There are many ways to solve a problem. If you are looking for a quick list of 100 hacks to increase productivity, here it is, but please keep in mind that those quick tips won’t solve all your problems, and some of those tips might not work or even be relevant to you.
Instead, what you should be looking for are actionable steps that are relevant to you, and that you can apply to whatever it is that you’re trying to do so to increase your productivity. And this is exactly what this post is about.
So, let’s get straight to the point. If being productive means doing the things that matter, then increasing your productivity means doing more of what matters. In order to do more, you need to either make time for more, or—if you can’t make more time—eliminate the things that don’t matter so you can replace them with things that do.
In order to achieve this and to increase your productivity, there are some basic steps that you can follow and which will help you along this quest:
Table of content:
First of all, you need to define your goal. Why do you want to increase your productivity? What exactly is it that you want to achieve? What will you get out of it, and why does that matter to you? Is the goal realistic but still challenging enough?
In this phase, it is important that you define exactly what you want to achieve, and most importantly why you want to achieve it.
Now that you know what you want to achieve and why, you need to analyze your current situation, your day to day operations if you will, to see what is hindering you from being productive and achieving your goals.
You need to ask yourself a lot of questions, where most of them should start with “why”: “Why am I not productive?” and “Why is that?”, and then again “Why so?” etc.
Try to dig as deep as you can: “When does this unproductivity occur?”, “Where?”, “In which circumstances?”, “Where am I wasting time on things that don’t matter to me?”.
At the end of this step, it is very important that you have a clear picture about your current situation and about what is or isn’t working and why.
Consider also asking a friend to help you analyze your current situation, since an outside viewer is less biased, has a different perspective and can often ask different questions and move things forward.
Now it’s time to find ideas and ways that would change your current situation for the better, so to incorporate in your day the things that matter to you and eliminate the things that don’t.
What would you need to do in order to get closer towards your goal? Where could you change things up and where could you optimize so to earn more time for the important things you want to do? What could you try out that you haven’t tried yet?
The goal here is to find a lot of actionable ideas that you can then implement in the next step.
In this phase you need to make a plan so to put your ideas into action. This plan has to be as detailed as possible and is needed so that you have a clear structure for the next day/week/month, so that you just need to execute without wasting time and brain power.
Make a plan for your next day/week/month, or whatever the timeframe you choose for your endeavour, and incorporate some of the ideas that you came up with in step 3. Not all of them at once; you will repeat this step, so just start with a few. The important thing here is that you are very specific about what you will try out, how, when, where, etc.
A lot of ideas will probably require some sort of habit changing, so say to yourself: when this and this happened I usually did this, but this time I will try to do this new thing instead; also keep reminding yourself that your goal (step 1) is the reason why you’re doing all this.
Lots of people forget this step, but you need to review what you’re doing if you want to learn and improve your productivity.
Did you execute on what you’ve planned to do? If not, “Why not?” and once again “Why so?”. You have to be as sincere as possible and ask deep questions, but don’t judge yourself. The review phase is meant precisely to help you analyze and find the things that don’t work for you. Keep in mind that everybody is different and what works for somebody else might not work for you and vice versa.
However, it’s important to also analyse the things that did work and, more specifically, why they worked. Once you find what fuels your productivity, you should try to incorporate more of those things in the future.
Once the review is over you need to go back to step 4 and start planning your next day/week/month just as you did before. Eliminate the things that didn’t work, keep the ones that did and incorporate any new ideas. Keep repeating step 4 and 5 until you’ve reached your planned goal.
Plan your rewards. Yes, because rewards are very important. I am speaking especially to all those of you who are always so hard on yourself and never give yourself a pat on the back.
Learn to reward yourself, because the rewards will make up for the days in which you feel that things are moving slowly or not moving at all. By rewarding yourself, you are acknowledging that trying is also progress, and that is something very important that you should never neglect.
It’s those rewards that will make you feel that you’ve earned it, even when you think you haven’t. It’s the rewards that will teach you that all that matters is keep moving so to, eventually, get where you want to be.
So, plan the rewards and don’t find excuses to not give them to yourself. If you had a bad day and feel like a complete failure, but you gave your best, you still earned that ice-cream!
Rewards are crucial to keep your motivation high and to avoid burnout. In one form or another, setbacks will occur (sorry to be so direct), but that is why you need to be prepared and have a planned reward that will cheer you up in a moment where you probably desperately need it the most.
Once in a while, you need to do a bigger check-in with yourself: a reality check. This can be every month, every 6 months or every year. This check-in serves to analyse and determine if what you are doing is still the thing you want to do. Are you happy with the direction you’re heading to and are you still convinced of “why” you are doing all this? Or have things changed and you need to adjust your goal a little bit?
It could even be that you realize that your initial goal is not anymore relevant to you and that you want to do something completely different now. And that is completely fine because we were made to learn and adapt; we constantly evolve, so why should our goals be set in stone forever?
Remember the definition of productivity? Productivity is all about doing the right things, the things that matter, and therefore in order to increase your productivity, you need to constantly make sure that the things you’re doing are still the things that matter to you.