Over the twenty-five years of having a seemingly unhealthy fascination with all things to do with productivity and time management the biggest lesson I have learnt is to become better organised and more productive is not something that happens by accident or overnight.
It’s an interesting idea that if you could just find the perfect app or the perfect system somehow a miracle will happen and without doing anything you become amazingly productive and all your stuff will organise itself. Of course, this is not going to happen. No app or system is ever going to do that for you. Even the growth of artificial intelligence won’t help you. AI will still require you to input data in some form or another and you will still have to make decisions on how best to organise your work before any machine will be able to do anything with it.
If you are serious about becoming better organised and more productive you are going to have to do your work and change your habits.
The biggest reason you find yourself disorganised and unproductive are the habits you practice every day. When you are asked to do something and you rely on your memory to remember it, you should not be surprised when you forget to do it. Likewise, if you have no idea what work is important and what is not, you will gravitate towards doing the easy, non-important work. These habits destroy productivity and unless you identify them and change them, you are not going to become more productive.
There are a number of best practices you can follow that have been tested by millions of incredibly productive people and proven to work and many of these best practices have been backed up by science. You are never going to change the laws of physics or the laws of human nature. That being the case once you are aware of them you can develop habits that will counter these human deficiencies.
Here are a few to get you started:
Don’t trust your brain to remember things.
Our brains are not great at reminding us to do the things that need doing at the right time. This is why when you use the last of the milk for your morning cup of coffee on your return from work at the end of the day, your brain is not going to remind you to buy milk as you pass the convenience store. Your brain recognises patterns very well and notices when things are different. That is why you always remember you need milk when you go to get the milk from the fridge and you discover there’s no milk. Your regular pattern of having milk in the fridge has changed and now your brain recognises something is wrong and you get an alert. Unfortunately at 7 am, desperate for that morning caffeine hit, is not when you want the alert.
Get into the habit of writing everything down on a list. It does not have to be a complex list either. A simple list on your phone will do. Before you leave work at the end of the day, have a look at the list to see if there is anything you need to do on your way home. Simple but incredibly effective.
Putting things away in their right place.
This one I see with my wife all the time. She wears glasses at home (and contact lenses when going out). My wife leaves her glasses all over the house. Sometimes in the bathroom, sometimes the bedroom or living room. When she wants her glasses she can never find them. Now we don’t live in a huge house, so it usually only takes a few minutes to find them, but over time those few minutes spent looking for her glasses add up. For a more stress-free, easier life I discovered that if I put my glasses in the same place every evening when I go to bed, I know exactly where they will be the next day and never have to waste time searching for them. You can use the same method with keys, your work bag and other items you need to take with you when you go to work. Always put things away in the same place and you will save yourself a lot of time.
Create a morning and evening routine.
Our brains love routines. Regular routines don’t need a lot of energy to maintain or think about. Simple routines like looking at your calendar before you go to bed to see where you have to be and when the next day or doing the dishes before you sit down and relax after dinner. All these little things, once a routine save energy and allows your brain to use its energy to think of other, more important things. Routines also help you to make sure you have everything you need for the day. Make it a routine to charge your phone at the same time each day, to exercise or to make and pack your lunch. All these little things once routine help you to become better organised.
Do a weekly review and identify the things you want to complete next week.
One of the most effective ways to create amazing momentum in your life is to spend an hour each week reviewing what you have done and what you want to get done the following week. This is a habit that changes lives because it focuses you on what is important.
It is very easy to drift through life not achieving much of anything. Even if you never set goals, a weekly review will give you some indication where you are going and where you are right now. If you are not excited by the destination, your weekly review will give you time to think more clearly about where you want to go, what you want to achieve and what you want to accomplish in the following week. It helps you to identify the important things and tells you if you are spending too much time on unimportant things.
These are just a few things you can do to help you become better organised and more productive. By adopting these tiny best practices you will see an immediate improvement in what you achieve. You will have a clearer picture of what is important to you and you will be able to take steps to eliminate those things that are not important and are wasting your time. Your brain is hard-wired to take the easy road and to drift. It is easy to change that by adopting a few simple best practices and habits. Once these have become ingrained you will find your productivity and organisation improve and there will be nothing to stop you from achieving amazing things.
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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.
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