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10 Simple Steps for 12 Months of Productivity

February 10, 2015

By now you will have gauged our obsession with everything that has to do with productivity. In fact we try our best to be productive ourselves to keep bringing handy tips and suggestions inspired by influencers and opinion leaders around the world. And this post is going to be no different.

Speaking of productivity, I realize that 2014 had indeed been a productive year for me. I took control of my life (as best as I could) and inculcated a few good habits that ensure I remain on this virtuous path to being a productive human being.

One advice really did a number on me last year. It’s a pretty good one and being the good Samaritan that I always am (or at least aspire to be), I will share this life-altering (well, almost) insight with you.

It came to me thanks to a friend. An obsessive control freak herself, she is one of those people who are constantly at a battle with the self — trying to up themselves every year, every month, sometimes every day. And she bestowed unto me her little secret towards ensuring she has a productive year.

“Choose one thing you want to change or improve every month.”

Sounds simple? I thought so too. Until I tried it myself over these last two months. And boy, it’s not easy.

For starters, a change follows a typical pattern — denial, anger, acceptance and finally positive-action (if you survive the anger part, that is). You may start with by working on simple habit but it takes quite a lot of conscious effort, let me tell you that. And two weeks into the change, I promise you will see yourself just a little better than when you started out. (Speaking from a harrowed experience)

So this year, I have avowed to change 12 things every month, in hopes that by 2016 I welcome myself to a renewed, more productive me.

Now, I am not going to tell you what you need to change (for, that’s a subjective thing), but I can help you with how you can go about this pseudo-spiritual journey in the quest for making thy self-productive and efficient. I am doing it, and maybe these steps can help you too.


1. List out aspects of your life you would want to work on this year

It all starts with a simple laundry-list of things you want to change or improve in your life — professional or personal. It can be something as basic as getting up early in the day or something more substantial as improving your coding skills. Putting it down in the form of a checklist — on a paper or a smartphone app — is good way to make it all real. I prefer using productivity apps (to-doist is my personal pick) and checklists; for these smart systems are proactive, require minimal manual intervention and I would not lose it like I would a piece of paper.

2. Start with the easiest thing on the list

Now, many of us start a project with a little too much ambitious effort. We head straight to most challenging bit, because we feel we are energized to tackle it right away.


Unless you possess some superpower or the IQ of Sheldon Cooper, do not feel the impressive need to go after the most challenging element just yet.

Start small. Once you start seeing yourself check off items from your to-do-list like a pro the positive reinforcement of the action fuels your energy a lot more. And just so you know, the first item I checked-off from my list was developing the habit of reading 5 new articles every morning. Next up, mastering excel. (phew)

3. Surround yourself with productive people

I started realizing the importance to this pretty recently. I work with a team that’s constantly in the state of motion (sometimes commotion) — working endlessly and religiously at tasks they feel vested towards. Seeing such people motivates me to do better at my job. I have started taking smaller breaks, avoiding social media distractions at work, and I have developed a good habit of coming to meetings prepared. It’s like self-induced competition and I enjoy every bit of it.

4. Start your day early

Now, the importance of starting your day early has been spoken of endlessly. So I will refrain from making a case for it here. You know it, I know it. And we have all, at some point in time, felt it.

And the science behind it is quite simple — mornings are the only hours of the day when your mind is completely refreshed and the noise of everything around you is at its absolute minimum. These are the perfect hours you can allot to sovereign thought and ponder on things with much calm and quiet.

5. Attend to tasks in batches

I have stolen this trick from a colleague of mine and it works like a charm. She has a habit of doing things in batches. If she is involved in writing a blog, she will not do anything else but precisely that. Another day, she can be found engaged in a series of meetings and just that. For her it’s about ensuring a good flow. Once she is in a particular state of mind she doesn’t try to disrupt it and sees the flow to completion.

I like this idea of working with a thought flow. When you are ‘in the moment’, do as much as you can and finish what you set out to do. Indulging in multiple thought flows muddles your head quite a bit.


6. Learn when to say ‘no’

Knowing when to say no gives you greater flexibility to focus on things that require your time ‘right now’. Not everything needs your attention right away. Know to differentiate between high priority, high urgency tasks and high priority, low urgency tasks.

7. Do not overwhelms yourself

We all start our new year feeling optimistic about all that’s about to happen. We start with grand plans and for people like me the cause is lost one somewhere by March itself. I have learnt to avoid this with a simple trick — plan for just one grand thing in a year. Everything else can be an effort to achieve that grand plan. For instance, this year my grand plan is to become more productive at my work and each month my endeavor will be to do something or improve something in lieu of that. Simple enough?

8. Set a routine for all internet-related activities

This one has been the hardest task for me so far, and to be very honest I haven’t quite mastered it myself yet. But I realize the importance of routinizing all internet-related activities. For example, I follow the two-minute rule when it comes to emails — if I can answer the query in 2 minutes or less, I do it right away. Or else, it will have to wait till the end of the day. Internet can be very distracting but once you get in the habit of limiting the number of hours spent on it, you will see yourself being more productive by the minute.

9. Bank upon your most creative time

Creative time is when your mental faculties are performing at their absolute best — be it in the mornings or evenings. When you know your creative hours, plan your day in a way that your creative time is used for resourceful activities only.

10. Do not forget to evaluate yourself

As aptly stated by Bruce Tulgan, author of The 27 Challenges Managers Face , rigorous self-evaluation is the beginning, middle, and end of self-management.

Find time to see if you need to revise some items on your to-do list, to estimate if you can do better than what you have achieved till now, and if you can do something more to improve the quality of outcomes. If there is something that can be done better, do it.

Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.

Meeta Sharma

Meeta Sharma is a content marketing specialist and regularly writes about her domain and start-up life.

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