Do you ever pause during the day and think, "24 hours just isn't enough!" While you can't magically add hours to the day, you can take steps to ensure you squeeze every last drop of efficiency from the time you have. Here's a straightforward, three-step process to level-up your productivity:
1. Practice efficient decision making.
Have you ever heard of decision fatigue? Stated simply, it's the concept that at any given time, you have only so many "decision points" available. As you exercise self-control and make decisions of varying weight, you use up those decision points much like a car consuming gas in the tank. When your decision points are gone, your self-control and decision-making abilities go with them.
So how do you avoid decision fatigue? By understanding how it works, and how best to short-circuit the process.
For decisions you have to make daily or many times per day (what I like to call RODs, repetitive occurrence decisions), a good place to start is to make a list of those decisions (what to eat, what to wear, etc.), and to then start eliminating options.
For example, Steve Jobs was well-known for his ever-present outfit of jeans and a black turtleneck. His choice in wardrobe wasn't the product of poor fashion sense; rather, he understood the concept of decision fatigue, and felt that using decision points on choosing what to wear each day was a waste of resources.
Reducing wardrobe options, eating the same meals, or setting a strict schedule are all effective ways to eliminate superfluous decisions that waste decision points.
Beyond that, if you know in advance that you will have an important decision to make, make that decision in the morning after a good breakfast. A full stomach and a rested mind lead to better decisions. Avoid making important decisions at the end of the day, especially if it has been a difficult day.
2. Spend a few minutes each day writing in a journal.
While it may sound silly, you'd be amazed at the number of well-known individuals who swear by journaling as a key part of their daily routines (Tim Ferriss, Lady Gaga, Pat Flynn, Tony Robbins, and Gwyneth Paltrow all keep journals, just to name a few).
A journal is an incredibly effective way to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious, and it also serves as an aid to both memory formation and recall.
Take time every day to write things down. It could be notes throughout the day, or thoughts at the beginning and/or end of your day. As part of this journaling process, it can be beneficial to write down the two-to-three most important things you need to accomplish at the start of the day, then review those and hold yourself accountable at the end of the day.
If you find yourself getting off-track during the day, look at your list of two-to-three things to accomplish and ask yourself, "Is what I'm doing now helping me to achieve these goals?"
It can be difficult to be fully aware in the moment without training, and journaling can help you to gain both awareness and perspective retroactively, which you can then apply more easily to future endeavors.
I personally use the Five Minute Journal, and absolutely love it.
3. Turn off digital notifications.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks extensively about habit loops. A habit loop begins with a cue, is followed by a routine, and ends with a reward. Unfortunately, habits are easy to form, impossible to completely erase, and can be a huge detriment to productivity.
App developers know this well, which is why almost all of them make use of notifications. These digital interruptions, whether they're pop-ups, sounds, vibrations, or a little number on the corner of the app symbol, are habit cues. They're put there to trigger a habit loop, and a habit can override productivity with ease.
If you're trying to be more productive, shut off all digital notifications and practice something called batching. With batching, you determine a few set times each day that you are allowed to check email, social media, etc. By turning off notifications, you turn off the habit cues that trigger the destruction of productivity, and by batching, you start the process of creating new, more productive habits.
With a brain that is wired to put pleasure before productivity, it isn't easy to stay focused. But if you make a conscious effort to apply these three principles, you'll find that you can get more from your day, and your life, than you may have thought possible.
What are your own personal hacks for becoming more productive? Share with us in the comments below!