I know a lot is being said about self-improvement productivity nowadays. We need to be careful not to get the wrong tram. By the way, not always living busy means you’re being productive and have improved well-being.
We need to be attentive to the signals our body gives, and most of all, we must be demanding and careful to choose which activities, people and projects will receive our attention.
So before really delving into the subject, let me make Kafka’s words my words and say that being productive and self-improvement means being able to do things you have never been able to do before.
I do not want this text to be just another one in the pile of articles that will stimulate you to work insanely fifteen hours a day and that suggest that we do dynamic reading to save more time in the day-to-day. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but this isn’t the proper way to improve yourself.
For me, self-improvement and productivity are simply knowing how to enjoy our time and energy. Having an optimized life implies in choosing which strategies to let go of our routine, avoiding at all costs to embrace ideas and tips that do not help us in any way.
I’m totally against the waste of time. I want more is for you to live. With ever more awareness, authenticity, and tranquility. I want your time to go to the things you really love and that your energy is spent on the opportunities that go your way.
I then made a list of the fifty best strategies so that you can make better use of your time – without giving up the rest and peace of mind, obviously. I have tested all these tips firsthand and I can tell from the chair that they all work.
Not all will match perfectly with your personality, body or lifestyle, but well, this is where the magic happens. Finding out what works for you is not an essential part of this trail. If you want to take your life a little more seriously and you’re sick of leaving some of your forgotten potential in the drawer, you’re in the right place and reading the right article.
Put the cell phone inside the drawer or the closet if you feel you are giving in to the urge to look at all your notifications. An application like Forest can also be great for helping you to leave the cell phone or web pages aside.
Use the Pomodoro technique
Each time you select a task, dive into it for at least 30 minutes before doing anything else. If it’s too long, make each Pomodoro session an hour or a half an hour at the most. With each session ready, take five or ten minutes of rest away from your workstation.
Divide the week into blocks of time
Make a survey of all sorts of personal or professional activities you need to do throughout the week and group them on specific days and times in advance. So, when you arrive on Monday morning or Friday afternoon, you’ll know what you need to do.
Take a cold shower
Is it difficult to concentrate? Stop everything and go take a fresh bath, preferably cold. Empty your mind, let the noise of the outside world and focus on you. Taking time for yourself can work wonders for our focus, you see.
Empty your head
When you have too many things going on inside you, make a rain of your worries on paper. List all your problems (which, according to David Allen, are nothing more than projects) in a role and go putting out all the tasks that still need to be done.
Find your peak productivity
What part of the day do you do your best job and have more motivation? Run tests until you find your prime time track, no matter what it is, and strive to shape your workday around it.
Listen to ambient music
Try Noisli or Brain.fm to get in the right rhythm when you need to focus. The first site allows you to create well-tailored sets of music (such as a mix of bird sounds, thunders and people talking in a cafe), and the second site specifically designed to improve your brain’s quality and make you sharper and more attuned.
List what you will not do
Wanting to lose weight while you keep up the habit of hanging out with co-workers three times a week for pizza tricksters is difficult, right?
Make a list of your addictions and habits that are most troubling you: those that steal your attention well when you are at its peak or that leave you so confused that you cannot focus anymore.
If you work with others or need to get along with family or friends while working from home, create the code that no one talks to you while you’re on the headset – even If you’re not listening to music. A visual and quick way for other people to know that you are busy.
Do not drink coffee after 4 pm
There are very few people who can have breakfast at night or before bed and still have a great night’s sleep. If you have already had the test and you are aware that you have a caffeine sensitivity, avoid drinking coffee after four in the afternoon. This will greatly help the quality of your rest.
Drink More Water
For some, it can be a challenge, but drinking water is essential to keep your energy and health levels always up there. The old and good technique of always having a beautiful bottle around will really increase your chances of drinking more water throughout the day since you will not have to go to the kitchen to fill a cup.
Avoid Ultra-processed foods
The less you eat super-processed foods (which your grandmother probably would not even recognize as food), the better. What you put inside is the most important part of your day.
Drink green tea
Only if you are not too sensitive to caffeine. But, in the right dose, a cup of green tea can make you more insightful and alert.
Watch out for “empty carbohydrates”
Most of us get super soft and slow after eating a prawn noodle – not to mention the monstrous hunger that has been attacking a few hours later. If you need to increase concentration and productivity, eat only the “natural” carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, cassava, and rice) and put more fat, protein, and fiber in your dish.
Make a to-do list
The best thing for you is to make it easier for you to work tomorrow and make sure that laziness does not get so strong on your foot. If the list goes digital, even better. If it is divided into contexts (market, college, online computer, when you’re fed up), a thousand times better.
Reaffirm your priorities
Every day, in the morning, write down your current priorities in a notebook. Seize the moment and write down your greatest current goals as well. Having your goals always in mind will help you a lot to stay engaged with your projects and keep motivation a step higher.
Make a Gratitude Wall
Do you know all those unexpected things that put a big smile on your mouth? Record them somehow: taking a photo, writing on paper and putting it inside a pot, making a drawing, whatever. Gather all the little things, compliments and small day-to-day bliss in one place and come back to it when you feel that the motivation is getting low and the voices of discouragement are getting high.
Bet on yourself
Do you have difficulty making a big lifestyle change or implementing a habit? Make a public bet with someone or register your new commitment to the world: if you do not do or do such a thing by a certain date, you may have to pay or lose something. Or start a blog or a series of texts talking about your new routine and the difficulties of that change. Having the support and enthusiasm of other people always helps you at those times.
Another great way to attack a change of habits or a particularly difficult project is to reduce your tasks to the microscopic level: what is the smallest fraction of this project or habit you can accomplish today?
Feeling confident from the start is a huge help to keep you motivated. Do not mind getting immense results from the face – this does not always make the person go with the project until the end. If you want to meditate and this is a great challenge, start with two minutes of meditation every day and increase over time.
Record the practical benefits
Still, in the “hard things you want to achieve” line, try jotting down in a notebook or making a voice recording of the practical benefits you’re feeling with your new lifestyle or your projects. The more you can see the positive and enriching sides of your goals, the better. Of course, nothing happens overnight, but to some extent, your ultimate goal should be present from the very first day of the new project or habit.
Do it first: Think Later
If you are hyper-motivated to do something especially boring or difficult, no matter how small it may be, just do it. Do not think! I know this is very difficult, but trust me. Every time we think of things that can, in some primitive way, put us “in danger,” our brain launches various strategies to stop us from doing that. But if what you need to do is really good for your health or your personal development, head right into the task before you can reason about.
Pamper yourself a little
Nothing much out of this world, but spending time doing things that really please you always raises the mood and improves the motivation of anyone. Try to stay away from the compensating foods (um, eat three families pizzas then really tickle me) and impulse shopping.
Instead, think of the activities that really excite you, stimulate you, and leave you with a good sense of security and peace. Create a calendar and real-time time to accommodate at least some of these tasks every week.
Measure your progress
The more you can see clearly how far you’ve progressed so far, the better. You can do this using an application for habits such as Productive or Momentum, you can make a table, print and colorize the blanks with beautiful colors every day that stands firm – the options are endless.
In the case of projects, create a section of “milestones” and think coldly about the steps that will mark your progress toward that goal. How will you know you are reaching your goal? Review your project and look at your milestones every time you are feeling unmotivated.
Get out of the box
Make a list of “unusual, bold and fun things to do” and refer to them whenever you find that the boredom of the routine is pulling your foot. The items on this list do not even have to be overpriced or fancy. Sometimes a simple beach trip in the middle of a day of the week can be bold enough.
The idea is that you plan activities and actions that are different and that really shake you. Note the beauty of a landscape, visit friends you have not seen for a long time, go dancing in a new nightclub, etc. Get out of your comfort zone and find out how you can play motivational hints in your week.
Buy a Calendar
First of all, buy a calendar or choose a virtual calendar and put there all your deadlines for the next 6 months or 1 year. Evidence, documents that need to be delivered, appointments, etc.
Now think about when the projects for these deadlines need to be ready for you to have a generous time frame: two weeks before the official date? One month? If someone needs to confirm, modify or approve your project before the deadline, it would be wise to increase your personal deadline.
I give this tip to people who are always late or usually procrastinate a lot. Consider this deadline as your true and do all the project planning on top of it. If anything unexpected happens, you will still have time.
Create gaps between appointments
Write in your schedule or calendar your weekly appointments: classes, meetings, jobs, customer service, extra activities, courses, doctor’s appointments, etc. Then create a block of “time in transit” and more or less calculate how much time you will spend to get on your appointment and how much time you will spend coming back from it.
The same goes for when you organize your blocks of time, suggested up there: you never finish one task and fall headfirst into another. Calculating this half-time between our commitments and tasks helps a lot to make better use of energy and not to create unrealistic expectations of what our day will be like.
Get ready the day before
Are you going out to the gym as soon as you wake up? Do you have an important meeting at work? Are you going to make an online appointment with a client? Prepare the night before, everything (I said everything) that you will need the next morning: clothes, things to carry in the bag, meeting agenda, the material needed for consulting, etc. The more you can save your precious time for tomorrow even today, the better.
If it takes less than ten minutes, do it now
Jotting down something to do on a piece of paper and having to remember it hours later is often more time-consuming than just doing it now. Choose what will be the minimum window of time that you can use with ease on your day spontaneously: two minutes, ten minutes, and fifteen minutes? Any task that appears and that only takes that amount of time to be done, do it soon.
Have two inboxes
A virtual (using the Todoist or the Evernote) and another physical (a plastic box on your table, a place to accommodate the correspondences) and put in them anything that requires some kind of action.
Do you need to do something about this email that has arrived? Create an entry in your virtual inbox (or have a section of the email called the “inbox” and move there any emails that require some kind of action in response).
Did you get an account, an invitation, or a paper request? Put it in your physical inbox. Once a day, see everything in your inbox and put each thing in its proper place. Centralizing your loose ends is an immense gain of time, really.
Delegate to other people
Whether at home or at work, you can certainly share your daily burden of chores with someone – especially if you’re trying to hug the world with your legs. No one should handle all the work in the world alone and the best way to create this reality is through honest and direct communication. Ask your husband, wife, son, or roommate to share household chores with you, for example. Make sure you do not get heavy on anyone and that each one contributes your part.
Create weekly goals
What will you strive to accomplish this week? How can your time reflect your current priority number one? The best way for you to enjoy your time well is to know exactly where to spend it. Every Sunday or Monday make a list of things you want to achieve over the course of the week and put the specific amount of each of those goals on the side.
No abstract things like “losing weight” or “getting ahead of work.” Do the same at every start of the month and review your goals every weekend. If they are aligned with your reality, you will enjoy your time much better.
Record your time
Do you know exactly what has been consuming so much time of your day? If not, I recommend the Toggl. It is an online timer that allows you to create projects and tasks.
Every time you start doing some personal activity, related to work or studies, play on the timer. I did this for a few months, just for my work hours! The clarity I had about where I was putting more energy was enormous. Knowing what you spend your time with is the best antidote to that feeling that you worked, worked, worked, but did not go away.
Respond to Emails and Notifications
This is great for anyone, but especially for people who work in large companies and who oversee teams. If you give in to the urge to look at all social network notifications and open every email that comes to you, you may well end up staying in it for hours on end.
Your attention will be cut off several times and the thread of your concentration may break. The fewer times a day you do it, the better. Choose in advance the time to respond to emails, put it on your calendar or your daily schedule, and, most important of all, really respect it.
Find out which activity gives you pleasure
This will not automatically get you in shape, but it’s a start – especially for people who do not like to get bored and would rather sit around all day. What kind of hectic activity do you enjoy doing? It’s worth everything: walking on the beach, dancing crazily in your room, cleaning at home, swimming, boxing, whatever. Go experimenting with different things until you find something you support to do a few times a week. When in doubt, choose something fun.
Make micro-movements throughout the day
The more ridiculously easy and practical you become in the habit of moving, the better. If you live, study or work in a place with stairs, please: go up for them instead of picking up the elevator – even if it’s time to leave. Take two minutes of your morning to do some push-ups or to jump rope and run around your room twice in the afternoon. Quick and easy!
Stay stretchy at morning and night
Watch some videos on YouTube (I particularly recommend videos from Cassey, Blogilates) and make that commitment to yourself. Put it on the agenda and take a few minutes of the day to stretch and open your body. It’s a little costume that works wonders.
Read before bed
This will increase your world knowledge, enrich your imagination, enhance your empathy and give you a brief and well-deserved rest from the real world. Put this habit on the list of habits and separate a safe time, when no one will disturb you.
If in doubt of what to read, take a walk in a bookstore and read the first few pages of the books that appeal to you. Go home only after you have found one that you enjoy and devote to finishing it within a month.
It sounds like a silly hint, but oh, it is very powerful. Breathing rhythmically and deeply demonstrably reduces stress and anxiety.
Try to create small cycles for your breath and do this at least a few times a day: breathe counting to five, hold your breath counting to three and release counting to eight.
Exhaling greater than inspiration helps a lot in some cases, and in general making balanced cycles (breathing, holding, and exhaling counting to five) helps to leave both body and mind equally balanced.
Another way to improve your mind and body is to do at least 30-minutes workout a day. Exercise is the best way to stay physically fit as well as mentally active. I must say this is the most recommended thing by experts when it comes to personal or self-improvement.
Sit down with good posture
This is essential here for those who work seated, so read it calmly. The ideal posture for when you are working on the computer is to look straight forward without having to raise or lower your head to see the screen well.
Your arms need to make a 90-degree angle to the table without you having to lift your shoulders or have to keep your wrists arched. Your knees also need to be at 90 degrees with the floor, which often means having to put a box, a pouf or some kind of footrest.
Your spine must also be straight, but not rigid. If your chair does not let you do this naturally, put some pillows until you reach that position.
Put on work clothes
Even if you work from home, especially if your computer desk needs to be in your room or in a superfamily environment – then it’s vital! That’s one way of saying to your brain: “Look, I know the warm bed is right there on the side and that the refrigerator is super close, but now it’s time to work.” Even if you wear the same clothes as staying at home, choose some of them to be used only in the moment of focus and attention.
Get some sunlight
Get some sunlight through the window of your office, on the way to work, on the porch of your house or even in front of your building. Sunlight reduces the production of melatonin (a hormone that, among other things, makes the body understand that it is bedtime) and makes you more alert and more awake. A simple, natural and free hack so you can wake up when you are fishing in front of the computer.
Leave your table organized
I am talking about an organized environment, which will give you a clear mind. The relationship is not always necessarily cause and reaction, but having a relatively clean, decorated and organized place gives a good internal peace.
If you have chaotic tendencies, give a humble clean on your desk every time you finish work. Leave only the necessary things on top of it and keep the phone away from the bag or drawer to avoid interruptions.
Set up your place of work with things that have to do with you and that make you happy, too. The more welcoming and personalized the better.
Change the environment
If you always work at home, working elsewhere can give you over-energized productivity and concentration. Sometimes changing rooms will make a difference. Going to a cafeteria, a college library, a park (which is safe, of course) or a coworking office in someone’s home are cool ways to change your environment and add a dose of variety to your day-to-day.
Stop working early
It’s that thing: if you have not been able to do everything you needed to do from morning till afternoon, is it really late in the day that you’re late? Stopping working a few hours before bedtime is my best remedy to prevent me from waking up totally cheated and tired of looking at the computer screen, actually.
I know that we cannot always have this luxury and that many people feel really more productive at night. But if you’re like me, and you know your peak productivity is in the morning, watch your night and create a loving nightly routine: read a good book, listen to podcasts, stretch, take a shower, and talk to people in your home.
Meditate for ten minutes
The best app I know is Calm, but I know a lot of people also like Headspace. Meditating helps to reduce stress, increases your awareness with the present moment, deepens your breathing, and makes you much more aware of what is going on in your head.
For as short a time as it is, it is a most valuable habit to have on a day-to-day basis – preferably in a hectic time, when you are feeling overwhelmed or confused. Meditate clears the mind and leaves you in a truly calmer state.
Avoid computer, television or cell phone before bed
Do you know that blue light that radiates from all those gadgets? They really affect your sleep and tell your body that it is still day out there. The more you can avoid those lights near sleeping, the better.
The Flux application, for example, leaves your computer screen orange after sunset. And oh, I thought it was an exaggeration, but my eyesight is even more rested when it comes in contact with the orange light instead of the traditional blue glow.
Stop and go do something else
Creating small rest lakes throughout the day helps tremendously in keeping energy high. Ultimately, productivity also increases. Working out or at home, try to change your normal tasks with things that rest your eyes and energize your body.
Go get a coffee, walk around the room, chat with someone at lunchtime, get out of your building and take a walk around the block – even stopping and looking at the window gives me a little sigh of rest.
Doing physical activity also helps, such as washing dishes, climbing stairs or playing with a pet. The idea is for you to “flush” your energy and focus a few times a day.
Spend some time in nature
Being in touch with nature speaks directly to our energy. Going to the beach, taking a walk or even strolling in a garden: all this helps our personal growth and self-improvement a lot because, somehow, we breathe better and calm down in natural settings.
Take a day of the week to take a nature walk and find different ways to insert some of that contact into your weekly routine. It will clear your mind and recharge your battery for sure.