How To Be More Productive

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to be more productive.

Success is a door with many keys and one of them is productivity. We live in a time in which working hard is considered to be one of the most desirable traits to look for in an employee or potential business partner. The problem is that most take this advice literally and miss the forest for the trees. So we find people working to a sweat believing this is the way to go if they want to achieve their dreams. What matters, however, is not so much the sweat equity, but how much you can get done. How productive you are at the end of the day. Getting there is what this post is about.

How to be more productive

Distinguish the essential  from the trivial

The first and most important thing to have a productive day, week, month, or year is to be able to distinguish the essential from the trivial. The reason for this is that if you rely only on a todo list, chances are that most of what you set out to do at the beginning of the journey will likely have less impact to the big picture than it would if you put some thought behind your work for the day.

I realized this fact more than once across different areas of my life. Whenever I gave myself the time to think through all the possible tasks and their respective impact on the big picture goal, often enough I realized that the day could have been cut much shorter if I just focused on one or two key tasks. The idea here is not to fill your schedule with activities but to deliberately pick the ones that matter. The reason why this is so important is that as optimistic as we might be with regards to our willpower and motivation to complete all the tasks in the todo list, rarely are the instances in which we manage to go through all of them. This is assuming you’re a part of the majority. Add to this the fact that from the few tasks we manage to tackle chances are that the ones that matter the least are the one that gets the checkmark at the end of the day. The tasks that really matter to our goals tend to be funny like that. Their potential impact is usually several times greater than the average task, but at the same time, we also find it several times more difficult to go through them. So they don’t get done until they have to get done.

This idea is proposed by the book The one thing by Gary Keller, who takes it a step further. Instead of just looking for the fundamental tasks and generating a todo list of those, the book gives us the idea that maybe we should find the key tasks from the list of key tasks, and on and on, until we have nothing but one thing. Hence the name “The one thing”.

Get your health in order

The next tip on how to be more productive is to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be. It’s surprising how small and seemingly inconsequential health issues can affect your productivity. A small infection here or there might not make you have to stay in bed for the rest of the day but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect your productivity. Health issues tend to drain extra energy from the body for healing purposes, and that energy could be applied in tackling your to-do list.

By “Get your health in order” I don’t only mean not being unhealthy. The ideal is in fact to be more than just healthy. I’m talking about firing on all cylinders, and this can’t be achieved if your target is only to not be sick. This requires a constant search for ways to improve your mental and physical sharpness, and before you start thinking that all self-improvement products of the kind are not real, let me tell you: they are not.

There is a growing industry a good number of people are not aware of whose purpose is to take the human mind and body to the next level. Although these tools might not make you a genius or a super athlete, there is considerable evidence that they can make you a much better version of what you are right now. At the end of this post, I’ll leave a list of resources you can start from.

Remove things from your plate

The next tip might be to some probably the most difficult tip to apply, and I’m one of them. The desire to accomplish great things does more than push us to work harder. It also makes it more difficult to pass on opportunities with potential for success. If you give in to this fear, eventually you’ll find yourself with lots to do and very little time to do anything else. With more to do also comes more stress, and eventually what once seemed to be a good idea, now looks and feels like a burden.

Overcommitments eventually lead us to one of two roads: burnout or the awkward moment in which we have to tell someone else or ourselves that our word is not as valuable as we and they thought it was. At the end of the day, the latter is often the best solution since the longer you keep your plate full in hopes that it will magically get into a state of balance the more unpleasant it will be the inevitable conversation that leads you to fewer commitments.

So this tip is actually more about what to do before you take on a new project. While we can technically go back on our promises often without much penalty, it’s much easier to not get into them in the first place. When you learn to say no people gain a new level of respect for you since saying so transpires at least two things. The first is that you value your time and that you hold your word in high regard. Going back on our commitments, on the other hand, is always detrimental even when it doesn’t seem like it. If we do it to other people they trust us less at the very least and resent us in the worst case. If we do it to ourselves we begin to trust ourselves less and less, until the moment comes in which we can’t feel confident enough to start and complete even the most trivial of the goals.

When you commit to a few things you have more energy allocated for each, which makes that much more likely that they will be successful. The result starts a domino effect of goal setting to accomplishment, to even bigger goal setting making us more and more confident in ourselves and our abilities to succeed in life. It’s not that we’re gifted, which we might be, but it’s that we have adopted a discipline of adding projects to our bucket with intention.

Overcommit strategically

I would be lying If I told you that overcommitting is always bad. Often in life when we develop our views with regards to a given subject we tend to look only at the instances in which our views hold true and ignore the few or many in which it does not. This is known in psychology as the confirmation bias. So there is value in overcommitting and this is how.

When you overcommit one thing happens first and that is the fear that we won’t be able to make justice to our word. The next thing that happens depends greatly on the kind of person we are. Either we succumb to the anxiety and fall into stress or we take it as a challenge and force ourselves physically and creatively to reach new limits. The latter is perhaps the reason why we often see breakthroughs in business and science. Although there is no explicit commitment to the cause the overcommitment is implicit since we are trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before in the first place.

One great example of this is what happened to the Appollo 13 mission. More than halfway to the moon the team runs into an accident that greatly threatens the life of the entire team on board. NASA is known for having lots of protocols for virtually everything on the trip but at this moment several of these have to be thrown away and several more built from scratch while the team is trying to survive the drastic environment of space.

They and the team back on earth were put in a literal do or die situation. I remember watching the movie recently and the moment that stands out for me, in particular, was when the team back on earth had to, under time and mental pressure, devise a device that could reduce the already high levels of CO2 in the spaceship with only the tools the astronauts had available and create a protocol they could follow to build the tool themselves on their end. They succeeded and the sad thing is that chances are that a good number of people will probably forget that moment. That was a true moment of brilliance.

Most people when given regular goals and regular pressure will likely produce below average to average output. It’s when we are forced to do more than we’ve ever done that we do more than we ever did, even if we don’t quite hit the mark; and this is what being productive is about.

Resources:

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Found my fitness podcast by Rhonda Patrick

Nootropics Expert channel

Sources:

Confirmation bias

Apollo 13 mission documentary

It is all about knowledge and experience ?

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