How to Be Productive? 10 Personal Productivity Tips I Learnt One Tuesday Evening

Today, at 4 PM in the evening, I felt frustrated.

The reason? It seemed like there was too much work to do. Most of the work is work I love: writing a new e-book related to personal development, developing an app related to personal development, some freelancing work etc. Yet, why did I feel overwhelmed? It felt like there was too much to do and hardly any time. I felt like the nature of the work (the actual work) was great but the way I was working had a serious flaw.

Too many things messing up the head!

 

I put everything I was doing aside and journaled. What was it deep down that was troubling me? How to be productive and happy?

After journaling for about 40 minutes, I got my answers. I felt a surge of happiness. I may not have had the most productive day but I had finally gained clarity on what was making my days unproductive and how to be productive AND very happy.’

I made a list of 10 ways in which I could be productive and happy and stuck it on the wall.

This list may help you too. Here go my 10 ways to be productive and happy.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 1
Wake Up Early

I have seen it time and again that waking up early boosts productivity like nothing else, at least for me. Imagine waking up at 5 when there is absolute stillness all around. The sun is just about to rise or has just risen. There is peace.

With zero things to distract you, this is the time to do the most important thing you want to accomplish in your day.

I still remember how amazing I felt some years ago (when I was preparing for IITJEE) when I woke up at 4 AM and finished a full day’s work by the time it was 9 AM. You’re done with the major chunk of your work before the day begins. How cool is that? Super cool and it gives the day a super-positive start. 🙂

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 2
Plan Your Day the Night/Evening Before

I have seen that when I don’t plan my day the night before, whether at work (when I used to work at a job) or at home (these days), I ALWAYS end up feeling lazy, just OK, and uninspired as the day proceeds. I work for a while, then I feel distracted and talk to someone or randomly surf the internet. Then I work for sometime again. Then I check email. As the day proceeds, productivity decreases.

Planning your day in advance is motivating because you know EXACTLY what you want to achieve. For example, I may plan to write 1 article and 3 chapters of my e-book and read up 1 chapter from a book on apps. Now since I already know exactly what I have to accomplish, I will be more motivated to finish that chunk of work. I may finish that chunk of work by 3 PM or 4 PM or 6 PM. But I will know at the end of the day whether I did what I had wanted to do or not. There is no grey area and no guilt. Either I have done what I had planned or not. Simple.

I have noticed a higher productivity (sometimes higher by 100%) on days when I have set crystal clear goals for the day in advance. Why not give this a try?

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 3
Finish One Important Chunk of Work the First Thing in the Morning

I am sure you must have heard of this tip before.

I had heard of it too but it was only recently that I realized how important it was. If you work from home, finish your first important task of the day right after you brush your teeth. If you work at an office, finish the most important work for the day in one stretch right after you reach office.

When you finish a very important task first thing in the morning, you get a superb surge of energy. You feel “I have already accomplished so much and the day has just begun!” This helps you in two ways. First – the rest of the day becomes so much easier since you have already finished a big chunk of work. Second – your energy level remains high throughout the day because you are so pleased with yourself for having finished so much in the morning!

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 4
Work While You Work

This is again an extremely simple productivity booster that I have discussed in detail here.

It says, ‘while you are working, do NOTHING else but work’. If you are writing a report, close everything else but the report. No email. No talking to anyone. No answering calls. No visiting any other site or doing anything else but the immediate work at hand. For now – only THIS work exists.

I am not exaggerating when I say that just this simple technique has sometimes doubled my productivity. The fascinating fact is that the same work that I have finished in a day has been finished in 3-4 hours when I made sure there were ZERO interruptions.

You might feel that this idea is impractical. After all, there are always interruptions beyond your control, aren’t they? Well, I believe that except for emergency situations, you can ALWAYS consciously control every single hour of the day. All you have to do is say NO when someone impinges on your space while you’re seriously working.

If you do that often enough people will soon understand that you do not like to be disturbed when working. They will respect your space when you respect your space.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 5
Take Conscious Breaks

Once you have finished a chunk of work, you’ll want to relax and unwind for some time. At this juncture, there is the tendency to prolong your break or keep talking with someone or distract yourself in some way.

A good way to make sure you enjoy your break AND get back to work is to take CONSCIOUS breaks. A conscious break is a break that you enjoy very much AND whose duration or extent is fixed in advance. If you enjoy reading Harry Potter books (like I do), then reading a Harry Potter book for half an hour is a conscious break. If you like reading personal development blogs, then reading any three interesting posts is a conscious break. If you love talking to your co-worker as you both grab a snack, then doing that for exactly 30 minutes is a conscious break. Watching your favorite TV show is a conscious break.

Conscious break = Something specific you enjoy very much x Fixed time or extent.

The advantage of taking a conscious break is that you really feel refreshed after taking one AND you feel ready to work after completing it because of your initial commitment to take a break for a fixed period of time.

An unconscious break would mean – doing anything that catches your fantasy – like surfing the Internet randomly, checking email, talking to your colleague and parallel reading an article…and doing this for as long as you wish. An unconscious break lowers your energy and makes you feel dull while deciding how you want to enjoy your break and fixing your break time in advance makes you more energetic.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 6
Make Work Fun

Another fantastic way to be more productive is to make your work more interesting. If I learn about developing mobile applications alone, I get bored. When I learn along with my wife Krupa, I stay interested.

Sometimes working at home makes work seem dull.

At such times working in a café seems so much more interesting.

Sometimes, making presentations gets boring, so I give myself 8 points for every slide I make. Totaling up the points I’ve got in one hour and seeing if I can break my own record is fun.

How can you make your work fun?

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 7
Do a Lot of Work That Excites You

In the long term, you cannot be productive AND happy if you do work that you don’t like. When I worked at a job, I worked for more than 8 hours a day but despite all efforts, my productivity was still not very high. On the other hand, I feel excited to write the e-book I am working on because it is related to personal development – something that inspires me. Right now I am writing this article in a flow of inspiration – it is exciting to me.

If you are stuck in a job you hate, be honest with yourself and admit it. Then try figuring out how you can do something you love a bit more. This and this may help.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 8
Don’t Work After the Time Limit

Note that the key is to be productive AND happy and not just super-productive. We are happy when many other things apart from our careers are also awesome. For example, I love spending time with my wife Krupa and that makes me very happy. If I worked from 5 AM in the morning to 10 PM in the night, then I wouldn’t be happy despite achieving a lot.

However, once you start working, more and more things are bound to come up and if you don’t put an end to your day, there will be no end. There are many executives who work till 9 and 10 at night because more and more work keeps coming up. But that’s your choice. Choose to end your day by a time you fix.

From tomorrow onwards (for a week), I have set a time limit of 6 PM to end my day. No matter how productive or unproductive my day is, I will not try to achieve any goal after 6 PM. This is my rest and relaxation time.

Another advantage of doing no work beyond a fixed time is that you will DO MORE within the fixed time. If I know I won’t work after 6, then I will be more efficient and try to finish a lot of work before 6 PM. If I do not have such a limit, then I will be lazy during the day and my inefficiency may make me work till 8 and 9.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 9
Check Email at the End of the Day

Be honest – how many times in the day do you check email? If you are like me, you check it once in the morning, then in the afternoon, then again in the evening. It is so tempting isn’t it?

However, I have found that almost every single time I check email, I stay distracted for a long time – sometimes for more than half an hour. I will want to reply to a friend’s mail instantly. I will want to follow that link someone has sent me and read that article. Whatever it is, I end up spending a large amount of time “distracted” instead of focusing on something and finishing it off.

Lesson: There is nothing so urgent sent via email that you cannot attend to later. Focus and finish your work. You can check mail at the end of the day.

How to Be Productive and Happy – Tip 10
Keep Journaling About How to be More Productive

No matter how many productivity articles you read, remember that the best tips are those that REALLY work for you. YOU know best whether you are happy or not, whether you are getting enough done or not.

Every few days, take a diary or a word document or a piece of paper – and ask yourself – am I happy AND productive? Do I want to be more productive while increasing or maintaining my happiness? How can I do it? I am sure you will get some cool ideas.

Well, that’s what came to my mind, when I journaled about my own productivity issues.

All the best to both you and me – let’s make today super-productive and super happy.

Au revoir!