In today’s output and results oriented world, maximizing productivity seems to be the ONE THING practically everyone is going for in total agreement.
More productivity, more results, more fulfillment. Right?
Because if you maximize your productivity at the expense of your personal wellbeing, that victory may be very shortlived.
I know many a Wall Street trader who spent a few years, or even just one or two years, and after making their money retired for the next ten years.
It took them that long to recuperate physically, mentally and spiritually… and come up with another highly motivating thing to do.
In other words, you need a balance (yes, there’s that dirty word…) in your life while maximizing productivity.
To pitch in myself, I’m offering a list of things you can do to maximize your productivity – whatever your line of work or business is.
These are tips I use myself, so I have no-one to blame for any shortcomings. 😉
But seriously, I think you’ll find at least a couple that you haven’t heard about yet, so
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Here we go:
1. LAY OFF THE COFFEE! – And stop the illusion of productivity it creates.
I know, I know… this may feel counterintuitive to you if you’re like I used to be. I used to drink several cups of coffee every day, starting with the wake-up cup to the first latte downtown, through the meeting slurpings, and finally the relaxing sip after work. Now you might even counter this with some of the health benefits of coffee, MODERATELY consumed. I won’t go into that deeply here.
However, here’s the big drawback to coffee: it creates an ILLUSION OF PRODUCTIVITY! Your brain reacts quickly (in fact, it’s an allergic reaction), you get a jolt of all sorts of brain juices and you feel more awake and active. But if you really look at the RESULTS, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you won’t get as much done, it just feels that way.
If you want a better alternative, take some mild guarana tabs or some herbal tablets to boost your mental performance.
2. ASSUME THE POSITION! (Spend the energy required to get to starting position)
photo credit: SuperFantastic
This tip might seem deceptively simple, but here’s the secret magic to it. Think of something you want to do every day, but don’t particularly look forward to. Maybe it’s some excercise regimen you’re on, or maybe it’s yoga or pilates. You don’t particularly look forward to doing it, but you know you’ll kind of enjoy it once you just get started.
So it’s all a matter of first getting to that (mental and/or physical) position of starting; the rest will follow automatically. The obstacle is all in your mind – all you need to do is get to the starting position, and whatever you were going to do, is likely to happen pretty much automatically. That’s why many of the greatest and most prolific writers around say their secret is to simply write something every day.
Get in front of that notepad or keyboard, and the rest will follow. It’s a self-guiding process, just learn to trust it and let it take over.
3. BE LIKE A SURGEON! – Vow to put out nothing but your very best.
This is something I actually learned from my late father who was a doctor. Every day he’d go to work, knowing he’d have to put in the absolute best he had to give (including treating everyone around you with dignity). You can’t go into the operating room and have an ‘off day’. You’ve got to be prepared to give your all when the time comes.
It doesn’t matter what your line of work or business is, or what kind of skill is involved. It’s all about putting out your very best when you do your thing, and the rest of the time you can. Otherwise it’s too easy to let it slip and just ‘put in the hours’ and give yourself the illusion that you’ve been productive. You can do better, and you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot – see if you can actually do what you do at a greater level of excellence. If you’re not 100% sure, I guarantee you have an extra gear or two you’ve inadvertently been hiding.
If you do this, I guarantee you’ll be astonished not only how much higher quality work you can put out, but the free time that follows as a side-product. After all, that’s what we all want and expect from all the productivity-chasing, isn’t it?
4. CUT IT OUT! – Cut out ALL distractions you can catch yourself engaged in.
photo credit: underminingme
This is something I personally wrestled with for a surprisingly long time. Granted, sometimes it’s great to just fire up iTunes or YouTube and let it rip, just to get you going and into the right mood for work. But if you let those distractions stay WHILE you work, I guarantee you it’s going to slow you down, compromise the power of your mind, and dilute your results.
You know best what you may unconsciously doing to sabotage your results, but start with this checklist:
- Email – probably the greatest distraction of all today. I recommend you shut it down completely, for a minimum one hour at a time. You don’t need to go to the extremes of only checking email once or twice a week (something recommended in the excellent 4 Hour Work Week) – the point is to give you longer periods of interrupted work. Email can scatter your mind like nothing else, and get you preoccupied for no good reason. Just be sensible about it.
- Audio – As much as I love my iPod, iTunes and other lovely i-prefixed distractions, when it comes to being productive they are just that – distractions. So if you need it to get into the mood, do it, but then ditch it. Close it. Turn off the volume. You need this to hear your own inner voice instead of what’s in your earbuds! So respect your inner voice, and don’t drown it out with unnecessary audio. (Here’s something extra you may not know – if you want to prevent your brain from bouncing around the sounds many hours after listening, avoid in-ear headphones. Use the earmuff style headphones or speakers instead – you’ll be more comfortable and your brain will be ready to perform once you take them off.)
- Video – In this age of YouTube, this should be self-explanatory. Do a quick test – count ALL the online videos you watch during your day. It will add up to quite many, possibly dozens, and you had no idea! Most of it is just pollution that doesn’t contribute anything to what you do, and don’t really NEED to see. Trim down your subscriptions and follow ON A DAILY BASIS only those people whose videos teach you something worthwhile or inspiring.
- Mobile phone – For many people this is the greatest distraction, and hardest to tackle. After all, who could NOT reply to a quick text message from a loved one or a colleague travelling in an interesting location. But what it does to your productivity is devastating. The level of intimacy involved in anything that goes on in your mobile world is such that you will find it harder and harder to get back to what you were doing, each time you give into it. Much like email, just turn it off completely for an hour minimum at a time. Anyone can wait for your reply for an hour, and you’ll be much more satisfied knowing you’ve gotten a lot more done because of it.
The reward for stripping those distractions down to NIL is nothing short of spectacular. It allows a great deepening of focus, a total immersion into whatever you’re doing. That will inevitably increase your productivity and lift the quality of your work.
Doing longer and longer stretches of 100% uninterrupted work is what will lift you to the big leagues. No kidding.
Do this for a week and then take a close look at the quality of your output, and you’ll see a HUGE difference. You’ll only know for sure if you actually do this, so get started today! 😀
5. BE AN ANIMAL! – Let your instincts run wild, and let them guide you to superconductive productivity!
photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Sometimes just being human tends to get the better of us. We over-analyze, over-plan and just plain over-think everything we do.
Often it’s much better to just FORGET about all that, and let your instincts dictate what to do, how to do it, and what to do next. Do this for a half an hour and you will have forgotten you had any difficulty to begin with!
And while you may have excellent skills when it comes to planning, organizing and breaking down your work, often your best output happens when you simply forget all that – it’s probably second nature by now anyway.
Almost all great composers, writers and other creative high performers have said variations of the same theme:
“I have no idea how I do what I do, it just comes to me.”
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to find that Mozart Within – maybe you just haven’t given it free reign before!
6. GET EXCITED! – Find what makes your work exciting TO YOU, then let it show and carry you through!
This is something I’ve personally discovered only lately, and I can only wish I had realized this sooner!
Because the boost of creativity, power and just sheer lift-off you get from finding what excites YOU about what you do, is beyond compare. You won’t BELIEVE how quickly you’ll get things done when you’re in a mood of excitement about your work!
And there’s something else about excitement – it’s conductive! If YOU can get behind it and get excited about it, no doubt those who you’re doing it for will feel the same way too. And that will go a long way towards happiness in the workplace, or in your business and with your clients.
Why would you do anything that’s not exciting to begin with? Or if you HAVE to do something momentarily that doesn’t excite you, just FIND a WAY to get excited, even if it’s just that “my goodness it’ll be great when this is finally over”. 😉
7. WANT TO SEE IT FINISHED!
photo credit: mikesalibaphoto
This here… is the Turbo Boost Button.
Do you remember how in Knight Rider (yeah, I watched it too as a kid) when he was up against an impossible looking obstacle, he’d just push the Turbo Boost button and WHOA! …he’d just fly over it in his KITT supercar. 🙂
I know, I know… it’s goofy but sometimes familiar mental images help you too.
The next time you’re facing a deadline, instead of feeling down or stressed out about it, try to think and FEEL how great it will be when it’s FINALLY finished!
You’ll get a great jolt of emotional boost-juice that will practically have you FLY to the finish line.
Because no amount of convincing will get you over that self-deception – you must WANT to see your stuff finished!
You may or may not believe me now, but next time you set yourself deadlines to motivate you, forget it.
That’s it, forget about setting artificial deadlines – the only reason you’re doing it is to convince yourself that yes this is when you should be done with it – whether you want to or not. And there’s a conflict right there, one of your very own doing.
But don’t feel bad about it, we’ve all been there. Just replace the dreary goal-setting with the SHEER WILL or WANTING TO SEE IT FINISHED!
That’s it my friend, you’ve reached the end of Seven Universal Steps to Unstoppable Productivity.
If you’ll go ahead and ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT at least two or three of them, I guarantee your productivity will soar!
Take my word for it. After all, I suffered through everything ELSE but these first. 🙂
Fantastic tips Juho, and amazing pictures.
Thanks Lasse! It’s a pleasure to see people get value out of these things… 🙂
Cheers Juho. I’m lucky in that My work is fun, so I can’t really go wrong. I also find that the best way to stop being distracted is to a)Not watch much TV…especially the news and b)Don’t buy and read the papers. You’ll then only discover the news which is of interest to you and not be distracted by the amount of negative rubbish these things produce
Yeah, tv and newspapers can be huge timesuckers for little return… I won’t say anything about web surfing though.. ;))
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