It is interesting how often it seems like we get so busy and focused on putting out daily fires that we don’t ever get to accomplish anything of real significance—those things that would make us happiest in the long run. Life becomes something to “get through” instead of an exciting path to greater fulfillment.
The efficiency of technology only increases the pressure we feel to do even more than ever before. All of it leaves us feeling too busy and robbed of a sense of accomplishment. So, what can we do to increase personal productivity? Below are some tips to help you to get more done in less time—and do what you really want to be doing.
Often busy-ness is a cover for not really knowing what’s the best thing to be doing. To get around this, you have to know what your priorities are in the moment. To determine this, you need know what your larger life priorities are.
One of my favorite authors is Stephen R. Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and he suggests writing a personal or organizational mission statement, a statement that summarizes your higher purpose and goals in life. Here’s an example:
To create a balanced, healthy and value-driven life by creating nurturing relationships and guiding others to see their full potential through my work as a therapist.
Without a mission, you won’t be able to say no to tasks. You can only know what to say no to when you know what to say yes to first.
We can learn all the self-management tricks in the book, but none of them will be worth a dime if we don’t follow through and use them. That’s where self-discipline comes in. There’s no easy, painless way to enforce self-discipline, but if we don’t utilize it, we will be left forever unfulfilled.
Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top business speakers and author of 35 books on business and personal productivity, offers some very simple advice: Simply start doing what you know you need to do. Stop pushing it off for later. Once you start seeing the results active self-discipline yields, the desire for the payoff begins to become greater than your resistance to taking action.
To more easily promote successful self-discipline, Covey and Tracy suggest breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and then simply focusing on taking the first steps. This way all your tasks and goals won’t feel so overwhelming, which makes it easier to take action.
Clean up the loose ends
David Allen, author of Ready for Anything, points out how crises typically arise because secondary priorities have been neglected. He suggests working on unfinished tasks to open up your creativity. It’s more difficult to focus on the bigger, more urgent tasks when you’re painfully aware of ongoing but necessary projects that you never seem to start, such as reorganizing your files, catching up with your accounting, or updating your phone book. So, set aside some time—even if it’s just an hour or two a week—to work on these longer term, but less urgent projects. Just don’t let these tasks become distractions from working on the bigger picture goals.
Shattering the creativity/organization myth
Allen also talks about how many people believe that if they’re organized, they can’t be as creative. As if having too much structure limits one’s artistic expression. But every form of art needs structure. A painting or a photograph needs composition. Each individual scene in a screenplay needs to work with each other as a whole. The truth is, your creative capacity actually expands when you give it structure. That’s because when you’re organized, you actually know what to do and how to do it—as opposed to having all these wonderful, but unrealized, ideas bumping around in your head.
Balancing stress and recovery
Top athletes around the world know the value of alternating periods of intense activity and focus with periods of rest. Balancing stress and recovery are also critical in managing personal energy—and thus, productivity—in all areas of our lives.
“Too much energy expenditure without sufficient recovery eventually leads to burnout and breakdown,” write Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book, The Power of Full Engagement. “Too much recovery without sufficient stress leads to atrophy and weakness … full engagement requires cultivating a dynamic balance between the expenditure of energy (stress) and the renewal of energy (recovery) in all dimensions.”
Work when you’re supposed to be working!
If you want to maximize your productivity at work and balance it into the larger scheme of your life, focus is crucial. Tracy says the reason people’s lives get out of balance is not because they have too much work to do, but because they do too little work. And he means they waste too much time when they’re supposed to be working. If you have to, turn off the phone and shut down your email. You’ll find the more work you do get done, the better you feel—which motivates you to keep doing more of the same.
And some quick tips…
- Write out your goals.
- Break down your goals into actions.
- Break down these actions into bite-sized chunks.
- Schedule these chunks into your planner.
- Follow through with action.
- NEVER give into the temptation to do the small things first just because they’re small.
- Intersperse periods of intense work with periods of recovery, even if brief.
Have you ever read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book?
If you have, then you will remember that at various points in the story, you are presented with two or three options. “To follow the man into the cave, turn to page 43. To return to the village, turn to page 57.”
It’s a really cool concept that turns a story into a game. You passively enjoy the plot for a while, then you get to dive in and make your move.
These books are like training wheels for your life. The only difference is, in your “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, you are the audience and the author.
Every day in your real life you are presented with choices. If you don’t like them, you can create a new one. Sure, it may seem that your options are limited by finances, family, employment or education, but remember this…
YOU are a powerful, intelligent, creative human being
with ample, unseen resources.
Your life is your choice, your design.
And the really fun part is this…you aren’t doing it alone. You are writing your story with the help of everyone around you. Your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers give you fresh choices and story prompts every day.
When you activate your inner author, other people’s choices become inspirations for your own. Obstacles become hurdles to leap over and bounce points to send your adventure in exciting new directions. Opportunities create new paths to explore. Every moment is a chance to make your next move and design your story and craft the adventures you want to live.
Ask yourself, who are the characters in your story, and what role or influence do they play in your life? Who do you spend your time with? How do you spend your time? Where do live? What is your lifestyle? What do you do that brings you ultimate fulfillment in your life?
It’s your story, you get to design it. And the sky is the limit.
We all want more self-confidence. Self-confidence can mean the difference between enjoying life and being afraid. Not all of the factors that contribute to self-confidence are under your direct control. But enough of them are to make a huge difference. You can develop the habits and skills that make self-confidence automatic.
With more confidence, you’ll achieve more, too. Self-confidence is personal power.
Become more self-confident and enjoy all that life has to offer:
1. Keep track of your successes. Do this all day long. Start each day with a fresh sheet of paper and list your successes. It might be a good performance at a meeting or completing a report on time. This system will change your focus and increase your self-esteem.
- You have plenty of successes each day, but you only notice a few spectacular successes each year. It’s also easy to notice every little failure. Make a list of all your successes, big and small. Avoid thinking about your failures.
2. Pay attention to your body language. Strong, confident people stand tall and sit up straight. Maintain good eye contact. Keep your body open. Smile. Pay attention to your surroundings. Imagine the most confident person or movie character you can think of. How do they stand, walk, and move?
- Adopt the physiology of someone confident, and you’ll feel more confident. Try it! Pretend you’re a highly confident person and carry yourself as one.
3. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. Having success outside your comfort zone is a fast way to increase your self-confidence. Take a speech class or jump out of an airplane. When you can deal with discomfort and experience success, your self-confidence will grow rapidly. You have countless opportunities to test this theory each day.
4. Get rid of the negative voices in your head. Those self-defeating thoughts that never seem to stop can be a major drain on self-confidence. Catch yourself when you’re making negative comments to yourself. Change your self-talk to something more positive.
5. Be over prepared. A lack of preparation can sap your self-confidence. Whether you’re unprepared for a speech, a test at school, or a vacation, preparation is the key to confidence.
6. Make of list of all the great things about yourself. List them all: your smile, sense of humor, and ability to play the banjo are all fair game. List everything about yourself that’s even slightly positive. Notice how great you already are. Then notice how much more confident you feel after making the list.
- You can probably rattle off all your faults. You’ll probably require more time and thought to make a list of your positive qualities.
7. Be assertive. When you ask for what you want, you feel more confident. When you go after the things you want, you feel more confident. Taking control of your life results in greater self-confidence.
8. Focus on others. By focusing on making a contribution to others, you don’t have time to worry about your own perceived flaws. One way to stop thinking negatively about yourself is to put your attention on something more important. The positive feelings and respect you’ll receive will also allow your self-confidence to grow.
Be all that you can be. All you need is a little more self-confidence to kick-start your way to greater accomplishments and more peace of mind. Self-confidence ebbs and flows, depending on the situation, but a healthy level of self-confidence is a powerful trait to possess. If you’re feeling stuck, a little more self-confidence might be the cure.
It’s inevitable…at some point in the pursuit of your passions, goals and dreams, you’re going to get tired, frustrated and completely overwhelmed. And in some cases, you will want to give up.
This is your moment of truth. Will you do as so many others do, and quit before you reach the finish line? Or…will you see it through to the end and bring your dreams to life?
The desire to quit is perfectly natural. History is filled with tales of people in exactly this predicament. After all, humans have only so much energy available at any given moment. However, history also shows that pushing past our perceived limitations is the only way to discover how powerful we truly are.
If you are near your breaking point and ready to walk away, here are 3 time-tested tips to help you regain some personal energy and see clearly once again.
Resting is a lost art in our current culture of go-go-go. The constant demands we place on ourselves can fry our internal operating systems. Naps, baths, massages, meditation, or mini-vacations are all easy ways to gain new strength and fresh ideas.
2. Zoom Out…
When you are focused intently on achieving a specific goal, it is easy to forget whyyou’re doing so. Zoom out to remember your values, mission, and how your current actions connect to the bigger picture. What is your end game? Quit looking at the bark, and behold the beauty of the forest.
3. Then Zoom Back In.
Looking at the big picture toolong can also have its downside. It can feel too big, and create confusion around where to start and what to do, and this can lead to overwhelm. So once you are clear on your “why,” zoom back in to focus on ONE simple thing you can do to move in the direction of your dreams. Dive in, get it done, then rest for a moment before doing it again.
Everyone faces frustration, overwhelm and exhaustion. How you handle yours determines the accomplishments you will make in life, and the tales you get to tell tomorrow.
How Will You Press On Today?
Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Einstein, considered by many to be the greatest mind of the 20th century, was known for mulling over his questions until falling into a semi-trance. In these states of deep contemplation, he made fascinating discoveries, then spent countless hours working back out of the maze to make his discoveries translatable to others.
The trick to sustainable success in any arena is not, as many believe, to be the smartest or most educated guy in the room, or to be born into wealth and opportunity. Rather, the trick is to become so focused on the goal and so determined not to give up that all distractions fade into the background, and the answers rise to the top.
If you would like to see more success in your endeavors, here are 3 simple tips to help you get and stay focused, so you can achieve your goals:
1. Think “Micro”
Studies have shown that humans get overwhelmed and become less productive when focusing on too many things at once. The concept of multitasking is a misnomer as we can only effectively focus on one thing at a time. Therefore, pick one small aspect of whatever you’re doing and give it your full attention.
2. Give Yourself Permission to “Go There”
Oftentimes, we don’t give something the necessary attention because we feel we cannot disengage from all the other demands in our life. Give yourself permission to let everything else go for a while. De-prioritize to re-prioritize and be okay with the fact that in order to say ‘Yes‘ to what you want, you must say ‘No‘ to something else.
3. Give Yourself More Time
With deadlines looming, it’s easy to shortchange yourself on the amount of time actually needed for excellence. Ask for more time if you need. OR, refer to tip number 2 to create more space in your life. Progress takes persistence and persistence takes time.
You don’t have to be an Einstein to let your genius shine through. Brilliance belongs to everyone…you just have to drill deep to get to the gold.
How will you persist to unlock your brilliance today?