Long time ago, I learned a very simple yet effective productivity trick. It was either from a book or a class, I tried googling and I can’t figure out the source. If anyone knows please add it to the comment! The story goes something like this. Some company has some productivity issue, and they hired a prominent consultant to take a look. The consultant simply said this:
“Tell all your employees to do this. Every day first thing in the morning, write down 5 tasks that you want to achieve today. By the end of the day, if you can’t finish it, put it on tomorrow’s list. ”
And that was it! The consultant then said, don’t pay me now, pay me when it starts to work. And it certainly did, the company paid him a couple hundred thousand dollars.
I follow this routine and I find it to be very effective. Every morning I write down the five things to do for the day either in a Google doc that I keep open all day, or I put it in the “Stickies” app on my Mac. This list of things basically stares at me all the time until they get done. As simple as it is, it helps you focus on the things that you really needed to get done today.
I once took a leadership training class, and the most valuable lesson I learned was the key to what motivates people. It’s actually very simple. There are three components, and how motivated you are is a result of multiplying all 3. Not a sum, but multiplication. Which means that if any of the three components is 0, then the end result is also zero. Here are the three components:
- How much you want the reward: For any tasks that you are motivated to do, there must be some reward that you want. Reward could be money, could be a pat on the back, could be anything. But it has to be something that you want.
- How much you trust the reward will come, if you finish the task: A lot of times, rewards in life are not guaranteed. If your boss says you “MAY” get a raise if you work harder and if the company does well, then you are likely only somewhat motivated. But if your boss says, finish this task and you will get a raise and you believe what he says, that’d be much more motivating.
- How confident you are in your ability to finish the task that you need to finish: Confidence is a significant driver of motivation. If someone tells you he will give you a million dollars if you can run 100 meters in 8 seconds, you’re not going to be too motivated even if you fully trust the reward is true. The world record is 9+ seconds, no matter how hard you train, it’ll be unlikely for anyone to come under 8 seconds.
There it is, 3 simple rules. Next time if you or someone else is not motivated to accomplish a task? Think about which component(s) is missing, and how you can address those issues.
Life is short, especially when you don’t use your time wisely. Time is indeed just like money; You can waste it, use it, or invest it. Here are some examples:
Wasting: Wasting include all activities that don’t provide any value now or later. Examples include channel TV surfing, doing chores, all wait times such as waiting for your friends to show up at a movie, waiting for late joiners to come to a meeting, miscommunication between people that causes duplicate work, pretty much doing anything you don’t want to do. Most likely you can’t avoid all wasted time because things like commuting to work is certainly a waste but not everyone can work from home.
Using: Using include activities that provide value right now, but once you used it the time is gone and you don’t gain anything in the future. Examples include watching a movie that you like, playing video games, hanging out with friends, and most other forms of entertainment.
Investing: Investing include activities that you may or may not enjoy right now, but they provide additional value in the future. Examples include taking a class, reading / researching, planning, internships, and any steps of a larger goal.
Sometimes it’s not all black and white. For instance, you could be taking foreign language class for fun which would be considered using time, but if you are able to apply this skill in some way or form for work or any other monetizable way, then it would arguably be investing. Though most cases it’s pretty easy to see which category the activities you do fall into. The ultimate goal, is to spend the majority of your life doing things that are considered “investing your time”
With this in mind, how do you become more productive? Here are some tips:
- Eliminate as much wasted time as possible: If you find yourself wasting time, think harder to see if they are avoidable. Very often things are not as unavoidable as they seem. For instance, are you stuck in traffic everyday? Moving is certainly a hassle but if you are wasting an hour or two of your live everyday just to get to work, you really need to look at your options. Household chores is another example that seems unavoidable. But one simple tip to minimize this is to do them in batches only. Whenever you switch between tasks your brain requires some time to adjust which decreases productivity. If you need to clean up dishes, fold laundries, take care of your kids… allocate a chunk of time and just check off all these tasks at once, so you can move on to tasks that are considered using / investing time.
- Minimize distractions: There are just too many of these in live. Emails, phone calls… if you really want to get something done, turn them off!! Emails can always wait a bit. Or if your spouse, kids keep interrupting you, well just take care of what they want first, and then come back to what you need to do later. A chunk of uninterrupted time is much more productive than bits and pieces of the same amount of time added up. Focus is key!
- Use less, invests more: One of the worst evil that holds you back in life are dead end jobs, which is an acceptable way to use your time, but there are better ways. You certainly need to pay your bills, so sure, go flip some burgers or do whatever else that you need to get some income if you need to. But more often than not, I see people hanging on to jobs that they pays ok money but they don’t enjoy, and they just can’t let go. Achieving your goals is like walking across mountains. While the final destination is way up high, your path toward the destination is not always ascending. There’ll be intermediate peaks and valleys, and it is ok to make some sacrifices in the short term so you can get to a better place. This video explains it best: