We all have the same 24 hours. Those who are more productive can achieve more and get closer to their goals. The key to staying productive is a combination of strong self-discipline and smart use of time. Here are some time-tested ways to be more productive:
1. Set Manageable Goals and Plans
You need to know where you are going and how you plan to get there. Setting goals and plans to achieve those goals are like getting directions when you are driving a car. Set manageable goals for the day, the week, and the months to make sure you are moving forward and to avoid overwhelming yourself.
In my previous job, our team always made a clear timeline for major projects. After we decided a deadline for the project, we set a reasonable due date for each small step. Sometimes, the scope and complexity of the project may sound daunting, but because we set manageable smaller goals and plans within it, we felt we were in control and stayed productive.
I use the same method now for my own projects. Having a laid-out plan helps me getting out of the messiness of thoughts and the unrealistic ambition of getting things done overnight.
2. Silence the Voice of Self-doubt
When I plan to pick up a new task or accept a new challenge, there is often a doubtful voice in my head questioning whether I have the ability and resources to do it. This voice slows me down or even makes me back up and give up opportunities.
It is hard to be productive when you have self-doubt. J.M. Barrie wrote, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
I’ve learned to silence the voice of self-doubt and jump into action. After I’ve clarified my goals and plans, I would change from the think-about-it mode to the do-it mode, which stops me from overthinking and motivates to focus on actions and possibilities.
3. Minimize Electronic Device Distractions
One biggest enemy of productivity is distractions, so to be productive requires minimizing distractions. It may sound like a common sense. However, it is much harder than it sounds.
According to NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs, “Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state.” In the real world, we are constantly lured by our smartphones and other devices, which can take us out of the flow state.
To be highly productive means to suppress the urge to check your social media, email, best online deals, trending videos, breaking news, and many more.
Successful people set reasonable boundaries for themselves to avoid getting lost in electronic devices and social media. They often limit their use social media and set a specific time of a day to check their phones.
4. Acknowledge Negative Feelings and Down Time
Sometimes, we may feel stressed out and unmotivated, but it doesn’t mean we are weak, it only means we are human. Unlike robots, we have emotions.
No matter how much we try to be positive, failures and rejections are just part of life. When negative feelings take over our mind for a prolonged period of time, it is hard to move on, let alone to be productive.
I use 24-hour rule to deal with negative feelings and remain focused and productive. I would give myself 24 hours to fully feel my true emotion (even if it is negative) allows me to acknowledge my vulnerability, face my failures, and avoid letting the negative emotions accumulate.
It is not healthy to simply conceal negative emotions because they won’t just go away even if you try to deny that, so in the long run those emotions may explode and hurt you. After that time period, I would drop the negative feelings and be a NEW me so I can start to be positive and remain productive.
In addition, it is important to ensure you give your body, physically and mentally, enough care, prioritizing healthy diets, sufficient physical activity and sleep. Self-care ensures your body is fully charged with energy, which is critical for improving the quality and productivity of work.
5. Set Boundaries with Others
Respect your own time. Stop saying “yes” “OK” or “sure” all the time just to please people. Accepting everything will add burden to yourself. When you say yes to many things, you will have adequate time and energy for the most important things.
Learn how to say “no.” Setting boundaries with others will not only reduce possible interruptions, but also avoid overcommitting yourself.
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Productivity is not easy to achieve or maintain; it takes strong and consistent efforts to get there. Give these methods a try and see what works for you.
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