The 3 Ways I Increased My Productivity Almost Overnight
In today’s world we are constantly being pushed to complete more work in less time. Most of us find ourselves bringing work home with us when, to our knowledge, our parents never did.
While this could be seen as the successful liberalization of our working patterns, for many of us it represents the loss of free time. Instead of doing our usual day’s work at a pace that suits us, we are now expected to simply continue working when we get home: for a lot of our employers, there is no such thing as enough.
Granted, this isn’t a new phenomenon; I’m not claiming that conditions now are worse than what they were at the turn of the last century. For the vast majority of us, working conditions are better now than they ever have been.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still push for more free time, less stress, and better results.
Sadly, however, that process takes a long time. So for the foreseeable future, we’re going to have to approach the problem from the opposite direction: masking ourselves more productive in order to keep our growing workload from encroaching too heavily on our personal lives.
Easier said than done, right?
I have personally tried lots of different ways of getting more done in a short space of time, and countless methods of eliminating stress from my day to day life.
Of these, I think three stand out as being relatively simple to understand, easy to implement, and tremendously effective.
Enough beating around the bush. Here they are:
Value Your Time More
If you want to start getting the most out of what precious time you have, then you really need to start putting more value on that time.
There’s an old cliche that gets regularly thrown around by entrepreneurs: unsuccessful people measure their success by their time spent doing something, successful people measure success by what they accomplish.
While this isn’t the whole picture, the general idea is unquestionably true.
Instead of judging success by how many hours you have spent in the office that week, you need to start measuring success by how much you have achieved.
And the easiest way to do that is by measuring your time spent working more accurately. By that, I mean you need to start measuring your productive time.
Not mere seconds, minutes and hours. But time spent doing things.
Most people who do an 8 hour work day will actually only work for a couple of hours. The rest of their day is spent killing time: clicking through worthless emails, making coffee, fixing their chair, or watching YouTube video after YouTube video (that rabbit hole goes very deep for some of us).
The next time you have a project to complete, an article to write, or something that needs to be physically put together, try working in pre-defined chunks of around 30 minutes. At the end of every 30 minutes of non-stop, focused work, take a 5 minute break. Then do your next 30 minute chunk. repeat this process 3 times, then take a longer break; say 30 minutes.
In doing so, you will have an accurate estimate of how long you have been working. Actually working. You can then get an idea of how much your time is worth, of what you are capable of achieving in an hour, a day, or a week.
This is a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique, which has been around for a long time. But the important thing to remember about the Pomodoro Technique is that you don’t need to follow it exactly. Play around with it and make it work for you.
You’ll be surprised what a difference this little technique makes to your productivity.
Almost everyone I know uses supplements.
In one form or another, supplements now feature in most of our lives: protein shakes, sleeping aids, heart and brain protectors — you name it, someone you know probably takes it.
But most of use don’t know how to use supplements wisely.
I rarely see people using supplements how they need to be used to really get the most out of them.
The main thing I see people falling foul of is what you might call ‘falling behind the times’.
For instance, a fair few friends of mine work jobs that are mentally taxing in the extreme. I know that one of them, who runs a design consultancy as well as their own property investment consultancy, takes a heap of supplements every single day to help her stay on top of her game mentally.
Yet this pile of tablets she is taking every day is doing very little for her in terms of actual results.
That’s because she buys weak, low quality, run-of-the-mill capsules from her local supermarket.
With some research, she would discover that the market for nootropics (brain supplements) has been exploding now for the last few years. This steep rise in demand for high quality, effective, professional brain supplements has lead to a steep rise in the number of such supplements being brought to market.
I began using high-spec nootropic supplements a few years ago, and the difference they have made to my productivity has been nothing short of astounding.
Nootropics basically work in three distinct but interdependent, synergistic ways.
First, they supply the brain with herbal extracts and natural compounds which are known to gradually bring about changes in the way the brain functions, from improving learning and memory recall, to aiding in restful sleep and reducing stress. Some substances are even known to encourage neuron dendrite growth, which in turn can lead to long-term improvements in brain function.
Second, they ensure that the brain has all of the raw materials it needs to function at ‘full throttle’, as well as the materials it needs to maintain itself and even to grow to adapt to its new higher state of functioning.
Finally, they provide an immediate boost in mental energy. They do this in a manner distinctive to that of stimulants or sugar-laden energy drinks. Rather than just plying you with compounds like sugar and caffeine, which give you a short-lived and often counterproductive increase in perceived energy, they deliver real, lasting, helpful mental energy.
By doing your research properly, you can save yourself a lot of time, and money, and get the results you are really looking for.
Get Up Early
I know, I know. You’ve heard this before, right?
Well, maybe. But hear me out.
It seems like such a tired and baseless aphorism these days, but if you look for real-world examples, it does seem that “the early bird gets the worm”.
If you think about it, this throwaway observation has been around for so long, and it has been the mantra of incredibly successful people for so long, there simply must be something to it. At least for some of us.
But the main reason I advocate getting up earlier than you would do usually has nothing to do with brain chemistry or the inherent value of working in the daylight.
My main reason for setting my alarm clock to go off at 5.30 every morning when I don’t need to get up so early is to do with using my “zombie time” wisely to maximize my genuine leisure time. I’ll explain.
No matter what time I wake up, for the first hour of my day, I am completely useless. I skulk around the house, clutching a cup of coffee, wondering why I have been dragged from my nice warm bed and thrust out into the cold real world.
While I’m actually much better dealing with tiredness now than I ever have been before (thank you nootropics), I am still not as productive as I am after a few cups of coffee and a good breakfast.
So, to use this “zombie time” wisely, I get up early and get some jobs done that require next to no concentration or mental effort: checking emails, listening to voicemail messages left overnight, taking out the garbage, going for a run, doing my day’s push-up/pull-up quota — the list goes on.
Then, by the time my brain is properly waking up and entering 4th gear, I have already accomplished something. When my brain really begins its day, I am already on my way to completing my daily tasks.
A huge benefit of this is the fact that it sets a positive, successful tone for the day.
If you get up early and get a task completed without even properly being aware of what you’re doing (as I do with running every morning), you cannot help but feel more confident and capable for the rest of the day. You are essentially saying to yourself: “today is a day where we are getting things done, I’ll have that to-do list done in no time”.
Getting these routine tasks out of the way early also allows me to stop working earlier, which in turn allows me to spend more time with my family. This is the real leisure time I was talking about earlier; time spent actually enjoying yourself.
When we get up late, we tend to work later too. We spend time with others, but in the back of our minds we know we still have work to do. Then when we’re done, most other people are winding down and getting ready to go to bed, if they aren’t asleep already.
Getting your work finished int he first half of the day lets you finish at a definite time and forget about work for the rest of the day. Only with a clear mind can you properly relax, and getting your day’s work done and dusted is the best way to clear your mind.
Give it a try: get up early, and get your “zombie” tasks done immediately. By the time you head out to work, you will be awake, motivated, and ready to tackle the rest of the day.