Time is a monster that cannot be reasoned with. It responds like a snail to our impatience, then it races like a gazelle when you can’t catch your breath
– Adult Joe Wentworth from Simon Birch
I am sure everyone wants to be very productive, especially when they look at successful people and see how well they use their time, their resources, their talents and the people around them. Looking at these people, you might think they know something you do not.
They do! They know themselves better!
If you have been a regular reader of my Make a List series, you know why making these lists of 100 things means you get to know yourself better, so with today’s list you hit 3 birds with 1 stone:
- You get to know yourself better
- You get to be more productive, because you know yourself better
- You get to be more productive, because you find 100 ways to be more productive
It is a self-perpetuating cycle, much like being successful and being wealthy. The more you know about yourself, the more productive you are and the more productive you are, the more you know about yourself.
The simplest definition of Productivity is “The ability to produce”. Some people can have low productivity and others can have high productivity. In personal development, productivity means getting something in return for our energy. While for some, productivity means being able to do all the thing you expect of yourself, for others it can mean to be able to put in more effort or to get better results (to be more effective).
To help yourself create a list of 100 ways and tips to be more productive, first you need to rate yourself on the productivity scale. It is important to understand that we cannot be productive in every area of our life and accept the fact that we are just better and more productive in some areas and less in others.
Rate your productivity in the next life areas from 1 to 100 (1 being the least productive):
- Studies (if applicable)
- Social life
- Personal time
- Gaining knowledge (continuous improvement)
When you are done with your rating, write 1 or 2 reasons you have rated those life areas the way you have. It will help you discover your definition of productivity and highlight what you want to achieve in this area.
Before you make your list
- Before making a list, you need to define what being productive means to you. Is it having the time to do the things you expect yourself to do? Is it being more efficient? Is it progressing and doing things faster, better or easier?
- The second thing you need to do is start small. Take each area of your life that you have rated low and ask “What is that one thing I can do that will bring me closer to the desired outcome?” Remember, all you need to do is try and check if it works. Sometimes, when we need to do many things to be productive, it seems too hard and we give up. Small steps are a good way to keep moving longer.
- Adjust the idea to yourself. If you find that Ronit’s tip about using your time efficiently is a good idea, but it does not fit your family lifestyle or it is just too hard (for now), try to adjust it to what you think would work better for you or just move on to the next idea. People are different and if you force yourself to do something that does not suit you, you may end up feeling inadequate, a feeling that kills productivity.
- Constantly be on a look out for ideas. You do not have to come up with all the ideas yourself. You are not supposed to reinvent the wheel. I am an idea junkie. Whenever I read books, talk to people, read articles or communicate with any professional, I look for ideas to bring me closer to my desired outcomes. It works very well for me. I recommend talking about your goals and desires with other people. Getting a good idea from someone else does not make it any less of a good idea.
- Whenever I have an idea, I write it down. Do not be tempted to say “Cool, this is a great idea”. Write it down! The mind is too busy to remember everything, which is why people go to seminars, read books and get very motivated, but forget what they have learned after 3 days. Write your ideas down.
- Act on your ideas. As a teacher, I can tell you for sure that every idea you act on will be remembered longer. It is that simple. People remember things they do more than things they hear, read and even write. Do something about every idea if you do not want it to fade.
- Some small tips can change your whole world. You do not need to find loads of ideas and try them all out. You need to focus on a few tips that have the potential to making the most change, the ones with the potential to produce more results more quickly and more easily.
How to become more productive
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to take each of the tips above and translate them into YOUR real life scenarios. Make a list of things you can do (or stop doing) for each tip that will move you forward. Aim for a list that will help you manage your time, your relationships, your resources, your surroundings and your emotions well and make you more productive. Remember, it is managing time better that makes some people more productive than others.
- Your emotional health and wellbeing has a direct impact on your productivity. People with low emotional stamina are less productive than people who are can control and handle their emotions. Learn everything you can about personal development.
- Happy people are more productive than miserable people. To increase your happiness, make a list of things that make you happy and make yourself happy.
- Keep healthy. Productive people are healthier. It is just a fact. People that make good use of their time know they must keep the “machine” that helps them produce in better shape. My son is only 13, but he performs often and has lots of gigs and music competitions. I tell him he cannot afford to be sick, because it may restrict his progress. Some opportunities happen once a year and that is it. If you are sick, you are out!
- Make to-do lists. Remembering everything you have to do always is beyond human ability. Do not test your memory every day and every time you need to remember. The opposite of forgetting is writing down!
- To-do lists are a guide, not a must. Look at your to-do list every morning and say, “Today I will do 2 items”, then stick to your decision. You are not going to finish the entire list and that is perfectly fine. Focus on what you CAN do.
- Always prioritize. Successful people are good with prioritizing. They do not sweat the small stuff and they focus on things that work well for them. When you look at your to-do list, ask, “Which item is the most important”, then do that item first.
- Use deadlines wisely. For many people, deadlines mean pressure, but for productive people, they are guides that make it easier for them to plan. If no one gives you a deadline, make one up and always take extra time for unplanned events. Being unplanned, they always happen when you least expect them…
- To handle your time wisely and be more productive with your time management, make a weekly time sheet and find out where you waste time that is precious to you (TV and computer tend to be the most common time wasters).
- Allocate time for everything – fun, TV, computer, sleep, reading, laundry, etc. When you do this, you may find you do not have time. Well, this is not new, but it means you need to give something up in order to do all the things you need to do. Remember, productive people have the same 24 hours, they just use them better.
- Use the Leonardo Da Vinci Method to use your time better. Try using dead time to do something else you need to do, like reviewing your schedule on the bus. Make your phone calls and read your notes at the doctor’s waiting room. Talk on the phone while you cook. Commute time is a good time to do some things, just be careful while driving. A psychologist friend of mine had to drive to work for an hour once a week. On the way back, she would record herself dictating her report and the next day, she would give the recording to her secretary to type. This way, she worked all the way home.
- Delegate. Getting someone else to do (parts of) your job is a great idea and can save you lots of time and hassle. Sometimes, giving your work to someone who can do it better can save you the time and the effort of learning how to do things yourself. Be careful when delegating, though. Do it properly, so it does not come back for you to fix it.
- Some days are just not the same. Maybe you did not sleep well at night, and you are worried. It is perfectly fine. Take time off when you need it and do not wait for your body to force you to stop. When you do not listen to the signs of your body, you may lose more time than if you take periodic rests to recover.
- Turn the mobile off when doing important things. If you are worried that someone might need you urgently, imagine you are sitting on the toilet exactly when the phone rings. It is perfectly fine not to answer immediately.
- Plan. Planning is the name of the game. Have goals that are long term, medium and short term (3 month) and from them make milestones every 2-3 weeks and then the to-do list. Your to-do list must serve your goals, not the other way around.
- Learn to accept the things you cannot change. People spend most of their energy fighting things that are out of their hands or not their responsibility (like the past). Accepting these things frees up much of your energy and allows you to focus on, well, producing results.
- Schedule vacations in your yearly plan. When you plan, make sure your annual vacation is included. It helps recharge your emotional batteries. If you do not have enough money for a big vacation, a small vacation is much better than nothing.
- Find out how long it takes you to do things. Sometimes being productive is just learning how to estimate your time wisely. It is just practice. For every task, estimate how long you think it will take you and when you are done, check to see if you were right. Gradually, you will be more accurate.
- Ask for help. Sometimes, we are out of solutions and asking for help can make a huge difference. Sometimes, a phrase, a word or a different point of view are enough to get your mind going again. Ask.
- Learn Creativity. Many times, productivity is the result of creative use of time, resource, people skills and talents. Creative people find unusual ways to be productive. I think creativity and productivity are closely related.
- Use time planners. A calendar gives you an overview of your time and puts your scheduling in perspective. Diaries help you plan in more detail. I have a diary, I use Outlook, I have the calendar over my head, I have the payment diary, I have the family calendar, I have the post schedule and it is very organized. Highly recommended!
- Plan according to the real time you have. When Gal was an IT manager and had to allocate time for every task his people did, he found out they did not have 8 hours of actual work every day. On average, they had about 3 productive hours every day (including their holidays, sick leave, coffee breaks, lunches and meetings). As soon as he realized that, he became more accurate with his plans. Find out how much time you really have every day (the real time) and plan according to it.
- Focus on outcomes, not problems. People who see problems are less productive than people who see potential. One is a past-oriented focus and the other is a future-oriented focus. Looking for results means productivity, while blaming and justifying means getting stuck.
- Hang around productive people. You may learn from them how to be productive too. The buzz around them is contagious.
- Work in a team. Lifting something heavy by yourself is a lot harder than sharing the load with others. “Many hands make light work”.
- Use technology to help you be organized and productive. Some kinds of technology can help you manage your time better and help you remember things or free your mind from having to remember them. Try using your computer, your mobile phone and your GPS to make life easy for you. It will help you be more productive in less time.
- Sleep well. When we lose sleep, our productivity drops significantly. If you have kids and you tell them to go to sleep because they need to concentrate in the morning, you should know it is the same for you. We need time to shut down our “machine” every day for repairs and rejuvenation. If you do not sleep enough, before starting any of the ideas on this list, go to sleep.
Give yourself a month to make a change and when you are done, do your personal survey again and rate your productivity from 1 to 100 in the different areas. Celebrate every little change you have made.
Join me next week for the next post in the series: 100 mistakes I have made (and what I can learn from them).
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- Make a list: My Lifetime
- Make a list: Things I am Happy about
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- Make a list: Ways to say “I love you!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Things to ask for my birthday
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- Make a list: Feelings I Want to Feel
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that have shaped my life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- Make a list: If I were Santa Claus
- Make a list: If I had one year to live
- Make a list: Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies
- Make a List: Things to be Grateful for
- Make a List: Ronit’s Gratitude List
- Make a list: Life Lessons Learned