mean becoming a body-builder or doing it for aesthetics, although that’s also a great goal to have. I just mean keeping your body fit and healthy by putting a positive stress on it regularly through exercises so that it stays healthy and fit. In the same way as you have to train muscles to grow them, you have to train your health to stay fit. You can train at home and don’t even need to go to the gym to exercise. There’s lots of great and free Youtube exercise videos for home workout. Try them out and discover what fits you best.
Increased productivity is about self-development
I've already mentioned a couple of things and this article is about being productive. But instead of just mentioning how to create a to-do list we also covered fitness and food. You realise that being productive and achieving your goals has to do with you as a person. The person that is you must be good enough if you want to be productive. It’s a change of lifestyle and also an inner decision that you want to be productive and do whatever it takes.
If you’re happy with mediocrity, then you might not care about all this and you can stop reading now. But if you really want just to do things right and be at your best, then you really need to identify the shortcomings in your body and character and work on them. As you can see, it’s all about self develoment at the end. Don’t be just yourself. Be your better self.
Being productive in a nutshell
To sum it up, here's what you can do to stay productive every day:
1. Have a detailed to-do list where you identify your tasks and subtasks. Put some thought into it.
2. Have your regular meals throughout the day. Nourish your body. Eat healthily and in moderation.
3. Exercise regularly for the sake of physical and mental fitness, at best 3-4 times a week.
4. Work on your motivation through mental attitude to overcome laziness. Decide in your mind that you want to be productive because it's important. Without the right self-motivation every day you won't feel the need to improve.
5. Don't be just yourself. Strive to become your BETTER SELF!
Laziness vs. Self-motivation
What is the main obstacle to productivity? Simply put, laziness. Laziness is physical and mental sluggishness, your personal inertia. It can result from many things, but above all from the lack of will and from the bad condition of your mind and body. About all these things you can take definite steps which I mentioned before.
Now let’s consider the most important thing that lies at the bottom of our aversion to productivity. It’s the issue of motivation that can make or break your self-improvement efforts. That’s why it’s important that you reach a stage in life when you realise that personal productivity and the resulting self improvement are important. If they are not important to you, you won’t have the motivation and you wouldn’t even read this blog in the first place. So I’m definitely giving you the credit for getting this far with me.
It’s important that you really really want the improvement, to be at your best and to optimise your life and work where this is required. You need to see the importance of it and really want that. Only then you will have the motivation to pursue it and not give up when facing problems.
Laziness is a habit, but so is activity as well. You can train yourself to be active in things. After a while of practising (realistically it will be a few months) you will see a change in your behaviour. You might still experience laziness from time to time but you will also do the thing you need to do despite your laziness, because now you got used to the feeling of activity, and skipping it would make you feel remorse. If you reached that point, then it’s a very good sign of your progress and the shift in your attitude. Please train that mindset.
Alright, ladies and gents - I hope it all makes sense to you. Let me know if that was helpful and what you think in the comments. Or send me some feedback. That’s always appreciated. Stay fit and healthy, be motivated and inspired.