Productivity is intimidating.
As a member of this lovely generation of millennials, I find that we’re kindof the worst at priorities. I know that people as a whole are like that, but man… we’ve set a new record for being poor stewards of our lives. From constantly being late, to abject health habits, to insubordinate amounts of procrastination… it’s pretty overwhelming how much we need to improve. We don’t “adult” very well, to say the least.
And yes, I’m generalizing and exaggerating to make a point. Sue me. Surely, YOU aren’t like this… there’s no way that you could possibly have any need for improvement of your time management skills, could you? There’s no way that you have any sort of unfulfilled dreams that you’ve put off forever, and haven't even taken the first step of effort toward. It’s surely impossible that you’re not in the best shape of your life. These generalizations couldn't be you, right? Well, they’re me. And maybe not so extremely so, but in many ways they’re probably you too.
Don’t be so offended at being part of a statistic. It’s only in realizing one’s part of a problem that the power to change it becomes available. We’re all pretty screwed up, but more than that, we’re prideful beyond compare. Putting off the vibe that you’ve got it all together is overrated — I do it far too often, and it’s something I’m working on. You’re only as useful in changing something as you are willing to admit that you’re a part of the problem.
*Steps off soapbox*
Back to what we’re talking about. What are we talking about again? Ah, productivity.
So, amidst the actuality that I’m a part of this lack of efficiency in humanity, I decided that I wanted to be more productive. I wanted proactivity with my energy, precision with my actions, sincerity and conciseness with my words… and more than anything, management of my time. I was tired of feeling like my days had gone to waste and that I hadn’t done anything with the time I was given. Which, for those of you who are counting, we all have 24 hours in each day. There’s no special “extra hours” for CEO’s or presidents or other important people who seem to have an unbelievable amount of things to get done in a day. They just do productivity better than you.
And so, I embarked on this journey of becoming more productive. It’s been quite the quest, and I’m nowhere near the level of productivity that I would like to have. But, here are 7 concepts that have changed my life in some way, and perhaps they can help you too.
(Clearly, I’m long-winded… so if you just wanna read the titles and the last lines of each of these points, I won't be sad. Much.)
1. Make lists.
Perhaps this is the result of being sortof OCD, or perhaps the result of a great success, but… I adore making lists. Y’wanna know why? Cause it lets you know what you’re dealing with. By organizing what’s at hand in a clean and clear fashion, there’s no more obscurity to what you’re trying to accomplish. Whether it’s ingredients, a to-do list, a grocery list, a list of your dreams, a list of baby names you like… you will ALWAYS benefit from writing things down. Y’know all of those tasks floating around in your head that you have to do today? Write em down. Then cross them off as you complete them. Sometimes, in a moment of weakness, I write things down like “eat lunch” on my to-do list… just so I can cross it off victoriously! Remember, the goal is for you to be more productive, and a huge part of that is about feeling more productive.
2. Tidy up.
Whether you wanna admit it or not, your level of cleanliness has a direct impact on how clearly you think and work. If your workspace is a mess, it’s no wonder you’re having a hard time working! Even if the things you surround yourself with are useful, if they’re not pertinent for the task at hand, put them away. Remember: If something is inhibiting you from doing your best work, it may not be as valuable as you think. Make your desk real estate something to be treasured. Ask yourself, “what do I really need on my desk?”
3. Embrace minimalism.
No, I’m not talking about being a vagabond or something. Everything item you own should have a home, whether that’s your desktop or the trash. William Morris said something that I profoundly agree with: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This idea alone has changed my habits, and frankly, my life. Think of the things you own as tools — not like, hammers and saws, but your clothes. Your writing utensils. Any collections of things. All of the random things that you keep for whatever reason. If they’re not serving a purpose, they’re probably just cluttering your life. Examine ALL of the things you are in possession of, ask yourself, “is this useful or beautiful?”, and make changes accordingly. It’s not easy at first, but I promise, this tip is so very valuable in becoming more productive.
4. Destroy distractions.
When you’ve got something to get done, anything that gets in the way is a distraction, and that simply will not do. Often, the biggest distractions I face in life are my own thoughts. So what do I do? Destroy em. I will myself to simply not think about things that are outside of what’s important, and they cease to exist. Crazy right? You have that power. But, outside of your thoughts, there are also plenty of distractions, vying desperately for your attention. That song that’s stuck in your head, the weird lights in the room you’re working in, the rumbling of your hungry stomach, the endless Google searches that you could be making… and a million more things. Those things will always be there unless you actively eliminate them from your attention. Take the necessary steps to keep your mind clear of anything that takes your energy away from what you’re trying to do.
5. Stop multitasking.
Really, you can’t multitask in the first place… you’re just sporadically spreading your attention to a variety of different things that will make very marginal progress because of your split efforts. If you’ve got a list made for your things you've got to do (which I highly recommend), put them in order of priority. Tackle that first thing first, and then the next thing, and then the next thing… until you’re done! You can get more done in an hour of singular-focused, undistracted time than four hours of multi-focused, distracted time. Know the value of your time and attention.
6. Manage energy.
Time management is important, but something far more imperative is your management of your energy. Just as you start each day with 24 hours, you start with a finite amount of energy. There are a seemingly infinite amount of variables to that amount, depending on sleep, diet, habits, etc. Adding energy to your life is tricky to do, but it’s pretty easy to decide what you’re NOT gonna spend your energy on. Choose your battles wisely, decide what truly requires the most of you in any given day, and prepare accordingly.
7. JUST DO IT.
None of these things matter unless you simply do what you’ve set out to do. Your goal isn’t simply to be productive, it’s to do what you do — being productive is just the best avenue to accomplish that. If you’re a writer, freaking write something today! If you’re a musician, freaking make some music, man! If you’re a chef, freaking make something delicious! A coined Nike phrase that I’ve come to live by is, “Yesterday you said tomorrow.” The reason that you’ve not living the life that you wanna live is because you haven't started. More likely than not, you already know what it takes to be exceptional at what you do, but you refuse to put in the work to make it happen. Do whatever it takes to motivate yourself. I watch vlogs, listen to hype music, wear my favorite outfit, read quotes, and even ask other people around me to say motivational things… all to inspire myself to actually produce action. Your dreams are forever just gonna be dreams until you become a person of action.
*takes deep breath and sits back down*
Man, I could talk forever about that last step. That last step is everything. You are capable of way more than you have even considered. Like, WAY more. But you don’t even know because you haven't tried.
I pray that in this day, you’ll look at these things, and realize that you can actually do something about it. Y’know that feeling of defeat that you often feel? You can overcome that. You were made to do something exceptional with your life, and in a myriad of different ways than every other person. It’s up to you to make that happen. I hope that you look deep into yourself, and ask the hard questions. Wonder at whether you could be a part of a negative stereotype, and then ask yourself how you can change that.
Keep moving forward, friend. I believe in you.