5 Ways to Increase Productivity
By no means am I the king of productivity. I occasionally find myself wasting time and procrastinating almost as much as the next guy. But I have greatly improved my ability to manage my time and clear my schedule for more important things by following a few wonderful methods that work well for me. Here is a list of my favorite 5:
1 – Limit Internet Surfing
Surfing the net is one of the biggest time wasters in the universe. I have no idea how much time the average human being sits in front of their computer getting nothing done, but it’s probably well over an hour per day. This happens far more frequently at work, where we often have more time to waste than actual work to complete. But, like many habits, this one can be tough to break. After all, we all rely so much on computers.
I’ve found that if you simply say “I am not going to go on the internet anymore unless I have a purpose” it is too general and vague a goal to be effective. Eventually you’ll be back to reading vogue online, or whatever it is you waste time reading. This is because the temptation to surf is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU while you are “being productive.” All it takes is one interesting hyperlink, one click, and boom, the floodgates open. It’s like putting a box of Milk Duds in front of a child and then telling him to open the box and play marbles with them. Sooner or later, he’s going to eat one. And another.
What you need to do is set SPECIFIC time limits that decrease as you get better at resisting. Limit your surfing to an hour a day at first, then lower the limit by 10 minute intervals as the weeks go by. Set an egg-timer if you need to. Eventually every time you sit down at the computer you will have a purpose in mind for doing so, and you won’t be idly killing time because you couldn’t think of anything better to do. This will save you potentially DAYS a month to be doing better things with your time.
2 – Pay your bills at work
And this goes for other “to-do’s” as well. The more personal things you can get done (and get away with doing) while on the job, the more time you’ll be able to steal back from your employer when you are away from jail (ahem… your cube) at the end of the day. Bring your bills, homework, assignments and anything else you’d normally do at home to the office. I’ll bet anything you can find plenty of time to get these done that you normally were wasting surfing the net anyway. Remember: the more free time you have after work, the closer you will become to escaping the rat race. This is because you can spend this time working on other projects/side businesses. It’s bad enough that we lose so much personal time each week. We don’t need to let the bills take even more from us.
3 – Sell your TV
I’m not kidding. I didn’t own a TV for two and a half years between 2003 and 2005, and again now for a few months. It can be done. As a child I was always being creative, always working with my brother on countless fun projects and games we would invent and play. We’d also spend time with friends and getting exercise as kids. I had a really good childhood, and I truly believe it is largely because I was never drawn to television.
Quitting TV will definitely be hard at first, as you’ll probably be very unhappy about missing your weekly shows/sitcoms. But maybe, just maybe over time you’ll find that your own life can be just as exciting and dramatic as the characters you watch all afternoon and evening on TV (as you create more time, of course.) And what could be better than that? Star in your own show! Don’t be a bystander in fictional lives. If you really need to watch something, go to a movie. This gets you out of the house, and it’s a good date thing, or at least something to do with friends. If you want to watch the game, call up someone who has a TV, or go to a bar/sports club/restaurants. It’s more social, and once again, you’ll get out of the house!
4 – Set Daily Goals (Don’t Make Lists)
When you wake up in the morning, it is helpful to think of a few small things you would like to accomplish that day. They don’t have to be big things, and you don’t need to tell yourself when you’ll get them done. This is the best way to work toward your big-picture goals. Think small, set specific daily goals and follow through consistently. For example, if you wish to send 15 statements to clients, take your son to a ballgame and write a chapter of your book today, then those are good, feasible and specific goals. Spending more time with your son, doing client paperwork and doing some writing are not specific enough.
Do you need to write these down? No. You’d be surprised what you can remember. Lists make people crazy. When I said to think small, I meant it. If you have so much stuff to do that you can’t remember it in your head, then it’s too much to do in one day. Here is the trick: if you get your daily goals done early, you always have the option of being more productive! And who needs lists that say things like “Do dishes, take kids to school etc..” when you are already going to do the dishes anyway? Why add items to a long list when you don’t need to? It will seem like you have more to do and look more complicated than it really is. Simplifying and minimizing are the goals here. If you make huge, varied “to-do” lists each day, you may not even get everything done. This will discourage you further, and you’ll never truly be productive. Lists make people crazy. Small goals set people free.
5 – Wake up early, and work in the morning
The morning is a wonderful time of day that many of us miss entirely, or make ourselves survive by drinking coffee and plowing through rush hour traffic on the way to work. I can recall some truly beautiful mornings where I’ve been up at 5:30, taken a walk as the sun rose and feeling more at peace than any other time. Most people are still asleep, there isn’t as much traffic, and the world is calm. Getting up at 5:30am isn’t a curse. It’s heaven on earth if you can do it. And even if you do have to go to work, you’ll be more productive, awake, and happy waking up an hour earlier than normal. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week.
You can probably get more done if you do a large majority of your work in the mornings, a few hours after you get up. Think about this scenario: you could be done with the bulk of your work for the entire day when others are just waking up and injecting themselves with caffeine! It’s a very good way to start the day.
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How to Stop Compulsive Web SurfingApril 27th, 2010
Ross September 9, 2007 at 2:02 pm
“It’s like putting a box of Milk Duds in front of a child and then telling him to open the box and play marbles with them.” That’s an excellent analogy – hahaha
Mike September 9, 2007 at 9:09 pm
Thanks Ross. I liked it too 🙂