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8 years into productivity, here’s what I’ve learnt.

Photo by krisna iv on Unsplash

Productivity sucks.

It’s supposed to help us get more in less time.

But ironically, people spend MORE time on productivity, than working on the things that needs to be done.

Me included.

Because there’s nothing more distracting than to jump from one tool to another before giving the time it needs to unleash its full power.

That’s why below are some of the “rules” of my productivity system. Treat it like the 8020 of getting more things done in less time.

But why should you listen to me? Well, I’ve used these strategies to:

  • Learn copywriting while working as an accountant
  • Write daily emails, copy for clients, and long-form articles. At the same time.
  • Do all of the above and still have time to work out, play video games, and spend time with my family.

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You’re The Boss

The pilot, the captain, the raid leader of a WoW raid, the CEO.

Every time you’re about to procrastinate, you have a choice.

You can give in to the temptation and stay distracted.

Or you can middle-finger it and focus your attention back on the task you wanted to do.

Of course, there are tools and strategies to help you make this decision easier.

But ultimately, you’re in control. So when you feel like procrastinating, choose your side wisely.

Hack Your Environment

Most people underestimate the effects of the environment on getting things done.
I thought my work-from-home (WFH) setup was good enough until I went to a co-working space. Simply because there was nothing else I could do but to work!

And I don’t just mean your physical environment too. Keep your phone away. Block your calendar. Close your WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Reddit tabs.

Bottom line: Make sure the environment you’re in is condusive for uniterrupted work.

Drink More Water

When I feel sluggish, I chug at least 2 cups of water. I’ll feel more energetic in as little as 10 minutes.

This is usually my first line of defense against procrastination. When I was serving the army, there’s a saying “Drink beyond the point of thirst.” It’s underrated advice which I think more people should heed. Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve read somewhere that most adults are severely dehydrated. So go tah some water!

Get More Sleep

If you subscribe to Elon Musk’s idea of 6 hours of sleep a day, you can stop reading.

But if you’re like me (AKA a normal human being), get at least 7 hours of sleep. Invest in a good bed. Don’t use your phone before bedtime.

Do whatever it takes to have a good night’s rest. I promise you’ll feel so much more alert the next day.

Exercise Regularly

At the risk of beating a dead horse, get your body moving!

You’ll have more energy throughout the day to work on your business.

I lift weights and I recommend it too. Especially if you want to be surprised at how powerful your body can be when you take the time to train for it.

But it’s really up to you. Walking, jogging, swimming, soccer. Just pick something that you like, because you’re doing this for the long-term. So might as well make it fun.

Switch Things Up Once In Awhile

Most productivity advice you find on the internet revolves around sticking to a system that works for you.

That makes sense.

We procrastinate sometimes because the inertia of starting a task is too high. So a habit makes it easier to get started. You don’t have to think about what to do next.

Sound advice…until it starts to break. Why?

Once the novelty wears off, and when you too used to the routine…you’ll turn on autopilot. When that happens, it’s easy to make mistakes or slip into bad habits again.

The solution?

Switch things up once in a while. Intentionally break your routines so you become conscious about it.

Some examples: If you’re used to having a digital to-do list. Try a paper one. If you’re used to working out in the morning. Try doing it in the afternoon. If you’re used to drinking coffee to stay awake, avoid it for one week.

Interrupting your routines is a good way to see what’s working, and what’s not.

It’s Okay To Fail

Yes, you’re going to fail.

You’re going to fall off the tracks.

You’re going to be tempted by the next exciting tactic or tool.

You’re going to doubt some of the strategies.

You’re going to feel frustrated at the lack of progress.

Even today, I still fail. But that’s perfectly normal!

Allow yourself to fail. It’s more important to understand WHY you fail. And take steps to get back on track.

Learn To Respect Your Tools

The typical cycle goes like this: You get excited about a tool. You try it for a few days. Doesn’t work. You blame the tools. You chase for the next shiny object promising you to get you to productivity nirvana.

You have to trust and respect your tools. By doing so, you’ll get into the habit of using them regularly.

I’ll give you an example. When I first started using my to-do app, Things 3, I abused deadlines.

My list was filled with arbitrary deadlines that only made me feel anxious.

If I couldn’t meet the deadline, I postponed it. This effectively made my deadlines ineffective.

But once I realised I should be more serious about it, I started to trust Things 3 more, and it has become an invaluable ally in managing my life.

And there you have it! The core principles I use to keep me productive every day. Follow these consistently and I promise you’ll feel a difference in your life and work.

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