I’m obsessed with being productive. I realized that I have just one life and I am NOT going to let it pass me by just because I was too lazy to figure things out and use that knowledge to my advantage.
About one month ago I wrote an article on what true productivity really means. Today, I would like to help you even more by adding, what I believe, are the 4 main obstacles between you and the best results you’ve ever had!
I won’t talk about things like slow computers or Facebook, because you can buy a better computer and simply stop yourself from checking Facebook. I’ll talk about things that really make the difference between average and outstanding results. So let us be productive and to the point. Here we go.
I’ll start with the worst of them all. Interruptions. These are worst thing that can happen you if you want to produce quality work, fast. Similar to sleeping, our productivity is also structured into stages. The more we focus on something the more productive and creative we tend to become.
For most people, it takes over 15 minutes for their minds to fully focus (or refocus) on what they’re doing. What does this mean? It basically means that for each time you are interrupted, by yourself or others, you can cut another 15 productive minutes of your day.
If you’re interrupted 10 times in one day, that’s 150 minutes, or the equivalent of two and a half hours, that you lose! In one day! That literally adds up to 50 hours a month reaching a total of over 500 hours per year! (considering long vacations and being optimistic)
500 hours equals to 62 full-time work days! Imagine, losing 2 to 3 months of productivity out of every year, just because of interruptions! I was genuinely frustrated when I found out and I immediately started to find ways to eliminate as many interruptions as I can. Here are three practical tips:
1. Set some rules. Make sure everyone you work with knows NOT to disturb you whilst you’re working and always make your agenda is visible. If there are people outside of your work that love to send you texts or call you, make sure they know also.
2. Stop all or at least most notifications. Go to the settings panel on all of your devices and turn off notifications. You can respond to everything in a break, when you choose to focus on responding.
3. Put some headphones on. You don’t need to listen to anything, just cancel out external sounds so that your mind can laser-focus on what you’re doing. I sometimes also listen to relaxing music, but that’s optional. (plus, others tend to bother you less)
Apply these 3 simple steps and over 90% of interruptions will be eliminated, leaving you to do work you love or which is part of a bigger picture.
Ah, one last thing regarding interruptions: please don’t mistake them for breaks. I personally take about 2 short breaks every hour. Yes, I sometimes start writing a 1,400 word article and don’t stop until I’ve written the final letter, but that’s because of pure passion and not because I don’t like breaks.
Quite the opposite, I think we should take many breaks. If we get up, move around, drink water, maybe eat some almonds, relax our minds and so on, it can prove extremely beneficial to our health and will further increase our productivity.
A lack of direction
You must have a plan. If you want to be productive, you just have to. There is no way around this one. Your plan can be a simple to-do list, which is OK for amateurs, or it can be a fully fledged goal or project with a clear, desired outcome, a purpose and a step-by-step action plan, the completion of which guarantees your success.
For me, and many other people, this is the second biggest killer of productivity. Why? Because you’re either stuck and don’t know what to do, or you fill your time up with things that are much less important that what you could be doing.
Many people fall into this trap. They are busy being busy. They just do things that, in the end, don’t really matter that much.
In 2012, I’ve learned from Brian Tracy that for every minute spent in planning, you gain 10 minutes of execution. I don’t know if you realize, but that’s a 1000% return! Many times it’s even more! How? Well, a lot of times when you plan, you notice that you don’t really need to do everything you though initially.
That means that you literally eliminate tasks from your agenda, without working on them in the first place, and trust me, those hours really add up! In the same process, you might notice repetitive action items that you may be able to create automated systems or templates for!
Having a big picture that you can divide into daily action steps is very important. It gives you a sense of direction that translates into better results, faster than you thought possible. What’s next?
Lack of energy
You can have all of the alone time you want and the best plan ever. If you’re incapable of execution, they are not worth much. You can have a lack of energy because of a health problem that you’re going through, but that’s a bit more rare.
The most common reason for a lack of energy is (sometimes very) poor decision making. You decided to sleep only 3 hours last night thinking that you will have more time to “be productive”. What a lie…
Though sometimes it’s useful to get something done today, this is not a valid long-term solution and you know it. Other bad decisions are eating fast food, skipping breakfast, eating too much for lunch, drinking anything other than plain water, not drinking enough water, not working out on a regular basis and so on.
If you want more energy, you need to start taking better care of your mind and body. They are the engine that powers your efforts and the fuel you give them will determine your performance.
Lastly, when you have a plan, you have a lot of energy and you’re left to work in peace, then the only thing that remains is how you manage yourself.
As you might already know, I do not believe in time management. I think that you cannot manage something that’s a constant. On the other hand, what you can manage, is how you use that time.
Up until not long ago, I was always trying to get as many things done in one day as I possibly could. My agenda was filled with entries like: Write article (30m), Read emails (15m), Task 1 (5m), Task 2 (1h), etc.
Guess what? I almost never finished any of the tasks on time! It would take me 55 minutes to write an article, 28 minutes to read emails and so on. There were rare occasions when I would get everything done, but not enough to account for all of the useless stress I was placing on myself for (almost) never finishing.
Recently though, I realized that I don’t work like that. You might be OK with that type of an action plan, but I now went from trying to do many different things in one day, to focusing each day on very similar activities.
The decision was a complete game-changer. Why? Because, at the end of every week, when I recap everything I managed to achieve within the past 7 days, I noticed that I would get the same amount of results as when I was trying to spread them across every day!
Not just that, but the quality of the results has noticeably increased and my stress levels have diminishes drastically! It’s an amazing difference and I recommend it to everyone!
You just need to “chunk” similar activities together and place them on the same day. For example, Today, I wrote over 4000 words and I still have a good 2-3 hours from my work day! Now that’s a result I can be proud of in my weekly review!
How about you? Are you getting the results you want? If not, eliminating these 4 factors from your life will definitely give you huge boost of productivity which you can use to hit your targets and make your dreams come true!
If you feel that I can help you even more, please feel free to ask. I thank you for reading this (long) article and wish you a productive day!
Creating a better (and more productive) tomorrow,