If you go online you will find many many productivity tips. Many of them are awesome. Most of them are very tactical, and that is great. But I think that many of these tips miss the main point, which is to do what moves you toward your main goals.
I have read tons of productivity books, blogs and have had endless conversations about how to hack our minds to help us be as productive and aware as we can, and still I have never come across better advice than what I read in the book The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferris.
If you have not read the book I would totally advise you to pick up a copy, because it’s one of the best reads when it comes to really defining what is important in life and how to make it happen (some call it LifeStyle Design). But I am not going to withhold the tip from you until you pick up the book so here it goes:
Set up a reminder in your computer or your phone every few hours, or just stick a post-it note in a very visible place with the following words:
“Am I doing what is most important right now?”
If the answer is “No”, then drop it. If the answer is “Yes”, take a second to rejoice, and get back to work!
That is it! Full awareness of the impact of your actions.
Now, there are many other versions of this question, so feel free to use the one you find most useful:
“Is what I’m doing right now moving me closer to my goals?”
“Am I doing the not important to avoid the important?”
“Can someone else do this better or faster than me?”
“Is what I’m doing adding any value to society and the people around me?”
You can come up with the question that you feel will trigger the best in you!
Of course, you will have to know exactly what your goals are, so this little trick might not have a strong impact without clearly defined directions or goals, but for the most part we all know, at least in broad strokes, what we want to accomplish.
How often should you be prompted?
I used to set my reminders twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, although I don’t use them any longer, because I have already developed another system with which I don’t take on anything that is unimportant or not moving me towards my goals. I was able to develop that system because I trained my mind to ask this question often during the day.
The amount of reminders you will need will depend on your actual work load and schedule, but at least set one reminder for mid-morning and one for mid-afternoon. You will be prompted to think about the impact of your current task in your overall life and organization twice a day. That is a good place to start.
What if you don’t feel like doing what it’s important?
Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing some stuff. It is also important to recognize that and to be mindful about it. Sometimes there are things that we really need to do, but we don’t want to do at all! There are a few ways to go about it.
1. Find someone else to do it.
Delegation can be tricky and we need to learn how to do it properly, but it can free our mind and time to do things we are great at or things we really want to do. If it’s something that YOU don’t have to do, but it’s critical to move a project forward closer to your goal, then find someone else to do it for you. It can be someone who really wants to do it, or someone who will get something in return from doing it (usually a salary, payment, barter or some kind of exposure.)
2. Schedule it for another time
We might not want to do some tasks at a particular moment, but we still need to do them. Maybe we are not in the right mindset (although I truly believe this to be an excuse) or maybe we would rather do something else right now. If this happens to be the case, pick up your calendar and schedule it in. And promise yourself or an accountability partner you will do it then. And DO IT then!
3. Bite the bullet and get it done as quickly as possible by breaking it down into small tasks.
It’s a little bit like ripping off a band-aid. It’s better to just do it and get it out of the way. Hey! Not everything in life is what we want, and no matter how much you meditate, visualize, or plan, things that you don’t want to do are going to show up: paperwork; difficult conversations; taxes. If you cannot delegate or postpone it just roll up your sleeves and get it done as quickly as possible.
The truth is that 90% of the time it will take less time than you thought it would.
Start with the very first step; one step at a time. After you are done with the first step, focus on the following, and so on!
For example, let’s say you have to do the books for your company because you have to meet with your accountant next week. “Do the books” is a huge task! But you can start with: organize receipts per month. That is a much smaller task. It’s an easy win. Once you have them organized you can move to the following task: do the books for January. Suddenly you have to deal with a 12th of the receipts and expenses that you had to deal with at the beginning! Another easy win! Before you realize it you will be so much closer to your goal, with what appears to be a minimal effort!
So go ahead, make a sign that reads: “Am I doing what is most important right now?” and start moving faster than 99% of the people around you!
What do you think? Do you have an amazing tip you’d like to share that has boosted your productivity and moved you closer toward your goals all the time? Share it with us in the comments and help us become more productive!