Hey! I’m back with Part 2 of my post on productivity.
I’d given three tips in my previous post:
- Lose your TV, and minimize distractions
- Create a schedule, and stick to it
- Establish a routine
I’ve found all three of these incredibly useful, and I’m sure you will too. However, there are a few other things that you can do, to boost your productivity without using too much of your will power.
4. Save your will power – Make it hard to do the things you shouldn’t
According to B J Fogg’s Behavioral Model, ‘ability’ is a key driver of behaviors. How easy it is to do something affects how frequently or consistently you do it. Conversely, if you make a task hard to do, would that reduce your proclivity to do it?
From time to time, I get into a habit of checking Facebook regularly. On the hour, every hour. Sometimes even more frequently. I know it’s often just a waste of time, but I can’t stop myself. So I decided to test this theory a few weeks ago. All I did was uncheck the “Keep me logged in” box while logging into Facebook. And the effect was immediate – adding just one step to my Facebook checking routine made it much less likely to occur! Now, unless there’s a specific reason for me to go to Facebook, I open the browser, realize I’ll have to type in a password, and change my mind – why bother with the hassle? Here’s another example: Nir Eyal controlled his urges to check email regularly by just removing the app icon from his home screen! Note to self: I should try that too.
Such small changes to increase the no. of steps involved can help control a bad habit tremendously well.
5. Don’t multi-task. It’s a myth.
Throughout our studying and working lives, we’ve been trying to multi-task. And we’ve all found it difficult to be productive while multi-tasking for one simple reason – we’re all doing it wrong. Except for my wife Shilpa – she’s a multi-task-master.
The best way to multi-task is to single-task on different tasks – focus on the task at hand, excluding everything else. If you’re writing a blog post, don’t look at your emails till you’re taking a break / moving to your next task. Accept only interruptions that are 2 min or less.
As I mentioned in Part 1, I try to schedule email for a few time slots, and try not to look at it when I’m working on other things. Establishing a schedule / routine helps here – you can make sure that your tasks don’t overlap with each other, so you can focus better.
6. Stop relying on your memory. Use a note-taking software.
Your brain capacity, while incredibly large, is still finite. And given the information explosion that’s currently underway, there’s only so many new things you can put in your brain without pushing something out.
In such a scenario, I’ve found note taking software incredibly useful. Whenever you think of something interesting or see a great article (say with tips to supercharge your productivity), just jot it down somewhere so you can refer to it later. Just like using a calendar instead of remembering meetings or using a task manager to plan your day, not having to remember every brainwave you had for later is a huge relief – capturing all the open loops in your head somewhere frees your mind to concentrate on the now.
I am a OneNote junkie – it has a deep organizing structure, which is particularly useful in compartmentalizing the different types of notes you want to take. I have been using it for over 2 years now, and I love it. If you use Microsoft Office, you should definitely give it a try. The only problem with OneNote is that its apps for tablets, phones, etc. are not great. So, for notes that I want to take while traveling, I use Google Keep (simplistic, but adequate for short bursts) or an even simpler, good old notepad (the physical version). It’s a complicated system, I know, but hey, I’m worth it!
Evernote is another great (and far simpler) option, for people who spend more time on Mobile, or use a Mac.
So what are you waiting for – download your brain today!
7. Keep a time diary – track it till you crack it.
Studies have shown that one of the best things you can do to instill a habit is to track it. If you want to eat better, start tracking your food habits. Want to get more exercise into your day – get a step-counter. In the same vein, if you want to become more productive, start tracking how you spend your time.
And again, you don’t have to do this in a physical notebook or excel file – that’s too inefficient a way to track, of all things, your efficiency. There are two tools that I use, which are incredibly useful.
Rescuetime is a desktop tool / browser plugin that automatically tracks where you spend your time. At the end of the week, you get a nice email saying you used your computer for XX hours, and only 55% of your time was spent on productive work (hey!). It also tells you how much time you spent on different websites, so you know the exact behavior that needs changing.
Toggl is also a good option to track your time. Its only disadvantage (esp. vs. Rescuetime) is that you have to track your activities manually.
That’s it! Those are the seven ways in which I have been able to get more done every day. Again, would love your thoughts – have any other things worked for you? Please comment / email me at firstname.lastname@example.org / tweet at me (@jithamithra). And yes, do sign up for email updates – you’ll get a new blog post approximately once a week.
Bonus: Check out A Life of Productivity, for many more tips on managing your time, energy and attention better. I’ve tried many of the techniques discussed here to manage time better, but the 7 above have had the most impact for me.