By BRADY RIESGRAF
April 23, 2019
We are all trying to get a little more out of each day. We have had lessons on time management, blogs on fear, and podcasts on personal growth. However, some of you may be looking for a one stop shop for getting the most out of each day, and this is what we want to bring you with this blog. Not just about time management, or routines, or thoughts, or habits, but all the things you can do to get the most out of each minute of each hour of each day. As we have talked about previously, everyone gets the same number of hours in a day, so its about what you do with those hours that counts. In this blog, we want to give you tangible action items that you can immediately start implementing into your life to increase your personal productivity. No more wasted hours, which add up to days, which ultimately adds up to weeks over the course of a full year. Starting today, you can take steps to begin to be the efficient and effective person that will help you get to the next stage of your life.
Now, it is necessary to say that not all these tactics are going to work for everyone. Some may work, and some may not, but these are the tools that we have found that have had the most broad-reaching impact on individuals that we work with. Some may be small, easy changes, and others may take a little more work to implement. Whether you are ready to implement one new strategy or ten of them, we are here to provide you with the guidelines, tactics, and steps to make the most out of each day. Let’s jump right in and start going over the best tactics for boosting your productivity and making wasted hours and missed deadlines a thing of the past. Enjoy.
Having a routine is what helps make good habits stick and also what keeps you away from having to rely on your willpower to make decisions all day long. When you’re tired, stressed out, and the hunger pangs hit, the last thing you want to do is not have a method and routine in place. Hopefully you never get to the stage where life is hitting you hard and you are lacking sleep (and seemingly losing your mind), but unfortunately, it happens to almost everyone at some point in time. Having a routine can help so you don’t fully hit rock bottom and can also help pick you up when you do inevitably get off track. A routine can be something you do for a few tasks, for a few hours throughout the day, or for your entirety of the day, but you need to have a routine to help maximize your days and form good habits. Routine usually revolves around sleeping habits (which is so important that it has its own bullet point later in this blog), eating habits, working out, how you get your work done, and anything else that helps make decisions easier throughout the day. For example, I have a routine every morning that helps get me on track, and keep me on track, even when times get tough. My routine every morning, no matter what, goes wake up, meditate, brush teeth, workout, and to the office by 7. It has every pillar to get my morning started right, including clearing my mental space, getting my blood pumping, and give me time to get ready for the day. Getting to the office by 7 also gives me 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted time in the office before anyone else gets in to work on my personal tasks for the day, make sure I have my schedule lined up, and send out any emails that I need to before anyone gets in the office. This also allows me to start my day “ahead” of the general population and gives me the personal satisfaction of feeling accomplished first thing in the morning. Your routine could be around meals, working out, completing tasks, or just going about your day, but routines are essential to productivity. It is something that you can rely on each day, without hesitation, and keeps you on track when times get tough. My routine is likely not one that works for you, but you need to find a routine, and then stick to it, period.
This one may seem simple, but it is surprising how many people forget to do this seemingly essential task on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if you like to use the calendar on your phone, on your laptop, or a hard copy taped to your fridge, you need to have a calendar to plan and track how your days are going and what you are achieving each day. Now, with that said, many individuals use calendars only to look at events coming up in the future, but I would urge you to use calendars to also track what you accomplish daily. This means tracking things like workouts, foods eaten, events during the day, and other activities that you may want to track. When you track this out, and look back at it over time, you will get a very comprehensive look at what days are your most productive, and on the other hand, which days you tend to struggle. Maybe there are certain days of the week that you tend to skip workouts or certain days you eat unhealthy, when you track this and look back at it over time, you will easily be able to distinguish the good from the bad and make tweaks to your habits and schedule to get the most out of each day. With this in mind, a calendar can be used to both look at events in the future (to help plan out your tasks and goals) and look at events in the past (to help tweak your schedule and get the most out of each day). This is probably the easiest task to accomplish, and may pay the biggest dividends over time, so take this simple task and start doing it right away.
We all want to show how hard we can work and how long we can work without stopping, but this is a character trait that we need to forget about. Working for long stretches of time may seem like a feat of determination, but really you are only negatively impacting your work. This has been proven by a recent study, where a group of MIT researchers discovered that workers who take breaks to talk to co-workers, walk around, and get away from their work actually get through work faster, feel less tension, and earned better approval ratings than those that worked without breaks. There is a host of reasons to take breaks from your work, from helping boost creativity, to increasing attention spans and reducing stress, taking breaks from work actually helps you get more work, and better work, done throughout the day. If you think you are smarter than the MIT researchers then feel free to work all day with no breaks, but I promise your mind and body will thank you if you get up for an occasional break during the workday. FYI, most experts working for 90-minute intervals and taking sporadic breaks when you hit that time limit.
This is an easy one, but it will really work wonders for you. This is something everyone should live by, but procrastination always seems to creep in and thwart our goals, so this is an simple one to remember as you go about your daily tasks. The “Five-Minute Rule” says that if a task takes less than five minutes to complete, then you should do it RIGHT THEN. That doesn’t mean jot it down on a list for later (although you should use lists for other tasks) and it sure doesn’t mean you should push it off until later because its such a simple and short task (because often later turns in to tomorrow and tomorrow turns into never). This pertains to things like making your bed, picking up your room, or making that phone call that you just keep putting off. This rule helps reduce procrastination and greatly helps reduce tasks from building up over time, because even if you put off 3 or 4 “five-minute tasks” per day, that adds up to over 2.5 hours over the course of a week, and one can see how this continues to snowball over time. The lesson here simply is, if it takes less than five minutes to complete, just do it now, I promise you will thank me for it.
Here is one that has become increasingly important with our interconnected world around us, filled with unlimited television streaming, thousands of phone applications, and millions of YouTube videos, which can quickly take away from the valuable hours in the day. Getting work done without distractions has become tougher than ever before, with our phones now connected to our wrists, with service in nearly every corner of the globe, and Netflix series that now last 12-15 seasons each. Don’t get me wrong, all these are fun to interact with from time-to-time, but if you aren’t aware of the time you are spending on these platforms, you can quickly lose 4-5 hours a day with your head buried in a new application or service. Whether you need to put your phone away, turn off the television, or put a limit on the time you can spend on you iPad on any given day, you need to remove interruptions from your workspace to get the most out of your work. An even better way to remove yourself from distractions is to get out of the house and go to a coffee shop or library, because there you will have no access to television and will be surrounded by others striving to get work done as well. The people you are surrounded by definitely rub off on you, and this also applies to when you are trying to get efficient and effective work done. If you truly want to maximize your productivity, you need to minimize disruptions. So, find what most hinders your work and completely remove it from your workspace, it will pay off.
The best lesson of all, you need to learn to let go. Good habits are hard to form, and bad habits are even harder to break, so be aware that every day is not going to go exactly as planned. There are going to be days when you stumble, when it feels like the world is falling apart, and like nothing is going right for you. It’s going to happen, and it happens to everyone. When it happens, you need to be able to step back and let go of whatever it is that isn’t going right. Maybe you hit the snooze button and got into work late, you skipped your workout, or you broke your diet and downed that gallon of ice cream that’s been staring you in the face. We’re humans, it happens to the best of us, and if you ruminate on all the things that don’t go right, you’re going to have a very tough time progressing in life. So, when you slip from your routine, you waste an hour (or a day), and you lose your productivity, just know that you are capable of anything, and failure never makes someone a failure. You can create anything you want in life, so forget about the past, learn from failures, and help it make you a stronger person in the future.
After reading this blog I hope you are ready to go out and conquer the world. More important than anything else, you are capable of making your life into anything you want and achieving anything you want, and maximizing your productivity is one of the first steps you need to understand in order to accomplish anything else. From finding your routine, to keeping a calendar, following the “five-minute rule”, and taking regular breaks, these tactics will help you get the most out of every day. By planning ahead, focusing on what matters, and knowing how you traverse times when they inevitably get tough, you will be five steps ahead of anyone else that isn’t planning for success in life. Maybe you already use some of the tactics above, or maybe some just won’t work for you, and that’s okay. Maximizing productivity is not a one size fits all framework, but rather a trial-and-error process of trying and trying again. Find what works for you, use it, add to it, and throw away the rest. All you need to do is find what works best for you and run with it, and I promise it will make your life a whole hell of a lot easier. As always, if you have tactics that we haven’t mentioned above we would love to hear your feedback and hear what works best for you. We will continue to build and grow on this journey and hopefully continue to give you valuable insights along the way. Now go out and be amazing.