This article was originally published on my personal blog. Find more interesting content there.
After reading quite a few books on productivity, lifestyle and mindfulness, and applying, integrating and practicing my learnings for quite a while in my daily life, I thought it would be useful to write down my thoughts on what works well for me in terms of getting things done throughout the day.
There’s tons of productivity articles and resources out there and I’m sure some of my experiences overlap with what you’ve probably read somewhere else. However, this isn’t supposed to be just yet another post on productivity.
Instead, this is my personal manifesto that I can come back to, to remind myself of how to stay focused and stay on track. The manifesto consists of just a few rules that are categorised by even less sections. I try to keep it as focused and to the point as possible, free from distractions and unessential information.
You’re invited to make it your personal productivity manifesto as well. I’ll keep this one updated and change it as I go along and feel the need.
To get the most out of ourselves, our bodies and minds have to be in a good state. That’s why I believe it’s perfectly fine and important to make our personal well being, physically and mentally, the highest priority to be productive throughout the day.
A calm mind is a strong mind
If we can’t think clear and our mind is swamped with too many thoughts, ideas and emotions that are distracting, it’ll be hard to get anything done and focus on the right things. We also have a much harder time leading or following discussions with peers in a reasonable way. Meditating on a daily basis once or twice not only helps us getting a clear mind but also make us appreciate the “now” and gain greater focus for the things we do. It doesn't have to be long either. Even 5 minutes of being in the moment can make a big difference.
Exercising for at least half an hour every day already helps giving us more energy as it improves circulation and reduces stress. Whether it’s a full body workout or just a good run to put the heart rate up - it doesn’t really matter. Stay disciplined, do it regularly. I personally am not the kind of type that can go to a gym and lift weights. Simply doesn't excite me. That's why I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu about a year ago and ever since I train 3-4 times a week. Find what works for you!
Resting is one of the most important factors when it comes to productivity. In fact, sleep improves our memory and cements what we’ve learned throughout the day (that’s why reading right before we go to bed is probably the best time to read). Lack of sleep and rest will never do good to us, even if we think we’re more productive when we work through the night. It only does harm to our bodies and health. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Our brain works best when it’s taking a nice bath. Drinking a lot of water is a key for better concentration and focus. Also, it helps preventing headaches when we sit in front of the computer all day long. So, drink water. Loads of it. Or tea.
Ideas and the intention to get things done are great but are only 10% of the story and don’t get us anywhere, if we don’t actually sit down and do the things we want to do. The other 90% are the art of being disciplined and staying focused throughout the day so we can take it one step at a time to get closer to our goals.
Here’s what keeps me going.
Depending on what your typical day looks like and how many different things you have to take care of, it can be very helpful to put your thoughts on paper to make room in your head for focus and concentration. I started bullet journaling and it helps me a lot to have a clear picture of what I have to work on and what my goals are for the day, week and month. If you're doing regular stand-up meetings with your team at work, having a log of what you've done is very useful too! Bonus points: it relaxes me.
Focus on the “now”
Too often we worry about what happened in the past and what challenges we might face in the near or far future. Accept that it doesn’t matter at this point. Focus on what’s present right now and what needs to be done to move forward with the current state of things. Then move on to the next thing.
Start with the most important task
It’s very easy to procrastinate when you know there’s something you need or want to do that is either boring, hard or simply takes you out of your comfort zone. In those situations we often start tricking ourselves by doing other things that aren’t essential right now and don’t have as much impact as the task that really matters at the moment. Don’t avoid it, rather start your day with the most important task. It’s okay if you spend a whole day on it. Often, the most important is also the hardest task. But it’s also what pushes things forward.
You don’t have to do it all at once. You’re probably not even able to and that’s perfectly fine. Start small. Take it one step at a time. Iterate. Things will get easier once you get started.
It’s okay to say no. We don’t have to be available all the time. We don’t have to answer that one email immediately. We don’t have to speak at this conference every year. We don’t have to be in every single meeting. Eliminate everything that distracts you from getting your own essential tasks done. Less is more.
That’s it. I know, those are very few and very simple rules, however everything else that claims to make me more productive can be easily derived from those. As mentioned earlier, I’ll keep this updated and add new rules as I try things out.
☝ One last tip on being productive ☝
Stop googling for how to be productive. Seriously.