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The Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Productivity

The Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Productivity


This guide will show you how to increase and maximize your Productivity in the office and at home.

Minute Read

This guide will show you how to increase and maximize your productivity in the office and at home.



What You'll Learn:

  • Actions you can take right now to improve productivity
  • The most effective part of productivity that we all forget
  • How to create a blueprint for your self-development
  • How to spend all of your time productively
  • Productivity tips from the super-productive achievers
  • Some specific things I’ve found to increase productivity
  • How to be more productive through infographics
  • All of the best productivity tools and books


10 Important Actions You Can Take Right Now

Chapter 1:
The Most Effective and Most Forgotten Part of Productivity

Chapter 2:
How to Create a Self-Development Blueprint

Chapter 3:
Choosing to Spend Your Time Productively

Chapter 4:
Let Them Do the Work: Learning From Others

Chapter 5:
A Few Things I’ve Found to Increase Productivity

Chapter 6:
The Best Productivity Tools and Books


10 Important Actions You Can Take Right Now

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…

In the Preface, I’m going to briefly go over much of what’s in this guide. Each point has the relevant chapter linked below it.

1. Create Your Plan

(Chapter 2)

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:

  1. Make a list of your priorities
  2. Formulate goals based on those priorities
  3. Develop a strategy to accomplish your goals
  4. Write down your priorities, goals and strategy, in one place
  5. 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

(Chapter 3)

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. That makes getting to inbox zero much easier, doesn’t it?
For clearing your list, it really comes down to a few things. You must:
  • 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

(Chapter 5)

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

(Chapter 1)

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

(Chapter 3)

Where does your time go?

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

(Chapter 3)

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

(Chapter 3)

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

(Check out the “Habits” Guide for more on this)

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

(Check out the “Habits” Guide for more on this)

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

(Chapter 3)

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!

Chapter 1

The Most Effective and Most Forgotten Part of Productivity

I have written plenty of articles on productivity and I have read thousands.

I’ve read articles, books, guides…pretty much anything you can think of, but I’ve noticed there’s something that gets skipped over a lot.

This is probably the most important part of productivity, yet it’s usually mentioned in a sentence or two and then forgotten.

What is this mysterious piece of the puzzle? I’m glad you asked, let me tell you…

Your Energy

That’s it. The most important element of your productivity is your energy level. Without energy, nothing gets done.

The most important element of your productivity is your energy level.
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Most of the time this gets dismissed by a simple “of course, you need to eat right and exercise” or something along those lines. That’s not enough. This is a vital aspect. Seriously.
How can you utilize the latest productivity hack or advice if you don’t even have the energy to get off the couch? Now I didn’t write this to only tell you what the problem is; I’m going to give you the solution too…

Chris Bailey conducted a year of productivity experiments.

In his findings he realized that all of the productivity advice he consumed and wrote about over the course of that year could be categorized into three areas:

  • Time
  • Attention
  • Energy
Of course we have to have the time to do what needs to be done. And your level of attention is directly related to your level of energy.

Now that I have your time and attention (see what I did there)…I’d like to dive straight in and tell you what you need to know about increasing your energy levels, because without energy, productivity advice is useless.

Energy is Not All About Sleep

Energy has less to do with sleep than you may think. Sure, you need to get enough sleep and try to plan your sleep around your sleep cycles (about 90 minutes each), which means sleeping in multiples of 90 minutes (ex: 6 hours, 7.5 hours, 9 hours). You’ll also want to limit your caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before bed and make sure you have a good mattress.

Other than that, your energy is about how you live your day.

New research suggests that exercise can fight fatigue better than taking naps and sleeping more. Exercise boosts your energy levels. If you wake up feeling tired, try going for a walk or doing some jumping jacks, then see how you feel. Trust me, it works.

In studies where groups have tried exercising vs. not exercising when tired, the first group was shown to have more energy. I think this sums up the typical thought process against exercising when tired:

“Too often we believe that a quick workout will leave us worn out — especially when we are already feeling fatigued,” said researcher Tim Puetz, in a news release. Dr. Puetz recently completed his doctorate at the university and is the lead author of the study. “However, we have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy — particularly in sedentary individuals.”

There you have it. Exercise is key to more energy. But that’s not all. Your diet is equally, if not more important. Enough with the studies, research and quotes from the docs…here are several ways to increase your energy:

  1. Strategize your caffeine consumption, instead of overdoing it
  2. Exercise first thing in the morning, even if only for a few minutes
  3. Drink lots of water, especially right after you wake up
  4. Keep early morning meals light; think smoothies, fruit and vegetables
  5. Consume less heavy carbs (ex: white bread/flour, simple sugars, etc.)
  6. Don’t hit the snooze button, it will only make you feel more groggy
  7. When all else fails, take a nap or tie this in with #1 and take a coffee nap

If you really want to take your productivity seriously and get stuff done, you need to work on increasing your energy levels. Sleep right, eat right and exercise. That’s really what it’s all about. Even if you work a desk job, you can still get up and take a walk every couple hours. That will bring some energy back to your day.

As far as eating right goes, I personally know that I feel better than ever when I am eating a Paleo based diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and meat. No heavy grains, heavy starches or simple sugars. That works for me; find what works for you. Likewise, a green smoothie can give you the same boost as a cup of coffee. And remember to plan your meals around your productivity.

If you want to be productive, focus on your energy.

The Productivity Tip That Sounds Stupid, But Works

This productivity tip may sound ridiculous, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

Want to Be More Productive? Here’s the Secret…

I’m going to give this away right now, in the beginning, but you must know three things:

  1. It’s going to sound really stupid.
  2. It works, so ignore how stupid it sounds.
  3. You must keep reading to take full advantage.

I need you to bare with me and hear me out, so put your thinking cap on (I love clichés).

Here it is: the best way to be more productive is to be productive.

We’re both adults here, so let’s be honest. You don’t feel like doing stuff…way too often, as far as you’re concerned. You want to be more productive, but you don’t “feel” like being productive. Well there is the energy factor mentioned above, and you need to be self-aware of your own moods and methods, but as an adult, you’ve just got to start doing.

I know you don’t feel like it, but since when has that been a thing for adults? You do it anyways, and here’s why:

When you start getting stuff done, checking off that to-do list, and seeing results, the motivation comes. Motivation is not something you need in order to start getting things done; motivation is something that comes with action. And you know it. Action is powerful; it creates motivation, and it cures fear.

Action is powerful; it creates motivation, and it cures fear.
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When you start seeing progress, it’s easy to keep going. But you have to get started. That’s why this isn’t talked about in every productivity article — because it’s hard. But all you have to do is get started, see what I’m talking about, and then it will click. From there, you’ll be able to do this all the time.

Riding Motivation Waves

You know what a motivation wave is, because you’ve experienced it before.

That time when, out of nowhere, you decided to organize your entire DVD library. Or the time your house was messy for weeks until one day you decided to clean and you cleaned the entire house before dinner. Those are motivation waves. They’re very real, and you must take advantage of them.

Sometimes they show up unannounced, and we don’t know why, but you have to use them wisely. But the more important thing to know is that you can create motivation waves by taking action and getting stuff done. Motivation always follows action.

Listen to Dr. B.J. Fogg, originator of the Tiny Habits movement, briefly explain motivation waves:

You’ve experienced this, right? I think we all have.

Putting it All Together

Remember, motivation waves don’t always come unannounced. You can create them with action.

So once you start acting, and you create a motivation wave, ride it out. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Take action.
  2. Let the motivation hit.
  3. Ride the motivation wave.

If you want to know more about motivation waves, here’s a more detailed video from Dr. Fogg:

Once you start to implement this on a regular basis, you will start to see huge results.

You’re essentially batching tasks together, and using action to create the motivation required to complete those takes.

And it will work wonders. Try it.

The next time you have a couple hours free, make a list of things you need to do, and start acting on them. Watch how it gets easier and easier as you go through the list. The motivation will get stronger as you check off more things and get everything done.

It’s not hard to get things done, it’s only hard to get started.

You could always boost the time by taking caffeine (see the toggle below) before you get started, but only if you’re working in the first part of the day. The caffeine and the motivation wave will keep you awake if you start too late.

This isn’t all just a “good idea,” it’s an actual method that works. I have used this method over and over, and the motivation does come. And then riding a motivation wave feels so productive. There’s no better way to get a large task, or a long list of small tasks done. And there’s no better way to spend a few free hours.

How to Effectively Use Caffeine to Boost Your Productivity

Do you drink coffee everyday?

If you’re over 18, you probably do. Statistically.

Over 50% over Americans (over the age of 18) consume coffee on a daily basis.

You may be the kind of person who gets cranky when you don’t have your coffee, or you may be able to go without it.

Either way, if you drink it everyday, you are sabotaging yourself from the benefits you could be getting from that age-old energy booster known as caffeine.

Here’s how you should be doing it…

Caffeine: You’re Doing it Wrong

I am guilty of drinking coffee everyday. It’s like a ritual for me (or at least it used to be).

It’s mostly a mental thing.

Consuming caffeine daily can really increase your body’s tolerance…which means it basically stops working. (Or, at least, it takes much more for the same effect)

To start getting the most out of caffeine, your first step is to quit drinking it for a week. An entire week.

That’s 7 days, if you’re wondering. (Or if you are trying to justify why a “business week” would be suitable)

You will need to take this step before you can really get started on the road to using caffeine effectively.

6 Tips for Effective Caffeine Consumption

Once you have spent an entire week caffeine-free, you are ready to implement these strategies…

1. Spread It Out

Try drinking coffee or tea over a longer period of time. This will release the caffeine more steadily, over a longer period, which will help sustain your energy levels.

2. Drink Water First

If you typically drink coffee first thing in the morning, try drinking a large glass of water first. Hydrating your body can increase your energy and you may not even need the coffee. Or you can use caffeine later in the day when you start to lose energy.

3. Consume Less Caffeine

Don’t go back to drinking coffee daily (switch to decaf if you must). Use caffeine when you need it. It will be much more effective to only use caffeine when you have a big job to do or when you need an extra boost.

4. Stick With the Basics

Coffee and tea can be great for implementing a moderate amount of caffeine. Stay away from the sugary drinks (including artificial sweeteners). They can give you the initial boost, but you will most likely end up crashing shortly after. If you haven’t noticed, I have been mostly mentioning coffee and tea for a reason (not Monster and Red Bull).

5. Eat Right

If you’re consuming more protein/complex carbohydrates and less junk/simple carbohydrates, you will automatically feel better. It will also allow caffeine to work more effectively since it won’t be competing with a bunch of processed nonsense.

5. Wait Before Another Cup

Don’t be so quick to grab a second cup of coffee or tea. You may not need it, or it may be more effective to save it for later. Give the caffeine time to start working. Wait before you make the quick decision to grab another cup.

6. Eat First

Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach can be a bad thing. I admit that I like taking caffeine on an empty stomach when I really want to get a boost and it is very effective for that, but don’t make it a habit. Here’s why:

“Drinking coffee on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning, stimulates hydrochloric acid production. This can be a problem because HCl should only be produced to digest meals. If your body has to make HCl more often in response to regular cups of coffee, it may have difficulty producing enough to deal with a large meal.”

More Ways to Caffeinate

With all this coffee talk, it’s easy to forget that there are literally thousands of ways to consume caffeine and coffee is just one of them.

Caffeine pills are a great way to just get the caffeine. They can be a better alternative to sugary coffee or energy drinks. These caffeine pills are great.Of course, like anything, you don’t want to take them all the time or in excess.

Another (and more natural) option is Guarana. Guarana is a plant (it actually comes from the seed) with naturally occuring caffeine.

Green Coffee Bean Extract and Green Tea Extract are other great options for more natural energy boosters.

With most energy boosting options, it’s still caffeine. It’s important to take caffeine in moderation for your health and for the best results, but if you can use it responsibly, it can be a great boost.

Chapter 2

6 Steps to Create Your Self-Development Blueprint

What is a self-development blueprint?

It’s simply a game plan or a blueprint for improving your life and yourself.

We’re constantly growing and learning. It helps to make a plan. Learning is much more effective when it’s strategic.

Are you reading books, listening to audio and watching videos? Most of us are.

Are they getting you closer to your goals? Let’s start working on your game plan…

Step 1: Start With Your Priorities

Start by asking yourself these 3 questions:

  • Why do I want to improve myself?
  • Why do I want to be more productive?
  • What’s the most important thing in my life?

Everything else is dependent upon your answers to those three questions.

They may seem like obvious questions, but you need to make sure you can actually answer them. Have you ever thought about it?

You must answer these questions before you can set your goals, because your goals should be based on the answers.

Step 2: Turn Your Priorities Into Goals

Your priorities define your goals.
Every time you set a new goal, ask yourself if it’s inline with your priorities. Every goal will take you closer to your priorities or farther away.

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but that’s because it works…

Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-Bound.

Step 3: Develop Your Strategy

This is where the self-development really starts. You need a strategy.
You can read self-help books all day long, but if they aren’t related to your goals and priorities, are you really doing much good?

You should be developing a reading/listening/watching list of books/audio/video that you want to take in.

Find the best format for you. Some people like turning the crisp pages of a new book, others listen to books while they’re out for a run. Or you may need to watch a video to help you focus and learn visually.

If you’re like me, you do all three! The point is to find your favorite format and take advantage of it.

You should always have a list of relevant teaching ready. Plan it in advance. Don’t wait until you finish a book to start searching for a new book. Plan ahead.

And be realistic with the information you take in. If it’s productive for you to read several books at once, do it, but if you’re only able to focus on one at a time, read one at a time.

You may want to plan different areas at different times of the day. Finance in the morning, productivity in the evening, health at supper time? You know if you’re capable of doing it. Be honest with yourself.

Step 4: Create Your Plan

You’ve got your priorities and your goals. Now you know your strategy. Let’s put it into action.
Your plan should be written (like your goals) and it should be broken down.

Use these 4 steps to create your plan (we’ll use books as an example):

  1. Write it down. Write down everything, from the books you want to read to the goals you plan to accomplish.
  2. Break it down. Figure out how many books you need to read each year and which goals you will complete.
  3. Break it down, again. Break it down by month, then to the week. Then you should know how much you need to do.
  4. Create your days. We will get into daily rituals in a moment. For now, just figure out how much you need to accomplish each day.

If you’re married, it’s good to create a plan together…and then tweak your individual plans.

Step 5: Develop Rituals

You should have a full plan now. The best way to accomplish your plan is to chip away at it with small, daily habits. And you’ll want to create rituals.
The word “ritual” might make you think of religious activities or ceremonies, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We need to get away from routines and work towards having rituals. Routines are boring, they never change and they aren’t effective.

Here is how I define a ritual (I’m keeping it simple! You’re welcome.):

An activity or group of activities, practiced daily, that leads you toward your goals.

When you’re planning, use a schedule. And schedule your rituals.

If you’re married, share a schedule with your spouse. My wife and I use Google Calendar. We both have iPhones, so we are able to sync our calendars. If one of us adds an event, the other automatically gets it. Perfecto!

I have a morning ritual and an evening ritual. I would recommend both. They have worked extremely well for me.

Step 6: Check, Re-Check and Check Again

Like any ongoing plan, your self-development blueprint should be ever-changing. It will grow as you grow.

Measuring your progress is the key to improving your plan.

Don’t think of this as just a self-development blueprint, think of it as a life blueprint.

Your plan for improving yourself is your path to achieving your goals.

I’ll end with one of the most common proverbs on planning, but think about it in context to your life plan:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

Chapter 3

Choosing to Spend Your Time Productively

Let me guess.  You have a to-do list and you add to it everyday.

You promptly go through each item and check it off, one after one.

By the end of the day, your list is completely empty and awaiting whatever tasks tomorrow holds.

Not so much?

Since you’re here, reading this article, I assume that it doesn’t go so smoothly. It doesn’t go so smoothly for me either.

You are constantly adding to your list and occasionally checking something off.

Enough is enough. When your to-do list is so full that you forget about things at the bottom, it’s time to change something.

Here’s how to completely clear your to-list today and start getting stuff done, without overwhelming yourself…

Before You Clear the List

In David Allen’s famous book “Getting Things Done“, he talks about the importance of clearing your head and getting all of those thoughts out to make room for new thoughts. This is probably my favorite part of his entire book.

I think keeping a clear head is a must, to be as productive as possible, so I do this all the time.

I personally use an app that syncs to my Google task list, called GoTasks.

There’s not much to it. It’s simple. And I like it like that.

I have several different lists, including one I call “The Master List”. This is the list I use to brain dump.

If I hear of a book or website I want to check out, I instantly put it on this list. If an idea pops into my head…this list. Literally everything goes here. Then later, I’ll come through and sort it into my “Reading List” or my “Idea List”, etc…

Now you know how my list is created. Your list may be similar, but either way, let’s talk about clearing it.

6 Steps to Clear Your To-Do List

Here are the steps I take to clear my list. You can do this today and I recommend doing it at least once per week from this point on. It may take several hours the first day, but after you do it once, you can do it weekly and it will actually be a fairly quick process.

  1. Eliminate – Go through every single item on your to-do list and eliminate the unnecessary tasks. Some you may have already completed, some may be out-dated and others may just not make sense anymore. Eliminate as much as you can.
  2. Automate – You may have reoccurring tasks on your list (i.e. bills) that you don’t have to be doing yourself. Automate as much as possible and you will create time for other tasks. At minimum, you can automate most parts of your finances.
  3. Delegate – You may have things on your list that need to be done, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them. Decide what you’re willing to delegate and find the right person for the job. Try websites like Fiverr and Elance to find help.
  4. Postpone – Many of the things on your list should simply be postponed. They may be important things that need to be done, but there also may be so many more important things that you just can’t do them right now. It’s OK to postpone.
  5. Breakdown – Now you should have a list full of the top priorities and the must-do items. Break them down into reasonable increments and small sessions. You’re getting ready to start scheduling everything that’s left.
  6. Schedule – Now that you have everything broken down and you know about how much time you’ll need for each, put everything into your schedule. Once it goes into your schedule, check it off your to-do list. You now have a time slot for everything.

That’s it. Your schedule is the most important part. If you want to get things done, you must make time for them, therefore you must schedule them.

It’s Really That Simple

If you can’t find time in your schedule for a task, you may need to put it off. You will also need to stick to your schedule to make this work.

For really large projects, schedule it daily.

For example: If you’re writing a book, figure out how many words or pages you want your book to be. Divide that number by the number of days you want to complete your book in. Then write that many pages or words each day.

Once you put this stuff into your schedule, you’ll be amazed at how it actually gets accomplished. To-do lists are awesome, but only when we actually do the things on the list!

I am guilty of having an overflowing to-do list. That’s exactly why I knew I had to find a way to clear it, and of course, share that way with you. It can be stressfull to feel like you’re never going to clear your list.

Now I hope you feel like you can clear it. 

4 Productivity Principles You Need to Know

You want to work smarter, not harder. You want to be more efficient – more productive.

But what are some practical and applicable principles and techniques that can help you do that?

Here are four of the foundational principles you need to follow to achieve more in less time…

1. Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle – The 80/20 rule, which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes or 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.

Think about it. In your work, business or side hustle, where do the results come from?

Asking this question will help you determine where to invest your time.

This also goes for your personal life as well. Exercise, dieting and personal development are a few examples.

This rule really shows you that you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to focus on what’s important.

Put this into action: Write down your top three most productive things in your work and in your personal life. Try to put at least 80% of your focus on your top items and watch the results role in. You may find that you’re spending 80% of your time on things that really don’t matter – things that are only getting you 20% of the results.

2. Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law – An adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if you plan a one hour block for a task, you will work at a pace that gets the task done in an hour.

If I plan to write an article in two days, I will write it in two days. If I plan for 90 minutes, I’ll get it done in 90 minutes.

This is one of those crazy laws of life that just seems to work. Use it your advantage.

Most importantly, if you know you can finish something within a given time period, stop wasting your time and dragging it out.

Put this into action: Use an actual timer and start setting some limits. Set a time to begin and a time to stop working.

3. Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique – The process of breaking your work into chunks. 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break – that’s one pomodoro. Once you complete four pomodoros, take a longer break (20-30 minutes).

Parkinson’s Law is in full force with the Pomodoro Technique. Before long, you’ll know what you’re capable of during a 25 minutes pomodoro and you will start knocking things out.

Put this into action: Get a timer and start the clock. Work for 25 minutes, rest for five. After four times, take a 30 minutes break. Then repeat the process.

4. Eisenhower Matrix

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. -Dwight Eisenhower

I’ve heard this referred to as many different things and countless authors have used it in their books, but it’s most commonly referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s as simple as it looks, but it does require you to be honest about your tasks.

You’ll separate everything you need to do for the day into four categories:

  • Urgent and important (do these immediately).
  • Important, but not urgent (create your plan to do these).
  • Urgent, but not important (delegate or automate these).
  • Neither urgent nor important (eliminate these).

The problem is that we tend to focus too much of our time on the “urgent, but not important” and too little of our time on the “important, but not urgent”. And that’s completely backwards. Often, the “important, but not urgent” things are going to produce the greatest results in your life.

If something is important, but not urgent, that means 1) it could be one of the most important things you’ll ever do, and 2) it’s easy to keeping putting it off.

Put this into action: Create your own box. It doesn’t need to be fancy; a simple paper and pen box will do. Write down a list of everything you need to do (or could do) today. Put each item in it’s place. Then follow the place in parenthesis above for each item (ex: do urgent and important tasks immediately, eliminate neither urgent nor important tasks, etc.).

If You Want Freedom, Limit Yourself

So now that our to-do list is in order, we have to ask ourselves a few questions…

What’s the point of productivity apps, to-do lists and organizational methods?

Why does an article about “10 quick productivity hacks” catch your attention so easily?

The answer is simple: freedom.

We’re all looking for more time and ways to work “smarter, not harder”…and we should be. But you may be missing the first step.

What’s the first step? Well, if you want more freedom in your life, first you must limit yourself…

Why Another Tool, App or Hack Isn’t the Answer

Increasing your productivity is awesome. Half of this blog is dedicated to doing exactly that, but it’s important to increase your productivity in the right areas.

You may be spending hours to make something more efficient, when in reality, it should just be eliminated.

Tools are great for working smarter and getting organized, but first, figure out what needs to go. Then you can start using the tools to make yourself more productive with what’s left.

What You Need in Your Life

What is truly important to you? Family? Relationships? Your business? Leaving an inheritance? A legacy?

That’s your starting place.

Are you working hard towards things that aren’t important? You may be. We’ve all been guilty of it.

Limiting yourself starts with limiting distractions.

So what are your distractions? Television? Video games? The internet? Facebook?

It’s true that being productive means accomplishing what you’ve set out to accomplish, thus, playing video games for a couple hours on a day you’v

This post first appeared on Money And Productivity​. Short, ​Sweet & ​Si, please read the originial post: here

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