In the Fall of 2017, I was feeling underproductive, overwhelmed and like I just couldn’t accomplish any of my lofty goals. I knew something drastic had to change and I embarked on a search for knowledge from the most successful productive people that I could think of to learn how they were leaps ahead. What I learned in the next week or so was life-altering… These twelve productivity hacks transformed me into a productivity ninja in less than 30 days and changed my life immediately.
Limit Technology’s Control Over your Life
I, like most people I know, was sleeping with my cell phone right next to me. Before falling asleep, I would log on to my social media accounts and check my feed and engagement, or I would play a game. This pre-bedtime routine was leaving me restless and not helping me fall asleep faster. Also, I would wake up and reach for my phone immediately… all to check my email and social updates again.
I watched this video on YouTube from one of my favorite inspirational thought leaders, Jim Kwik, and decided to adopt his productivity hack to remove the phone from reach before bedtime so that I could be more mindful of the things that matter in the first and last hour of my day — like my goals and what I needed to accomplish the next day.
While watching this video, I started to remember a great productivity hack from another success, Tim Ferris, from one of my all-time favorite books, The Four Hour Work Week. Tim said,
Email eats so much time. First, because it’s everyone else’s agenda for your time, often including manufactured emergencies. Second, email allows you to fool yourself into thinking you’re being productive.
His suggestion was to limit checking email to just a couple of scheduled times per day and setting up an autoresponder to let people know when you’d be checking your email and how to reach out in case of an urgent matter.
Go to Bed/Wake up Early (Get 8 Hours of Sleep)
I am a night owl naturally. I used to roll out of bed sometime between 9 am and Noon and then stay up all night when my thoughts were most clear and my son was in bed. I was getting complex tasks accomplished and at the very least checking off those to do items that HAD to get done before the next day started. But, I was missing a lot of opportunities. In the morning, when most successful people were powering through their day and communicating, I was asleep.
I have always needed 8 hours of sleep or more to function. And it’s an added bonus that my skin and health benefit from a full night’s rest as well. I couldn’t sacrifice sleep time to in exchange for being productive…
When I realized that I wanted to be up early so that I could accomplish my most important tasks in the morning, I also realized that I needed to go to bed early to ensure I had all of the necessary sleep to get things done. I needed to get up at least 2-3 hours before the workday started, just in case something happened unexpectedly during business hours that could change all of my plans. If I could get my top priorities done in the early morning hours, then life could throw whatever wrenches it wanted to into my day and I could still consider it a success!
Start Journaling & Write Morning Pages
I came across this video while browsing productivity hacks and thought it was a great way to focus in the morning and get out all of those thoughts that would leave me daydreaming in the middle of the day.
What I wanted to focus on was getting out whatever was top of mind, but also write out my big goals, how I feel about interactions with my fiance and son, what I am most grateful for that day, and also express on paper what was most important to me to think of for the day. Instead of writing for a specific amount of time, I try to write 2-3 full pages in my journal. Many anxious people say that stream-of-consciousness journaling helps to release anxiety.
Use To Do Lists for the Week
Every minute spent planning saves 10 minutes in execution. To-do lists are great for two reasons. First, there is a sense of accomplishment when you check off completed items. Second, it enhances your focus on what needs to be accomplished and allows you a format to prioritize things. I use a customized To Do List template that I have created over time to not only track and prioritize my tasks, but to have a bird’s eye view of appointments and calls scheduled.
Prioritize & Use the Focus Funnel for Tasks Management
Productivity guru, Brian Tracy, suggests that you write your to-do lists the night before and that you start immediately on your single top priority task in the morning and don’t stop until it’s complete. This productivity hack practice, called “single handling” (similar to the Pomodoro technique), has been shown to result in at least a 50% increase in productivity for those that do it.
Our minds can only focus on one task or thought at a time. Multi-tasking doesn’t work for optimizing effectiveness and productivity, because you are just getting a portion of many tasks done instead of completing complex tasks.
This means that you have to prioritize your to-do list before beginning on execution.
Automation is to your time exactly what compounding interest is to your money.
Rory Vaden says that time multipliers are expert time managers that assess how to spend their time using a scale of urgency and importance… and make decisions on task assignment using the Focus Funnel.
I try to employ this process as often as possible for any and every task I don’t enjoy doing (LOL).
Eat Dinner Early
Eating late at night not only diminishes the quality of my sleep, but it causes indigestion and other physical discomforts that leave me either tossing and turning or frequenting the bathroom. Eating dinner before 7 or 8 pm drastically improves my rest and leaves me refreshed in the morning, ready to attack the day’s tasks.
Drink Morning Tea & Exercise for Energy
I have never been a coffee drinker. It leaves me jittery, upsets my stomach, and causes a crash when the caffeine wears off. Instead, I drink green tea or my favorite Herbalife peach tea with a splash of aloe vera concentrate to clean my digestive track. Both of these teas leave me feeling less hungry so that I can practice intermittent fasting. Tea also gives me the boost of alertness and energy that I need to focus on my to-do list early in the morning.
Exercising can also have the same effect — a boost of energy to jumpstart your day. I honestly don’t exercise daily, but I do try to get in a little yoga or stretching each morning to get my blood flowing and reduce lower back and neck pain from sitting at the computer for long hours.
Plan Every Hour of My Ideal Week
Definitely, the most time-intensive task I had to do on my journey to becoming a productivity ninja was to create my ideal week planner. I learned this process from Lavendaire as well and it was very eye-opening because I realized just how much time I was wasting during the 168 hours that we all have in a week…
Yes, that is right, 168 HOURS! Even if we subtract 8 hours of work for 5 days and another 8 hours of sleep on every day of the week, that still leaves us with 72 hours (3 ENTIRE DAYS) to accomplish whatever we want, or to do things that we enjoy.
Here is Lavendaire’s exercise for developing this plan — I highly recommend downloading her Ideal Week Planning template:
Practice the N.E.T. Concept
One of Tony Robbins’ productivity hacks is harnessing the power of N.E.T. time – No Extra Time – and to use the seemingly unavoidable wasted time you spend commuting, running errands, exercising or cleaning the house to feed your mind with high-quality coaching or learn new information in a structured way.
Now keep in mind that you have to spend some time curating what information/content you want to consume during these periods ahead of time… So you have to build that into your weekly schedule. I suggest keeping a private playlist on YouTube for NET time and even tagging things to read later in one of your Evernote notebooks.
Have a Dedicated Space for Work and Relaxation
If you are a full-time student, blogger, teleworker or even a digital nomad, it is so important to have an organized dedicated space to work to inspire focus and creativity. My office space at home takes up a dedicated room that my family automatically knows is off limits — off limit to distractions or for them to use. I installed a whiteboard to keep my monthly goals front and center view and also have plenty of natural and artificial light in the room to make sure I stay alert.
It is also essential to separate the space where you work from the place where you relax. It is very hard to be as productive in bed in front of the TV as in a dedicated workspace. I also have a folding laptop desk for those days I am lazy or sick in bed, but I generally work in my office and retire to my bedroom only when it is time to go to sleep. Keeping these spaces separate automatically trains my mind on what I need to do while in the space.
I also have a dedicated meditation area in my bedroom stocked with floor pillows, Buddha incense holder, candles, a prayer book and more. I installed a very low hanging shelf for the area that allows me to access everything while sitting on the floor.
Watch this video to learn just how many of the world’s most successful people meditate daily and its benefits for productivity:
Set JUST 2 Monthly Goals and Keep Them in View
What originally prompted me to embark on this journey to study the productivity habits of the most successful people was deciding to choose two monthly goals each month — one personal goal and one professional goal — that I focus all of my energy on accomplishing. My personal goal that month (November 2017) was to become a “productivity ninja” (as I coined it). Choosing only two goals per month doesn’t mean that I don’t have other things that I want to accomplish within a month or week, but limiting it to only two goals makes it easy to remember them constantly and focus all of my energy on them to attract the result that I want from the universe.
These goals can be whatever you want! Since I was launching my blog this September, I decided that this month’s professional goal was to write 3-5 blog posts by August 31st. It is so important that your goals are measurable, specific and realistic (they are automatically time-constrained because they are monthly goals). And I also made sure that I only choose goals that will take more than a few days but less than 30 to accomplish.
Choosing monthly goals are great particularly for adopting new habits… Such as becoming a productivity ninja!
I hope you enjoyed my list of 12 productivity hacks that transformed me into a productivity ninja in less than 30 days!
Thanks for reading and sharing,
P.S. Did I miss a productivity hack that has changed your life? Leave it in the comments below!
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