The Best Productivity Tips to Make the Most of the Day
How often do you look for productivity tips? How many task do you wish or want to achieve on a daily basis? Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, we have only so much time in each day. In this article I will share with you 7 productivity tips to make the most of your day. And, not only that. These tips will also help you deliver and perform at your best on continuous basis. In other words, these tips are not some cheap quick fixes. They are great and sustainable tools that will empower you in the long-term while keeping you healthy. Without further ado, let’s begin.
No.1: Plan Your Day Ahead
This is one of the best productivity tips I ever heard. Maybe the best. It’s incredibly simple and straightforward. All it requires is that you will write down your tasks for the next day every evening before sleeping. Second step is to take a look at them after you wake up. This will work as a reminder for case you forgot what must be done while you were sleeping. Following this tip will give you absolute clarity about what must be done and it will prime you to complete these tasks as the first things in the morning. If you would, for whatever reason, choose only one tip from all the productivity tips described in this article, it should be this one.
Implementing this productivity tip into your life will make a miracles. Give it a week or two to test it and you will be blown away. You will never ever need to look for any other productivity tips again. I promise. I should also mention that many people who included this trick into their productivity tips toolbox may have little bit different approach. Here is the thing. Some people prefer to write down the tasks for upcoming day in the evening the day before as we discussed. On the other hand, some people like to create their to-do lists in the morning of that day. I’ve personally experimented with both approaches and after couple tries chose the first one.
The most compelling reasons for writing all your to-dos in the evening the day before are two. First, you will create a plan for upcoming day and it will remove the pressure of decision making in the morning. It will also save a lot of your willpower when you just go from the top of your list to the bottom without the need to make any decisions. Do, check it and move to the next one. Second reason is that writing your tasks in the evening works like cleanup of your brain. When you write all you have to do down, you will remove the clutter from your mind. Then, you will sleep like a baby. Tested and proven. One of the best and healthiest productivity tips you can find.
Action step: Write down all tasks you have to do the next day in order how they should be completed. Then, review this list again in the morning after you wake up.
No.2: Wake up Early
When you ask the most productive people on their productivity tips, waking up early will definitely be amongst them. The magic of this productivity tip is simple. The earlier you wake up the more ahead of other people you will be. Let’s say you will wake up at 4:30am (like I do), do your training and learning duties and start working at 7am. What will happen if your competitor starts his work at 9am? One thing … You will be two hours ahead of him. Just by waking up and starting to work earlier you are giving yourself an advantage.
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” However, just waking up earlier will not do the trick. Well, it will, but it will work only until you will exhaust yourself. For this reason, pay attention to the first part of Benjamin Franklin’s quote … Early to bed. This is the second part of the magic. Somehow, we discovered two productivity tips that work together.
First, go to bed early to get enough sleep. Here is the thing, without sufficient amount of sleep, your body will not be able to work on 100 percent. So, if you want to perform like a Pro, you have to sleep like a Pro. Second, wake up early. Many people think they can’t invest more time into their bedtime. They think they are already on the edge. However, just by asking them on what they do during the day and especially in the evening, you will reveal hard truth. They often waste their precious time on activities such as watching TV, browsing social media or playing games.
Are these activities so important for you that you are willing to cut on your sleep, health and work? Let me tell you a secret. You don’t need any productivity tips to achieve your goals. What you need is to decide on what are you willing to sacrifice. If you want to be more productive, cut off the activities you are wasting your time on. Just ask yourself … Will browsing Facebook or Twitter feed or watching TV move you closer to your goal? Will it make you more money? Be honest.
Unless you are a Facebook or Twitter employee responsible for feed or movie director, these activities are just a way for you to “switch off”. Wouldn’t it be more useful to use this time in more beneficial way, like sleep, training or studying subject of your business? Cut this crap, make sure you sleep at least seven hours per night and spend the rest of remaining time studying. This is a bunch of productivity tips that will make your daily output skyrocket.
Action step: Wake up earlier to get ahead of other people. When they will get to work, you will already have a head start. Having said that, don’t do it in the expense of your sleep. You also have to get to bed earlier and sleep like a Pro to perform in the same way.
No.3: Exercise in the Morning
Let’s say you started to wake up earlier. What other productivity tips can you apply next? First one that comes to my mind is to exercise in the morning. No, I don’t want to torture you even more. However, getting your blood flowing in the morning is more powerful than a cup of coffee and also healthier. In case you want more reasons to spark your inner motivation to bust your butt, here we go. In the morning, important hormones, such as testosterone, that help build muscles are elevated. Exercising also increases your alertness and ability focus. Useful for upcoming tasks.
Next, exercising will kick up your metabolic rate. Meaning, you will burn more fat in upcoming hours. However, the degree depends on activity you will do. For example, tough calisthenic or weight training will have much greater effect than light jogging. Exercising in the morning will also lower your stress and elevate your mood by flooding your body with endorphins. When you exercise in the morning you will also have more energy during the day. It will pump up your blood in a good way and this effect will work for upcoming hours as well.
The last reason … You will don’t have to think about our evening exercise session during the day. Imagine that you just got back to home in the evening. You are totally crushed. Unfortunately, you still have one task on your list to compete — your training. You can do only two things. First, drag your body to the gym, park or wherever you train and do the work. However, I doubt that you will give it 100 percent. And, if you will give it less than your best, what results do you think you will get? Remember, lousy work brings only lousy results.
The second option is to throw in the towel and skip your training completely. Why not? It will be only once right? Let me introduce you to Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and very wise man. It was this man who once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Do you know what I mean? You skip once, then again and again. Before you realize it, the months will go by without you training. Understand, skipping once is an entry point that will get you into downward spiral. The only way to avoid that is … To never skip. Never break the chain!
Action step: Move your training session to the morning hours, before you will get to work. There are only handful of productivity tips that will increase your energy during the day such as morning exercise. If you don’t have a training routine, create it. Almost all successful people have some!
No.4: Do Your MIT First
One of the most mentioned productivity tips I often found is doing your MIT as first. MIT stands for “most important task”. So when you get to work in the morning, or whatever time you work, tackle the most important task of the day. Don’t start any other task unless your MIT is done. Focus on only that one task and work on it until you complete it. If that task is looking too hard to handle in one sitting, divide it into smaller jobs. Then, use some of the productivity tips or tools such as pomodoro and crush it. I also encourage you to reward yourself with something after you complete your MIT. However, keep it healthy.
For example, you can postpone your first coffee until your MIT is done. If you like the smell and taste of fresh coffee, it will work as a great motivation. If you don’t like coffee, you can reward yourself with tea instead. Green, black (not my favorite), pu-erh or rooibos are great. Unfortunately, since I don’t eat anything before 3pm (no joke, I fast for 20 hours every day), I can’t give you any food-related advice. However, a general advice would be to reward yourself with something that will not damage your health. So, forget cigarets or alcohol.
In case you are a fan of a spartan lifestyle, you can reward yourself the Joe De Sena’s way. Curious? How about to reward yourself with a set of burpees or couple minutes of HIIT training? Seriously. Do you remember that part about morning exercising and its health benefits? Why should you limit yourself to exercise only in the morning? You can practice your training during the day as well. Here you have some inspiration for great no-equipment workouts created by Neila Rey.
In case you are more interested in something less intensive, you can also try yoga, meditation, reading interesting book or just going for a walk. All of it will be both, rewarding and healthy. And, that’s what it is all about. Only through holistic approach to all areas of your life you will be able to keep healthy body, healthy mind and healthy spirit.
Action step: No matter what, complete your MIT (most important task) as first thing in a day. Don’t start any other task until your MIT is checked.
No.5: Simplify What You Can
What have Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi in common? The answer is simple. They all wear (or wore) the same clothes every day. Their clothes is something liketheir uniform or working outfit. Although it may not look important, this cloth-related tip is actually supported by science. How can simplifying your wardrobe make you more productive? Do you remember when we talked aboutremoving unnecessary things from your decision making process in the section about planning your day? This is the same thing.
Let me explain it in the simplest way. If you don’t have to think about what will you wear through the day, you will save energy and brain power for other, more important decisions. It is proven by science that we have only so much energy for making decisions. And, with every decision this energy reservoir decreases. This is also the reason that you are more likely to make worse decision later in the day then earlier. Your brain simply used the majority of available energy. One way to avoid wasting this priceless energy is to get rid of unnecessary tasks.
This is way many successful people will simplify their wardrobe. It is the easiest step they can do to use less amount of their energy. If you think that I will recommend that you clean up your wardrobe … You are right. It is not as hard as it may seem. Unless you have only one piece or pair of every type of cloth, there is a space for smart reduction. If you are afraid of removing something you might want to wear in the future, here is a small test you can use. Take anything you didn’t wear for, let’s say, a month or two and put it on a place where you will not be able to see it.
For example, storage space in your bed would be great. Next step is to put those clothes there, make a mark in your calendar and let the clothes there until you will really need it. I will bet that you will forget you have those clothes after couple of days or weeks. After a two months or so (that’s way you made that mark in a calendar), unless you had to take out and use some of the clothes from storage space you can safely throw it out. This test just proved that it was just your emotional attachment what was preventing you from removing those clothes.
Since this post is about productivity tips in general and not only work-related, you can apply this simplification on other areas of your life as well. For example, you can create a plan for your meals. Meaning, a) you can either eat the same food over and over again. Or, b) you can make it more diverse by creating couple plans for different days in a week. Then, you can attach these plans to specific days and “switch” between them depending on what day in a week is. This will remove another unnecessary decision from your shoulders.
Another health-related tip to decrease the number of decisions is to prepare a plan for your training. I will give you an example from my life. I train (or workout if you want) seven days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are for upper body calisthenics. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are for lower body calisthenic. Sunday is for HIIT cardio. I also have a Yoga session every day right after training. With small changes (from dumbbells to calisthenics), I’ve followed this regiment for more than three years. Can you create a similar plan for yourself?
Back to the diet for a moment … Personally, I rotate two types of meal plans, one with fish that is twice a week and one without that I follow for remaining five days. By the way, eating the same meals over and over again is also something Tim Ferris mentioned in his 4-Hour Body book. If you are afraid that smaller the variety of your meals will decrease the nutritional value your body will get from it, think again. First, this will happen only if the food of your choice will be weak in nutrients. In that case, no matter how much variety would you have, it wouldn’t help either.
Action step: Simplify your decision making process by removing all unnecessary decisions you have to make every day. Sell or donate clothes you don’t wear, eat the same food, follow specific training routine. The less energy you will spend on inferior decisions the more you have left for more important ones.
Note on Diversity and Nutrition
In other words, if you are eating fast-food and other crap, you can make your plate looking like a coloring book and your body will still suffer from the lack of vitamins and minerals. Second, how diverse do you think people’s dietwas, say, a century or two ago? At these times, people were lucky to have a piece of meat at least once or twice a week. And, they even had to catch some animal by themselves. In a fact, we don’t even have to go so far. There are still many tribes today living outside the modern civilization. These people are dependent on resources directly available in their local environment. Think about tribes living on Greenland or in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many of these tribes are completely disconnected from our modern world. Imagine tribes such as Inuits, Hadza people or Tuaregs. These people can’t go to Wallmart or Tesco to buy some food to add variety to their diet.Paradoxically, although they lack the access to amount of food we have available, they also “lack” many moderndiseases. For example, cancer rates amongst these tribes or incredibly low. Also, take a look at these people and try to count individuals struggling with obesity. Difficult right? On the other hand, nearly 1/3 of Americans over age 20 are obese.
Isn’t this sad that people living in a desert with access to only basic food and water are healthier than many people living in the most advanced parts of the world? If you are looking for productivity tips, take a look at your fridge and what do you fuel your body with. By the way, these people also don’t have access to vitamins and supplements many of us are eating like M&Ms. Do they look like lacking vitamins or minerals? The problem may be somewhere else. Think about it.
No.6: Prepare Your Environment and Work Hard
If you want to achieve your goals, like making your first million, you have to work for it. It doesn’t matter how many productivity tips I will give. Work ethic is something that cannot be supplemented. In other words, you had better get used to working seven days a week. Otherwise, your life will be full of struggle. You will be fighting with resistance every morning knowing that how much work is waiting for you. Or, you might as well throw in the towel and give up on your goals. If one million on your bank account, or whatever your goals are, is not enough to motivate you, it’s your choice.
On the other hand, if you are willing to handle the first couple of weeks of struggle, go for it. After month or so, you will get used to this working schedule. It will become a habit. I talk from my own experience. It is not so long since I was lazy, slacking day after day. Browsing the Internet and checking email were activities I called work back then. Fortunately, just one decision and willingness to stick with this decision was all I needed to change it. I have to admit that when I do something, I do all in. So, I read dozens of articles and books covering wide range of productivity tips and many biographies.
My goal was to change my mindset. I literally wanted to hard-wire work ethic into my brain. I wanted to surround myself with role models displaying incredible work ethic. Well, it wasn’t too hard. Almost everyone who is or was successful at something had to work insanely hard for it. This experiment worked. Although the people I surrounded myself with were coming only from books and movies, it was enough to make my transformation from lazy looser with victim mentality to what am I now … Hard working juggernaut with high self-esteem willing to go through hell to win or deliver on promise. Don’t take this as a bragging. I just want to show you that you can become who you want.
After this transformation working seven days a week became a new normal for me. Honestly, if I’m not working on something I get bored. This is not a joke. I can’t even watch a movie. After just a few minutes I will find myself in the middle of work on some project using that movie as a background “music”. For this reason, I almost forgot to include it as one of the productivity tips. However, that is the brighter side of developing strong work ethic. When you will stick with it long enough, it will become a habit. After that, what others will see as one of the productivity tips or hacks, you will see as a completely normal thing.
Action step: Ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals. The higher your goals are the more you will have to put aside. Prepare yourself for working hard seven days a week, 365 (366) days a year. To make it easier, make sure your environment and people around you are supportive. In the end, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
No.7: Create Your Set Point or Personal Standards
There is one theory I want to share with you. I call this theory a theory of set point. You may know this or not, but our bodies have a specific weight to oscillate around. This is called a set point. This is also the reason some people can eat tons of food without gaining any weight. When they eat more calories than their body needs, it will simply increase its energy expenditure. In other words, when they eat more, their body will start to burn more calories. As a result, those extra calories will not increase their weight. They will be burned. It was just recently when I adopted similar philosophy not just for my health and lifestyle, but also for my work. What I mean by that?
It is about setting a set point around which your work, its amount and quality, will oscillate. You can also think about it as your personal standard. Whatever will you do, you will never go below this set point or standard. You can go over it — overdeliver, but not under it. As with work ethic and hustle mentioned in previous section, this will become a habit. You will only need to practice on the level of your new set point or standard every time you will work on something or do something. And, I’m not talking just about work and projects. You have to apply this set point on every piece of your life. Are training? Follow your set point or standard. Are you cooking a dinner? Cleaning your house? The same thing.
You may not see this as one of the best productivity tips you can implement. In a fact, it will probably slow you down in the beginning. Following your new set point will require more effort and mindful presence during all activities. You will have to listen to your body and instincts and gradually perfect your technique. Fortunately, it will get easier with time. Just keep going and don’t give up. You are might be only few steps from achieving your goal.
By the way, if you want to learn more about set point related to weight and health, read a book Good calories, bad calories by Gary Taubes.
Action step: Set your set point or standard in all areas of your life and never go below it. Seriously. No matter how tough situation may be, stick to your standards or go even higher.
Closing Thoughts on the Best Productivity Tips
Let me close this post by saying that it doesn’t matter how many productivity tips will you learn and implement. Unless you are taking care also about yourself and not just your productive output, your performance will never be sustainable. In order to make the most of your day on continuous basis, prioritize both, your work and your health. Don’t try to increase one in the expense of another. It may work for a while, but in the long-term it will destroy you. So, stay smart, plan ahead and, most important, follow your plan.
Originally posted on Alex Devero Blog.