In this ultra fast paced society we live in nowadays, it can be hard to find the time to step back and take a deep breath. Technology continuously develops in ways that allow us to accomplish everyday tasks faster. We then use this extra time to cram in more and more stuff. Often this extra stuff is a lot of fluff that distracts us from true productivity. We can spend a lot of time on Facebook or Email each day now that it is in our pockets.
It seems we are always racing the clock. The more you fit into your day, the more productive you are, right? It may seem counter intuitive, but we all could step up our productivity by slowing down a bit. The moment we slow down, we become less focused on quantity and more focused on quality. We stop and think deeper about the task at hand, rather than sacrificing some of our focus to past or future tasks.
Although most of us realize this to be true, it is easy to lose sight of what is truly productive and just cram in as much as possible into each day and hope for the best. Having time to reflect on past performance is infinitely more valuable than time to fit in yet another thing on your to-do list.
It is more important to work smart than to work hard. Sure, working hard can get you far, but if you are not working smart, you are wasting time, and time is money.
So how do we slow things down? Especially when I HAVE to check my email, attend meetings, cook, clean, and make it to the gym? The first and most important step is prioritizing the tasks that work towards YOUR goals, not other people’s goals.
Checking Facebook and Gmail obsessively, while entertaining, effectively sucks away your true productivity. Yes, there is a stream of information that can be useful to you, however when the first thing you do in the morning is review your email and social medial accounts, you set yourself up to be reactive instead of proactive.
You are analyzing other’s needs and running through the necessary steps to meet them. In the mean time, you are putting your own to-do list on hold. Instead, email and social media should not play any part in your morning routine. In fact, it is a good idea to avoid the screens altogether in the first hour of your day. Again this sounds counter-intuitive. When you ease into your day in a relaxing manner, you avoid stress and anxiety that would be setting you up to be reactive and deal with whatever is thrown at you, important or not.
Instead you can only be thinking about what you want to be happening in your world, not what you need to be responding to from the outside world. You will start your day with YOUR goals in mind.
The next step is to recognize your “fluff” goals. Everybody has these from time to time. They often come about when we have an especially daunting task at hand. Almost every college student has cleaned their room spotless in order to put off studying for an exam. Fluff goals make us feel like we are still being productive while putting off something we may not want to do. When you find yourself working on little goals you made up for yourself today, or you have 57 items on your to-do list for the day, you may be spending a lot of your time on fluff goals that will not leave you with a true sense of accomplishment later on.
Creating fluff goals for yourself can be a tough habit to eliminate. Just remember the advantages of taking initiative, that wonderful feeling of knowing you successfully tackled the task at hand. This leads to the last step, reflecting on your productivity.
Just like with your finances, what cannot be measured cannot be managed. Time spent reflecting on past productivity is infinitely more valuable than fitting more things onto your to-do list. If you do not asses whether what you are doing can be improved, you will continue to make the same mistakes.
Some people never pass a mediocre level of productivity simply because they are trying to accomplish something every minute of every day. I know you will fit in less by taking the time to reflect. Let me ask you this, would you rather be mediocre at everything or amazing at a few things? Or perhaps extraordinary at one thing? If you can boil your goals down to a few separate tasks and take the time to reflect and monitor your progress, you can quickly surpass mediocrity in anything.
To review, here are the three steps to slow down and become more productive.
1-Prioritize YOUR goals
Set yourself up to be proactive towards your goals instead or reactive to someone else’s goals. Don’t start your day trying to catch up on your email and social media accounts
2-Eliminate “fluff” goals
Recognize when you are creating fluff goals for yourself. This will require you being honest with yourself and getting into the habit of taking more initiative. It is a good idea to go after your most difficult tasks first, which is the opposite of what most people do.
3-Reflect on past performance
Understand that taking the time to pause and think about what you have done may not be productive now, but can be thought of as an investment in your productivity. Only through reflection can you continue to work smarter.
Highly productive people have various ways of staying productive. There are different ways of following these three steps, do what works for you.
For me, I usually prioritize my own goals by making a to-do list for the next day each night. This way I wake up in the morning knowing I have everything I need to do written down and I do not have to have my mind on it right away. I will cook breakfast and not worry about what is going on outside of “hmm, eggs or waffles today”?
After breakfast and maybe a morning workout, I will start my to-do’s. I have found that staring with the most difficult tasks first makes me feel accomplished earlier in the day rather than anxious about the still difficult task to come.
I then spend a bit of time later in the day assessing what I accomplished that day and creating a to-do list for the next day based on where I need to go next.
Lastly, understand that everyone will have unproductive days. From time to time I sleep in, find some exciting thing to do with friends and put off my whole to-do list until the next day. As long as it is not something that MUST be done that day, I believe in prioritizing fun over work as long as it does not impact your long-term goals, after all, your work isn’t going anywhere.