“The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.”
– Timothy Ferriss
At the end of each day, do you take stock of what you’ve done and feel as though you were constantly busy, but you can’t for the life of you figure out how your time was spent? As days turn into weeks and weeks into months…we often feel exhausted, but with no real accomplishments to show for our efforts.
The problem is, most people see time as an infinite resource. They approach life like they’re driving down the street and miss a Starbucks, but happy in their knowledge that there’s another one a mile down the road. Likewise, we always think “tomorrow is another day” and promise ourselves we’ll keep track of our time and use it wisely then. This mindset is the best way to never accomplish what you want in life.
When we think of money, though, our mindset is a bit different. Our society encourages us to work hard when you’re young and invest your money so that when you retire and no longer make money, you’ll have that nest egg to spend. If you invest in your time, though, really spectacular things can happen.
Understand your productivity cycles.
Ernest Hemingway wrote in the morning because that was his most creative time of the day. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, reportedly didn’t get out of bed before 11:00 am, preferring to work late into the night. Having a solid understanding and respect for when you are at your most productive will enable you to reserve your most important work for when you’re at your mental best.
Make a list of the most important things you want to accomplish.
Making a list of the things you need to accomplish can help us overcome what’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. No, it’s not a mosquito-borne virus. You’ve experienced the Zeigarnik Effect on those nights you can’t sleep because you’re endlessly trying to remember everything you need to do and keep it organized in your mind. This happens during the day as well, when you’re trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but your mind is still whirring in the background keeping your list organized. Give your brain a break and write it all down. Take a few minutes to prioritize those items for better efficiency.
Do the most important things first each day.
By doing the most important things first, you can always be assured that something important is done each day. Night owls, fret not, you can still save the most brain-intensive or creativity-intensive items for those 2:00 am writing sessions, just make sure that if something absolutely needs to be done in the morning, it gets done.
Don’t discount small blocks of time.
As a society, we’ve taken to killing time on our phones during those periods of time when standing in line, or commuting on a bus or train. Time is too valuable to kill! Instead of checking Facebook while waiting for your coffee, identify things on your list that take up small amounts of time and get those done while you’re waiting instead.
Finally, schedule in some down time for yourself. Nothing kills productivity more than a burned-out mind. Take a look at how you’re spending your time and see how you can better spend it using these easy tips.