5 Strategies To Increase Your Productivity by Akan Nelson
Winning is a science. It’s not about luck; it’s not about connections. It’s about how hard you work and how smart you work. Winning is about doing more, doing better, and in less time.
To win more you need to be more productive, and how productive you are today will boil down to:
Your ability to focus on your tasks without interruption.
Your ability to find the time to complete your tasks.
Your ability to transition quickly & efficiently from one task to another.
Think about every time you've missed a deadline.
Maybe you weren't able to complete that ten-page report on time. Maybe you packed your suitcase at the last minute and left your passport at home (this happened to me three days ago). Maybe decided to watch a movie before you started studying and fell asleep for six hours.
You didn’t finish that task because you got distracted, ran out of time, and procrastinated. You went about your day in a way that was lazy and unproductive.
The five strategies below will help you get more done, and are guaranteed to significantly increase how productive you are after two consistent weeks of applying them.
1. Wake up at 6am: The Early Bird > The Night Owl.
Most people wake up between 8 and 8:30, early risers might get out of bed at 7, but if you are really serious about getting more out of your day you need to be up much earlier. I’m currently experimenting with starting my day at 5am, and for the last two years I’ve done my best to be up and working by 6:30 every day.
Early mornings are ideal for working. They’re quieter, have fewer distractions, and you can work undisturbed for longer periods of time because everyone else is still asleep.
You might be thinking, “No thanks, I’ll just stay up later. I work better at night, anyway.” A lot of people think they work better at night because they’ve never genuinely tried to work in the morning.
I haven’t met a single person, myself included, who had a happy, productive day after staying up the night before. When you stay up late you end up either sleeping in and feeling like you just wasted a day, or waking up early and stumbling through your day like a zombie. Don’t be that person.
Studies even show that people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success, because they’re more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening.
Set multiple alarms. Put your mind to it, and get yourself awake at 6am, or at least two hours earlier than you do now. Spend 45 minutes preparing for your day, and start working at 6:45 – it will change your life.
2. Plan Your Day The Night Before. Make a To-do list. Set daily goals.
At the end of every day, before you go to sleep, take fifteen minutes to set your goals for the next day, andmake a to-do list in the order that you intend to accomplish each task. Include the time of day you intend to start working on each task, and be sure to factor in breaks and flexible time.
This is a powerful productivity habit to develop, because it gives you a road map of your entire day, and helps you set realistic expectations for yourself every single day.
It also helps eliminate the urge to multitask, which is the last thing you should do if you’re trying to be productive. Multitasking or rapid task switching is ineffective. It makes you waste time by constantly switching between different tasks, hinders your ability to focus fully on any one task, and stresses you out.
Day planning demands that you move in a straight line and work on your tasks one at a time. It doesn’t feel as cool, or fast-paced, but it makes a meaningful difference in terms of output.
The 15 minutes you spend planning will save you hours of running in circles the next day.
Tonight, take fifteen minutes to plan your day tomorrow; make a to-do list and set a list goals you want to have completed by the end of the day. Write this in a small notebook or on a piece of paper, and carry it around with you.
3. Exercise Daily. Lift Weights. Run. Do Something Physical.
This is a big one.
If you’re like most people your day isn’t physically demanding at all. Unless your work involves physical labour or you’re an athlete, you probably spend most of your time sitting, walking, or standing – nothing that you could honestly describe as physically tasking.
This has to change.
You need to work your body, and work it until you sweat, every single day. Exercise will improve your mood by easing feelings of stress and anxiety, and help you work with more clarity and stronger focus.
You know this. It’s why Physical Ed is a compulsory part of primary and high school; it’s why you were told to, “Go outside and play,” as a kid.
The mental discipline that you build up by pushing your body to sweating-point every day will flow into other parts of your life, and give you the strength to keep working long after the initial “buzz” of starting a new task has worn off.
This is the difference between the person who stops working on an uncompleted task after thirty minutes because, “They’ve earned a break,” and the person who works uninterrupted for a solid hour before even considering a break.
Winning is a science.
I’m typically at the gym at 6:30 every morning, for an hour and fifteen minutes – I blaze through the rest of my day feeling refreshed and awake, ready to stomach whatever lemons the world plans on throwing my way.
When I skip my morning workout I feel slow, old, and restless. I can’t concentrate and have problems controlling my temper. I’ve been exercising by lifting weights and cardio-training consistently for two years now, and I can tell you that the quality of my life has risen considerably.
When it comes to completing your goals, you’re a sitting duck or you’re a moving train.
Make a decision.
Set aside an hour tomorrow for exercise. There are millions of fitness articles on the Internet to get you started with a good workout routine.
4. Spend Less Time On Social Media. Unplug. Put Your Phone Away. Turn The TV Off.
How much time do you spend on social media?
Facebook; Twitter fights; Memes; WCWs; MCMs; TBTs; Beyoncé; Babies; Cats; the Internet is a rabbit hole of distraction. There is no way you’re going to get a useful amount of work done if you spend hours of your day tapping at your phone screen, liking pictures, or streaming movies on iROKOtv.
From personal experience, people who dedicate significant amounts of their day to social media have terrible attention spans and lower levels of motivation because the constantly refreshing feeds and timelines train your mind to seek out constant stimulation.
Don’t allow your mind become dependent on the instant validation that comes with getting likes, shares, and retweets on the Internet. If you do, there is no question that you will struggle with focus and motivation in the real world, and will find it difficult to achieve your daily and weekly goals.
I do my best to keep my phone on silent and put it face down on the table when I’m working.
That email, text, mention, notification, or whatever – it can wait. You own your own time. You will not be rushed. Concentrate on the task in front of you.
Pay attention to how long you spend watching TV series shows, checking social media, and surfing the Internet. Mentally commit to spend less time on these activities, and more time on the tasks you have.
5. Recognize When You’ve Had Enough. Rest. Sleep. Eat. Listen To Your Body.
In motivation videos all over the internet you will hear many great motivators say things like, “Sleep is for the weak,” or “You can sleep when you’re successful,” or “You need to want it more than you want to sleep.” People who say things like this are only considering a small snippet of the bigger picture.
I’ve done the whole grind-on-five-hours-of-sleep thing, and all I can tell you is this: if you willingly abuse your body and mind over a long period of time you will break down.
Sleep-deprivation is not sexy. Self-starvation is not sexy. Performance drug abuse is not sexy. These unhealthy approaches to maximizing results do not work well for long periods of time. They are good only in emergency situations.
Working 48 hours without sleep to finish one last-minute report at the end of the year, because you were sloppy and planned your time poorly is one thing. It’s an isolated incident. But pulling consistent all-nighters every week for six weeks is more suggestive of an unhealthy, unsustainable lifestyle.
Don’t get caught up in the hype.
Check your current lifestyle. Are you eating 2-3 times a day? Are you getting at least 6 hours of sleep every night? How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? Are you neglecting your body to get ahead? Do something about it.
At first glance, these strategies may appear simple but I assure you that if you make a habit of waking up earlier, exercising, setting daily goals, and spending less time on social media, your level of performance will rise dramatically.
Akan Nelson (pronounced “Ah-khan”) is a rising Nigerian writer, financial analyst, and self-brand development expert. He is part of a new generation of ethical, ambitious African leaders who are invested in the prosperity and development of the African continent.