At the beginning of the year, I’ve bought a productivity course bundle. I have never bought an online course before, so I thought this could be a useful purchase, and it was. I’m going to share what I’ve learned from those courses, and some blueprints that are in them, something that they have in common. The courses were not only productivity related, but how to become successful too, so that’s going to be covered as well as productivity. I’ll to write some tools, books and people mentioned at the last part so you can look at those too.
All this is at high level, a little bit abstract, but in a sense, I saw that productivity is somewhat limited subject, so from the items that I write about, you can improve, explore and integrate one by one into your life to help you be more productive. Some are easier to implement than others, some of them you might already have implemented.
Also, I’ll write something I think about that item from the list and if it works for me. Of course, you should defiantly give everything a try and see how it works for you.
1. Healthy lifestyle
The list has no particular order but, I’ll start with a healthy life. You can’t be as productive as you can be if you’re sleepy, if you’re not energetic, if you’re sick and similar. So, you have to create a healthy life, and live in healthy environment to get the most out of your day.
This should be the easiest one, but many people don’t sleep well, and we don’t take the importance of sleep seriously. We sleep about one third of our life. So why don’t we “master” sleeping in our life? This is something that should be a priority.
Only recently I started sleeping well, since I blocked out all of the light in the room. I had three windows in my room, one from the main window, second from the doors that led to terrace (which I’ve removed, now it’s just a wall there), and one from above the doors that lead to the hallway. When there’s light in the bathroom, the room next to mine or in the hallway itself, there is some light in my room, but after midnight, all nights are out. I’ve noticed quite a difference, since before, when I had the doors to terrace, I had light from there and it distracted me.
First, block the lights, second, get enough sleep. You need at least roughly seven and a half hours of sleep. If you don’t sleep that much, you’ll probably be sleepy throughout the day. Of course, we’re not all made equal, and somebody can sleep for 6 hours, while somebody needs maybe 9 hours. Know what works best for you.
You sleep for about one third of your life, that’s about 56 hours per week. Something that you should also incorporate into your life is exercise. There are a lof of benefits of exercise, even for the brain (just Google it, I’m not going into details). I think you can make time for about three one hour sessions throughout the week. So three hours every week should be spent exercising.
I recommend that you start in the group. I personally started exercising in December 2018, and I’ve been consistent since then. I go to Les Mills Body Pump workouts at the local gym, three times a week, and I’m good. I feel energetic, have more focus, less stress and similar. Make exercise a priority.
If gym is far away and you’re short on time, have a plan for home workout.
Get the most of the time in the gym:
- Supersets and drop sets
- Do compound exercises
- Circuit training
- Decrease rest times between your sets
You’ve got some sleep, you’ve got some exercise, but what about eating. You need to eat to live. I’m not nutritionist, so I can’t talk much about this. What I can say is from my experience what has worked for me.
About three years ago I started intermittent fasting (IF). Basically, for those of you who don’t know, IF is not about what you eat, but when you eat. I started missing breakfast, so my first meal of the day was after 1PM, and I didn’t eat late usually, so my last meal was around 8PM. That’s 7 hours of eating window, 17 hours of fasting. I didn’t notice any change honestly, I’ve been keeping my weight at around 78-79kg for about year and a half with that type of IF. Once I started working (September 2017), I switched to one meal a day (OMAD) fasting. Basically, eat once a day and that’s it. You can drink water and similar after, but make everything calorie free. That means water, tea and coffee (I don’t drink coffee anyway). After a month and a half, I’ve lost 7kg, getting to 72kg. I’m still on that kind of fasting, but I cheat a lot, so I do it maybe every second day. Interestingly, when I started to exercise (December 2018), I’ve gained about 4kg of muscle in about 2 months with same diet. I just added more protein and that’s it.
So that’s what I use. These courses don’t talk much about sleep, exercise and nutrition, it’s just something they mention, but they put high priority on it, and we should too. You can look up more for any area that I’m talking about, and try to see what works for you.
To be productive in a sense is to focus on the thing you’re working on. It might be cleaning, writing, learning and similar. So you have to learn how to focus.
One major thing that helped me focus is meditation. You can read my post about that - I’ve Meditated for 66 Days. I’m currently on day 124, and it helped me a lot. There are numerous benefits that come from practicing meditation. For me, I can tell you three great benefits: less stress, better focus, being present. Meditation is like exercise for your brain.
From the courses, besides meditation, there were mentions of:
Deadline is going to force you to take action.
Urgency keeps you on task and focused.
One more thing about focus is that you want to practice it with some mini challenges for the mind. For example, if you play an instrument, like a bass guitar, you might want to try playing something with different rhythms, tempo, key and similar. Basically you need to make challenges to keep you focused because they are a bit harder than you’re used to. This is related to stepping out of your comfort zone.
Urgency keeps you on task and focused.
2.1. Stop multitasking
Quit multitasking - focus is all about eliminating distractions.
You have to focus on one thing that you’re working on. Multitasking rarely helps you to be productive. I have only few examples where multitasking is totally fine and that works for me - you wash dishes/iron the clothes/do something that doesn’t require a lot of attention and listen to a podcast or something like that. This is because something that my body is doing is automatic, I don’t have to focus on that that much, so I can put my attention to the podcast.
2.2. Avoid distractions
We have to analyze what we spend our time on. Some people are watching too much TV, series or similar, some spend a lot of time on social media, some play games. And while all that can be fun, it probably isn’t productive. Eliminating things help you be more productive. For me, minimalism helped a lot, since I don’t own much stuff, I don’t have social media except Twitter and LinkedIn, and I can focus on what I’m doing.
Once you analyze your time, each morning decide what to spend your time on, based on what you learned the day before.
List all distractions and try removing them one by one, or at least limit the usage of them. For example limit watching TV to only 1 hour a day.
Fun fact: I remember when I got TV out of my room, I got bored since I didn’t know what to do, so I started learning more. Same thing happened few years later when I deleted facebook.
Some questions to ask yourself:
What are your friction blocks that stop you from doing those activities at 100% focus?
What are the prerequisites, conditions and structures for you to actually do the work?
Distracted = Broke
Focused = Rich
- Social Media
- Phone Calls
- Meal Breaks
The term is coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - you can use the link to see more info about Mihaly and the state of flow (or being in the zone). There’s nothing in particular from the courses that give information on how to enter the flow state.
2.4. The Grey Zone
Grey Zone - not being fully focused and engaged on the task at hand. You have to escape the grey zone, and that’s with renewal time - when you relax, refresh and recharge.