We all are trying to do things in a better way everyday and improving is something we all strive towards. Let me share what I have learned from my experiences in 2019 for better productivity and personal growth. Hope this becomes useful to you like it is to me.
Rules are mutable, so don’t sweat it!
The first thing I want to talk about is that none of the rules, I mean none of those productivity tips, tricks or system you have in place are forever or perfect. There is always an exception to the system/rules you have, so keep it flexible and be open to improvements. This helps you be less rigid and helps your system to evolve. Otherwise you will feel tied down and you will eventually stop following the system/rules.
A good example of this is, us trying to follow Pomodoro Technique for better productivity. We don’t have to be rigid about the 20 minutes. You can make it 30 minutes or if you are zoned-in and 20 minutes are done, you can just start the next Pomodoro session immediately. Don’t worry, give yourself some room, be flexible and fine tune the rules/system so that it works for you not the other way around.
Do NOTHING (at times)!
Yes, do nothing. Don’t get me wrong, but give your mind some rest and go for a walk or water some plants. This is important for better mental health and memory. After consuming things like a podcast, a book or after learning something, it helps you if you give it some time before moving on to the next thing.
Doing nothing have become extremely challenging. We are consuming something all the time. The urge, the need for us to finish our backlog of to do lists, podcasts, the chapters in that book. Or, let’s take a break and watch a movie? That is also consumption my friend! Albeit a less intensive one. Try to do nothing, you will be surprised by the results.
Let it flooow…
I would like to call myself as an idea hamster and planner. I get a lot of ideas about the things I want to do in the future, later in the evening or NOW! So breaking the flow makes it harder for me to decide whether it is important or useless. Giving it some time without breaking the flow of thoughts helps me decide whether it is useful or not. It could be anything, an idea for a business, a project I want to do etc. Just let it flow! So instead of playing that unnecessary podcast episode, or trying to multi-task, just let it flow. I have found this useful and it helps me envision my ideas & thoughts better.
Clean up regularly
We often make plans, goals, to-do lists. How often do you keep it updated though? That Tsundoku/backlog you have, is all of it necessary? Or is it relevant any more from the day you added it to your backlog?
We often have the tendency to finish from A to Z, 100%. We are rigid and not at all flexible about our plans and goals. Most of the time this is not necessary. As a person who have a list of goals, to-do lists, list of books, 20 podcasts (down from 22 since I started writing this blog, clean up people!) shows to follow and an endless list of article bookmarks to finish, I realised last year (maybe I a bit slow with it?) it is necessary to clean it up regularly. Clean up your to-do lists, the goals, plans on how you are going to achieve them… all of it!
The next thing to do once you have cleaned up things is to consume less. What’s wrong with consuming you ask? We get different points of views right? The problem is, we don’t stop at that. We keep consuming even after we have found the silver bullet or even though you got the information or knowledge you were looking for.
A good way to explain this is by telling why I stopped reading “motivational/inspirational” articles in Medium. Have you tried reading those articles? It is crazy, you will be so pumped up by the time you finish the articles, you just found the perfect article which is inspirational as hell! Of course it will be, because it is…
- Inspirational as hell!
- Provides solutions to your current problem(s).
But then you read another one tomorrow and another one the day after. It is an endless cycle and you’re trying out many things or just reading on and on without acting on any of those solutions. The idea is to find the perfect fit and just stop looking for solutions again! You are just going to confuse yourself if you don’t stop after getting what you were looking for in the first place.
Consuming less is also generally a good practice. Read less motivational articles, less YouTube videos, less of those endless Twitter scrolling. Try to focus more on things that really matter and keep at it. This will help you reach all the goals and finish all those to-do lists.
Unstuck, with a question?
Like all other people, I use questions a lot! I ask them, sometimes I answer them. But most of the time, my questions are to someone. It never occurred to me that I should be asking question to myself while I am stuck with something and is trying to figure it out myself! Even when I used to ask questions to myself, it is often in my own head and unconscious.
The whole idea of “questioning myself” when stuck changed the way I think about my to-do lists and tasks at hand. I realised I don’t have the questions that needs to be answered to start/finish my tasks. This made me ask questions like “why am I stuck here?”, or a specific question like, “Which method or approach should I use to write this function/program or problem?”.
Another thing to do is writing things. I always write down the questions under each tasks. Writing the questions in a paper helps me better articulate and envision the status, progress and next actions of a task. This brings me to the next thing I wanna share…
Write things down!
2019 was an year where I rediscovered my love for fountain pens. This gave me another excuse to write things down in a paper, purely old school. I like to document the things in a notebook along with my notebook application. I also have a to-do list application but I write down the things I have to do for the day in my notebook as a to-do list. My search for the perfect to-do list application was completed. But even then, I always come back to writing things down in my notebook. I use my to-do list application as a tool to have an online database of long term goals and plans. This helps me be productive and accountable.
Full screen mode
Full screen mode in applications are seriously underrated! I am writing this article in an text editor with full screen mode on! It keeps me focused and less distracted. It is really easy to overlook the fact that we are constantly interrupted by other applications while working on your computer. But full screen mode can help you with that.
You might be thinking, it is just a task bar of your operating system and the application, what is the big deal? We are not losing a big chunk of real estate right? But if you want to work on an important task but cannot focus, and the solution you have is to logout from Slack/Discord or abandon that noisy/distracting app, then full screen mode is definitely something you should try out. It will help you ignore all the Slack/Discord messages or any other noisy/distracting app. It will let you work in peace, focused. You don’t have to logout or abandon an application because they’re distracting, all you have to do is use the full screen mode.
Still unable to be productive? Why not listen to some music while working? I have found that it helps you be focused on the tasks. I prefer a low voice music in the background which drowns the rest of the noises. And I use freeCodeCamp’s code radio for this.
The science behind this is a bit here and there, so I would suggest you to try it out and see if it’s working for you. It works for me and helps me be focused on the task at hand. But at times for some tasks, I just like the music when I start the task and silence after a while. Like I said before, “rules are mutable”. Use it in a way that works for you, or don’t if it is not helping.
To sum it up
These are my takeaways from 2019. I try to apply these in my day to day life wherever possible. Not every one of these points might be appealing for everybody. So try it out yourself and see if it works for you. And remember, “Rules/laws are mutable!”
References / Links
- Every productivity thought I’ve ever had, as concisely as possible by Alexey Guzey
- Is Background Music a Boost or a Bummer?
Did you find these tips useful? Let me know @unsungnovelty.