10 Productivity Techniques That Will Help You Accomplish More
“If you’re not finishing anything then you’re not accomplishing anything”
Over the years I have probably used every “time management” tool in existence. It has made me more organised and I can create plenty of time in the diary to get things done. I would say I’m definitely productive, but something wasn’t right.
When I looked at the completion rate of the tasks I needed to accomplish to achieve my goals, I wasn’t finishing anything.
In fact, I spent more time doing tasks that weren’t urgent, while large projects were left unfinished. Yes, I created loads of spare time and got things done faster, but I wasn’t finishing anything that brought me closer to my goals.
So I decided to stop focusing on my productivity, instead, I started focusing on accomplishing more!
If you are not accomplishing as much as you would like, then this post is for you. I am going to share the 10 techniques that I have been using this year to accomplish more. These have been compiled from the very best productivity and action-taking experts out there, and are the ones that I have used personally.
The 5-minute rule
This one is my absolute favourite and requires almost zero effort. When you think about completing a task you normally end up thinking of the end result and everything that goes into it. This sends our brains into turbo-charge and if you are already feeling low on motivation, it’s easy to put off or not do at all.
The 5-minute rule is all about doing the smallest step possible and just getting started. When I wasn’t feeling like my gruelling workout at the gym, I would just say to myself “turn up Tom, and just do something” I could leave after 5 minutes if I wanted, but what normally happened? I stayed and completed my full workout.
This one helped me overcome the avoidance of important tasks. Most goals out there will involve the completion of a number of complex actions. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when all you can see is one large goal in front of you. This was exactly why I ended up opting for less urgent but easier tasks.
I started using a mind mapping tool like Mindmeister. I then broke my goal down into all of its subcomponents. This allowed me to see the goal in small manageable chunks. I would then aim to complete 3 of those small steps each day.
The next two systems are really simple, but I believe that it’s the simplicity that helps me accomplish more on a consistent basis. Too often I find people trying to create really complex productivity systems and to-do lists which you end up spending more time implementing than actually accomplishing the things you are planning.
Each week, I take some of those larger subcomponents from my mind map and turn them into 3 goals for the week. Make sure they are really specific and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little here…
…Which brings us to the 3/3 System, this is an adapted version of Dan Meredith’s 3/5 system from his fantastic book How To Be F*cking Awesome. This is the easiest prioritisation system I have ever used. It helps focus you on the things that matter while eliminating most of the crap we have on our to-do lists.
At the start of your week, you write down EVERYTHING you need to do (don’t be surprised if you have over 100 items on your list). Don’t forget to include your actions in your mindmap from the previous technique.
Then you rank everything on your list with a 1, 2 or 3.
- Linked directly to your goal or is urgent and must be completed this week
- Important but isn’t urgent (and might not be directly linked to your goal)
- Not important or urgent and can probably be dropped or outsourced.
Once you have done this you plan your 1’s into your diary, by aiming to do 3 a day, if you have any space in your diary then you plan your 2’s into the rest of your time.
This is the newest technique added to my toolbox and it has helped me accomplish even more.
The human brain tends to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. Which is why you are also tempted to watch Netflix instead of hitting the gym. You won’t see the results of your labour in the gym for many months, whereas Netflix is an instant enjoyment fix.
So to counteract this you need to create short-term rewards for your long-term goals, so it is pleasurable in the short-term too.
Remember those 3 goals I set each week? Those are the goals that I set a reward for each week. If I accomplish those things then I get my reward, and if I don’t? No reward for me!
Tracking your progress
“What gets measured, gets done”
I have lived by this saying during my whole life, and it always brings solid results. If you are tracking what you are doing then you are creating feedback that allows you to see if you are on track. If you don’t know how you are doing, how on earth are you doing to keep improving?
I track everything that is important. I use apps to count my calories, workout apps for gym sessions and word counts for my written content. For example, if you are an online business you might track how many email subscribers you get each day.
Whatever your goal, determine the key output measures that you can track, and get started immediately.
Focus on ONE thing
I discovered this in another one of my favourite books The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. There were two key lessons that really hit home for me.
The first one is it’s much easier when you focus on one goal at a time. We love to set loads of goals, but we only have a certain amount of time and attention each day. You end up spreading yourself too thin across all these goals, making it almost impossible to accomplish anything. I have now changed my approach by focusing all my attention on accomplishing one massive goal over a 90 day period. This is long enough to make a massive change in my life, but short enough to really stay focused each day. Accomplish one thing at a time and stop leaving half-finished projects all over the place.
The second lesson was about multi-tasking. We can do two things at once, but we can’t FOCUS on two things at once. Stop multi-tasking, put your phone away and be present on whatever it is you want to put your time into, maybe you’re with your family or when your working on an important project. Be present!
In the previous technique, I mentioned that I focus on one thing for 90 days. I found that these goals are perfect with a bit of accountability.
Most goals are quite daunting in themselves and it’s understandable to feel a bit overwhelmed, but there’s nothing more motivating than telling your friends and family about your goal and then making sure you don’t let them down. Why don’t you take it a step further and announce it publically? You wouldn’t want to let the public down, would you?
Challenges are also great for accountability. Recently I have been struggling to get started on my productivity course for Udemy. The other day they sent me an email saying that if I can get my course published in 45 days, they will give me $100. Well, it’s day 4 and I have almost finished outlining the whole course…
Stop saying YES to everything
It’s a natural behaviour to want to help people and you will always get a kick out of doing it, but it’s important to serve yourself first. This isn’t about not helping people anymore but more about serving yourself so you can serve others better. How many times have you said yes to someone or something and regretted it? This doesn’t help them or you.
Take time to answer the following questions before you commit to anything;
“Is it important to you?” or “Does it link directly to your goal?”
I always make sure that I get my 3 important tasks done for the day before I commit to anything else. It means that I can be present fully without feeling guilty that I haven’t accomplished my most important goals for the day.
Stop being so hard on yourself
If you want to achieve anything in life then it’s going to take time and effort. I have always been pretty hard on myself when I haven’t accomplished what I set out to achieve, and this isn’t a bad thing but it can waste a lot of time and energy.
Every goal should be seen as a journey and you need to enjoy the ride or you won’t see it through to the end. If you don’t accomplish what you set out to achieve today? Take time to reflect on why you didn’t and make a change. Don’t waste time beating yourself up over the past, as it’s exactly where it is for a reason, in the past.
Which brings us to the end, I hope you enjoyed this article and I am going to leave you with one final question, it would be great to get your thoughts in a comment below.
“What are you going to do to accomplish more?”
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