3 Simple But Proven Ways to Become More Productive

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There is absolutely no shortage of time-management practices and experts out there promising to increase your productivity levels. And, certainly, we all aspire to be more productive, feel more accomplished and ultimately achieve greater success than ever before.

Unfortunately, though, simply wanting these things or reading a time-management book by a favorite author is a small part of the equation and will get you only so far.

In order to truly become a more productive individual and accomplish more of what matters most, you must minimize distractions, instill new habits and have a great deal of self-discipline.

I believe that many of the problems we run into when it comes to maximizing our productivity stem from overcomplicating things — and those complications usually end up decreasing our productivity. I want to share with you three things that have worked exceptionally well for me when it comes to minimizing distractions and drastically elevating my productivity levels.

These three things are simple and straightforward but pack an incredible punch. As Stephen Covey once said, “What is common sense isn’t common practice.”

1. Cut out phone and email first thing in the morning.

At first, this daily practice, which has since blessed my life with an enormous amount of peace, happiness and focus, was hard for me to implement into my life. For the longest time, my morning ritual had consisted merely of turning over and grabbing my phone in order to open my email and check social media.

When you pick up your phone first thing in the morning, however, and dive deep into your inbox and check social media, you end up neglecting the most important thing: yourself. For the first two hours of each day, I make it a priority to leave my phone in a separate room. I go to work on myself first and foremost by getting in a great workout, reading for 20 minutes, meditating and then beginning to tackle my biggest task for the day. Only after all of those things are complete do I allow myself to check my phone.

2. Work in time blocks. 

This one may seem extraordinarily simple, but the profound difference it has made in my life is incredible. We live in a world that is full of constant distraction. Each and every one of us is getting pulled in a million different directions, all vying for our energy and attention. When you work in time blocks, though, you are forcing yourself for the next 20, 30, or 50 minutes to work on whatever project or task that is in front of you and not doing anything else.

No phone, no Facebook-checking: just you and your highly valuable project or task that must get finished. I personally work in 50-minute time blocks throughout the day, but you should feel free to implement whatever works best for you and your schedule. I personally haven’t found a more efficient way to eliminate distractions and get big things done than working in time blocks.

3. Utilize the power of breaks throughout your day.

The way I used to conduct myself was to work hard for long hours while never stopping to take a break. By the time I got home and went to bed, however, I would wake up the next morning not even knowing what had happened the previous day. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you’ll find that working hard and putting in long hours is mandatory at some point in your career, to get to where you want to go.

But this shouldn’t come at the expense of completely burning yourself out. When my 50-minute timer goes off, and I am working on an important project or task, I stand up and do one of three things.

I either take a walk outside for 10 minutes, practice deep breathing for 10 minutes or perform some type of stretching routine before I return back to work. Just a 10- or 15-minute break doing one of these three things helps me to release whatever tension has been built up and develop a new focus for when it’s time to work again.

Whether you take a walk, practice deep breathing or perform stretches is entirely up to you. The most important thing is that multiple times throughout the day, you should take a break from your work and find different ways to recharge and come back even stronger.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

5 Ways to Drastically Increase Your Productivity

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Regardless of how successful they already are, most entrepreneurs and business leaders would like to become more productive and efficient. Of course, the busy-ness of running a company and managing others can create a great amount of stress, which leads to exactly what we don’t want: decreasing productivity levels.

Here are 5 proven ideas and strategies for increasing your productivity that have tremendously benefited my life as well as the hundreds of thousands of people that I speak to each and every year.

1. Use your calendar to your advantage.

Most people use their calendar as a tool to simply remember birthdays and special events, but this is greatly undermining the true power that your calendar can serve to increase your productivity. A simple strategy that can work absolute wonders is to schedule your major tasks for the day. That’s right, don’t just create a to-do list of all the things you have to do the next day, but time block all of your most important tasks and projects that need to get done. The saying, “What gets scheduled gets done” holds an incredible amount of truth to it. Give it a try.

2. Plan your day in advance.

Sounds like such a simple thing to do and a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at the number of people who wake up in the morning without a plan of action for the day ahead. Planning your day in advance helps you to get a good nights rest as you no longer have to stay up all night trying to remember all of the things that you have to get done the next day. It also helps you to wake up passionate and excited to attack your day as you already know exactly what you have to do instead of pondering and wasting precious time trying to make a plan.

3. Perfect your morning routine.

Perfecting your morning routine is crucial for you to take your productivity to the next level and set yourself up for a massively successful day. How we start our day is a great indicator on how the rest of our day is going to go. Most of the successful people I’ve met have, at some point, brought up their morning routine and how much it meant to them. Find something that works for you and start scheduling it in your calendar. An example of what mine looks like is getting a great workout in first thing in the morning, then reading an inspirational/uplifting book for 15-20 minutes, meditating, taking a look at my daily and yearly goals, and then writing in my gratitude journal. Get serious about your morning routine!

4. Develop a sense of urgency.

A lack of urgency hinders so many people from not only increasing their productivity levels, but also from reaching their full potential and achieving their biggest goals and dreams. I have written down on a notecard, “DO IT NOW!” that I take with me everywhere I go and I look at this notecard anytime I notice that I’m second guessing myself or procrastinating on a certain task or project. When I glance down at this notecard, it instantly reminds me the power of taking action and moving forward with a sense of urgency. Create a trigger for yourself that works for you. Whether it’s writing a reminder on a notecard or in your notes section on your smartphone, try to constantly remind yourself to get moving.

5. Become obsessed about limiting distractions.

We live in such a noisy and distracting world that if you don’t make an intentional effort to limit the amount of distractions when it’s time to work, it’s a guarantee that your productivity will take a hit. A typical day for a huge majority of the population consists of logging onto their computer first thing in the morning, checking their Facebook, sending out a few emails, taking a coffee break, chatting with coworkers, and then getting some tedious work done for the rest of the day. Keep breaks to a minimum, limit the chatter with co-workers, and stop searching the internet when it’s actually time to get some meaningful work done.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

Stop Paying Attention to the Non-Urgent in Your Life. Learn How to Single-Task.

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People are always talking about multitasking, and they think it’s a talent — but I think it’s counterproductive to success. It means you’re dividing your attention into a million parts. If you’re talking on the phone to a client but doing some kind of household chore or even reading a magazine while talking, you are not fully engaging your client. You’re not in the flow of the conversation.

Your client deserves better, don’t you think? In the same way, your life deserves better. The ability to single-task — to give one thing your undivided attention — is one of the keys to true productivity. Not the kind of productivity where you knock off 20 items from your to-do list while still managing to run 15 miles and respond to 20 emails. Sure, that kind of productivity feels good.

But I’m talking about the kind of productivity where you actually achieve your goals, where you accomplish important and long-lasting things. It means finishing major projects rather than doing a million little things that don’t add up to anything lasting. It means quality productivity instead of quantity productivity.

Once you’ve learned to give your undivided attention to that one thing —  to laser-focus on the important projects —  you will automatically shift into the flow. That’s because flow is how you get them done. You block out all extraneous noise, all phone calls, all menial tasks, all interruptions, and you just focus. You are able to sit and focus on that one task long enough to complete it. When you can work in the flow, you can accomplish anything.

Getting consumed by tedious tasks and busy work is a major battle many of us face each day. Every morning when we get up, the first thing on our minds should be the projects and tasks that will ultimately give us the biggest return on energy (ROE). The reason why this is extremely difficult for most people to do is because often what gives us the biggest ROE and reward is also usually the hardest and most time-consuming of everything that we have to do.

Sending emails, talking on the phone, cleaning up your desk and moving from place to place might seem like you are getting a lot done, but as I stated above, there is a major difference between quality productivity and quantity productivity. If we all took the time to assess our current habits and schedules and pinpoint what is consuming most of our time and energy, we may be surprised at how much time and effort we give to the non-urgent things in our lives.

Even though multitasking may make you feel accomplished temporarily, it’s not a way to go about business or achieving your main goal. It’s nearly impossible to be a master at your craft and become the absolute best if you’re always focusing your efforts in 10 different ways. By shifting our priorities to the big tasks and projects that add extreme value to our goals, we begin to feel accomplished and deeply fulfilled — not just a person accomplishing a lot of busy work.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Time Management Is Really Life Management

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Time is one of life’s most valuable possessions, as it is something you can never get back. Subsequently, one of the most essential life skills to master is time management. After all, time management is really life management. Learning how to make every day count for something is the objective. But it takes ridding your life of procrastination and a great deal of self-discipline.

Mastering time management does more than just increase productivity. It can yield important health benefits as well. When time is managed wisely, it minimizes stress and improves the overall quality of your life.

If you often find yourself run down by your daily workload or overwhelmed by the complexity of projects and tasks in your life, it is likely because you have not fully mastered effective time management. As the day flies by, you realize you’re behind, or you are on schedule only because you haven’t put forth your best effort in hopes of completion.

Nothing great ever transcends from haste. Cutting corners will eventually catch up to you, and as with anything, quality always beats quantity.

Lay the foundation for effectively managing your time.

Delegating the appropriate amount of time to get adequate sleep, maintain a healthy diet and exercising regularly are all essential elements to improve both focus and concentration. Making the time to create a healthy lifestyle will help improve your efficiency throughout the day, allowing for more time to complete other tasks.

Identify and evaluate how you are currently spending your time.

If you drive to work, how do you pass the time during your commute? If you take a bus or train, how do you spend all those hours a week? How many audiobooks or language tapes could you have completed while in traffic last month? How many books could you read on the train while getting to and from work the next few weeks?

These are the best times throughout your day to incorporate all those little things that you “wished” you had time for. Over time, these habits become a lifestyle, and you will find yourself well ahead of the pack.

Say no to nonessential tasks and prioritize the ones of extreme value.

Consider your goals and look at your schedule before agreeing to take on more work. If a task is time consuming but not necessarily important to the main goal, pass it off or add it to the bottom of the list.

Dedicate time blocks and limit distractions.

Everyone has a place where they work the most effectively. Some people love to have music in their earbuds, while others need complete silence. Some people can work just as efficiently from their dining table as they can in a library cubicle. Wherever that place is, utilize it. Turn the television off, silence the cell phone, put away the tablet and dedicate complete focus to the task at hand. No responding to texts, no browsing the web.

When you operate your life in a healthy, organized fashion, and are able to execute daily tasks efficiently, stress is reduced, productivity increases and overall satisfaction manifests.

Never hesitate to take a break if needed.

Everyone gets worn out from time to time and piling on more and more tasks leads to stress that will simply derail you from the mission at hand. Take a walk, go to the gym, get some fresh air or take that sick day you’ve been holding out on. Sometimes all we need is a moment of clarity and solitude to clear our overworked minds and recharge our bodies to give us that next big push.

After all, time management is really life management.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

 

5 Daily Habits That Will Increase Your Productivity Levels

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“How can I become more productive?” is a question that will continue to always come up.

Everyone wants to get more done and feel a sense of accomplishment as each day comes to an end. There are a million different productivity tips out there, but here a five ways to increase your productivity levels that have worked wonders in my own life.

1. Arrive early, stay later

Living in a congested city such as Chicago, I have found that if I start my workday before everyone else, I can save time by beating traffic and getting to my most important tasks right away. Sitting in traffic will do nothing but frustrate you and set a negative tone for the rest of your day. The same goes for when the end of the work day rolls around.

Your ability to save these extra hours can not only increase your productivity levels drastically, but help you become one of the highest paid and most productive people in your field. Arriving early and staying a little bit later could make all the difference in the world.

2. Plan each day the night before

This is a total game changer. If you spend just 15 minutes before you go to bed the night before creating your to-do list and prioritizing it, you will have a head start on your day when the morning rolls around. After I create my to-do list, I pick the most important tasks and put a little star next to them reminding me that these are the tasks that need to be done to push me forward with achieving big goals.

3. Leave the office for lunch

This is something so small that can have such a powerful effect on how you work for the remainder of your day. Getting out of your work environment for lunch can ease stress levels, refresh your creativity and help you to re-focus for when it’s time to go back to work. I often take a short walk to clear my head and think about how I want the rest of my day to go.

4. Minimize distractions

This seems self-explanatory, but in this day and age, distractions are everywhere. If you work from a computer, as most do, there is the temptation to check social media and surf the Internet, among many other things. When it’s time to work, work! If possible, close your door and have a “do not disturb” sign hanging on the door so your co-workers know not to bother you.

Every company has those employees that love to talk about what was on TV the night before instead of actually getting important things done. Don’t let these average achievers hold you back. Set boundaries and try your very best to abide by them daily. Your ability to minimize distractions as much as possible can single handedly increase productivity.

5. Keep your goals in sight at all times

After setting extremely big and exciting goals that you want to accomplish, keep them in sight at all times. I keep a list of my goals in my phone, a note card that I carry in my pocket and in a spiral notebook. The main objective is to keep your goals in a place where you will end up seeing them many times throughout your day. When I glance down at my goals, my motivation levels to get things done goes through the roof.

Start to picture yourself as the most productive person in your field. How does it feel? What tasks are you spending the majority of your time on? What is your philosophy on personal performance? Be in competition with yourself to see how much you can get done. Have fun with it. Make it a game.

Always try to beat the person you were the day before. Keep track of your results and work every single day to be a highly productive individual and watch the small daily victories begin to transform your life.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

The New Era of Time Management

One thing I have always been incredibly fascinated with is how the most successful people in the world manage their time. Recently, I sat down with one of the world’s leading thinkers on productivity and New York Times bestselling author, Rory Vaden.

We discussed that there are really three generations of time-management thinking.

Era 1 time-management thinking was all about efficiency.

It was predicated on the idea of doing things faster. All things being equal, efficiency is good, but there is a limitation to efficiency that gives it a point of diminishing returns as a time-management strategy.

No matter how efficient we are, in today’s day and age, there is always going to be more to do than we can ever get to. At one point in history the idea was to create tips and tricks and tools and technology to help us get our to-do list done faster so we’d have margin or space left over.

But that’s an incomplete strategy today. Because we all carry computers in our pocket, we are all working as efficiently as ever before and we are still never caught up. That’s because at the end of today’s modern to-do list isn’t more margin — it’s another to-do list!

Era 2 time-management thinking was about prioritizing.

Prioritizing time was about developing calendars and checklists to help us focus first on what matters most.

Prioritizing has been the pervasive paradigm of thinking in the world of productivity since 1989. We still refer to “prioritizing” as the cure-all for most of our time-management problems. While prioritizing is still a highly valuable skill and as relevant as ever before, it too has a very substantial limitation that nobody ever talks about.

According to Vaden, there is nothing about prioritizing that creates more time. All prioritizing does is put one thing in front of the other. It takes item seven on your to-do list and bumps it up to one. But it does nothing to help you get the other items on your to-do list completed and it does not create more time. Prioritizing is simply borrowing time from one activity to spend on another.

The modern era is all about multiplying time.

In the world today, a new type of thinker has emerged. They don’t manage their time and they don’t prioritize their time — they multiply their time.

Multipliers have figured out ways to actually create more time while everyone else is still living with the fallacy that time is finite. Welcome to Era 3 time-management thinking.

How in the world do you multiply time? Simple.

In fact, this next sentence is the entire core premise of Vaden’s new book that comes out in January (Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time).

You multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.

You don’t just think, “what are the most important things I have to get done today or this week?”

Instead, you ask the question, “what are the things that I could do today that would free up more time tomorrow?”

Vaden says, “When you ask yourself that question, you will find that you immediately feel less pressure to only focus on the urgent things that are pressing today or this week and you instead gain a perspective to start thinking about what you can be doing now to make a positive impact on the future. You give yourself permission to do the significant things that matter for the long term.”

That is what multipliers do.

He goes on to say, “They get outside of their to-do list of short-term priorities and they realize that the real key to creating more margin in their life isn’t about working faster, or somehow ‘prioritizing’ better, it’s about learning to think differently.”

To be a multiplier you must stop living urgently, and start living significantly.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Energy Management Is the Missing Link to Peak Performance

For the last decade, the corporate world has been very conscious about time management. We have seen an extraordinary amount of books, audio programs, online courses and other materials that have been created to help us manage our time better.

Why exactly is time management so important? Why has it taken the corporate world and entrepreneurs in every country by storm?

The answer is that time management is really life management. How we manage our time is a direct correlation to how we manage our lives.

I am a huge advocate of being a master of managing our time and finding new ways to incorporate better structure into our lives on a daily basis. However, I have seen countless people who were terrific with how they managed their time but still seemed to not get much of anything of value accomplished.

The reason why someone could be excellent at managing their time but still not rise to the top of their selected profession and live a tremendously satisfying life is because they lack energy management.

Energy management is the missing link. You could be the world’s greatest planner and be very careful about where you spend your time, but if you mismanage your energy it does you absolutely no good.

The key is to become an excellent manager of your time along with mastering where you direct your energy. The major problem I continually see is people directing an enormous amount of energy towards low-value tasks, which then depletes energy levels when it comes time to work on the high-value tasks.

This way of operating will forever create average results.

Instead of working solely on time management, start to analyze and focus on where your energy is going. When you begin to carefully track your energy levels, the results could be substantial simply given the fact that most people neglect managing their energy.

This isn’t to say time management is useless, because it’s not. However, great time management combined with phenomenal energy management could completely change the game for you and take your success levels to new heights.

Before you begin a new task, ask yourself exactly how much energy needs to go into that task.

If an athlete wastes all of their energy in warm ups, how in the world will they have enough energy to perform at their very best when game time comes around? Sadly enough, I have witnessed this exact scenario before several times throughout my football career.

Think of those big tasks and projects that have the ability to advance you closer to the achievement of your goals as your game time. Don’t waste your valuable energy in warm ups.

Energy management is the missing link.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com