You have read about people who seem to have boundless energy accomplishing 101 things in their day, and you wonder, how do they do it? How do they get so productive?
You begin your research to find some of these best practice tips and make a plan to execute them. The first of many tips is to wake up at 5am for a morning exercise. The idea is to start the day with more energy to fuel us in the productive day ahead. Eager to be more productive, you try that only to find yourself less focused and struggling to keep awake in the afternoon. Then, maybe you try to create a plan for yourself to follow except that everything never goes as planned. Why doesn’t it work?
It turns out that a productive day for each of us might be very different from others. We all need something personalised for ourselves. After all, all of us do have days where we were productive by our own standards. What is it then that makes a productive day different from any other days? Let us create the top 5 tips that would work for us.
Step 1: Define Productive
First and foremost, let us take time to understand what productive means to us. Recall times/days when you felt like you were productive. Ask yourself these questions:
When I was in a previous company, being productive to me included being able to clear as many emails as possible. When I came out to be on my own, my day was mainly spent meeting different people. Meeting different people back then was not considered as real work to me and I felt it was an unproductive day. It took some self awareness and introspection to recalibrate my definition of productivity and anchor myself.
Step 2: Identify Energy Peaks
Have you ever paused to reflect on when you tend to be most energetic and focused? It is that time of the day when you work best and feel like you are ready for anything. That time of the day differs for everyone of us.
Notice your energy levels in a day (perhaps over the next few days).
While some people’s peak might be in the night, the time when I work best is in the morning. It is also worth noting that there could be other possible contributors to energy peaks and these could include things like:
For all the occasions that you felt you were productive (based on your personal definition), take a moment to list out what those days looked like.
Ask yourself these questions:
For example, when I reflect on the days where I was productive, the common factors that emerged are:
Are you able to identify the common factors for yourself?
Step 4: Determine Derailers
There are bound to be things that are not within our control and that will deter our productivity. What could some of these de-railers be? Note that derailers could be internal or external factors; i.e. driven by you or others.
For example, I tend to have many ideas that gets me really excited throughout the day. However they can also be derailers as it may distract me from my existing task. While I cannot control the many ideas that pops up in my head, the way I have chosen to manage them is to write them down in my ideas book for me to refer to later.
The key is to come up with strategies you can tap on that will help you to manage derailers so that they do not end up affecting your productivity.
Step 5: Replicate what you can control
Knowing the common factors that can contribute to your productivity, which of these are within your control that you can replicate on a daily basis? Take a moment to visualize them happening in your daily life. Convert them into daily habits and make it part of your schedule.
Then, think about the potential derailers that could happen and the accompanying strategy that you will use to deal with it. Visualise the process of you managing the derailers successfully, from the thoughts you have, to the feelings and the action. Imagine what it feels like to have managed the derailer to remain focused.
The next step is to put your plan into action and observe changes in your productivity level. Note that this is not a one off exercise. Continue to observe yourself on a regular basis and notice if there are any new energy peak creators, any new factors that contribute to your increased productivity or any new de-railers that are entering the picture. Repeat steps 1-5 until you find a strategy that is best tailored to suit you.
If you are stuck, try out some of the best practices for a period of time while going through steps 1-5. Good luck! Do feel free to reach out if you need any support!
Shane Yan is cofounder and an ICF certified coach and trainer of Growthbeans. She is an author of Wide Asleep Sound Awake – a self-awareness activity book that unleashes the potential of individuals, She is also Mental Toughness (MTQ-48) and Emergenetics Certified, and a Reiki Practitioner.