Whether we are working professionals in the corporate world, stay at home parents, busy students, bloggers, or perhaps even retired, each of us have a list of responsibilities and tasks that need to be taken care of on a daily basis. Some people are naturally gifted in the area of self motivation and productivity, others need consistent fresh ideas and coaxing to get things done. Although I would like to argue this point some days – there are the same amount of hours in a day, for everyone. As a mother working from home, I am ALWAYS looking for fresh ways to boost my productivity.
Fresh off the heels of my last post, Better to be Busy than Bored, I had read the article, 6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People do Every Day on BusinessInider.com. The article sums up a few subtle and simple habits that highly productive people do on a daily basis, according to bestselling author, Tim Ferriss.
I must say, I loved this list! Though it was obviously written for “traditional” working professionals, it can be applied to any lifestyle role.
Here are Tim’s 6 tips:
- Manage Your Mood
- Don’t Check Email in The Morning
- Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
- Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
- Have A Personal System
- Define Your Goals The Night Before
1. Manage Your Mood – Hello, what a thought! Instead of letting your mood get the better of you, how about you show it who’s boss! But really, when you wake up and the world is in chaos (as it so often is) and you jump right in, “reacting” to whatever is thrown your way, you are setting yourself up for a hellacious day. How you start your day plays a vital role in your mood and therefore your productivity (bad mood = procrastination, good mood = increased productivity). As suggested in this article, he tries to have the first 90 minutes of his day vary as little as possible. This structure helps him feel in control, which in turn reduces anxiety, ultimately making you more productive! “If you start the day off calm, its easier to get the right things done and focus.” No wonder prayer and meditation are popular ways to start the day! My mornings start early, with the same morning show on tv as I make coffee and read a few of my daughters favorite books before we begin the day.
2. Don’t Check Email in The Morning – Um excuse me, what?! In a world where I am pretty sure many of us check our emails or social accounts in our sleep, a suggestion to NOT start the day off by checking them is crazy! Or is it? Tim’s article stated that NONE of the highly productive people he interviewed said “spend more time with email”, in fact he references studies that show that email stresses you out, can turn you into a jerk (lol), is addictive, and can even lower your IQ. While I think some of this is a little far fetched, there is a point. You end up responding to other peoples goals and objectives for the day, instead of prioritizing and attacking your own. In my professional experience, it would be career suicide if I went to the office at my previous job and avoided email for the first hour or two each day. In that specific job everything was done at the speed of light and you HAD to be available. BUT if I HAD read this article while still at my previous job, I would take the opportunity to wait to check my email until I got to work, giving me my commute to plan out my day. That way, unless there was some urgent email that came across, I would be able to tackle my own objectives for the day before moving on to someone elses. Now, working from home, I realize a lot can be done each day without checking my email first and foremost. I’ve settled into a routine that delays emails for about 30 min to an hour (sorry Tim, 2 hours is too stressful for my personality!) I am able to catch up on industry news, finish tasks from the day before, and get my head in the game.
3. Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All – Tim says, “Before you ask how to make something more efficient, ask whether you should be doing this at all.” YES. YES. YES. I am really big on plans, strategies, budgets, etc, that give YOU (the boss of your own life) the opportunity to tell your time, your money, and your effort where to go and what to do, instead of wondering where it all went. This couldn’t be any more true for ANY working professional, or business as a whole! I enjoy my fair share of chaos, but when it comes to business or managing finances, organization and a well thought out plan is essential. As a marketing professional, one of the most rewarding things is creating a marketing strategy for my clients, one of the most frustrating things is meeting people and/or business owners that think they don’t need one. A strategy, whether created for your personal finance, your business, etc, is your priority roadmap. It keeps your eye on the prize (aka your goal) and its ONLY function is to help you achieve that goal. It keeps you on track with the important tasks and details and helps you answer the question “do I need to be doing this activity at all?” therefore AVOIDING wasting precious time and energy on things that won’t help you attain your end goal. Research shows that CEOs don’t get more done blindly working endless hours, they get more done by following a well thought out plan.
4. Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions – Pinterest, Facebook, emails, TV, kids, animals, the dirty floor, the uneven picture frame, the dust bunnies in the corner, the wind blowing the trees outside the window….Ever seem to be distracted by everything including the doorknob when you are trying to get something done? Yep. Our world has an endless supply of entertainment, which have never looked so attractive as when you have things to get done! Now.. how to sit and focus. Tim says lock yourself away! Eliminate the distractions by removing yourself from the area. I love how he describes focus as a function and not as some “magical ability” when you start looking at it that way, you can’t make excuses for yourself and you start realizing it is an attainable and ESSENTIAL function that you possess. I’ll add a few personal notes – when I do have the opportunity to sit down and get some work done, I get extremely fidgety. I’ve been this way since high school and have learned a few ways to cope. You may laugh, but snacks have saved my life. I can work in a Starbucks, library, in a park, chaos, no problem… I graze all day long anyways but my biggest lifesaver when I needed to get a paper or work project done was have a crunchy snack and a drink on my desk. For whatever reason the crunch I swear helps my brainstorming abilities. I will also break my work into sections and allow myself to take a short break (drink, walk, bathroom, etc) after one of the sections (so long as the intervals aren’t every 10 min lol). This really helps refresh my eyes and think about what I will do/write next once I sit back down.
5. Have A Personal System – As such the title suggests – a personal system, is personal! What works for me may not work for you, but, we can learn from one another. Some people plan their day the night before, while others prefer to prioritize the morning of. Neither is right or wrong, just personal preference. The value of a personal system is that you don’t have to always rely on your self-discipline, your personal system, your daily routine, helps make certain things automatic and predictable. Chances are you already have your routine, something that you have settled into.
6. Define Your Goals The Night Before – I love this forward thinking tip. Before I left the office each day, I would organize my desk and write down my to-do list for the next day. It helped me avoid any unnecessary anxiety because I had already thought things out. Tim suggests being specific with your list, as this helps you follow through with your goals. I am a list-maker and planner at heart so this tip was right up my alley and something I had already incorporated into my personal system.
Hopefully you guys will find this list as refreshing and motivating as I did! I will be incorporating much of this into my own daily routine in order to boost my productivity, because let’s face it, we could ALL use help in that department. One thing I loved reading about, was the correlation between productivity and your mood – it’s so true (and rather obvious when you think about it) but like me, I am sure many people forget and just view productivity as something more mechanical. Smile today, you will get more done!
Here’s to a productive and happy day, ya’ll!
xox – J