8 Best Life Hacks to Beat Procrastination

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No matter how brainy, ambitious and gifted you are, if you lack the willpower to get things done it’s difficult to achieve success. Before you give up on yourself, understand it’s natural to procrastinate. Everybody does it – some more than others.

To help you stop procrastinating and to get things done, we compiled a list of our favorite life hacks for slaying the procrastination monster.

1. Don’t Get Stuck in Analysis Paralysis

Don’t overthink a project or task before you get started on it. If you dwell on it, no action will be taken – hence paralysis. Planning projects is important, but if you get stuck in the planning phase before you have every unknown answered, it’s impossible to move forward. Set a time limit for project planning and just get going. Answers will become apparent and blockages will be resolved as time passes.

2. Beware of High Standards

Have you ever heard the quote by Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good?” If you fall into the trap of failing to get started on a project because you have the fear that it won’t be perfect, you’ll never get moving. I always remind myself, especially in creative endeavors, that perfection is subjective. My perception of perfect is completely different than your perception of perfect. Let go of your fear and move forward. Forget perfection and focus on progress.

3. Work Against the Clock

Sometimes we procrastinate on starting a project because we think we have a long time to do it. Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? Cyril Parkinson, a British historian, identified this scientific law in 1955. Essentially, it identifies that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. For example, if you give yourself a week to write an essay it will essentially take the entire week instead of a more appropriate time period, such as a few hours.

You can beat procrastination by setting a deadline for all your tasks and by determining the appropriate amount of time to complete them. Set aside the proper amount of time for your tasks at hand and stick to the schedule. Schedule these projects and tasks on your calendar or place them in a to-do list with an appropriate time limit.

4. Find Value in Your Projects or Tasks

Often times we procrastinate on tasks because we don’t believe they have any value. If your tasks aren’t aligned to your goals in work and life then it’s difficult to get motivated to get started. Examine the value of the task. For example, perhaps you’re on the high school football team and you’re focused on becoming a professional football player. In your situation, studying for your Algebra exam might seem like a low priority; however, passing grades are required to stay on the team. Focus on the value of good grades to get started and stay motivated.

5. Break it Down

In work and life there’s always tasks and chores that we find mundane. It’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s doing laundry, working out, creating your weekly status report or making dinner – there’s always tasks that you can’t escape. Of course, many of us tend to procrastinate on these humdrum tasks.

Breaking chores and tasks into smaller chunks is a great way to tame the procrastination beast. The task or chore doesn’t seem as daunting if you break it down. For example, don’t create your weekly status report one hour before it’s due on Friday afternoon. During the week, add your accomplishments to the status report as you complete them. This way, you can reward yourself with a less stressful Friday afternoon at the office, and also make it home on time.

6. Get Started When Your World is Asleep

When I’ve given into procrastination, a trick that I personally use to get back on track is to shift my schedule and complete daunting tasks late at night or early in the morning when everyone else is sleeping. This way, I’m completely uninterrupted by phone calls, barking dogs, email, meetings or other distractions. This strategy helps me to laser focus on the task and finish it well before the deadline. I recommend using this strategy sparingly because lack of sleep can be a significant deterrent to getting things done.

7. Control Impulses

Sometimes it’s difficult to control impulses or urges to do something more entertaining than the tasks we know we need to do. For example, how often do you find yourself watching videos, playing games or reading Twitter posts instead of getting started on an important project or task?

WebMD explains that some of us tend to give into impulses easier than others due to the coordination between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the right orbitofrontal cortex. Furthermore, studies concluded that teenagers with less volume in the right orbitofrontal cortex might be more susceptible to lack of impulse control, such as alcohol abuse. The same article explains that it’s never too late to improve impulse control. Marc N. Potenza, MD recommends that you give yourself a small, healthy reward that will lead to a bigger payoff later when you don’t give into your impulses.

8. Work a To-do List into Your Daily Routine

If you’re prone to procrastination, creating a to-do list should be automatic as brushing your teeth every day. Working a to-do list into your daily routine can be key to getting things done. I recommend that you create your to-do list the night before so you’re ready to get started each morning without delay. A daily to-do list usually consists of approximately three to five tasks to complete every day. Immediately start with the most difficult task on your list. This way, you’re working on the task that requires the most energy when you’re fresh.

Our starter productivity app, My.Agenda, is a great way to get started with making a daily to-do list in a digital format with an iPhone or iPad. You can find it for .99 cents at the Apple App Store.

Your Turn

What are your favorite tips for slaying the procrastination monster? Please share!

8 Common Myths and Fallacies About Productivity

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What if I told you that the things you think are true about productivity are actually detrimental to getting things done? Let me guess. You’re doing all the right things that you believe will help you get the stuff done that you really want to do, but it’s not happening. You’re frustrated, burned out and simply tired.

If you’ve been following the rules outlined below, consider shifting your perceptions and adjusting your work habits. These different ideas might enhance your productivity in ways you never thought were possible.

1. Myth – It Pays to Work Hard – Keep Your Head Down

Do you believe that working harder, better and faster is the Holy Grail for getting things done? Do you think that if you could just focus better, keep your head down and “push through” then you’ll magically produce more and more each day? If you believe that you’ll be an instant success when you eliminate breaks, get to work earlier and stay later, you’re fooling yourself.

Are you the person who realizes that after a long day at work you sat at your desk or in meetings all day and never took a bathroom break? Admit it, we’ve all done it. If this is you, keep reading. Working harder and “pushing through” is a vicious cycle that leads to burnout. It takes a toll on you emotionally, psychologically and physically. Recently, a tweet caught my eye that compared prolonged sitting to cigarette smoking, stating, “Sitting is the new cigarette.” This is a powerful statement that led me to research how prolonged sitting affects the body and mind.

An article from the Mayo Clinic indicates that adults in a study that spent more than four hours a day sitting while watching a screen, had a 50 percent increased risk of death from multiple causes and a 125 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If this doesn’t convince you to get up and moving, then my message isn’t compelling enough. Keep reading.

Earlier I wrote a post about Ultradian Rhythms and the science of why taking breaks enhances productivity. Taking breaks is truly a little known and surprising method for boosting problem solving, creativity and productivity. Set a timer for 90 – 120 minutes. Then, take a 20-minute break after that time period ends. Experiment with this method and observe if you’re achieving the productivity benefits you’re hoping for.

2. Myth – Procrastination is Bad

I’m certain that during your life, you’ve come to the conclusion that procrastination is a trait that’s considered undesirable – an unwelcome guest that sneaks up and steals your productivity right out from under you. Change your perception about procrastination. Make it your friend, but not your BFF.

The key to making procrastination work for you is to first recognize it for what it is. Is there a task that needs to be done, but you’re dreading it so it’s been put on the back burner? Is there a daunting project looming that you don’t have the time or energy to complete? Consider how important and urgent this task or project really is. Rank it in importance of all the other projects and tasks that are present in your work and life. How will avoiding this task or project affect you?

Align your goals, tasks and priorities. If the task you’re putting off isn’t going to move the needle toward your most important goals, then put it aside – go ahead and procrastinate and stop feeling guilty. It’s not worth your energy. If you simply don’t have time given the other priorities in your work or life, set this task aside, outsource it or delegate it. As long as your making progress on what YOU believe are the most important or urgent tasks, then you’ve mastered the art of procrastination.

3. Myth – All Multi-tasking is Harmful

In the recent past, multi-tasking was considered a trait of highly effective people. It was a characteristic to brag about to friends and coworkers. Recently, productivity experts and researchers have flagged multi-tasking as a habit that reduces productivity and impairs intellectual ability. I agree, rapid multi-tasking is detrimental to productivity. If you’re shifting back and forth from many tasks or getting frequently interrupted, you lose focus and ultimately efficiency suffers.

On the other hand, I never believe in extremes. A limited amount of multi-tasking can make you more efficient, depending on the type of tasks you’re executing. For example, imagine you’re a teacher and you also have children who play baseball or soccer. While you’re waiting at their practice, spend time grading papers and you’ll have more quality 1-on-1 time with your kids when you return home. Discover which tasks don’t require a lot of thought and those are the tasks that can be done in the background. Think of your brain like a computer. If you have too many processes going, it will eventually impair the performance and sometimes it shuts down. You know your limits; use common sense when it comes to multi-tasking.

4. Myth – Paper Lists Work Better Than Digital Lists

LifeTopix ToDo List

LifeTopix App

I’ve heard time and time again that many of you are unconvinced that a digital to-do list has its productivity advantages over old-fashioned sticky notes or a moleskin day planner.

With an old-fashioned paper to-do list you’re required to erase items when you re-prioritize or make errors, which is arduous. With a digital list, re-prioritization is usually as quick and easy as a tap and drag action. It’s nearly impossible to share a paper list with someone who’s not at the same location when you’re delegating or sharing tasks. It’s challenging to save and reuse a paper list; these lists inevitably get thrown away or lost. Completed tasks or to-dos that are written on paper or whiteboards cannot be searched for history purposes. Your smartphone is compact, always with you — and ready while on the go. Save your time and some trees; a digital productivity app can boost efficiency and productivity with several benefits over paper methods.

5. Myth – You Must Get Up Early to be Productive

Most of us have heard the old idiom, “the early bird gets the worm” – meaning those who rise early reap the benefits. Do you believe if you rose earlier you would accomplish much more? This is another myth that needs busting.

Everyone is different. Some of us do our best work in the morning, while others flourish at night. In fact, researchers at Germany’s Aachen University determined that early birds and night owls may have structural differences of their brains.

Don’t focus on switching your natural rhythms. Learn your natural tendencies by listening to what your body is telling you. Log the times that you get the most done and feel you have the best focus. If getting up early depletes your energy and your schedule allows the flexibility of starting your day later, then go with the flow. Take advantage of when your energy is at its best and schedule your most difficult tasks during those times.

6. Myth – Caffeine Makes You Productive

It’s a proven fact that caffeine increases your alertness and may help you focus. However, becoming reliant on a caffeine boost to increase your productivity might be a crutch worth kicking.

Ultimately, caffeine can affect your wellness in ways that can be detrimental to productivity. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. In fact, it increases catecholamines, which trigger changes in our bodies that allow us to prepare for flight or fight responses. Catecholamines increase our heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Have you ever consumed too much caffeine to keep you awake so you can study for a final or finish a big project and it left you with a sleepless night? The result – you’re too tired to perform at your best. Or have you ever stopped drinking caffeine for a few days and felt the pain of a headache resulting from withdrawal? Caffeine withdrawal can include other symptoms as well, such as lack of concentration, depression and muscle pain. These withdrawal symptoms can result in days of lost productivity.

A great strategy for caffeine use is to limit it to the times you really need it, instead of making it a habit. And consider your caffeine source. Green tea is a great source because it also contains EGCG, which researchers believe can improve cognitive function. If you’re thinking about kicking your caffeine to the curb, there are many brain foods you can try to boost concentration. Blueberries, avocados, fatty fishes such as salmon, flax seeds, nuts and foods rich in B12 are good choices to boost energy and/or concentration.

7. Myth – Social Media is Killing Your Productivity

Pro.Inbox App

Pro.Inbox App

Social Media can destroy your productivity. However, it depends on how you use it. Do you check social media several times a day? Do you spend endless hours looking at your friends’ photos on Instagram or Facebook? Do you read every article that pops up on Twitter? If this sounds familiar, you might rethink how you’re consuming social media information. Scheduling a few minutes each day on your calendar to check social media during breaks can actually be a great way to recharge. You just need to use an ounce of self discipline.

Social media is valuable for finding information that you’re researching. It’s also valuable for keeping up with friends and business associates in one central location. For example, consider LinkedIn. Before LinkedIn, you might have spent endless hours collecting business cards and putting information into a Rolodex. Now, all your business contacts are found in one central location – just a few clicks away, which is an amazing productivity booster.

Social media is incredible for locating and collecting information when researching any subject. There are several apps and applications that help you locate and curate this information. For example, our app Pro.Inbox is a great app for this use.

With Pro.Inbox, you can create information feeds from Twitter and Facebook and customize these feeds with keywords for any subject for which you’re interested. For example, imagine you’re focused on finding information about Clutter, CRM, Goals, GTD and other subjects. You can simply create feeds for all of these subjects and find all relevant information quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, you can convert the tweets or posts you discover to notes or calendar items to ensure that you have a record of an article or other information for your research. Converting posts and tweets to calendar items is an excellent time-saving method. When you’re ready to follow up, you’ll easily be able to find the saved information. And, in fact, if you schedule these items on your calendar, you certainly won’t forget about them.

8. Myth – Socializing at the Office is a Waste of Time

Have you ever got the stink eye from your boss when you were discussing important things at the office such as the latest episode of “Game of Thrones?” Many managers believe that socializing and laughing at the office is a huge time waster. In some cases, your boss is right; socializing can be a time suck.

But, with a little common sense, socializing can also build friendships, which can lead to better team relationships. When you have good relationships with co-workers, they’ll enjoy working with you. And perhaps, help you out when you need it. We spend 40 or more hours a week at our jobs. A happy worker is a productive worker. Go ahead, find some friends and laugh a little. Just properly manage your priorities and don’t overdo it.

Your Turn

What common productivity myths would you like to bust? Please share in the comments below.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety – 3 Things That Work For Me

Over the years, probably brought on by being a startup junkie and always having poured myself unreservedly into work my entire professional life, I’ve developed several bad habits or things that are harmful to health, and perhaps also to relationships.

On the one hand, there is this insatiable passion and seemingly endless energy to take on challenges, get stuff done, being an engine that is always on. Sadly, on the other hand, there is fatigue, irritability, loss of focus, and low quality sleep. Undeniably, according to both ancient wisdom and modern medical know-how, the latter set of things affect one’s health dangerously. And with equal importance, the closest relationships are exposed to occasional bouts of irritability and other forms of negative energy. Broadly speaking, there is a general feeling of stress and anxiety as a result.

Three things I have either changed or started recently are personally helping me a lot without taking away from my productivity, and seem to be helping cut out the bad set of things.

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1. Turn off all audible alerts and lock-screen notifications on devices. (Except calendar reminders and text messages.)

This was a surprisingly welcome change. Sounds simple, but do you really need to be suddenly interrupted from your flow or zone, with a ding and a lock screen message that “Your Facebook friend so-and-so just joined Pinterest.” – and other irrelevant, unnecessary crap? I started going into my iPhone’s Notifications setup each time anything came up (Mail app alerts, Google alerts, Facebook, Twitter, CNBC alerts, and perhaps 10 others), and turning them off. I left Calendar and text message alerts on as I control the reminders I put on my calendar items, and also I am not a defocussed incessant texter – especially when I work, so most texts I get are important. On the same note, during work hours, I only make myself visible to the group of people I am working with on messaging apps. I still check my email and look at my agenda frequently, but on my own schedule, when I am in-between focussed tasks – kind of like waking up in sync with natural sleep cycles. Which leads me to my second thing – sleep.

2. Sleep well. Instead of an alarm clock, use an app like Sleep Cycle.

I started using this about a couple of months ago instead of using a regular alarm. It is ingeniously simple. You turn it on, put it next to your pillow facing down. It tracks your sleep cycles, duration and quality by tracking motion (whatever it detects from your tossing and turning, etc.), and perhaps from movement noise since it asks for access to the microphone. You can configure a window of time to wake up in, and it detects a stage when you are either awake or your sleep is in the waking part of the cycle during that time window, and wakes you up. Also, it measures your sleep quality and gives you a score and a graph of sleep level over time – that way you can correlate various pre-sleep activities with quality of sleep – for example, does sipping some tart cherry juice an hour before going to bed actually help with sleep, does deep breathing right before sleep give you some golden deep sleep cycles, etc. As my friend Chip had said 20 years ago: you should measure things that you care about. Inducing positive energy and a calm disengagement via pre-sleep deep breathing, and cutting out sources of negative energy seem to help in my case – which takes me to the third point.

3. Add positive energy (many choices). Cut out negative energy (namely TV news channels, and social media complainers).

Points 1 and 2 take zero time investment and give heavy positive returns. So that’s golden for the ROI (return-on-investment) fanatics. Point three is also a net positive – consuming about 30-60 minutes of time every day for adding positive energy (meditation / deep-breathing / quiet-time / simple yoga / reading / praying / reflecting / being grateful – look up Positive Psychology when you have a minute), but freeing up much more than that by subtracting sources of negative energy that steal time both directly and indirectly, and negatively affect every aspect of life. I am talking primarily about TV “news” folk, political talking-heads and other assorted villains – kings and queens of ignorance on TV and the internet constantly furthering their narrow agendas by stepping on your gentle minds. They come from the right and the left – ignore them, and instead look straight at what you value – there’s much better stuff there. The negative energy sources are plentiful in our social circles, in person, and more so on social media since it’s a much larger set. Cut. Them. Out. Hide them from your feeds, unfollow them, walk-away, change the topic, do whatever it takes to cleanly disengage. There are always tons of important things that require immense energy, constructive debate, championing ideas, defending values, and much effort without all the shallow and shrill things stealing our precious time. Any issue that is important to you can be engaged with constructively without subscribing to a buffet-line of fast-food class negative sentiments. That frees up more time to embrace positive things. Things you admire. Things you learn from. Things that leave you positive. Spend time with people that enrich you, and take a vacation every now and then!

What are some of your favorite positive energy sources? What kinds of negative energy sources have you successfully cut out? Please share.

A Mom’s Guide to Making Brilliant To-do Lists and Getting Stuff Done

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In our modern world, we’re busier than ever — especially when raising children and running a household. We’re rushing from one activity to another, and we struggle to find the time to get everything done that we plan to do. Important tasks fall through the cracks leading to embarrassment and other consequences, such as an unpleasant phone call from a teacher. Sound familiar?

I fully relate to how crazy life can be for parents. I have the unique and fortunate experience of working outside of the home and being a stay-at-home mom. For five years, I focused on parenting — juggling school-related activities, volunteer work, household chores, and equestrian hobbies. Outside of those five years, I’ve worked in the technology industry on teams using cutting-edge project management and software development techniques.

Over the years, I’ve gained invaluable experience in several project management methodologies that you can easily apply to running a household. I’m never a purist – I choose techniques from various methodologies to develop my own time management style.

Specifically, I learned techniques for managing my to-dos in smarter ways, which I’m excited to share to help parents who might be struggling with managing their busy lives and schedules.

The Basics: Why Keep a To-do List?

Studies show that most people can only remember 3 to 9 items at a time. If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you have more than 9 items to do. If not, I’m jealous. Trying to keep all those items in your head consumes energy that you can put to better use.

David Allen, the founder of the Getting Things Done® (GTD) method for managing life and business suggests that you capture anything and everything that has your attention. Why? Because your head is not a calendar, whiteboard, computer, or notebook — it just can’t hold all of this information efficiently. Capturing everything you need to do will free your mind of trying to remember to pick up snacks for baseball practice or preparing for a PTA meeting.

Studies also show that keeping a to-do list can lead to high self-esteem. Crossing off your to-dos gives you a sense of accomplishment and gratification. If you don’t complete everything, you’re still seeing progress. My mantra is — “progress, not perfection.”

The Basics: What’s a To-do?

When you first make to-do lists, you might blend goals, projects, tasks, and events/appointments — consider they’re all different, which I explain below.

Goals – Big things that you want to accomplish, such as “Have an efficient cooking environment before the holidays“ or “Lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks.”

Projects – Large undertakings that you can break down into tasks, such as “Organized Kitchen” or “Triathlon Training.”

Tasks/To-dos – Smaller items that help you to achieve goals and/or complete projects, such as “Remove expired food from refrigerator” or “Run three miles.” In this post, I’m using the terms “to-dos” and “tasks” interchangeably.

Events/Appointments – Things you must perform at a designated time and/or place, such as a parent-teacher conference. Events can result from goals, projects, or tasks — such as an appointment with a professional organizer.

When making to-do lists, focus on tasks — not projects, goals, and events. Ensure they’re actionable things that you can accomplish in a session. Don’t be afraid to break tasks up into smaller tasks. With practice, you’ll understand how large or small your tasks should be.

You Have a Colossal To-do List. What Now?

You’ve captured actionable things that you can accomplish in a session, and now you have a monster to-do list and you’re more stressed than ever. This is when you tame the beast by putting prioritization into play.

Consider that your to-do list is essentially a list of requirements and think of your family as a high-performing team who prioritizes and delivers various things — homework, shopping, meals, balanced budgets, etc.

In business, the Product Manager of a team typically prioritizes requirements into scales, such as “Critical,” “Important,” and “Desirable.” For example, in the case of a household, “Schedule Carpool” and “Feed the Dog” might fall into “Critical,” while “Vacuum the Office” might fall into “Important.” Also, consider using a “To-Don’t” list for anything you’ve decided is just not important or do-able.

Instead, you might choose to prioritize using the Covey Quadrant, which is described in depth in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey. The quadrant identifies four categories for prioritization, Quadrant 1 (Important and Urgent), Quadrant 2 (Important and Not Urgent), Quadrant 3 (Not Important and Urgent), and Quadrant 4 (Not Important and Not Urgent).

Choose a tool for categorizing your to-dos — paper, whiteboard, mobile app, or other software. Divide your to-dos into the above categories or sections of your quadrant.

Help! What Do You Do Next?

Figuring out the jobs that you work on each day or week is unique to you. It hinges on the type of work you do, your family’s priorities, your available time, and special needs that your family might have. When you choose your family’s to-dos, evaluate the time and resources you have available, and the priority of the tasks.

For me, my work and life is very deadline driven. When I don’t have a hard deadline, I establish one for myself, and this method prompts me to get things done. I schedule hard commitments and deadlines on my calendar and fit the other items into the gaps in-between.

I suggest that you trust your intuition. Be fearless about breaking your rules if things aren’t working for you and your family.

How Can Your Family Help?

Sharing is caring. Getting the family to share household priorities can have a profound effect on success. To accomplish this, I look to Agile software development.

Agile software development is one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. It was developed by a group of software developers about a decade ago. And it’s become one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. Applying this methodology to family life has become a popular trend.

One of the principles of agile is a “self-organizing” team. In a self-organizing team, a group works together to accomplish a goal — and they choose their tasks — instead of waiting to take orders from “the boss.” Yeah, that’s right. You have to relinquish some of your control.

In Agile, the team attends a planning meeting at regular intervals. For families, I recommend the same technique. At this meeting, the family reviews the tasks in the “backlog” (the items you captured and collected) and decides what to do in the next “sprint,” which is a period of time determined by the team. This technique empowers the family to agree on the goals and tasks, and it encourages the family to participate.

Another method to adopt from Agile is the “daily standup.” This is a short session where each family member communicates 1) What I accomplished yesterday, 2) What I will do today, and 3) Is anything blocking me from getting stuff done. A quick, casual “daily standup” gets the family on track and identifies any issues, such as unfinished homework.

What’s the Right Tool for the Job?

For families with children who are old enough to use computers, tablets, and smartphones, I suggest finding technology, such as a personal organization application, that works for your family.

Encourage family members to add commitments, such as travel plans, homework that’s due, carpools, soccer practices, piano lessons, etc. to the calendar so the entire family understands when and where these items are taking place. Find a personal information organizer that enables you to manage the family calendar and task lists in one place. Take advantage of audible and visible notifications to make sure you never miss an important meeting, task, or appointment.

With a mobile personal organizer, your family has access to a shared calendar and task lists at any place or time. For example, when you’re at baseball practice and you’re assigned snack duty; you can instantly add this commitment to your calendar and the items to buy to your shopping list. This way, there’s no excuse for showing up empty handed.

Your Turn

Please comment and share your ideas for organizing your families’ crazy schedules and commitments. Thanks!

Five Ways to Start and Finish Tasks and Responsibilities

Many of us believe that some people are naturally highly motivated to complete tasks while others are not. This may or may not be true, but I believe that there’s always ways to improve your ability to get things done.

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A study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology indicates genes might play in role in whether or not a person is productive. In the study, rats which were selectively bred to run were over 10 times more likely to run than their more lazy counterparts. In my opinion, as this might explain that some species may be bred to exhibit some characteristics, human motivation is much more complex and you must consider many varying factors. In other words, don’t blame your genes for laziness. Instead, learn tactics to motivate yourself to start and finish tasks.

If you believe you fall in the less motivated crowd, trust that you can become a more productive person who starts tasks, and finishes them within deadlines. If you understand the reasons that you might not be motivated and if you learn a few simple time management skills, you can improve your ability to get things done.

1. LEARN WHAT MOTIVATES YOU

We’re all different. Learn what motivates YOU. Is it wealth? Is it winning? Do you want to help people? Is it attention from others? Positive reinforcement? Meaningful work? Take note of what motivates you to complete tasks and projects and focus on these areas. Become an expert in the areas that you care about.

For example, you might be motivated by meaningful work. Seek out opportunities that support your desire to help the poor, express your creative side, or teach children – it’s up to you. Focus on these opportunities to boost your motivation. When you’re feeling good about a job well done, your self-esteem soars, and you’ll gain confidence and inspiration when completing the less desirable tasks.

2. VISUALIZE POSITIVE OUTCOMES

Worrying about the consequences of not finishing projects and tasks leads to more and more procrastination. It’s a vicious cycle. Focus on the reward and visualize the positive outcomes. Think about how good you will feel when you accomplish the goal.

For example, you might prefer to sit on the couch and watch TV night after night instead of attending workout sessions. From my own experience, I reduced my number of workouts and noticed my waistline expanding and my blood pressure rising, which is a bad combination. To combat this, I visualize fitting into my smaller jeans and the blood pressure numbers going down. This motivates me to schedule and show up for my workouts to reach better health and wellness. So far, the method is working and I’m back in smaller jeans, and I continue to improve my health.

3. PLAN YOUR TASKS AND PROJECTS

Sometimes it’s difficult to get started on tasks because you feel like there’s too much to do and you get overwhelmed. You have several balls in the air, and then you simply shut down and search the web for funny cat pictures.

Having a clear picture of all the items that you need to accomplish and having an understanding of what’s urgent and what’s not urgent will actually put your mind at ease. Recording and managing your tasks gives you an idea of what can fall off the list and what can wait until a later date. Using a mobile task management app or other software makes it easy to re-prioritize and keep track of your to-dos, projects, tasks, appointments, goals, and events.

There are several methods and task managers for managing the things you need to do. We recommend our app, LifeTopix and it’s little sister, My.Agenda for keeping track of your ever-growing task lists.

4. FIND MOTIVATION IN A FRIEND

If there’s a task that you find unpleasant, find a friend who enjoys the task and team up. For example, I don’t love yoga. I understand the benefits of yoga, such as healing pain and improving immune function as well as improving health overall, I just don’t enjoy practicing it. I’ve made a resolution this year to change my workout plan to focus on yoga. Therefore, I found a friend who’s a yoga instructor and she’s willing to attend classes with me. I know she will help me stay accountable for keeping up with my practice and maybe I’ll learn to love yoga through her enthusiasm and the benefits that it provides.

5. TAKE STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH

Nothing crushes motivation more than feeling sick, tired, depressed, or in pain. If your health is limiting your motivation, seek help from traditional or alternative medical practitioners for acute or chronic conditions. If you have a condition that’s difficult to treat or if you just want to improve your general health and fitness, you might consider learning about the Quantified Self movement.

The Quantified Self is a movement that advocates measuring characteristics of your daily life such as calories, blood pressure, exercise, diet, heart rate, and other aspects. The purpose of measuring these aspects of your life is to gain knowledge about yourself, which can lead to insights for improving your health and happiness and for reaching personal goals. Quantified Self is also referred to as self tracking or self quantifying.

When your goal is to improve your health, keep these things in mind – never give up, get support from professionals, be patient, exercise your mind and body, and keep a positive attitude. A positive attitude can take you a long way. Also, just completing one or two small tasks when you’re not feeling well can give you a great feeling of accomplishment. You might have limitations, but accepting them is not giving up. Be thankful for what you can do!

YOUR TURN

Please comment and let us know how you find ways to start and finish tasks and to improve your motivation.

Understand Your Brain Dominance for Better Productivity

Brain Dominance

Sometimes people are described as right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant. Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize winner and Neuropsychologist, described right and left-brain dominance in 1981 when researching the split brain. According to his findings, the left side of the brain controls logic and focus, and the right side of the brain controls creativity.

Corresponding to Sperry’s theory, people who are left-brainers excel in project management and they’re inclined to follow productivity systems. Those who are right-brainers are more artistic, and they decide their course of action as they go along. In reality, most people have both left-brain and right-brain characteristics. However, they might have more characteristics associated with one side or the other.

We typically associate prioritization and planning with left-brainers. However, the right-brainers use intuition and big-picture thinking to manage their time so don’t discount their valuable skills. Being conscious of the less dominant side of the brain can help strengthen it. This understanding can be useful for productivity goals. Learning balanced thinking skills (using both sides of the brain) can boost productivity.

Are You a Right or Left-Brainer?

Right-brain characteristics include imagination, artistry, and intuition. People who are right-brain dominant tend to be more passionate, empathetic, and impulsive. They choose professions in marketing, fiction writing, teaching, sales, art, and design.

Left-brain characteristics include language skills, logical thinking, and math and spelling skills. People who are left-brain dominant tend to process information linearly when solving problems. They are usually good planners and tend to make to-do lists. They choose professions in science, legal, programming, engineering, non-fiction writing, and health care.

If you want to learn if you’re a right or left-brainer, you can take a quick test online. This short quiz from Eterna helps you determine your brain hemisphere dominance. I personally took the test, and it determined that I’m right brain dominant which was not a surprise for me. My intuition told me where my dominance falls.

Messy and Clean Desks Play Roles in Productivity

Messy desks can be associated with creative, right-brainers, while clean desks can be associated with the more orderly left-brainers. This is a generalization, of course.

I recently discovered an article “Why You Should Have a Messy Desk.” The article states that many of the most successful people in recent history have or had messy desks – including Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Tony Hsieh, and Mark Twain. What do these successful CEOs such as Hsieh and other leaders have in common? They’re creative visionaries and big-picture thinkers — most likely, right-brainers. My theory is that they’re heavily involved at the beginning phases of the creative process — the stage that new, innovative ideas develop. And after they’ve designed the new concepts, they hand over the project to the team members who plan, implement, and develop the final products under their creative guidance.

After research and thought, I concluded that messiness AND neatness play a role in productivity. A study from the University of Minnesota determined that an orderly environment activates a mindset of following convention and a disorderly environment promotes exploring new ideas.

Visualize effective brainstorming sessions in messy offices or conference rooms — ideas flowing freely in an unstructured way. Imagine a creative war room at an advertising agency – think Mad Men. These unstructured spaces are where ideas flow. On the other hand, picture times when you’re getting things done. In my case, I clear my desk of clutter so the things around me aren’t demanding my attention. I’m a right-brainer who employs practices of the left-brainer to boost my productivity.

To encourage productivity, consider your task at hand and your brain dominance. Messiness promotes the creative process and neatness encourages the implementation of projects in a conventional way. If you’re a right-brainer, don’t be afraid to tidy your workspace when you’re in the execution phase of a project. If you’re a left-brainer, go with the flow of a messy environment when you’re brainstorming and generating new ideas.

Exercise the Less Dominant Side of the Brain

You can greatly improve your productivity by complementing your thinking with thoughts and behaviors that don’t come naturally to you. You can also perform brain exercises to develop the less dominant side of the brain.

If you’re a left-brainer, you probably believe you don’t need advice for being productive because you have an excellent system in place. However, you might lack big-picture thinking. Do you get bogged down in the details and tend to lose sight of the big picture? Do you analyze the numbers, but lack intuition about the direction you should take? Is finding creative answers to problems difficult for you?

Understanding the above weaknesses of the left-brainer can help them to improve their decision-making, problem solving, and productivity. This type of thinking might not come natural; however, the left-brainer can benefit from brain exercises such as drawing, playing an instrument, and playing sports to strengthen the right side of the brain.

If you’re a right-brainer, you probably don’t use a productivity system because you intuitively know how much time it takes to complete a project or task. Do you keep your agenda and your ideas in your head and easily visualize your projects and tasks? Do you get your projects done (sometimes at the 11th hour), but forget to pay your mortgage? Do you ignore the numbers and make decisions based on creativity and intuition? Are you late for meetings because you don’t make appointments and use reminders?

Using a productivity system or software with projects, appointments, reminders, and tasks can greatly improve the right-brainer’s productivity. The right-brainer can also improve their focus by working in 90-minute intervals with 10-20 minute breaks. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, coding, writing, and reading (without skimming) can exercise the left side of the brain.

Your Turn

Did you take the test to learn your brain dominance? Do the ideas and notions in this post ring true for you? Do you use a productivity system? Comment and let us know!

A Day in the Life With LifeTopix

In this video, we’re following Susan who is a busy woman on the go. She’s a wife, mom, and real-estate agent. How does she do it all? She manages her time using LifeTopix. Watch the following video to learn how…

You can find LifeTopix at the App Store.

Transcript

Today, we’re going to be following Susan. Susan is a busy woman on the go. She’s a wife, mom, and real-estate agent. How does she do it all? She manages her time using LifeTopix.

Welcome to LifeTopix. If you’re not familiar with LifeTopix, it’s a complete productivity app for personal organization. With LifeTopix, you can manage your calendar, tasks/to-dos, projects, notes, files, health, and much more with its 12 topics. 

Let’s take a look at Susan’s busy schedule. We’ll start at the LifeTopix Agenda view. The Agenda view is a high-level view of everything that Susan has planned today, tomorrow, and the next 7 days.  This way, Susan always knows exactly what’s on her schedule. 

Also with the handy Agenda view, Susan can also manage her to-do lists. She sets up a daily checklist so she makes sure she hasn’t forgotten anything.

And if there’s something Susan doesn’t want to see, she can easily filter it out.

Susan has several ways of viewing her busy schedule on her calendar. She can view it by Day, Week, Month, and Year. And once again, handy filters let her decide what she wants to see.

The Near Me view makes planning your day very convenient because you can see exactly where all of your items for the day are located. You can tap the pin for more information, or you can dive into the details by tapping here.

Let’s dive into some of the details of Susan’s schedule. Sometimes Susan is required to drive the kids to school via carpool. So she set up a recurring appointment. She has not set up the location yet, but it is easy to do. If you tap here, select Specify/Show on Map, Add the Address, or just the name of the school, Search — it will automatically find the location for you and you can save it and refer to it at a later time.

Susan is a very fit and healthy woman and it’s important to her to exercise and eat right. I’m going to show you how she logs her calories and workouts each day. By choosing the Quick Add here. And then choosing log form, you can see the different log forms that she’s set up. One is for Activity, One is for Calories, and the next one is for her Daily Medications. When she wants to log her activity, she simply taps here, enters in the information, let’s say she did the treadmill for an hour today, and saves it and it’s logged for the day. It works the same way for calories and daily medications.

During lunch, Susan has set up an initial appointment with her Interior Designer for her home remodeling project. She sees her appointment is not confirmed so it’s easy to give Tad a call by tapping here and finding his contact information.

Susan has set up her home remodeling project as a LifeTopix project. When she meets with Tad, she will want to make sure she has some notes. Tad might have a blueprint that she can easily add, by adding a file here. 

It looks like Tad has brought his sketches. What’s great is Susan can attach them to her remodeling project in a PDF format.

Susan is also furthering her education by getting certified as a real estate broker. What’s very important for her is getting certified, so she’s set up a broker certification in her Education topic in Lifetopix. Today she has a test scheduled, so she has scheduled that as a task. In addition, she’s added notes to this so she can make sure to study for this quiz. She can also use Evernote to sync notes back and forth from LifeTopix to Evernote.

Last but not least, Susan has set up dinner with her family. Let’s go back to the My Calendar view and take a look at that. Here’s the appointment. She can easily tap here and see where to find the restaurant. But what’s really important to Susan is sharing her remodeling notes for collaboration with her husband. All she needs to do is tap here and send her husband this note via email. He can import this note directly into LifeTopix or he can open it.

I hope you found our “day in the life” helpful to give you an idea of how you can leverage LifeTopix in your own busy life. 

13 Ways LifeTopix Can Improve Your Life in 2013

What are your goals for 2013? Everyone wants to live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life — but how do you get there? We’ve compiled a list of 13 ways that the LifeTopix calendar, productivity, and organization app can help you do more. The result? Get more done, reduce stress, and spend more time doing the things you really want to do.

1. Improve your nutrition

After the holidays, many of us are mortified when we step on the scale. Perhaps you can relate and you’re wanting to make better food choices and to maintain a healthy weight in 2013. LifeTopix can help you track your food consumption. For example, you can record and view the calories, protein, solid fats, alcohol, desserts, or almost any other item that you’re consuming each day in a graphical format. As an example, in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic, you can use the LifeTopix Nutrition Log Forms to view the maximum number of calories that you’ve set to make sure you’re not exceeding this number. Or, if your goal is to eat more vegetables or protein, you can set this too!

2. Get your health under control

Ignoring health issues can have serious consequences. LifeTopix includes many features for tracking your health stats. Are you dealing with hypertension and your doctor has asked you to log your blood pressure? Are you anemic and you need to track your blood count? Do you have sleep problems and you want to track your sleep quality? LifeTopix can handle these items and many more via the LifeTopix Medication Log and Wellness Log in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic.

3. Take vitamins and medications consistently

Do you have good intentions about taking your vitamins and prescription medications, but frequently forget to take them or cannot remember if you’ve taken them? With some medications, it’s imperative that you’re taking them each day, and sometimes even at the same time each day. With the LifeTopix Medication Log form in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic, you can record your intake of vitamins and medications each day — and the log automatically includes the current date and time when you add a medication entry.

4. Reach your fitness goals

Are you wanting to start a fitness routine, maintain your current fitness level, or bump your fitness up to a new level in 2013? Perhaps you’re training for a triathlon or planning your first marathon. Or, maybe you want to make sure you take a 30 minute walk with your dog each morning. Whatever your fitness level, LifeTopix provides the flexibility for planning and tracking your fitness. You can use the LifeTopix Activity Log Forms in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic to set and view any type of exercise you wish — and just like nutrition, you can see if you’re reaching those goals via a graphical format.

5. Make shopping trips more efficient

Do you spend hours planning your family meals and shopping at the grocery store? Do you want to spend less time shopping and more time with your family or friends, catching a game, or spending time on your hobbies? If this is one of your goals for 2013, LifeTopix can help. Many of us are creatures of habit so LifeTopix helps you organize the stores you go to frequently and the items you buy most often. You can add the items that you purchase — along with the seller, unit price, unit, quantity, and total price to your master list of products. Then, simply select these items, add them to your lists, and check them off as you buy them. It’s as simple as that.

6. Save money and stick to your budget

After the holidays, you might want to put a little jingle back in your pocket. And with the downturn in the economy, sticking to a budget in 2013 might also be one of your highest priorities. The LifeTopix Finances topic was created for just this reason. Not only can you track all your financial accounts, credit card and debit cards, and investment accounts  — it lets you record the recur­ring bill pay­ments for all the ser­vices you use and the one-time pay­ments you make. You can view all of these pay­ments on your Expenses Calendar. And you can track the things that you sell, such as through a garage sale or ebay. And, as an added bonus, you can track your online coupons in the Shopping topic to help you save a little extra money.

7. Get smart

Whether you’re a student or a professional who’s focusing on their personal growth or professional skills, LifeTopix can help you organize and track the things that you need to further your education. If you’re a student, the Education topic enables you to take notes about education, set up projects and assignments, and add the subjects that you take. As a student, you can create a class schedule and associate a location with each of your classes. Or perhaps you’re a professional who’s obtaining a HIPAA certification, taking graphic design classes to improve your design skills, or becoming a fitness instructor — with LifeTopix, you can utilize personal growth categories to help you track your certifications and training in the LifeTopix Education topic.

8. Be creative

Are you planning to start a new business, write a novel or screenplay, or compose music in 2013? Have you ever had a creative thought related to your job or hobbies, but didn’t catch that idea immediately and then forgot it later? We just can’t predict when a great idea is going to pop into our heads so being prepared through journaling is wise. Mobile devices are amazing for capturing those ideas because we carry them almost everywhere we go. The LifeTopix Notes + Files topic is perfect for this use. You can take notes everywhere you go and if you prefer to use Evernote for note taking, LifeTopix conveniently works with it too.

9. Build relationships

In 2013, one of your goals might be to build business or personal relationships. To build relationships, it’s helpful to record your interactions with friends, family, or colleagues. For example, perhaps you’ve included all your friends’ and family members’ birthdays and you want to ensure you wish them a happy birthday and send them gifts. Through LifeTopix, you can set a reminder, plan the gift you wish to purchase, and automatically add it to a shopping list. Any time you associate a person with an item in LifeTopix, those people are filed under the People + Services topic. The possibilities are endless. You will be the star of your next family reunion. And, LifeTopix works with your iOS contacts so double entry is not necessary.

10. Make more time for yourself

For your well being, it’s a great idea to schedule time for yourself. If you’re the type of person who takes on too much responsibility and needs to share more of it, then LifeTopix is for you. Through the LifeTopix “Discuss” features, you can share your projects, checklists, events, shopping lists, trips, visits, notes, and more. For example, you can create a shopping list and then share it with your spouse. Or you can create a “honey-do” list with chores for your husband. Your spouse can view it via email and then add it to LifeTopix in just one tap.

11. Go paperless and reduce clutter

Is your home office a cluttered mess? Do you want to reduce your consumption and accumulation of paper to reduce your impact on the environment? Do you want to lighten your load when meeting clients or going to the office? If so, LifeTopix is for you. LifeTopix works with popular cloud-based file storage systems such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive so you can store all your items digitally — and then associate those documents in the context of your life items within LifeTopix.

12. Get things done

Do you have DIY projects that you want to complete such as organizing your closet, remodeling your kitchen, or landscaping the backyard? Or perhaps you’re planning to build a new website? With LifeTopix, you can plan your projects and tasks with ease. The LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic gives you the abil­ity to enter, orga­nize, pri­or­i­tize, track, and check off your projects’ tasks.

13. Take a vacation

Now that you’ve saved money, got more done, built up your client base, got your health under control, finished your projects, and lost a few pounds — it’s time to take a vacation. Luckily, with the Life­Topix Travel + Places topic, you can plan your vacation from end-to-end. You can track the dates, set reminders, make packing checklists, set bookmarks to travel websites, and make note of places you want to visit such as restaurants, golf courses, or tourist attractions.

We hope this gives you some ideas of how you can use LifeTopix to improve your life in 2013. Please share and comment! Happy New Year!

Download LifeTopix:

Are You Guilty of Cyberslacking? Learn the Facts [Infographic]

Cyberslacking, which is typically defined as using the Internet or your mobile devices during work for personal use, can be a serious drain on your productivity. It’s also a big concern for employers due to the potential damage to profits. In fact, according to theofficesoftware.com, a company with 1,000 Internet users could lose upwards of $35 million in productivity annually from just an hour of daily Web surfing by employees. Another study by the IT services group, Morse, indicates that using social networking sites, such as Twitter, is costing companies approximately $2.25 billion a year.

With that being said, according to “Social Networks and Happiness” by Nicholas A Christakis & James H. Fowler, happy people tend to be located in the center of their social networks — and that adding happy friends increases a person’s probability of being happy by about 9 percent. It should be noted that happy people are more productive so isolating people from their virtual friends at work might actually be counterproductive.

But how much is too much? That’s for you and your employer to decide. Finding a good balance between productivity and “slacking off” will ultimately help you to be happy and achieve your goals and objectives. The Infographic below includes facts & solutions to help you be more productive, and still spend some time socializing with your network of friends. How do you find your balance? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Free Cyberslacking Infographic

Cyberslacking Infographic – LightArrow, Inc.

7 Small Steps for Big Productivity Rewards

Overthinking, analysis paralysis, brooding, reflecting, deliberating — whatever you call it, it’s the nemesis to productivity. Have you considered using a productivity system such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD), but you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed before getting started? Do you debate whether the system is right for you? GTD works great for many people and they swear by it, and others believe it’s too complex or limits their creativity.

Productivity systems should be based on personal motivation, needs, and objectives. It’s important to find the system or tool that’s right for you — and sometimes this means starting small or inventing your own system by using a variety of best practices. And if you find you’re spending more time managing your system than getting things done, it’s time to simplify or re-think it.

To help you get started with the basics, we’ve created this quick summary. Keep reading to be up and running without the overhead and expense of a heavy productivity system — no seminars or training sessions — just practical advice.

1. Capture Everything

Productivity gurus, such as David Allen, have coined the term “ubiquitous capture” for the practice of capturing everything. The idea here is to always carry some sort of tool to capture ideas, to-do, messages, diagrams, notes, etc. because we simply can’t remember everything. There’s several tools for capturing these items from a simple notebook, index cards, a journal, a note-taking app, to an all-in-one organization app, such as LifeTopix. This is fundamental to productivity success, and it also helps you remember and act on your spontaneous creative ideas.

We recommend to go even further, and categorize these items. Associate these items to their value — whether it is emotional, strategic, creative, tactical, health-related, etc. This will help you determine their importance within your life.

2. Understand “Importance” vs.“Urgency”

Knowing what’s important, rather than urgent is essential to move the needle forward. For example, imagine you’re in charge of Engineering at a large corporation and there’s a need to develop an innovative, new platform that’s a gamechanger in the industry. You know this project is an essential element to success. If you’re a leader and you ignore this objective and instead jump on small tactical improvements, you’re putting urgency ahead of importance. Or perhaps, you’re a mom raising young children. You may feel that it’s urgent to vacuum your house every day, but the importance of reading books to your children will certainly pay off in the long term.

Scheduling uninterrupted time every day, week, or month to knock out these big projects will help you move the needle to achieve your most important goals and objectives.

3. Break Big Projects into Tasks

Mark Twain wrote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” This seems obvious, but many of us fail to break these big projects down into manageable, actionable tasks — and the result is procrastination.

Large projects seem daunting and it’s difficult to get started. For example, imagine you’re planning a pool party and you need to prepare the swimming pool for the event. Perhaps you’re having a hard time getting started. To fully understand the scope of the project, the tasks you can delegate, the length of the project, and the tasks you can let slide, it’s important to break the project into manageable chunks.

After breaking up the project into tasks, it might look something like this:

Project – Prepare Pool for Party

  • Treat pool with chemicals
  • Backwash pool
  • Vacuum pool furniture
  • Powerwash pool deck
  • Net pool
  • Fix volleyball net
  • Vacuum pool
  • Sweep pool deck
  • Lay out towels
  • Fix basketball hoop

When you consider everything that needs to be completed for the entire party, this list gives you the information to make smart decisions about outsourcing, delegating, and letting some tasks fall to the wayside.

4. Prioritize Your To-do Lists

A to-do list is a list of tasks to complete within a specific period of time. The most important items should be listed first. Project management professionals recommend applying the 80/20 rule or “Pareto Principle” to many elements of business — including your to-do lists. In the early 1900s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula that described the unequal distribution of wealth in his country. He observed that approximately twenty percent of the people ruled eighty percent of the country’s wealth. In the 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran, a management consultant, attributed the 80/20 Rule to Pareto, calling it the Pareto Principle.

When applying the Pareto Principle to productivity, it reminds us to stay focused on what matters the most. For example, consider the above example for preparing the swimming pool. Using the Pareto Principle, theoretically, approximately two of those tasks are of high value. If you choose to complete those two tasks, you’ll get a much bigger return than if you’ve completed several of the lower value tasks.

5. Keep Everything in One Place

Whatever tool you choose, make sure you capture everything in one place. It’s important to use one app or platform that’s the hub or single point of access for all of your data. Without this, you’re wasting time locating the information you need. For example, if you’re using five different iPad apps for your productivity system that aren’t integrated or associated, your constantly searching for information and the data is presented out of context. When data isn’t related, it’s difficult to locate trends, such as a relationship between practicing meditation and improved productivity.

6. Schedule Using a Calendar

A calendar is best suited for time-based items, such as appointments and events; and many productivity experts believe that to-do lists should be kept separate from your calendar. Using a combination of both a calendar and a to-do list is ideal because they serve different purposes. Your tool should allow you to create a to-do list separately from your calendar, but present it on your calendar if you choose to do so.

Another tactic for using your calendar efficiently is to block off time for focusing on your tasks or projects. When colleagues schedule meetings, they will see that you’ve blocked off that time. Make the most of it — keep a journal to help identify the productive times of the day and schedule these blocks of time to complete your list of to-dos. These productive times can be based on your children’s nap times, your natural rhythms, the slower times of the day at the office, or other environmental factors.

7. Reduce Distractions

There’s many ways to reduce distractions, but they vary depending on your life. If you’re at home and raising children, managing distractions might be more difficult because the day can be quite unpredictable. Regardless of your situation, journaling to learn the natural rhythm of the day will help you find the best times for working on your projects. During this time, if your situation allows it, turn off the phone ringer, shut down email and social media notifications, and resist from surfing the Internet or watching television. Focus for 90 to 120 minutes, and take a 20 minute break. See our post about Ultradian Rhythms for more information.

If you work from home, make sure you work in a quiet, solitary place. Consider if you’re out of sight, you’re also out of mind and less likely to be interrupted by family members and pets. At the office, shut your door or wear headphones to signal that distractions aren’t acceptable. Let your coworkers know when you’re not available for discussions or socializing.

We hope this helps to get you started with a productivity system in no time. Please comment and let us know your top tips for getting up and running quickly.