Productivity is a beast we learn to tame as we enter adulthood. For the first part of our lives, we’re guided by authority figures, like parents and teachers. They told us what to do and when to do it. (Whether we listened is another story.) All of sudden at 18, you’re expected to know how to keep on trucking along, with or without direction. One way to ensure success is by having productive habits that push you towards your goals.
We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.-John Dryden
1. Say goodbye to your snooze button.
Those extra five minutes of laying in bed wrapped in blankets are tempting, I know. However, those five minutes can easily turn into fifteen, and all of a sudden you’re scrambling to make up for lost time. Start your day with a good breakfast, a quick workout, anything to get you up and going. You’ll feel more refreshed when you’re up and ready to go instead of trying to wake up on the way to work or school.
2. Prioritize your workload.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.” The idea behind this is that not every single task is important. Using Honest Abe’s quote as an example, it would not be wise to decorate your tool if you’re working with a rusty ax. Sharpen your “ax” by sticking to tasks that relate to your goal for the day and getting into the habit of moving the tasks to another day or delegating it, if possible.
3. Go mobile.
I’m a big fan of old-fashioned pen and paper, and my addition to stationery can attest to that. However, we live in a digital age where nearly every tool has an electronic form. This doesn’t mean you have to completely give up doing things on paper. It’s more about saving time and improving the process with certain tasks. For example, you might have a to-do list that never gets done because you never have it with you. Using apps like Wunderlist to track to do lists and appointments on an electronic device can help you stay on top of things with reminders and notifications. The best part is that there are tons of free apps out there that can get the job done.
In addition to the physical benefits of regular exercise, working out can boost your confidence, improve your mood, and make you feel more energized.
5. Limit your responses.
Set some time aside a few times each day to go through and respond to messages. This limits the number of disruptions while you work or study, especially if you are constantly receiving emails and messages. On that note…
6. Keep your inbox clean.
Is the matter resolved but you might need the info in the email in the future? Archive it. Is it spam? Delete it. Do you even read the info in that newsletter you get every morning? Unsubscribe. Make things easier for yourself by decluttering your inbox and only keeping the items that are a work in progress.
7. Challenge yourself.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Improving and growing as a person means constantly pushing yourself to the limit and setting the bar higher each time. Continue to push yourself until you reach your goals.
8. Listen to constructive criticism.
It can be tough listening to constructive criticism and breakdowns of what you can improve on. However, listen carefully when someone is willing to offer constructive criticism because they are taking the time to give feedback based on your current performance. If you constantly hear that certain things need improvement, it might be time to start working on that. Note that the key word here is constructive. There might be that one person that likes to criticize you without offering suggestions on how to improve. That is not constructive. That is just bullying.
9. Ask questions.
Question everything. The line between someone who is good at something and someone who is excellent at it is not just knowing how, but why. Understanding the mechanics of your work proves your expertise in the field. The in-depth knowledge will also help you think critically and create workarounds if things go wrong.
10. Learn who you are.
This habit is a little different, but it’s just as important. The thing is, maybe all of these tips will work for you. Or maybe none of them will. Only you know the answer to that. We are all unique individuals, and we operate in different ways. Taking the time to acknowledge how much you’ve grown and what has changed for you will help you form habits that will specifically cater to your own success. One way to get in touch with yourself is by practicing mindfulness. Knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and what needs improvements is one of the best ways to ensure your future success.