“It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.”

Nathan W. Morris, author and finance expert

If you’re all about productivity and getting sh*t done, then i hope you’ve read at least 3 out of the 4 books below:

  1. The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done
  2. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
  3. Atomic Habits
  4. The Art of Saying No

If you haven’t, get them now and take a read. These books have completely changed my perspective on how I approach my day to day tasks, habits – routines in general.

Over the past few months of this “intentional living” mindset journey, I’ve realized that it really does take small systems and actions to make a big impact on your habits and goals.

Oftentimes, productivity can be associated with stress, being overwhelmed, having too many things to do, but that’s not it at all.

The most practical way to approach productivity is to recognize when things aren’t working anymore and give yourself the freedom and space to adjust. Then, focus only on the essentials. Everything else is just mental clutter at that point. Don’t try to switchtask. This is something Dave Crenshaw strongly advises against in his book The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done

Switchtasking is when you stop and switch your attention back and forth. Whenever someone switchtasks, they are piling up large amounts of switching costs – the transition time of mental effort and energy that it takes to move from one task to the other.

davecrenshaw.com

This changed everything for me. He demonstrates his point by asking two individuals to perform an activity in which they were to write out the sentence “Multitasking is worse than a lie” but for every letter written, they must write a number below it – M-1, U-2, L-3… and so on. This then shows, something that could’ve taken less than 20 seconds to do instead takes 3 times longer.

Trying to figure out the most efficient way to get things done is definitely something of a process.

Here are just a few of the habits i’ve incorporated into my routine to up my productivity while also improving mental clarity!

1. Get a Headstart

Deciding your plan of action and the steps you need to take to successfully complete a task can be as simple as starting the night before. Or depending on the type of task, a week before. If you have a clear and concise list of things that you need to get done, preparing beforehand becomes easier. This not only helps you prepare your physical space but also your mental space. You’re not rushing and forgetting important things during the process.

2. Implement the Pomodoro Technique

If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro Technique, then you’re probably not giving yourself enough break in between your work. This is essentially a time management system that encourages you to work within a given time frame, power through your work with no distractions, and then reward yourself with a few minutes of a break where you can step aside, recharge and rest to go again. If you’re a content creator, this is a must. Sometimes you just need to come back to your work with fresh eyes.

3. Prioritize Your Tasks

If you’ve got a clear and actionable to-do list, it becomes easier to visualize which of those tasks can be done before which. Some prefer to do the hardest tasks first, some prefer to do the most urgent ones first – and these are not always the same things. Find what works for you. Assign specific time slots to each of the tasks you need to complete, which ones can wait, which are urgent, and give yourself enough time to get them done; DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE.

4. Take Advantage of Commuting

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend getting from one place to the next; driving on the bus, sitting on the train, riding a bike or even waiting in a line at the bank or grocery store – You’ve probably thought “UGH! I’m wasting so much time – i could’ve been doing something more important right now!” – and indeed you can. Simple things like clearing emails, responding to that pile of WhatsApp messages, listen to a self-improvement audiobook or podcast on an educational topic you’re interested in, clearing out your phone gallery. There’s always something you can do in the middle of waiting. You’re NEVER gonna get that time back. Why not make the most out of it. Milk it for everything it’s worth.

5. Write EVERYTHING Down

This one has DEFINITELY been a game-changer for me. I’m not the best as remembering anything. I can’t even remember what i had for dinner last night unless i really sit and think hard enough. As much as you think “Oh, yeah I’ll remember that”, you probably won’t, and if it’s really important, do you wanna risk forgetting? WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN but be sure you know where you’re writing it. I usually always have my phone with me, so if i remember something i need to buy while I’m catching up on my favourite show, i grab my phone really quick and i add that to my “Things to Buy” in my Notes app. If you’re not in a situation where you’re near your phone, write it on a piece of paper, or on something visible, so when you come across it again, you’ll remember to add it to the official list that you keep or maybe even get it done right away.

6. Learn Something New

If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – this is something i really strongly believe. I don’t mean the kind of learning where you’re sitting in a class with a boring lecturer talking about something you have absolutely no interest in. No – I’m talking about a skill, a topic, an area of interest, Anything you want to learn is already free and easily accessible. Take advantage of free resources and materials and just learn, read, watch videos: invest in yourself.

7. Know When to Say No

This is one I’m still working on. After reading Book #4 above, i realized there were some deep-rooted issues that encourage my constant need to say yes, even if i know i’d have to give up something else to get it done. Here are a few highlights i made while reading The Art of Saying No:

  1. Setting yourself on fire to keep others warm is not a sustainable life strategy.
  2. People with healthy mindsets know that saying no doesn’t make them a bad person. It just makes them a person who has said “No”
  3. I am not responsible for other people’s emotional responses to my politely expressed boundaries.

8. Remember to Reset

The “Hustle” mentality is way overrated. Too many times we find that we’re burning out, exhausted, overwhelmed from the constant need to work hard and make more money. But when do you actually make time to enjoy all the hard work you’ve done so far?

Rest is not this optional leftover activity. Work and rest are actually partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Contrary to popular belief, REST IS PRODUCTIVE. Take time to pamper yourself, go for a walk, play with your pets.

At some point, you need to identify the symptoms of burnout and understand what it takes to restore your mind, body and soul.

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