When you’re reading productivity articles, you don’t want vague ideas, you want actionable steps that you can take to literally increase your productivity today.
You want practical, applicable tips.
I’ve tried my best to make this blog full of actionable tips you can apply to every day of your life.
This article may be the most actionable of them all.
Here are 10 of the most important actions you can take right now, today, to increase your productivity by leaps and bounds…
1. Create Your Plan
If you want to actually accomplish something, you need goals.
If you want to achieve those goals, you need a plan.
A plan to improve.
A plan to grow.
But how do you create that plan?
It’s simple, here are 5 basic steps to create your own personal development plan (click here for the full details):
- Make a list of your priorities
- Formulate goals based on those priorities
- Develop a strategy to accomplish your goals
- Write down your priorities, goals and strategy, in one place
- Develop daily rituals to continuously act on your plan and your strategy
Once you have a plan in place, all you have to do is keep acting on it and reevaluate it monthly.
Plans change as your goals change, so you’ll want to make sure you’re staying on track.
2. Clear Your To-Do List
To-do lists are great, but how often do we let them get so full that we can’t even see the bottom?
It’s OK. It happens.That’s why you need to clear your list.
Note: First, let me make something clear: I have a “brain dump” list for random notes and ideas that pop into my head.
I think it’s a great idea to keep a list like that, but know that it should not be the same list as your to-do list.
On another note, you shouldn’t be using your email inbox as a to-do list either.
If it’s an actionable item, put it on your list and archive the email.
For clearing your list, it really comes down to a few things.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks
- Automate anything that can be automated
- Delegate things that you don’t have to do yourself
- Postpone things that are less of a priority
- Break Down your list into action steps
- Schedule everything that’s left
3. Conquer Your Mornings
I find my mornings to be the most productive time of the day.
I can accomplish more between 4am-8am than I can the entire rest of the day.
There is something magical about the morning time.
If you don’t believe me, I suggest trying to rise early for 30 days.
If it’s not for you, you don’t have to keep doing it, but I’m betting you’ll be on board.
Becoming a morning person is actually pretty easy.
Start by making sure you’re getting enough sleep, then begin to make a gradual shift to an earlier wake-up time.
Start by waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal for one week.
Then begin to keep reducing your wake-up time by 15 minutes every few days until you’re where you want to be.
Try some or all of these positive and productive ways to start your day to make the transition as easy as possible.
Sure caffeine can help, but don’t strictly rely on drinking a pot of coffee to become a morning person.
It doesn’t work like that…or at least, not for long.
4. Maximize Your Energy
The most important (and most forgotten) part of your productivity is your energy level.
You could read a million productivity tips, but if you don’t have the energy to take action, they won’t help much.
So how do you maximize your energy?
First off, while sleep is very important, your energy is NOT all about sleep.
In fact, if you’re feeling fatigued, a few minutes of exercise could do more for you than a quick nap.
As long as you’re getting enough sleep and most importantly, sleeping in 1.5 hour increments (sleep cycles: ex: 6 hours, 7.5 hrs, etc.), then you will need to increase your energy from other places.
Diet and exercise are the two most helpful areas to increase your energy.
Learn how to gradually adopt healthy eating habits and slowly add more exercise into your daily routine.
You will feel better…and the results are pretty quick.
5. Take Back Your Time
We all feel like there’s not enough time in the day, but why?
Do you know where your time is spent or do you spend your evening wondering where the day went?
It’s time to take control and here’s how to do it:
- Make a list of where your hours are spent (work, home, school, etc.)
- Time your non-fixed activities (gym, grocery shopping, TV, etc.)
- Make a schedule to include things you need and want to do
- Plan for lazy blocks of time and even entire lazy days
It’s perfectly fine to relax and even to be lazy, but you need to plan it out.
Like anything, you’ll want to reevaluate your schedule to make sure it’s working and improve its efficiency.
6. Minimize Your Commitments
You’re probably overcommitted.
We all are.
You may be someone who needs to say “no” more often.
Most importantly, you need to prioritize your commitments and eliminate the junk.
All your commitments should be getting you closer to your goals.
If they aren’t, they need to go.
If you truly want margin and freedom in your life, you must limit yourself to the important things.
7. Reduce Your Choices
You make choices everyday, but you may be making more than necessary.
Living a choice-minimal lifestyle will free up your time for the things that are really important.
Here are a few areas in which you can reduce your choices:
- Spend less time deciding what to wear. Limit your wardrobe to all matching items.
- Spend less time deciding what to eat. Separate your meals into pleasure (take your time to decide) and fuel (eating the same things over and over).
I prefer dinners as my pleasure meals and I eat the same things for breakfast and lunch.
- Spend less time complaining and regretting. Both of these are just useless.
Complaints help no one and they hurt you by shifting your mindset into the negative. Regrets serve no purpose.
Live life, make mistakes, learn from them, move on.
8. Create Positive Habits
Positive habits are the foundation of a successful life.
Whether that includes better financial habits, reading, working out or whatever fits into your life, positive habits will get you where you want to go.
So how do you create a positive habit?
You start small.
Want to run a marathon, without prior running experience?
Start by running half a mile or less.
Then slowly move up to running more.
Start so small that it almost seems too easy.
So small you can’t say “no” to doing it.
Positive habits are something you need to focus intently on and you must consistently practice them.
You have room for positive habits, even if you’re “too busy”.
Of course, to create more room for positive habits, you may need to break some bad habits, but don’t just break them, replace them!
9. Create More Discipline
I’ve said that energy is the most important part of productivity and that’s true, but even if you have energy, a lack of self-discipline can still prevent you from improving and growing.
But that’s perfectly fine, because discipline is something you can improve.
Discipline is contagious, to others and in your own life.
Discipline begets discipline.
Try starting a new morning running routine.
You’ll find that it’s easier to stick with your other habits.
When you’re disciplined in one area, it’s easier to become discipline in another.
Completing tasks and accomplishing goals releases endorphins that can literally get you addicted to succeeding.
Just remember, much of discipline is about not being hard on yourself when you’re undisciplined.
You can try the old-school military-style discipline if you want, but more and more studies are showing that it’s better to forgive yourself when you stumble or when you stop for a period of time.
10. Include Your Family
It’s easy for us to get so caught up in improving ourselves and increasing our productivity that we forget to bring the family along.
This is not only key for being productive, but it’s key for a healthy family.
Your spouse wants to be productive too, so help him/her to implement the new techniques you learn.
Apply productivity hacks in your work and then bring them home so the whole family can benefit from them.
You can even start teaching your kids about productivity.
And the best part is that once they learn to be more productive, that will increase your productivity even more!