Productivity seems to be the holy grail of the working world. Imagine the perfect day – working from dusk to dawn, a productivity machine. Our bodies aren’t like that. Productivity levels ebb and flow, and it can sometimes feel like you can’t get anything done no matter how hard you try.
Thankfully, while it may seem elusive, a productive lifestyle isn’t all that difficult to achieve. It can make you feel like a working hero on a good day, but like every hero, there’s a villain. Here, that’s procrastination. You’ve likely been there before – falling down a YouTube-induced rabbit hole, completing the housework you’ve been putting off for days, replying to emails, or perhaps becoming fixated on your current book. Whatever it is, it kills productivity.
To be a productive person, you need simple, practical steps. You don’t need to completely overhaul your life, but simply telling yourself to be productive won’t be enough. In line with that, here are some things highly productive people do that will help you put procrastination behind you.
If you don’t feel like reading the article here’s the video version:
Listen to the Body
The eight-hour was created to split 24 hours into three: eight hours of sleep, work, and leisure.
Despite this, the human body physically cannot be productive for eight hours straight. This is because of your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Put simply; it’s the system you function on – whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, for example. You may feel most tired at around 3pm – a post-lunch slump. At that point, you’ve likely been awake for some time, lunch has settled in your stomach, and the morning rush has worn off. Then, more often than not, energy levels pick up at around 5pm – the end of the working day.
Of course, some working patterns may not conform to the typical 9-5 layout we are all used to.
While most people are fast asleep at 3am, others may work through the night. There’s one thing everyone must have in common – listening to our bodies.
If we don’t listen to our bodies, productivity isn’t sustainable. Highly productive people know when they’re burning out. They notice signs such as lack of sleep and constantly feeling tired but, most importantly, they act.
During the working day, highly productive people know how their bodies work and adapt their schedules. For example, by doing small tasks first, productive people set themselves up for a successful afternoon. Alternatively, there are merits for attempting the big tasks firsts to achieve something big early on. Whatever works for you.
Manage Time to Maximise Efficiency
All highly productive people manage their time effectively. Every minute is maximised to its full potential, whether it’s relaxing after work or an allotted period of deep work.
For starters, organisational tools such as Trello are popular, and with good reason. Some people may find it more challenging than others to stick to one task, so being able to visualize what you’re doing helps keep your mind in check and focus high.
Useful tools extend beyond Trello, however. Email marketers have excellent tools such as ConvertKit that automate the email sequence. Automating may sometimes be irritating to set up, but it saves so much time. Time better used elsewhere.
When you learn to maximise your time as highly productive people do, maintaining longer periods of efficient work becomes easier.
The benefits of prioritising downtime cannot be understated. Sleep, the ultimate rest, is pivotal to a productive person’s arsenal.
For example, a study found that when you sleep for four hours or less consistently, your thinking ability declines to the equivalent of adding about eight years in age. Your ability to make lasting memories is severely reduced, making productivity near-impossible.
Besides, as we know, your body needs time off from work. Think of the famous metaphor; you can’t shoot an arrow without first pulling it back. You must rest before you go again.
Understand Motivation Clearly
Motivation can be challenging to acquire. You’ve likely been there before – work is looming, you know you need to do something, but you just can’t bring yourself to start. The procrastination monster comes out once again.
The thing is, you can’t wait for motivation to roll around. It’s there for the taking. All you need to do is start. Highly productive people know this and adapt around it.
A good way to start with a motivation mindset is by tackling the small tasks first. This gets the ball rolling, as completed tasks lead to more completed tasks. The productivity dog within will soon lock on to a motivational scent, and you’re away at the races.
Motivation is rarely natural when you need it, so taking the initiative is the only way forward.
Let’s say you’re a stage performer. On Saturday night, you put in the performance of your life.
You bow, and the curtain closes. Congratulations come pouring in. You bask in it for a while, but soon, it’s Tuesday next week, and the moment has passed. Then it’s on to the next objective.
Work can feel, well, like work. For productive work to take place, it needs to be acknowledged and rewarded.
Knowing how to reward yourself allows you to recognise the result of the hard work you’ve put in, hopefully inspiring you to do more. Self-recognition leads to self-awareness, which is vital to understand how you respond to productive periods.
From there, the most productive people will keep an eye on the next step.
Have an End-of-Day Ritual
An article from prominent writer Stephen Moore explains the benefits of having an end-of-day ritual. For example, closing the laptop with a firmly British “Right, I’m done” is an excellent way to verbalise the end of your working day and move into a rest period. After all, if you can’t switch off, switching on will be much more challenging.
Definitively ending your day jolts your mind and body into stopping, allowing for new ideas – great productivity to feast on the next day.
The most significant advantage to having an end-of-day ritual on productivity is how it teaches your brain to listen. From there, you can prevent work from carrying over into leisure and give yourself the best platform to go again.
Planning, Planning, Planning
In school, you may have found planning boring and tiresome. Sometimes it can feel better to just throw yourself into something and not get bogged down before you’ve even started. That’s great, but planning must become part of your daily routine for a highly productive lifestyle.
Amy Porterfield, a digital creator, and entrepreneur has generated more than $40 million from eight online courses. In one of them, she repeats the importance of something called content planning. She instructs her students to book a session with themselves once every six weeks with a singular objective: planning.
In that session, she says you should map out which content will be released and when, so you never need to play catch-up. This helps maintain consistent productivity levels for extended periods as you can focus exclusively on the work.
Planning doesn’t just revolve around content and work, however. Productive people plan meals, workouts and even allocate specific relaxation periods.
You don’t need to draw up an elaborate plan right away. You could start simple and plan your outfit and prepare breakfast the night before, saving time and energy you can take into a productive day. It’s the little things that help the most.
Humans thrive when operating within a schedule. Rules help keep us focused – critical for productivity. Knowing the value of planning will set you apart.
Above All, Productive People Have Direction
There are more productive things people do that I haven’t listed. There are things here that might work for you and not for others. The one thing every productive person has in common is direction and a clear aim to work towards so everything else can fall in place. In line with that, here’s a compact list of seven things highly productive people do that you can implement in your own life:
- Listen to your body
- Manage time to maximise efficiency
- Prioritise downtime
- Understand motivation clearly
- Regular self-recognition
- Have an end-of-day ritual
These are all perfectly achievable things. You don’t need to be a productivity guru or self-improvement expert. Start small and have direction. See what happens.