🌼5 Productivity Advice By Experts That Don’t Always Work
The best productivity advice takes into account how your body works.
For many of us, becoming more productive is a significant goal. We all want to make the most of our time and energy on any given day.
And it’s not hard to know why: being able to get more done allows us to get ahead in life and even gives us more time to do the things we love outside of work.
That’s why we read books, listen to podcasts, and take advice from different sources on how to be more productive, effective, or efficient.
Read also: 5 tips for building a successful side hustle (highly recommended)
However, there’s often no “one size fits all” when it comes to becoming more productive. Some of the ideas work, but others don’t make much of a difference.
The simple reason is that each of us is unique. What works for some people might not exactly work for others. The important thing is to always evaluate any advice, tips, tools, etc. in the light of your own life and priorities.
Here are the five most common pieces of “expert” productivity advice that usually don’t work:
#Maximize Every Second of Your Day
Time is an important asset and most of us believe that the best way to be productive and make the most of our time is to schedule a task into every second of our day.
We try to fill up the day with all sorts of activities in order not to “waste” our time. So, if we’re not reading a book, then we’re listening to a podcast or audiobook. We just find something to keep us busy, even during our downtime.
Without a doubt, time is limited. It can’t be recovered once it’s gone. And on any given day, you only have about 3–4 hours when you’re highly energized and sharply focused to do your best work.
The trick to becoming more productive isn’t to make the most of your time. Instead, it’s about making the most of your energy.
It’s about making sure you’re not packing your day full of tasks, which keeps your mind constantly hyperactive and busy. This leaves you feeling drained and exhausted all the time.
Making the most of your attentional resources rather than just your time helps stay more productive.
#Use Technology to be Available Around The Clock
One of the popular pieces of advice productivity gurus like to give is that using technology can help us stay available 24/7.
They will tell you that your ability to use technology to stay constantly engaged with work, even on weekends and during vacation, determines how productive you can be.
On the surface, this looks like good advice. But it undermines your productivity in the long run.
When you’re working non-stop, your mind can get overloaded and fatigued. This can prevent you from being at your best. Taking breaks from work allows your brain to cool down, recover and refocus on the task.
Sometimes, longer breaks (like not working at night) give you your body and mind ample time to return to peak levels of focus, creativity, and productivity.
The most productive people get more done by focusing fully on work during work hours and prioritizing activities that allow them to detach from work, relax and rest during downtime.
The good news is that technology like Freedom App can help you blocks out work-related websites during your off-hours.
You can also change your phone settings to mute phone calls from work except for the most important emergency contacts, such as your boss or a close coworker.
When you detach and have time to relax, it helps you get back to your most creative and productive self the next day.
#The Cult of Robin Sharma
Many people believe that getting up at 5 a.m. every day will make them more productive and successful.
Ancient philosophers like Aristotle taught this when he said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”
Modern productivity gurus like Robin Sharma took it further in ‘The 5 AM Club’ by claiming that waking up early can help people achieve epic results while making them happier, more helpful, and alive.
The argument is that waking up early allows you a bit more time to go about your daily tasks and get more done.
There might be some truth to it, but it assumes that people are the same. We’re not. Forcing yourself to get up at 5 a.m. every day can work against you.
We all have different circadian rhythms and chronotypes, which means we also have different hours of the day when we’re most productive.
Some people are sluggish in the morning, which is why they struggle to get anything done until the sun sets. Then, they experience sudden bursts of creative energy—the first around noon, and the second around 6 p.m. This are the times they’re most productive.
Others are highly alert and energized in the morning, which is when they perform at their best. They struggle with an afternoon slump after lunch, around 2–4 p.m
However, some people don’t fit into the two categories. Their energy levels gradually rise and they feel most productive from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
All of these means that waking up early can work for some people but not for everybody.
The key to becoming productive is knowing when you are at your most creative best and then structuring your work to align with your body’s natural order.
People who get more done try to master, even unconsciously, how to align themselves with their “body time” and then leverage those times to get the most out of themselves.
#Start Your Day With a To-do List
Having a list of to-do’s and crossing off each of the items when they’re finished is what most people usually do.
Every time we complete a task, we get a rush of dopamine that makes us feel good about ourselves and what we’ve achieved. But a to-do list creates two unique problems.
First, you’re likely to focus on small, easy, and mindless tasks.
Our brain fears big projects and we’re susceptible to “abandoning ship” at the first sign of distress. That’s why we often grab the easy and comfortable stuff first.
But you might no longer have the mental clarity for the more important but demanding tasks by the time you’re done with the low-value easy tasks.
The second problem is that you can focus on demanding but high-value tasks when you have enough time and energy.
Unfortunately, these ‘big’ tasks can take over your entire day, allowing you no time or energy to do anything else.
A powerful trick that can help you overcome these problems is to execute your important tasks but energy-consuming tasks during the time of the day when you’re at your peak energy and focus.
Our energy levels don’t stay the same the whole day. That’s why you can’t expect yourself to be effective throughout the day.
So, a recipe for disaster is trying to tackle your most energy-consuming tasks during your low-energy period.
Focus on doing your important and challenging tasks during your peak performance period and then get back to the easy and low-energy activities when you don’t require that much energy.
#Establish a Morning Routine
Many successful people attribute their results to having consistent money routines.
They often cite how they begin the day with meditation, journaling, exercise, healthy breakfast, and so on — activities that allow them to start the day and stay productive all through.
How we spend the first three hours of our day can make or mar us. Psychologist Ron Friedman told the Harvard Business Review:
“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well.”
But this might not work for everybody, for some of the same reasons waking up early might not work.
Some people have kids they must prep for school in the morning. Others travel a long distance to get to work and must leave the house very early.
Just because someone doesn’t have the time to follow certain morning routines doesn’t mean they won’t start the day well or be productive.
You can have a productive day without submitting to rigorous morning routines. Some of the few things you can do like saying a simple prayer or affirmation for the new day, reading a few lines from the Bible, or other spiritual text that you find meaningful — can help you start your day.
The key thing is making sure you start off the day in a positive frame without spending hours on a routine just because some gurus recommend it.
Morning routines are good but all those activities that we think of as only ideal in the morning can still add value if done at other times of the day.
The bottom line is to what works for you not because any expert said so but because it is in sync with your priorities.
Read also: 7 types of people who get far in life
Achieving a productive day by making the most of our time and energy is critical to our success.
The problem, however, is that most advice or tips on productivity that we follow end up working against us because they tend to ignore a fundamental truth — people are different.
We’re all unique and what might work well for me might be useless for you and vice versa.
There is no such thing as universal advice or strategy. What matters is that you figure out what works best for you by studying your body to understand you’re at your most powerful and creative time of the day.
And then use that knowledge to structure your work accordingly.
CONTRIBUTED BY Victor Mong
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