Have you ever noticed that some days you are just ‘in the groove, and some days you cant even see the grove? It happens to me. I hit the groove, and it might last a week, a month, or even a bit more. Then the grove slips a bit, and theres a period of time until i find myself back in there. When I am in the grove, things go easy. Work, training, sleep, food, time with friends, all come together and life seems pretty easy. Outside of the grove, there are distractions, lack of motivation, rushing around, tiredness, itchy feet, frustration, and low energy. Over time, I have gotten to know the things that seem to get me to the grove and keep me there, and the things that get me out of the grove and try to keep me there as well. In sharing the following points with you, you might be able to reverse engineer more productive days. Instead of waiting for the things that make you productive to magically align, just do them, and avoid the ones that makes you non-productive.
On Productive Days I:
Get Enough Sleep
This is probably the most important point of all. When I don’t get around 8 hours sleep, I literally feel like I am on borrowed time for that day. I might get some good stuff done that day and maybe even the next, but unless I catch up on those missed hours, its going to come back and bit my in the butt. When I get enough sleep, I am sharp and have the clarity required to get things done, and also to know to avoid the productivity killers. Sometimes it might take me a week to feel like I have repaid the sleep gods their debt from all the borrowed hours, but when I do, its great.
Know what my first 45 minutes of the day look like
I worked out a little morning tie routine for myself that works a treat for getting the day off to a great start. I get up, have breakfast, meditate for 5 minutes, write in my diary, look at the calendar and make sure that there are no surprise appointments that slipped through the net, and then either go training, or get started on the most important task of the day. On the days that I do this, it really gets the momentum going for the day, and I feel like I have already achieved a small victory first thing in the morning.
Meditate for 5 minutes
Part of my morning routine is to meditate for 5 minutes. Basically, I sit on the floor and breathe for 5 minutes, focusing on the music that I have on, or the sounds from the outside. It really helps me clear the mind, and stop the mind from racing with all the things that ‘have to get done today’. Sometimes I wake up and its like a destruction derby inside my head with dozens of different tasks vying for poll position. The meditation helps me filter the essential from the non-essential, and I work from there.
Have arranged my Calendar to include a few key things
In relation to work, I decided to allocate different purposes to each day, and it had really helped me get up knowing that today, I am going to be working on ‘x’. For example Tuesday is blog writing day, so each Tuesday I try to write the blogs that I had been taking notes on during the week. Monday’s and Wednesdays are when I speak with new members coming to ACLAÍ, and do assessments. Fridays, is when I catch up on with the finances and figures. A few key things that I have noticed that are on my calendar on my productive days include training, lunch, and significant block of time to actually work on the most important task of the day. I know that if I want to make significant progress with a specific project, I need to block out significant time. If the time I allocate is unrealistic to the amount that is required to be able to follow through, then it can become frustrating and the wheels can fall off. Basically what planning out the calendar day does is ‘reduces the mental bandwidth’ required for the tasks as productivity aficionado Tim Ferriss would say. It saves the brain power that would have been required for thinking about what you are going to do after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner etc etc, and gives it back to you to put towards actually important tasks.
Have a clear view of my current goals and WHY.
Arranging the daily calendar is good, but useless to me unless I have a clear picture of the bigger goal. WHY am I doing this? Maybe it’s a natural instinct, but my body and my mind refuse to do things when I do not see what I am working towards, or more importantly WHY I am doing it. When I start to lose my mojo temporarily, I refocus on what my current projects are, what the outcome is that I would like to see, and WHY I am doing them. This is probably the one the re-ignites my mojo the most when I do it.
Eat Well and Drink Water
On productive days, I eat good food. I am not saying that eating good food makes you productive, or that being productive makes you eat food. I am just saying that on the days that I feel great, get the most work done, and have plenty of energy left over, my food intake is well spaced throughout the day, quality, and tasty. When I know I might not have time to cook a lot, I go to Love Kitchen and Deli in Douglas and get the biggest salad you have ever seen to cover all bases. On a very similar note, my productive days always seem to include drinking 2-3 liters of water.
Do not Travel A Lot
Nothing kills the productivity train of a good day more than having to sit in traffic and be toing and froing for small non-essential tasks. I try to avoid diving places during the day, and focus on getting things done. If I know I will have to make a journey in the car, I will try to get the most important tasks of the day done beforehand. At least then if I end up sitting in a big line of traffic on the Douglas road for 45 minutes I can bask in the glory of the mornings work!
On My Non-Productive Days I:
Spend too much time on Facebook
The ultimate modern day time-sucker. On days that I am not in the groove, I go on Facebook too much. Period.
Do things that are not important
On non-productive days, I find myself doing things that really could wait, at the expense of the things that really cant wait.
Jump from one thing to another
Multi-tasking is a lie (I think). When I try to do more than one thing at a time, I end up doing a mediocre or half-baked job at them all, instead of focusing on one thing and doing a sterling job.
Mis-fire in the morning
My most unproductive days coincide with a poor morning routine. No breakfast, stay in bed too long, or skip my morning routine. When this happens in the morning, often it is like the day has failed to ignite, and it is quite hard to put the momentum back into it.
Have a messy bedroom and/or kitchen
If the kitchen is a mess from the night before, it makes the morning routine difficult to follow thorough on. If my bedroom is very messy, it seems to effect the start of the day as well. Maybe because I will be having a mini-meltdown looking for my phone under a big pile of clothes and shoes at the last minute!
Eat like a pigeon
No food no energy. No energy, no productivity. Sin é.
Look for distractions
On my non productive days anything would distract me from the job at hand. If a tumbleweed rolled through the room I would follow it. Focusing on small things that are not important is a dangerous game to play, and I always try to catch this one as soon as possible.
A note on Productivity vs Non-Productivity
Personally speaking, I think that it is not realistic to expect yourself to be productive all the time. When I am in the grove I try to embrace that as must as possible, and make hay while the sun is shining. On the other hand, when I perceive myself as being less than productive, I take that as my body and mind telling me that its time to take a bit of down time, and embrace that equally as an opportunity to try something new, spice things up, or focus on an unrelated task for a while. Being productive isn’t just about work. It also includes spending time with friends, family, hobbies, relaxing, being active etc. etc.
Just thinking out loud here, but personally speaking, I think I work of the following hierarchy when it comes to productivity:
- Energy: Must have energy for anything worthwhile. Basic building block.
- Goals: Must be able to see the bigger picture to establish a strong purpose
- Focus: Must have a short focus for the day. Small tasks make big things happen
- Time: Must have time available to follow through on tasks and projects.
- Follow Through: must actually work efficiently during the time allocated.