I decided this year instead of making resolutions, I would start by building (even) better habits. Somehow habit-building seemed more doable. I had also read recently that if you want great results, habits are the building blocks.
So for $24.95 I bought a tool called Productivity Planner and I'm happy to say it's a habit worth having. Already it's taught me a great deal about how to get more done—and (surprise) enjoy the process. But you can still benefit from these tips I'm about to share, without spending a dime.
10 Tips to Be More Meaningfully Productive
- Find a system that works for you. Key phrase: works for you. If you feel like a slave to your to-do list or planner, it may be time to find something better. Compared with other tools I've used, the Productivity Planner has a sleek, modern vibe and just the right amount of structure. But I know other people who do just fine with a list app or a notebook.
- Trust yourself. For example: Doing your most important task first is not always feasible, practical or even advantageous. Go with your gut and be willing to experiment.
- Your most important task is the one that will help you accomplish all the others. I learned this last Saturday. I let my workout slide till the afternoon. Big mistake. By the time I dragged myself to the gym, my body was stiff and just not in the mood. So today I went all out with a morning walk, followed by time on the elliptical. Both worked wonders. What tasks are you better off putting first in your day?
- When you're feeling stuck or stressed, do the thing that will give you back a sense of control. Example: On Day One with the new planner, I finally admitted my top task was "Clean the dang office!" I did. Right away my mood lifted. I managed to keep a clean office for the rest of the week—and get more done by far than I had in months. This same idea can work for you. What's bugging you? Take care of it today.
- Do not make productivity the measure of your worth. As an example, at the end of each workday, the Productivity Planner has you rate your overall productivity. I learned on Day 2 or 3 to include the "energy" factor. If the day left me feeling productive yet drained, I gave myself a lower score. It helped me course-correct so that exhaustion didn't become the norm.
- Not everything worth doing is a "task." You don't want to reduce your closest relationships or most sacred activities to a time slot. Get your work done, but when it's time to enjoy your family or friends, let time disappear.
- Consider the energy cost. Time doesn't reflect energy. If you're at all like me, you may have tasks that take ten minutes and feel like an hour—and others that take two hours yet feel like ten minutes. For the former, build in recovery time.
- Put the thing away on the weekends. The Productivity Planner I mentioned has a half page each for Saturday and Sunday (no productivity score). But I didn't find this helpful. Sometimes it's better to take a break and come back fresh.
- Build in time for the unexpected. I didn't do this at first and I paid for it. Having to jam a major request into an already full week was just not fun or productive. So I've learned to build in admin time as well as time for the unexpected. What's one way you could prepare this week for the unexpected?
- Focus on results, not just activity. This is where the conversation of habits and goals comes full circle. Yes, habits are the building blocks. But results or anticipated results are what keep the habits going strong.
What are the habits that keep you productive, happy, and moving forward?