Wasting time is one of the biggest reasons you aren't more successful right now. Review how you've spent your time today, and you'll likely find plenty of unproductive time that you may not have even spent relaxing or preparing to be productive later.
Simply planning your day can make a big difference. Science has a lot to say about this. For example, it turns out that our willpower may be better earlier in the day and we need to take advantage of that.
The idea is that planning creates a guideline the brain wants to stick to. Here's more on how that helps create success, as well as some other approaches that can help.
1. Give yourself more time in the morning.
Studies suggest that morning people tend to be more proactive than evening people. This is at least partly because waking up earlier means more energetic, productive morning work hours.
Studies also indicate that keeping the same sleeping pattern every day helps keep a person proactive, no matter what time of day their schedule may accommodate.
The choice to allow more time to prepare yourself for your workday, project, or event helps remove the stress of getting out the door, or making it to your presentation on time.
According to the research, the moments where you choose to be proactive remain unrelated to the time of day. Adages such as "the early bird gets the worm" apply to any time of day.
Get moving, prepare yourself completely and without rushing, and get your work done sooner. If that means waking up early, do that. If it means building patterns into your lifestyle that streamline your day, give you ample time to complete tasks, and help you finish work sooner, do that.
2. Eat a live frog.
Yes that's right. If you didn't know, Mark Twain famously recommended (tongue in cheek) that people should eat a live frog first thing in the day. That way, nothing from that point on would feel nearly as hard.
Now, you may not have ready access, or the desire, to eat a frog every day, but Twain's quote means more than consuming amphibians.
It reminds us that starting out with the biggest, most daunting task of the day can help everything following it feel a lot easier. Who doesn't need a little psychological boost like that?
To set yourself up for your biggest task, you can write down your big items before going to bed and review them when you wake up.
3. Decide less and later.
Making decisions wears your brain out as the day progresses. Every little thing we must decide slowly chips away at our willpower, leaving us struggling to make certain decisions by day's end.
Have you and your significant other ever found yourselves sitting around in the evening unable to decide what to do? The taxing days we experience are part of the reason why.
Eliminate decisions where you can, particularly in the morning. Wear clothes identical to yesterday's or from a very limited selection, like Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg's apparently limited wardrobes.
Distill your morning routine down to only the essential tasks that you could do half asleep. Set up patterns and routines for the entire start of your day. That way, when you start work, your brain remains primed and ready to go.
4. Balance work and rest.
Some people believe that success means latching themselves to their desks for many, many hours in a row. However, humans cannot maintain such habits.
Just as CPU processors need to keep cool to maintain peak efficiency, humans need to decompress for a short period of time to maintain high productivity levels.
I prefer a "pomodoro" method of 15 minutes on and 10 minutes off. Some suggest a 45 -15 minute work-to-rest pace. Others do a 52-17 minute arrangement.
Whatever your schedule allows, make sure you do not neglect your body's need to get away for a moment. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, take a walk outside, or do something fun. You'll find your ability to focus and work increases the more you implement this routine.
5. Avoid multitasking.
Many employers seem to want workers who can multi-task, but are these employers merely harming productivity?
We all want to complete multiple projects, but multi-tasking divides your attention, detracts from work quality, and prolongs time spent on each project.
The reason lies in your attention capacity, specifically the act of switching it. Every time you do this, you pay a price in cognitive functionality. Operating in this state leaves one vulnerable to any distraction. A click-bait article, a friend messaging you on WhatsApp, or a constant barrage of emails all serve as distractions slowly eating away at your mental capacities.
My advice is to focus on what needs completing and eliminate the rest. Turn off notifications (or your phone entirely), close superfluous browser windows (or hide them on another desktop if you really need them later), and put your work into where it matters: the task at hand.
Once you cut distractions, reduce unnecessary decision-making and balance your work/rest routine, you start an avalanche of productivity. It means less fatigue, less wasted time, and more progress in your life and career.