We often confuse productivity,
as an entire concept. Trying to believe that you have to achieve these monumental breakthroughs, like meeting your sales quotas at work for the entire month, losing all of that fifty pounds, or completing your entire Bachelor’s Degree. And if we are not able to check off these grandiose tasks off of our iOS to-do list apps, then it usually becomes a to hell with it situation, and we just shut down for the day. I am guilty of this, as most of you reading this probably are as well; however, reshaping and creating small, isolated habits can prove to be the solution to your productivity blues.
For myself, I discovered working a nine-to-five gig, as a Director of Marketing and PR that I was doing so much abstract work throughout the day that would payoff in cycles. Every few weeks I would finally launch a new social media campaign, every few months I would secure another sponsor for an event, bi-annually I would give public speeches at conferences. Otherwise, most of the work I did was just building to these peaks, and it caused 80% of my days to feel like a drudge of accomplishing nothing and using all my time to do so. My first inclination to remedy this was to do more throughout the week that was tangible — a lot of blogs and articles around the web suggest taking-up a hobby like woodworking or painting. Tried both. Did not solve the problem. At the end of the day, it just gave me a hobby that I now felt like was wasting even *more* of my time. Finally, I had a breakthrough. I discovered that by creating a small block of routines or habits in the morning, I was able to spend the rest of my day feeling like I have already achieved a lot of productive tasks, and anything else on top of it was just pure profit.
A lot of this idea stems from William H. McRaven’s book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World where he suggests the U.S. Marines technique of always making your bed in the morning. A little task, that instantly makes your day productive and can give you a boost into feeling accomplished every day of the week. So now to get to it, the best ways I have found to build a little package of habits to provide the building blocks to achieve those bigger objectives.
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” — William H. McRaven
FIRST STEP: Download or Create a Habit Tracker.
At first, I struggled with the idea of using a habit tracker. I tried a ton of them, but I just always went back to re-adding things to my general to-do list. Finally, I really committed to the idea, I downloaded Momentum (not affiliated or sponsored in any way) and it has proven to be one of the most useful apps on my phone. It not only allows me to set-up all the habits I decide upon, it will suggest various ones, and even let me pick if they are constant or occasional habits. I have push notifications turned on so that I am reminded each morning to update and accomplish these before I begin my day.Timing is different for everyone, but I try to carve out around two hours (even if I have to sacrifice sleep to do it) in the morning to knock-out my list. It gives me a personal sense of confidence to feel like I got a head-start on the day compared to everyone in my house or around the town. It is also nice to go into your day feeling like you have already accomplished a significant amount of things. However, it really needs to be scheduled around you. Plan your routine at night before bed, during a lunch break, or whenever you can fully dedicate an hour or two to them. I would highly suggest no less than one hour though to get the full-effect of productivity here (some apps I use to help streamline this for me are listed at the end of this article).You can absolutely build your own habit tracking in a physical notebook, the Bullet Journal can be great for this — or there are plenty of apps available to pick one that works best for you. My two favorites are Momentum and Way of Life.
STEP TWO: Create ONLY 6 Habits To Do Per Day
The goal is not to create a task list and rebuild your habits every day anew. These are a structured, isolated routine from the rest of your day. Just like sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks are all inevitably realities, so too should be our habit routine. A Public Relation’s pioneer by the name of Ivy Lee developed a method for achieving more output and productivity from a team of executives, so their company could remain competitive. What Lee taught them became an early method for work prioritization and task management that has become standard in most business theory classes and a favorite of business blogs across the internet. We are not going to use the Ivy Lee Method outright, but we are going to implement some of his concepts.
“Six tasks, no more, no less.”
Six tasks, no more, no less. This was the foundation for Lee, and it will be for us as well. From my experience, and a lot of business research is out there to support it as well — any more than six tasks on a list and we begin to see a large drop-off of achievement. Our goal is to create tasks that we can easily accomplish within one or two hours every day, so do not overwhelm yourself.
Here is an example of my current habit list:
1. Meditate (10 minutes)
2. Read (30 minutes)
3. Exercise (30 minutes)
4. Journal (20 minutes)
5. Practice Foreign Language (15 minutes)
6. Vocal Training (10 minutes)
Side note: Vocal Training is actually my one interchangeable slot, where I try to insert a new activity/habit every 3–6 months.
Building six principal tasks like this will help you easily accomplish six (count em’, six) things in a day, and when you do these things daily it is not long before you have really substantive goals achieved on a weekly basis. Meditating only gets more beneficial the more you do it, reading for just thirty minutes a day leads to finishing a book every couple of weeks, exercising daily leads to a six-pack of abs (or so my personal trainer keeps trying to tell me. This is still up for debate), one journal page daily leads to hundreds of thoughts and introspections per month that can help you build business ideas or even solve existential problems in your life, foreign language recognition gets better with consistent practice, and so on. The benefits are not in creating something tangible daily, like a hobby in woodworking, may provide. However, by creating small, isolated daily habits, we allow ourselves to build confidence in our abilities to climb the bigger mountains of tasks, thus feeling more prepared and productive when facing the abstracts of modern business life.
FINAL STEP: Evaluate Your Progress Every 6 Months
The final step is an easy one. Mark in your calendar, or even just CLICK HERE and I will do it for you to evaluate your progress every so often. I aim for every six months, which gives me a chance to alter habits, like my interchangeable ones. And it also allows me to see if I am making any tangible progress on things, like learning a new language or exercise, so that I can course correct. Maybe exercise does not need to be a habit that I train, so much as dieting does. This is your time to tweak and edit, as you grow. Hell, you might become proficient in Japanese and no longer even need it on your habit routine at all. How cool would that evaluation day be, right? With a little determination and some simple tools to facilitate it, we all can benefit from creating little pockets of progress for ourselves, so we can stop retweeting woefully apathetic The Office gifs about being lonely and upset, and instead feel encouraged by our own abilities to accomplish so many things each and every day.