Want to start improving your productivity right this second? Skillshare teacher and productivity expert Mike Vardy shares 10 simple ways quickly improve your daily productivity to do your best work.
1. Keep a paper and pen handy at all times.
Paper works because it is only limited by what you’re willing to put on (and into) it. Paper provides an escape from your devices and does so without compromising your ability to get things done. It’s a safe and secure resource in that it can be both life saving and completely disposable depending on the circumstances. Besides that, it’s versatile, compatible and portable.
Paper – simply put – just works. So keep it - and a pen or pencil - with you wherever you go. Then you'll be able to put things to work for you.
(This practice leads perfectly into the next thing you can do.)
2. Start capturing relentlessly.
The great thing about building and maintaining the habit of capturing relentlessly is that it really does get you into a state that allows for better focus. Most people think that capturing things is a means of writing to remember. But I’m not so sure it’s that cut and dry .
In fact, I think of it more as a means of writing to forget, because I can trust that I’ve gotten it down somewhere. Capturing ideas on paper allows me to temporarily forget about them, and it enables me to focus on what needs doing right now. Capturing is key because it not only allows you to write to forget, but it fills up the well of what needs reviewing later. You can’t have a trustworthy review process until you have a trustworthy capture process. And both need to be reliable if you’re going to be more productive.
Looking to up your productivity? Check out Mike's FREE class, Productivity Habits That Stick: Using Time Theming.
3. Create a morning routine.
Routines are the ideal way to bookend your day. I think they are the building blocks of effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy.
Morning routines are a great way to kick off your day because they are static and trigger your body to wake up and get going. Whether you're an early bird or a night owl, having one in place will go a long way towards a more productive life.
But it's not the only daily routine that will pay dividends on your personal productivity.
4. Create an evening routine.
I believe an evening routine is just as important as a morning routine (if not more so). An evening routine will allow you to map out your day the night before and propel you forward with more intention and less time friction in your day.
A sample evening routine could look something like this:
- Choose your top tasks for the next day (based on the Daily Theme assigned to tomorrow, your journal entry, and other factors)
- Before bed, pack your lunch and prep breakfast (as well as coffee)
- Floss and brush your teeth
- Set out your work clothes out for the next day
There are other elements you can include in your evening routine (meditation and exercise, for example), but start small and stack more additions over time from there.
5. Personally define your days.
We all know what Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mean in the universal sense. But what do they mean to you personally?
Do you have Wednesdays off of work? Are Fridays filled with social activities more often than not? Maybe Mondays are a bit of a slog because it’s the start of the work week and indecisiveness can set in?
If you want to run your days instead of letting them run you (paraphrasing the late Jim Rohn), then own those days by personally defining them. Make Monday your Administrative Day. Wednesday can be Hobby Day. Fridays can be Fun Friday.
I call the concept of personally defining your days "Daily Theming" and I discuss it in more detail in my Skillshare class. It's one of the best ways you can put the "personal" back into "personal productivity" so give it a try on your own or go through my Skillshare class if you want some guidance from yours truly.
6. Don't eat at your workstation.
You need to recharge so get out of your office and take an actual lunch break. Even though it may not seem that you send a message by eating in your office, you could be saying the following:
- "I eat at my desk while working, so you should too."
- “I’m available at all times, even during a lunch break because I’m in my office."
There are other messages you could be sending (interpretation is subjective) - including messages to your own brain. One such message is that you should work through your lunch break simply because you're sitting at your desk.
Taking a lunch break isn’t just good for you but if you work for an organization in a leadership role then it's good for the company culture. So step away from the desk when eating your lunch. It has more long-term benefits to your productivity than you realize.
Want to build a productivity system that'll last a lifetime? Join Mike's free productivity class and learn productivity habits that stick.
7. Don't fight your body’s clock.
Night owls can be just as productive as early risers. They can also be just as unproductive. Your body knows you better than the outside forces that compel you to get up early or stay up late do. It knows when you’re at your peak and when you aren’t. Listen to it and go with the flow. Once you stop fighting your natural clock, you’ll be able to plan out your day (both work time and leisure time) so that you can get the most out of your daily life.
8. Answer emails "second thing" in the morning.
One of the best things you can do to make your day more productive is to do things that put you in control of your day – and do that on a regular basis. An example of something that would keep your day out of your control is to check your email first thing in the morning (and too often throughout the day). When you put email first, you are putting the requests – or demands – of others before your own. That can set you up for a day of disappointment – or even resentment, which will lead to a less productive day.
That practice doesn’t mean you are treating email with any less value – it just means you are treating yourself with more value than what shows up in your inbox. To get ahead of yourself with email, check it at day’s end and figure out what needs doing off the top of the next day (if anything), and go from there. Then you’re wrapping up your day with the knowledge that any email that came in before quitting time is ready for you to deal with further the next workday.
9. Say "no" more often.
My good friend Patrick Rhone once said "Saying no is saying yes to other things." He's spot on.
Whenever we say “yes” to something – and we want to do that something well – we have to say “no” to other things. Saying “no” can wind up being a “not right now” for some things, but for many it becomes much more permanent. As you’d expect, some of the things you turn down are things you really want to do, but know deep down that they will either take you off course or simply can’t be done to full effectiveness.
Get better at saying "no" and you'll simply get better at so much more.
10. Keep a journal.
Spend time journaling in the morning to visualize how you want your day to go. Or spend time in the evening as you recall your successes and acknowledge your failures of the day. Or do it both in the morning and evening.
The key is to do it every day no matter what because every day in your life happens...no matter what.
You don't need to write epic entries. You just need to write every day to build up the habit and reap the benefits of journaling. Some of my entries have been one sentence long because I've had writer's block and others have been as long as this article. If you want manage your life well, then you'll want to measure it. Journaling helps you do that in the short and long term.
Want to learn more ways to take control of your productivity? Join 13,000 other students and check out Mike's FREE Skillshare class Productivity Habits That Stick: Using Time Theming
Mike Vardy is a writer, productivity strategist, and the founder of Productivityist. He has served as the Managing Editor at Lifehack, and contributed articles on productivity to 99u, Lifehacker, The Next Web, SUCCESS Magazine, and The Huffington Post. He is also the author of several books and the creator of The NOW Year™ Method, a simple, durable, and flexible personal productivity approach. Mike lives in Victoria, BC, Canada with his incredible wife, daughter, and son.