Everyone struggles with being productive. If you’re like me, procrastination is your worst enemy.
There is a lot of advice and techniques on how to be productive and get things done. Some of it works great, but some of it is just bad advice.
Let’s look at some common productivity advice and see why some of the advice might not be so good at all.
1. Wake up early
In every how-to-be-productive article or advice guide you will find: Wake up earlier and you will accomplish more. I call bullsh*t on that.
Most importantly you need sleep and rest. I try to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep. If not, I’m going to be groggy and sleepy, and definitely half as productive if I’d slept an hour more.
I usually have a set time that I wake up each day, but if some days I happen to go to sleep later, I adjust my alarm and wake up later as well. I have tested it numerous times over the years and for me it’s better to sleep a little longer and work maybe fewer hours than sleep less and not be very productive all day long.
Mareike Wieth and Rose T. Zacks conducted a study, which was published in the journal Thinking & Reasoning, where they examined the effects of time of day on problem solving.
The results showed that to be productive you have to work when it’s best for you. There is no universal effective day of time to solve problems.
If you feel more productive when you wake up early then wake up early. If you feel you get more done when you work later on the day, then work later and wake up later.
Nothing magical will happen when you wake up earlier. Just make sure you sleep enough and find the time to work that suits you the most.
2. The To-do list
Another productivity hack that can hinder you is a to-do list. If you have a list of hundred things in front of you, it can be a truly horrifying feeling. You will feel overwhelmed and unable to do anything. Thank you very much to-do list, my buddy.
For me it helps to have 1 to 3 tasks in my to do list that I want to accomplish that day. There has to be at least something important on the list. For today it was to write this post (yee I’m doing it!).
Of course there are a ton of little things to do, but I don’t bother to write them down anymore. It takes longer to write them down and to cross them out than to actually do them.
Plus the miserable feeling of seeing a long list of things that you didn’t get to do (even though they aren’t important) can have a negative, demoralizing effect on you.
Keep the list as short as possible. I think weekly to-do lists are even better than daily lists.
How about no to-do lists at all? When asked about to-do lists, Guy Kawasaki answered: I never make lists. I challenge myself to remember what to do in order to delay the decay of my brain.
3. Work alone
You need to be alone to totally focus on your work. But it’s extremely difficult. Why? Because the internet is freakin’ awesome! Have you seen YouTube?
Let’s be honest, you (myself included) are a HUGE procrastinator. Case in point, you’re reading this article instead of working (busted!).
This is why having someone in the room with you working, can be very effective. Specially if they can see your monitor so you can’t look at those damn cat pictures (but they are sooo funnny!).
I’m not talking about working in a place where people can distract you. I can’t work at all if some noise or someone distracts me. But working quietly with other people can be very beneficial.
Maneesh Sethi actually hired someone from Craigslist to work with him (and slap him in the face, which I think is some kind of a fetish of his) to make sure he was working and not slacking off. His productivity skyrocketed!
The reason might be because since a lot of entrepreneurs are working at home you don’t have a “boss” that makes sure you are working. So you need to create a situation where you are accountable for your work.
4. Don’t check email first thing in the morning.
Another big thing that everyone is telling you is not to check your email. What? Some of my websites might be down. Something horrible might have happened where I might need to react ASAP. That’s the worst advice anyone has ever given me.
How in the world could I possibly focus if I don’t know if everything’s fine. I couldn’t. This is why, for the peace of mind, I always check my email first thing in the morning.
However, I only check the titles and I never get into my emails right off the bat. I only react when something critical has happened.
What you should do is set a certain time when you will deal with emails and do them all at once. You should definitely stop checking emails all through the day. It can be distracting as hell.
5. Finish everything you start (never quit)
This item isn’t actually what it’s supposed to be. You see, I decided to write about 5 productivity hacks you shouldn’t be following (I actually thought of eight), but I wasn’t so sure about the last one. So I didn’t write it.
If you are not 100% sure about a project or something that you are doing, you should drop it. Nothing good can come of this. It’s important not to fall in love with your projects. Sometimes if things don’t seem to be working out. Quit. Don’t just aimlessly plow through and hope everything will work out when you know in your heart that, in fact, it wont.
This point is actually a question for all of you.
What other bad advice is out there that you shouldn’t be following?
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