Effective, tried, and true; some old and some new. These have helped me immensely over the years through study, work and fitness. You’ll no doubt see repetition and regurgitation of common practices (especially in the beginning), but it’s a great reminder and you may find something that you previously didn’t know about.
1. Try sleeping at the same time every night
This habit enable you to fall asleep faster and wake up at the same time like clockwork, all subconsciously. Back when I had a daily schedule, I didn’t need to set an alarm anymore.
2. Do the most difficult thing first
This could be at the start of your day, the beginning of a project, or first hour of your study session. After completing this task, you’ll have not only done something meaningful with your day but you’ll feel the momentum carry through to other tasks.
3. Replace common and recurring decisions with routines
You really don’t need to expend mental energy picking an outfit, deciding on breakfast, thinking about when you should go to the gym. All of this keeps happening and the faster you commit to pre-selecting a single/few time slots or options, and sticking to them, the more mentally clear and swift you’ll become with making decisions.
4. Keep airplane mode turned on for the first couple hours in the morning
Make this your time, get acquainted with how you are feeling, and take control of your time before others try to compete for it.
5. Avoid starting and stopping to eliminate your administrative overhead
When you stop a task to answer an email, help someone with something, or check notifications, you disrupt or completely avoid getting into deep work. Instead, designated a time to deal with all the ‘admin’ stuff on your time, not someone else’s.
6. Check external solutions to your problem before inventing a new one
There’s a high chance that the problem you have in your work, code, studies, gym routine etc. have been had and dealt with time and time again. If you’re messing up an exercise ask staff or check out a tutorial. Before doing some crazy code gymnastics, check out some forums. Before drafting a reporting template, see if the company already has a standard.
7. Ask. Ask to create your own options, to uncover solutions, and to learn
An extension of the last point but a whole point on its own. Just ask. Ask for a little extra, ask for an alternative, ask for an exception, ask the dumb question. If you don’t ask, you won’t know and won’t receive. A lot of the time, asking has massive upside with almost no downside.
8. Write down mistakes and lessons learned
We almost always repeat our mistakes, it’s too hard to remember the lessons we thought we learned. Writing them down and revisiting them helps us etch them into our memory.
9. Design your environment to serve you
Whether this is cleaning your office, eliminating distractions, getting rid of bad influences, or surrounding yourself with like minded people. Designing your environment to push yourself in the direction you desire will have a disproportionately positive effect on your success, because of how easy it is to implement.
10. Identify and mentally label the credible people around you
It’s hard to decipher constructive criticism from noise, if you have this list and keep it up to date, you’ll have a much easier time in trusting opinions and getting honest feedback.
11. Be aware of your mental state when making decisions
Something as trivial as being hungry can make your emotions play a much larger role in making a logical decision. Reminding ourselves and being aware of our mental state can allow us to delay making decisions until we’re better equipped to handle it.
12. Making life easier for other people almost always ensures life is easier for yourself
Make your customers life easier, be rewarded with repeat customers. Make your professors life easier, be rewarded with higher marks. Make your manager’s life easier, get promoted.
13. The right type of meditation makes all the difference
Guided, unguided aside, yours might be going for a run and exercising focus, or having a coffee in silence while being aware of your surroundings. Different things work for different people and if it feels like work, then it might not be giving you the benefit you desire — Disclaimer, I’m not a meditation expert, I’ll happily take advice on this myself, this is just my experience.
14. If it takes less than a few minutes to do, just do it
We procrastinate on many small things, that when they pile up, it becomes an actual problem. This rule doesn’t mean disrupting deep work; that’s a form of procrastination in itself. It means that when you aren’t, you can bundle a few tasks together and be done with it in less than 10–15 minutes. Dishes out of the dishwasher, bed made, floor swept, call returned. It’s easy and will leave a clean mental state for future you.
15. Put schedules next to your to-do list items
This will allow you to actually complete the tasks, and maybe not right away but soon enough, you’ll start to realise how many items are appropriate. Say goodbye to the endless list that never becomes complete.
16. Have an overarching goal for the day
Each night, write one down for the next day. If you complete this, it was a successful day.
17. When reading self help books, case studies, papers and biographies, have a pen and notepad with you
Underlines, notes, important chapters, paragraphs read 10 times and notes that are thicker than the chapter they were written about — this is how you will learn. Taking this much time and care may be the same time it takes someone else to read 3 books, but I’m betting you’ll come out more knowledgeable. Quality > Quantity.
18. Actively listen to the person you’re talking to
This is such an immense exercise in focus, learning, and empathy. Too many people wait for their turn to talk instead of really listening. You can avoid so much miscommunication by doing this, and you’ll be better for it. This also goes for reading emails and texts.
19. Spend time refining your diet
The level of improvement in thinking, decision-making, fitness and productivity have significant ties with what you put in your body. This isn’t some trivial point either. The classic example is sugar and caffeine’s effects on performance. Protein supplements and healthy fats, an appropriate amount of carbs, all of this preparation helps. It’s likely not placebo when someone is raving about how great they feel after switching up their diet.
20. Thank people for their hard work and acknowledge their efforts
This costs you nothing and gives you all the benefit you could hope for. Not only is it a fitting thing to do, but it will enhance the collective productivity and morale in your social circles, groups, projects, teams, and companies.
21. Learn to delegate and automate
We all know that we should delegate, but learning to delegate can be a significant undertaking on it’s own. As a productivity exercise, often question whether if this small task can be done by someone else, whether your time could be better spent doing something else — then if you have the resources, action those findings.
22. Get the sleeping hours that work for you
Don’t listen to the overworking ‘hustle’ crowd. You can get a full nights sleep and still be working your ass off. Again, quality not quantity. Your hours will yield a much higher return if you’re well rested and switched on.
23. Use the 3 second rule when you’re procrastinating
Engage your fight or flight instinct by starting a task 3 seconds after realising you’re procrastinating. You count down from 3 and once you get to zero, you just do the thing. There’s no question about it, no further dwelling, just action. If you fail at this once, this rule will never work again. It’s a mental exercise and sounds trivial, nonsensical even, but it’s worked for myself and many others.
24. Split up your regular week and blow off some steam
It’s hard to keep the ‘go go go’ attitude sustainable, if you’re in it for the long game you need to actually have some time for play. Take a Tuesday or Thursday night to do something fun, relaxing or different. Learning to switch off is difficult but trying to and framing it as a part of the productivity cycle is something worth exploring.
25. Dress for the occasion
This is a very arguable topic but I’m of the opinion that dressing to be productive, or successful will put you in the mindset to do so. It’s your uniform, it’s a signal to yourself that it’s time to work. This is why I feel much more effective dressed smart rather than leaving on what I’ve slept with and trying to get work done from my bed.
26. Split up your workload and tackle it chunk by chunk
This helps with procrastination as well as being organised. Massive projects and undertakings often are daunting and require more than willpower to tackle. Splitting it up into chunks not only makes things more digestible, but it also give you a sense of progress.
27. Verbalise a problem that you’re struggling with
Either to a friend, co-worker or to yourself. When you start explaining your problem, there’s a good chance that you’ll work it out. The amount of times that the answer has just been staring at me is too high to count. #RubberDuckDebugging
28. Bundle your social media distractions
Similar to designating hours for tasks like emails. If you designate a time in the day to consume Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be less distracted by every notification that comes in. An experiment I conducted earlier last year was to delete every social media app from my phone that had a desktop alternative, this worked quite nicely albeit less convenient. I now use well-being features available in the latest iOS and Android updates.
29. Make your communications clear and concise
Especially being true for emails. Dot points are a life saver and allow people to quickly decipher what’s being said or requested. Beating around the bush or being overtly kind never helps. Conveying urgency, being firm and clear will get things done faster than going back and forth until the email chain is 30 emails long.
Hopefully you find some use in some of these!
Have a great day,