The majority of people (99%) have this great ability to avoid doing what actually needs to be done. Blogs, self help books, best motivational speakers are of no much use to them because they are chained by their habits. They end up sticking to their To Do lists only when what they truly value gets threatened. The very small 1% people who have realized the profound benefits of sticking to their set out To Do List go on to become Top Achievers.
I recently came across this quote which makes immense sense to me every time I feel that I am running low on productivity:
“How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”
Before getting on to 5 key ways to ensure you get to tick off your to-dos in time, let me tell you how important it is to plan those to-dos. Keep a planner and keep noting down your to-dos and deadlines as and when you come across them. And before the day begins, or the night before – just go through your list once.
Having your touch points for the next day in place is as important as trying to finish them. As a motivational speaker & Corporate Trainer my work gets me to travel for some 200+ days in a year & if I do not maintain my planner; I will be always chasing life & never be on top of it. Result:- Messed up events & loads of stress in my own system.
So, here are 5 ways that have worked for me:
1. Wake Up Early:
Steve Jobs to Richard Branson to Narender Modi to Roger Fed- all have spoken about their career changing secret:- ‘Utilize the time between 5 am and 8am’. Trust me, waking up early is a key to getting things done.
I don’t know what it is with the morning air. It just makes people feel like working. And since 80% people are sleeping in those wee hours of the day – there is a lot less environmental disturbance.
Sun shining, birds chirping, a very calm environment that helps you focus. This time is not only meditative to your mind but also therapeutic for the wears & tears that you face daily. I firm my agenda for the day in this time.
Just you and your list and your complete attention to life! If you remove the unnecessary distractions (I call it attractive garbage), you will notice that to-dos are, at the end of the day, just to-dos.
Also, waking up early will give you a false, but very realistic and useful sense of having more than 24hours in a day. Who wouldn’t want that!!
2. 2 Minute Noodles:
Confused? Let me explain.
Most of the stuff on your list will be minuscule stuff. That’s what I have noticed. It appears XXL to mind but in reality when you do it it comes to be petite (XXS) in size. When I start, it feels like I have a mountain to climb every day. But if you look closely, almost 60-70% of has the ability to get done very quickly, provided we do so.
If it takes just 2 minutes to do a thing, do it first. Suck it up & just do it. The first off the list will feel like a burden. The second will feel a little better. And by the time you reach the third, not only will your speed increase but your procrastination will reduce in an inversely proportional manner. Tried and tested!
3. The Sequence Conundrum:
Most people do this mistake of scheduling the most important tasks all together. I have a different approach.
I schedule my work in pockets – spread across the day. Depending on how many huge tasks I have, I try to mix and match. I would begin with a few small but important ones just to set the ball rolling. Having ticked off 4 small but important tasks will make you feel good and set the inertia. Then get one or two bigger ones ticked off.
Then take a break. Yes. It is crucial that you rest your brain a little after you have completed say 25% of your list. But, don’t let that break stretch for the remaining half of the day.
I try to sit in 3-4 phases in a day. And I schedule different kind of tasks together. That also keeps a check on monotony. I will read the two journal articles I was supposed to and then maybe throw in the writing of my blog post along with it.
This has another advantage. You can make your work multi-disciplinary too.
4. Removing The Distractions & Becoming A Modern Monk:
I will tell you upfront. It is not easy.
You will need to be very tough. Because I am going to ask you to put your phone away and will yourself to not open Facebook for 2 hours. Can you do that for yourself? Most would not have the guts to become a modern monk.
The technologically advanced generation has 2 lethal byproducts – smarter phones and dumber people. We know our phones and Whatsapp messages distract us. But we still sit with them. Is that ‘ping’ and then a very trivial futile, probably not so funny message from a would be crush more important than taking one more step towards your goals?
If your answer is yes, then you probably should not even have been reading this article in the first place!
I will simplify it for you. If you don’t want to switch it off, just put in on silent with vibration switched off as well. Keep it face down and get on with your work. You will be amazed as to how quickly you forget about your phone and other gadgets.
Working on only one device at a time really helps.
5. Removing Clutter:
Till the time I used to have a cluttered desk and work-space, my distractions and hence the probability of an incomplete to-do list at the end of the day used to be really high.
Now I make sure that my desk only has stuff that I need for my work-space. I am not asking you to keep it clean. That is completely your prerogative. But don’t make it chaotic. Chaos may be a sign of creativity at times but it can never induce productivity for sure.
If you keep things that you don’t need around you, you will also keep doing things that don’t need to be done. To-dos have to be approached like a horse with its binders on. If you only see your list – you will stick to it.
I read this interesting article which said, it is a myth that humans can multi-task. The brain does not have the ability to process more than one task together. The attention will always be more for the task you are currently doing. If you are walking and talking, you are pretty much only thinking about the talking part. The brain focuses on the one that takes more cognitive effort.
The key to ensuring that you stick to your to-dos is to remove as many distractions as possible. And that means you need to stop telling yourself that you can multi-task and start telling yourself that you can indeed be quick, efficient and highly focused.
Speed and accuracy are more important indicators of high productivity rather than our false belief of our ability to multi-task.
If you want to tick those boxed against those tasks, forget everything else and just do it!