I want to begin the last month of the year with a sweet and simple article on the best productivity tips that I have found to be extremely helpful for me. Hopefully you'll find them helpful too.
I shared this photo on Instagram yesterday, but today I want to expand on it with a few other ideas that came to mind.
Wake up early
Sean Wes said the best argument I've ever heard for becoming a morning person, "I'm not a morning person, but I like who I am when I wake up early. I get 2x the work done than when I do it late at night and that's why I wake up early" paraphrased, but still phenomenal advice. Do it. Even if you go to bed late, wake up early. Eventually you'll naturally get tired earlier, go to bed earlier, and you'll wake up earlier.
First thing in the morning, especially for those of you who aren't morning people, get inspired by something you enjoy. Glance at Instagram, turn on a favorite podcast, or favorite playlist to sweep you into happy motivation. This beautiful quote by Zig Ziglar comes to mind, "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."
Make a list
Get out all of those thoughts in a rapid-fire way to release a bit of the pressure in your mind so you can see all the tasks you have to do for the day.
Have something to look forward to
Now that you've made a list, make sure to include some fun things you're looking forward to doing or enjoying so that it's a little more fun and personal.
Pin-point a top 3
Narrow down your focus to a few choice tasks in order to be most productive and effective with your day.
Work on the top 3
Even if you only get the number 1 on your top 3 done, that's still amazing progress!
Block out time for the top 3. Loosely estimate how long they'll take you and when you can realistically work on them today.
Use the Pomodoro technique, preferably with an app
Once you've time-blocked, chances are you still need a kick on the butt to get you started and focused on your tasks. For this, a Pomodoro app can be extremely useful.
Forest is my favorite Pomodoro app because you can adjust the increments of time, you get to see your progress in an awesome way (with a forest! Each time increment you achieve plants a plant in your 'forest' and if you slack off and go into another app, it'll kill your plant and you'll have to start all over), and it cleverly reminds you to get back to work every time you open your phone if the app still open.
Setting custom time increments is especially helpful if you're not accustomed to working based on a number crunch, you can work your way up to longer times periods until you're focusing for the duration you want to for the task at hand. The way I started getting used to working this way was by setting Forest to 10-15 minutes. This produced a virtual kickstart to getting started. As many are aware, starting is usually the hardest part and this technique breaks through that barrier and keeps you focused. The Pomodoro technique is quite clever because it's based on the idea that you'll work on only one task for the duration of the time. Trick yourself into working on shorter increments so that you can do many of them and celebrate those small wins!
Have an "I CAN do this" mentality
Your mind is your greatest tool, make sure to paint its walls with positive self-talk. The power of the mind is one of the greatest things you can ever hope to master, as Henry Ford said it best, "Whether you think you can or can't, either way you're right."
Acknowledge your progress!
When you have a way of seeing that you're making progress, you're more likely to keep the ball rolling. The way I manage my progress is with my Bullet Journal. I can see that I'm making progress in my monthly and daily tasks.
Figure out how much rest you need and respect your body enough to give it the rest it needs. This will take some trial and error. Another option is to sleep when you do, wake up when you'd want to (even if this means sleeping only a little bit), and then taking a short nap in the middle of the day. Many of history's greatest minds had erratic sleep schedules and it's best to work with what's naturally true for us. That said, wake up feeling refreshed if you can. I like to use the Sleep Cycle app to wake me up 'at the right time.' It really does work.
Create a system that works for you.
This doesn't mean 'use only one system,' that'd be preposterous - you don't only use a knife when you cook right? No, there are pans, spatulas, paper towels, and more! Likewise, create a productivity system that supports the goals you're trying to reach and keep track of. For example, if you're going to college and you use the Bullet Journal, I wouldn't recommend taking your class notes in it. Instead, I'd recommend using a separate notebook for class notes and a Bullet Journal to keep track of assignments and employing collections for Exam review questions. Above all, make your system work for you.
Use the systems you put in place.
It's not enough to plan. Planning is nothing without execution. Plan as much as you need to, but remember that the aim of planning is to help you complete a certain aim. Make a new plan every day in order to keep yourself engaged with your daily tasks and aims. Use the calendar you have set in place. Use the notebook for the reason you have it. Don't feel pressured to use all of the tools in your system every day, simply use the one you need at the moment you need it.
Regularly reflect on what to improve, where to pare down, how to get to where you want to be.
Celebrate the little things!
You only did one lunge with each leg today? That's great! Good job! That's more than you've probably done in months. Big changes are made with small actions, one at a time. Cal Newport is a highly successful person whose only workout regimen is doing a few pull-ups each day on his morning walk - now that's impressive to maintain the physique he has. It truly shows how little things are enough to reach our goals.
This is HUGE! For me, I'm greatly affected by my moods. And my moods are greatly affected by what I eat. How do I know this? Because I tracked it in my Bullet Journal over the last month and saw how certain foods left me feeling sluggish and other foods boosted my concentration and happiness. Which did which? Well, refined sugars such as the ones in cookies and sweets left me feeling terrible. I have a pretty sensitive system, so a little bit makes me depressed, and what have I achieved? I've made myself depressed for no reason other than by eating cookies. Writing it down in my Bullet Journal has made me acutely aware of my reactions to sugar and other foods and since I wrote it down so many times, I am now able to remember it clearly because the act of writing down the reflections on paper helped to ingrain them in my memory.
Drink cold water
I don't drink coffee, so for me, what wakes me up in the morning is drinking water. Lots of water. Cold water is especially helpful in waking me up and getting me ready for a refreshing day.
Acknowledge the distracting thoughts but then let them go
For me, while I'm writing I get these huge urges to check my email or Instagram or whatever. I feel a physical discomfort in the thought where my mind is going, "uuurgg, I'm writing! But, NO! Keep writing" and then I manage to keep writing. But, sometimes it's so automatic that I reach for my phone and while I'm scrolling away, my mind is agonizing and telling me, "This is great, but you should be writing, WRITE!" and that internal screaming will be going on for a few minutes to several minutes to more minutes than I care to admit to.
Anyways, what helps in this situation is acknowledging that the thoughts are going to occur. There's no doubt about that, but by being aware of them and acknowledging that the thoughts want to lead you astray, it allows you the chance to politely ignore the thoughts and continue typing away, because that is truly what you want to do.
For me, it's never a question on whether I want to write. It's usually a good battle between my mind and getting my fingers to my keyboard. Once I'm at my keyboard, words seep out of my fingers and onto the screen. Writing is where I feel most natural and where I've always longed to be, my heart aching if I've gone without writing for too long.
So, remember this tip: Acknowledge the thoughts you're having and either follow what they're saying or don't. Here's a little infographic to bring that concept home:
However, sometimes even awareness alone isn't enough to keep you focused if you automatically reach for distractions like I do. I recommend the Pomodoro-style Forest app, as mentioned before, because when you reach for your phone you'll see the app nudging you gently to focus on your work, sans-phone.
Work on a schedule
When you work for someone else you usually have to abide by a schedule they give you. Conversely, when you work for yourself there is a lot more freedom, but with great freedom comes great responsibility. Create a schedule of some kind to keep yourself on track. It can be as detailed as a calendar event or as simple as a main focus for the day that you'll spend the bulk of the day working towards that aim. Do it because it's scheduled, not whether you 'feel like it'. This has been a game changer for me. I place Post it notes on a whiteboard calendar with the titles of articles on the days I plan to publish them and it has made a huge difference in my posting habits. It also helps that it's huge, bright, colorful, and satisfying to check off when I manage to publish an article I set out to.
Work when inspiration strikes.
Sometimes the inspiration to do something comes at a time you didn't plan for. When this happens, it is usually because your mind is in a high state of creativity. Bend to its whims and follow that instinct. Jot down a few words or an idea in your notebook, if you're a Bullet Journalist, flip to a fresh page and create a collection fleshing out the idea further and get started on it. In the morning review it and see whether it is worth pursuing or not. Let the playground of your notebook be your canvas for creating and discovering something new!
Know your energy timezones
Work when you're most energized. For many, this is usually in the morning. Me, I'm this strange blend of night owl and early bird. So, I usually get my second wind between 8-11pm until about 2am where I type up a storm and then I wake up around 8am where I crank out some more words, photograph, and work on projects. I'm usually pretty drained by around 5pm until 8pm. Another huge thing I've noticed that's vital to keeping my energy up is refueling throughout the day with food in order to keep my energy up. 'Course a nap always helps as well, as long as it's a short one.
Put on music that will put you in 'flow.'
The concept of flow is a widely coveted phenomenon that occurs when you're really into what you're doing. What this means is that your attention is completely immersed in the task at hand. An easy way to tap into this wonderful state is by having a playlist you listen to every time you're doing that activity. I have a few playlists on Songza I rotate through to get 'in the zone' when I write and every time I turn them on my mind switches to 'writing mode.'
Work in the quiet
Alternatively, work when it's most quiet. That is usually in the early morning or late at night. Sometimes it's refreshing to have everything off and listen to the sound of your thoughts flurry about in your mind.
Eat plenty of snacks.
I grab a few pieces of fruit throughout the day to feed my mind the supportive foods it craves.
DO the work! You CAN do it!
Have positive internal self-talk no matter the situation and you'll do great! :)
Do you have any favorite productivity tips?
Feel free to pin and share this if you found it helpful :) I'd appreciate it!
This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on a link and purchase an item through Amazon, I will make a small commission at NO extra cost to you. Thank you for helping support Tiny Ray of Sunshine!