23 Mar Productivity Part 2: 10 Practical Tips to Maximize Productivity (aka Get More Sh*t Done!)
In case you missed our post last week, you can get up to speed here: Productivity Part 1: The Single Most Important Thing to do to be Massively Productive.
So, now that we aren’t gonna complain about what we ‘choose to’ do. Let’s jump right into how to really get sh*t done!
1. Make Sure You Have the Right Boxes!
“If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it.” – Scott Dinsmore
Being productive is not simply a matter of checking boxes. It’s a matter of checking the right boxes!
For example, if you are trying to learn how to cook, you can go about this in a few ways:
- You can research cooking programs, buy ingredients and appliances for your kitchen, look at and archive different recipes online, etc. Or,
- Pick a recipe, buy the ingredients and start experimenting in the kitchen!
Option 1 may take you days, weeks and months to gather the research, sign up for a program and buy all the items you need to prepare. Where as option 2 can literally be done in a matter of hours.
So make sure you know your outcome… Do you want to learn to cook? Or do you want to be a master chef? These two outcomes have incredibly different paths – one of which can stall you if that is not your actual outcome! We are all about mastery here at LYL but we are also about taking the first step – and often that first step has to be a small one.
So make sure you have a clear definition for what productivity is… Is it simply checking boxes on a path of how you are supposed to do something? Or is being productive being out there – doing things, testing things, learning, experimenting, growing, actually being in the ‘arena’?
I’ll let you decide, but I certainly know my answer…
2. Eliminate Distractions
“Focus is the key to the world” – Bill Dinsmore
This is so simple (yay!), yet so important.
These days we have trained ourselves to think we are being ‘more productive’ the more we multi-task. One might say, “I can talk to my mom on the phone while I respond to my emails, I am getting so much done!”
Wrong! All you are doing is not actually doing either thing.
To actually complete more tasks in less time, you need to focus all your attention on the task at hand. This is why it is so important to eliminate distractions!
Here are a few things that help me:
- I use Omm Writer when I write. It does not allow me to see my browser at all, which forces me to only focus on what I am doing, nothing else. And I love the peaceful music. 🙂
- My gmail tab is only open when I am actually checking email. Email and notifications are a huge killer of productivity. We have a natural urge to respond (call it what you want – curiosity, a dopamine addiction, etc.) when we get a message and our will power is only so strong. So if you want to get more done, eliminate the option of trying to rely on your will power.
- My phone is nowhere in sight when I am working. I promise the calls and texts can wait! And you’ll be more present to them when that is your focus, which the people on the other end deserve…
It is part of our nature to distract ourselves when things get hard (why do you think procrastination is so common…), so if you eliminate the option to distract yourself, you will start to get so much more done!
Here are a few ways to eliminate distractions:
- Delete ALL push notifications. Trust me the world is not going to end if you don’t respond to a Facebook post you were tagged in or a group text chain about cat videos!
- Be where you are, not somewhere else. This means being present in your situation. Be with the people you are with instead of trying to virtually connect with others (even though you have people right in front of you). The more you are able to notice and be aware of where you are and what your intention is for that moment, the more productive you will be.
- Single rather than multi-task. When doing work on the computer, this means only having the tabs open that you are using. There’s no need to know you got an email if you are trying to research something for work.
- Find music that fuels your focus for stretches of work. My current favorite playlists are Spotify’s Chill House and Chill Out Brain.
- Do something that matters. Sounds cliche, I know… But if you spend your time doing things that matter to you, you won’t want or need the distraction. I get lost in what I do for hours, so much so that at times, I have to schedule it in my calendar to eat (you’ll see below)! When you find the things that fire you up, you won’t want to distract yourself with trivial tasks because you will be so aligned with what you are doing.
3. Prioritize a Few Important Items
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
Have you ever noticed that when you look at a long to-do list, you tend to pick the things that can:
- Get done easily, or
- Get done quickly.
Yeah, me too!
That’s why every Monday morning, I spend about an hour doing my weekly planning. Some might think of this as an hour wasted since I’m not really doing “work” but I couldn’t disagree more.
I think this weekly planning process is the single biggest thing that helps me manage the many different things I have on my plate without constantly spinning in circles (literally and emotionally).
At the beginning of the week, I answer the question, “What are the three things that MUST get done this week?” They may not always the be things I want to do… but they are the things that are seriously important in moving the needle forward for what I am working on or moving me closer to my goals.
This process helps me to chunk things down into a doable number. Too many things can be way too overwhelming and cause decision fatigue so breaking things down into the few most important things helps me stay motivated while also making progress.
I obviously tend to get way more than three things done in a week but priorotizing these few things makes the others seem like bonuses! And seriously, who can’t get three things done in a week?!
Alternatively, if I am on the road (like I am right now in Mexico with my family), I can still be productive while playing a bit, because the number of things that I need to do is manageable in any situation.
3. Schedule Your Sh*t
“If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.” – Tony Robbins
How many of have talked about doing something for days, weeks or months before you ever did it? Or maybe you are still doing that right now… I think we are all guilty of this to some degree. And that is why it is so important to schedule things!
Some things are bigger decisions than others and need more time for planning but I think we have all seen the power of actually scheduling something. A perfect example is a trip or vacation. You can talk about wanting to visit somewhere until you are blue in the face but once you buy your plane ticket, even if something else comes up (and something always comes up!), you are going. It’s happening because you took action instead of just talking about it.
Same is true for the smaller things in life. If you want to start a blog to begin your writing and self discovery process, it’s super easy to put it off when you get an invitation to dinner or your favorite show comes on TV. But if you have that 30 minute window carved out on your calendar, you will work around it.
Here is an example of what a sample week looks like for me (yes, I am a little crazy and color code because it helps give me a visual of how much time I am connecting, creating and consuming) but I literally schedule everything!
And this brings us to our next point…
5. Schedule Space
“The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy. They come when the mind is still.” – Unknown
There is nothing that stops productivity faster than ending your day or week with a hundred things still on your list. This is why it’s important to schedule space around the things you want to do.
For example, this post became a two part post (see part 1 here) because as I started writing, I had so much more to say than I had planned! Meaning it took way longer to write than a normal post does. See, this is why distraction free writing helps. 🙂
So, that’s why I suggest you schedule the most important things to do in a given day or week. Writing a post is always one of those things for me. If it takes longer than expected, it’s ok because I have space scheduled in. If it takes less time than planned, whatever else I get done is a bonus (and allows me to start checking off that 100 item to do list!).
So you’ll see my crazy color coded calendar leaves larger chunks for the important tasks that week. If it takes me 2 hours instead of 4 to review something, then I’ve got an extra two hours to call a friend, run an errand or check in on my social networks.
6. Measure and Adjust
“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Thomas Monson
I used to always work out first thing in the morning. However, when I started running LYL full time, I began to notice that by the time I had breakfast with my nieces before they went to school, commuted (this is a walking commute since I don’t own a car but still takes 20-25 minutes of my morning) worked out and showered, some days I wouldn’t get started working until 9:30 or 10:00am, giving me only a few hours of work time before my calls.
I noticed this was equating to me not being very productive… Part of my weekly planning process involves looking back at what I did and didn’t accomplish in a given week and why. So, after realizing this, I switched it up.
I now tend to get to work by 8:30 (as I still like to see my nieces and in-laws before school if I can) and have the entire morning uninterrupted to work before my calls. Instead of finishing work when the calls are over, I now take a 5:45/6:00pm workout class instead.
This was a major switch up for me after decades of working out first thing in the morning – and perhaps once I settle in my own place, I will be able to do that again – but for now I find that I get so much more done in a given day with this new routine.
But in order to realize and change that, I had to notice, measure and adjust before I got too far off course.
7. Implement Efficiency
“Either run your day or your day runs you.” – Jim Rohn
Sometimes the list of things to do is so long that it feels like it could take forever to move forward… Side note: Once you start to implement and practice being more productive, you’ll be amazed by the number of things you’ll be able to get done in a day or week!
But yes, this does not take away the fact that there are still lots of things to do! And that’s why at LYL we talk about leveraging your strengths rather than trying to improve your weaknesses.
Do I do everything for Live Your Legend? Heck no! That’s why I have my amazing team. We are all assigned the tasks that help us use our strengths instead of grow our weaknesses.
For example, if you need to plan a trip but you are awful at travel planning, ask a friend who has been there and done that. I am a whiz with weighing out flight options, researching hotels and other travel planning logistics – and I LOVE doing it. So I never mind helping people with this.
And I can guarantee there is someone out there that loves doing the things that you hate to do. So leverage that. If you can’t find it in your own network, there are many other options out there such as Fiverr, Task Rabbit, etc. I’ve used these services for everything from cleaning up after a party, having help taking stuff to Goodwill, design projects, mailing gifts, etc.
At first it may feel strange to pay for tasks that you could do yourself, but what is your time and your productivity worth? Odd’s are you can pay someone the price of a latte for something that might take you 5 hours to complete. And in those 5 hours, you can work on something that might have a 10x return on the price of that latte.
So, focus your time on your strengths and get help in the areas that are your weaknesses. Not only will you likely enjoy your time more but you will be more productive than you could ever imagine.
8. Find a Way to Stay Accountable
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to result.” – Bob Proctor
We’ve talked about accountability again and again, but there really is no single bigger factor in accomplishing the things you want to accomplish than this.
I am in a group of five where every Monday we shoot an email to each other that lists what we accomplished the week prior and the 3-5 things we plan to accomplish in that week.
It only takes a few minutes of my time on Mondays but by simply responding to that email I become accountable to someone other than myself (and sadly we are more likely to let ourselves down than others). I know the following Monday I will be responding to that very same email, with what I got done and what I didn’t.
This simple practice makes me prioritize, organize, verbalize and take responsibility for the things I want to get done.
9. Celebrate The Small Things!
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey
I think this is a lost art. And I am it’s greatest cheerleader!
Celebrating the small things was a way of life for Scott and I – and still is for me today. It is honestly the first thing I do every week when I sit down at my computer. I review my written journal where I have noted the big and the small things that mattered to me – the nice email I got, the special moment I had with a friend, the beautiful sunset I saw, the things I accomplished, the lessons I learned, the people I met, etc. And I write them down again in my weekly planning worksheet.
Not only do I get to relive these beautiful moments instead of just letting them pass by, but I also get to truly see how far I have come. With the level of newness in my days and uncertainty in what life looks like in the future, I don’t always feel like I am making progress… but in these moments of reflection, I am reminded that I am.
Because when you celebrate the small things, they become the big things. And the more small things you do, the more big things you’ll do. Plus it is really fun to celebrate because you start to shift your focus on what has been done rather than what has to be done.
So if you want to realize how productive you really are? Stop, reflect and appreciate all you have actually done instead of only focusing on all the things you have to do.
10. Balance Rather Than Burn Out
“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.” – Heather Schuck
I’ve talked before about the importance of finding balance and while I don’t have scientific proof, I know for 100% certainty that finding balance is key to long term productivity.
You can work your face off for a certain amount of time, but you are bound to burn out. You are bound to start resenting what you are doing, to start complaining and feeling like a victim rather than a victor of your life.
So as counterintuitive as it might sound, do less so you can do more for the long term.
If you want true fulfillment rather than momentary success, you’ve got to put focused present effort into all the things that matter to you, not just one part of your life.
It’s often times much easier to feel ‘successful’ in the achievements you make in your career because they are tangible goals you can reach and check off, but those achievements will be short-lived if you don’t also find happiness within (without reason!) or success in your relationships.
So instead of focusing on how to be productive as it relates to work or only one focused area of your life, think about all the different areas that actually matter to you and balance out accordingly.
People often think “I’ll work really hard now so I can enjoy my life later.” In my opinion, there is no more dangerous mindset. At some point, if later doesn’t become now, it becomes never. The longer you wait, the closer never becomes.
In that group I mentioned above, while it is a group of entrepreneurs, it is not all business. The members say things like “I laid the foundation for my new app” to “I ran a 10K” to “I took a weekend trip with my wife.” These are the things we are accountable to each other for – because these are the things that really matter…
I’m pretty sure that at the end of your life, you won’t define productivity by the number of boxes you checked or the amount of hours you worked or even how much money you made… you’ll define productivity by the amount of moments you enjoyed.
So, as easy as it is to get caught up in the doing because that’s an easily measurable way to feel productive, make sure you are also being – as it’s the moments that you stop, notice and appreciate that bring fulfillment to the precious time you have on this planet.
So, in short, it all boils down to a few simple things. If you want to do more…
Stop Complaining. Prioritize the Things that Matter. Schedule. Measure and Adjust. Get Help. Balance. Celebrate and Appreciate!
The more you do the more you can give. So go out there. Be You. Do. And then give the best of you!
Here’s to being more productive than you ever could have imagined…
– Chelsea Dinsmore