How to Be Productive One Step At a Time
Author: Clark Erin

Between work, family, and the expectations we set for ourselves, there’s just never enough time to get it all done. Learning how to be productive and make the most of your time can make a big difference in the amount you can get done in a day. So let’s go through some tried and true productivity hacks to help you accomplish everything you want.

Create Systems For Yourself

Creating systems for yourself allows you to take tasks you already perform and systemize them in such a way that saves you time and effort in the long run.

It’s just a matter of identifying the tasks you do on a regular basis.

Then, figure out which ones take a lot of time, which ones are frustrating and not executed well, and which take less attention. From there, you can create a process.

I’ve created systems for myself for many areas of my life, and it’s amazing how much more productive I am able to be thanks to it! These workflows include systemizing my finances, my daily routines, and my freelance business.

Life areas you can systemize:

  • Your job or business. Whether you’re self-employed or working for someone else, start creating systems. A great example of this would be work templates. If you regularly find yourself responding to the same business emails, make a template that you can copy and paste every time. And it’s especially useful to use a task or time management system such as Asana or Trello.
  • Your personal finances. There are plenty of money-related tasks we all do on a monthly basis that could be systemized. I use the budgeting app Mint to connect to my bank accounts. It keeps track of my budget for me and sends reminders when a bill is due or when I’ve gone over budget in a certain category.
  • Your housekeeping. If you forget about certain housekeeping tasks, create a schedule for yourself where certain cleaning tasks are completed on certain days of the week or month. As a homeowner, I did some research on maintenance tasks that needed to be done weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Then I added those as recurring tasks on my calendar so I would never forget!
  • Your morning and evening routines. Mornings and nights can be stressful if you’re unorganized and trying to get things done at the last minute. Systemizing your routines can help with that. The book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod walks you through the steps of creating an effective morning routine; it definitely revolutionized the way I treated my mornings. The benefits of a solid morning routine can boost your productivity for the entire day.

Adopt High-Performance Habits

One of the best ways to increase your productivity is to create high-performance habits that help you to improve both mentally and physically.

These include getting enough sleep, making time for physical activity, and meditation.

When it comes to these habits, one of the experts in the field is Brenden Burchard, who wrote the book High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way

The book is filled with what he has found to be the top habits of the highest performing people. These are: The high-performance habits he notes in his book are:

  • Seek clarity, rather than waiting to find clarity.
  • Generate energy by resting physically and mentally. This would include meditation and taking breaks at work.
  • Raise necessity. In other words, set intention of why you’re doing something or who you’re doing it for.
  • Increase productivity. Focus on the most important things that most align with your goal.
  • Develop influence and learn to inspire people. Burchard argues that extraordinary people are able to push and inspire those around them to grow.
  • Demonstrate courage. For example, speak up for yourself, and feel confident sharing your truth with others.

Set Smart Goals

Goal setting and making sure you’re setting goals the right way can have a significant impact on your productivity. You’ll be able to narrow your focus to devote your time and energy to the right tasks. By spending a bit of time on some goal setting activities, you can figure out exactly which actions you should be adding to your to-do list.

First, let’s talk about what type of goals you should be setting for yourself. You want your goals to be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific: What exactly will you accomplish?
  • Measurable: What metrics can you use to evaluate your progress?
  • Achievable: Is this a goal actually attainable for you?
  • Relevant: Is this goal relevant to your life vision or your long-term goals.
  • Time Bound: What date will you accomplish this goal by?

And when you set the due date for your goal, consider setting it a little closer than you think makes sense. Most of us fall into the habit of procrastination far too easily. Being on a tight deadline will really help you cut down on that habit!

By following these criteria, you’ll be able to set goals that you’ll really be able to stay accountable to.

Writing Your Action List

Now here’s where the right goal setting activities can really have an impact on your productivity.

There are so many people who set a big goal for themselves but don’t plan a single action they’ll complete in order to reach that goal. Unfortunately, that leads to a lot of wasted time.

Essentially, you’ll want to make a list of every single action you’ll take in order to reach your goal. And I really mean every single action because once you’ve written down every action you’ll need to take, you can just transfer those task directly onto your calendar. And all of a sudden, you’ve got your to-do list written for every day.

For some people it might seem like a lot of effort now, but I assure you that you’ll be saving yourself an incredible amount of time in the long run.

While writing your action, keep in mind that things can change. This is especially true when it comes to long-term goals that might change down the road. In these cases, it’s important to prepare for change & stop making excuses. This will allow you to adapt your action list when necessary to ensure you still reach your goals.

Multiple Techniques for Your Action List

  • The Pomodoro Technique

    The Pomodoro Technique helps you to break your work into smaller pieces. You set a timer and have really focused work time for 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes are over, you take a 5-minute break. And then repeat that until you’ve finished your task. This is the productivity technique used in the Productivity Planner.

  • Eat the Frog

    This technique is based on a quote from Mark Twain where he said that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, nothing worse will happen to you that day. Essentially, finish the most difficult task first and it all gets easier from there.

  • To-Do Lists

    If you’ve got too many tasks floating around in your head, something is inevitably going to be forgotten. I am always more productive when I have a to-do list in front of me.

    On that note, reduce the size of your to-do list. Most of us put way too many tasks on our to-do lists and set unrealistic expectations for ourselves!

    Choose just 3-5 tasks that really need to be done every day, and the rest of the list will be made up of less important tasks that you’ll get to if you have time.

  • The “Getting Things Done” Technique

    GTD, made famous by David Allen, is essentially a process for getting your thoughts out of your mind and down on paper and then organizing them in a way that forces you to deal with them. The process starts with a brain dump. Then you organize your thoughts by actionable and unactionable. This helps you to put those thoughts and ideas into the right place or onto the right list (or possibly gives you permission to just forget about them).

  • Use the 80/20 Rules to Prioritize Your Tasks

    Most of us have way too many things on our to-do lists. It can definitely be overwhelming to figure out where to start! However, using the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) can be a fantastic way of narrowing down which tasks are most important and will really give you the biggest results.

    The basic premise of the 80/20 rule is that 20% of your actions will produce 80% of your results.

    This means that most of the tasks you’re doing every day, about 80% of them, aren’t having a huge impact. However, there are a few actions that have a great impact.

    To use the 80/20 rule to your advantage, figure out what 20% of your tasks are having the greatest impact. Make more time in your schedule for those tasks, and see if you can eliminate some of the tasks that aren’t having much of an impact.

    Prioritizing your to-do list is without a doubt one of the most important steps of using your time more efficiently. And that’s exactly what the 80/20 rule helps you to do!

  • Work When You Are Most Productive

    I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are certain times of day when you are most productive. Really take advantage of that, plan your more important tasks for that time of day.

    Then, you can plan your less important tasks for other times of the day. If you’re someone who experiences an afternoon slump in productivity, that would be a great time to work on something like email, or even get some fresh air with a walk around the block.

  • Automate Whenever Possible

    There are likely tasks taking up time in your day that can instead be automated.

    One example of automating would be to set up automatic bill pay rather than paying all of your bills manually every month. Another area you can automate is your grocery shopping. There are plenty of apps where you can order groceries to have delivered to your home.

    You can also use a service such as IFTTT (If This, Then That), which allows you to connect different apps and tools and allow them to talk to each other. For example, you can automatically add things to your calendar or to-do list from your Gmail account.

Choose the Productivity Technique That Works For YOU

You’ve probably seen a number of productivity techniques being raved about by different productivity experts, many of which are included in this list. They’ve all been claimed to be the “best” productivity technique. But as with most things, the best productivity technique is the one that works for you. And different people will have a different “best” technique.

The best way to figure out how you work most productively is simply to try different methods and really notice what works and what doesn’t. A great way to do this would be by tracking your time and your output.

In Conclusion

When it comes to being productive and managing your time most effectively, everyone is a little different. You work style, your personality, and your life situation will all be determining factors in what productivity tips are most effective for you.

And by increasing your productivity and building that foundation for yourself, you can see your results improve in every area of your life.

Author: Clark

Erin is a productivity expert from Wisconsin who has been writing online for more than four years. On her blog Refined Revelry she helps women reach their goals by teaching them how to manage their time, their money, and their lives.

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