So much to do so little time. Considering the world gets busier by the day, productivity and efficiency have become an essence of success. Some people accomplish very difficult things at a ridiculously fast pace. So what makes those people different from an average person?
Usually when it comes to productivity, we rely on our willpower to get through. The problem lies in the fact that willpower is an exhaustible source. Convincing yourself to do more and try harder isn’t effective because of this effect, so a more methodical approach is needed. Multiple elements are involved in productivity and their impact differs among people. These are the five practices you can use to improve your productivity and put an end to procrastination.
Dress to impress
Maybe this will sound superficial, but looks have an effect on productivity. If you take your look more seriously, you will take your work more seriously. But it doesn’t mean you should wear an expensive suit and be on the phone 80% of your waking time. Showering every day and wearing clothes that make you feel confident and serious will work just fine. Same principle goes for the working environment – if it’s tidy and clean you will feel the effects on your productivity.
Even if you are working from home, the clothes you wear and the look of your environment will influence your productivity.
One of the biggest barriers to productivity is the beginning of the project, as people tend to visualize the hardest parts to come and how things might fail. As a result people try to stimulate real work by doing the easiest tasks which require the least effort.
When you start something, you feel more compelled to finish that task because uncompleted tasks leave a feeling of discomfort and guilt. Scientifically this is called Ovsiankina effect – the tendency to pick up an interrupted action again when it has still not been achieved. Doing small, easy tasks may erase the guilt for some time, but speaking of long term it’s just a method of self-deception.
So hack your brain a bit and start working on that long assay today. It will poke your brain in all the right ways to make procrastinating more uncomfortable.
As we said before, just endlessly working on tasks or avoiding them with smaller, brainless ones is not a good approach to boost your productivity. Instead of diluting work throughout the day it is better to split your working time with breaks. Disciplined scheduling involves 30-90 minutes of focused work followed by 10-20 minutes of break. Best students, first class musicians and athletes know this approach very good. What it does for your brain is that it gives it time to relax and replenish, while keeping your willpower from dissipating.
How long will work or break time last, depends entirely on you and your work. Essence is to break down your working time into sessions with planned relaxation. This method proved very effective in conserving mental energy and focus.
It is also advised to finish harder tasks first, so you properly use that initial energy. After working some time, your energy drops and it’s better to leave easier tasks for that time.
If you don’t know how to plan your time, in terms that you don’t know how long it will take to finish each task, an accountability chart is a good way to see how much time you need. Similar to a diary, you write every day how much time you needed to complete each task. Like this you can have an overview of your productivity and see how it can be improved.
How to develop discipline to be consistent with work? One of the ways is to mark the date for completing a certain task.
If we take Elon Musk for an example, he is known for setting impossible deadlines for his projects. This method is known by the name of stretch goals – goals that are beyond your current capabilities, or your perception of them. We can see how this can be effective for achieving more success. Tesla wanted to release the first Roadster in 2006, but the date was pushed back until the late 2008. As one of former executives of SpaceX said: “It’s like he has everyone working on this car that is meant to get from Los Angeles to New York on one tank of gas. They will work on the car for a year and test all of its parts. Then, when they set off for New York after that year, all the vice presidents think privately that the car will be lucky to get to New Mexico – twice as far as they ever expected – and Elon is still mad. He gets twice as much as anyone else out of people”.
This is an effect that stretch goals have, they push people to go beyond their preconceived capabilities. Maybe you won’t achieve the goal, but you’re going to accomplish far more than you expected. Doing things that are outside your comfort zone results in progress and personal development.
At the end, the most important element of productivity is the mindset you have. Although it can be greatly affected by the outside world, motivation comes from the inside. Being productive and efficient requires a lot of dedication, but also a particular way of thinking.
Successful people have an anything-is-possible attitude. You can always do things better and improve already existing structures. This is well known, but when striving to get better, we make a great mistake by comparing ourselves to other people. There is nothing wrong in looking up to someone, but success of others shouldn’t be the only criterion of how successful or productive you are. Instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Compete with yourself. “Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” said Lao Tzu. Being better than yesterday may seem like a small thing but it adds up with time, and after a while you’ll see that all those small pieces made a big change.