The vast majority of people, especially entrepreneurs often face issues with productivity from time to time. Sometimes, it can become a very serious issue with many people finding that they spend hours or even days without actually producing anything useful.
I know, I was once there too.
It is often an accumulation of many years of bad habits that naturally build up and build up to cause us problems. Sometimes it can be a certain life events that knocked us out of shape. Sometimes it could just simply be that we need to take stock of where our lives are going and to reassess our core beliefs.
Whatever the reasons, there is only really one true fact: that almost everybody has to deal with productivity issues at one point or another. In this article I am going to give you six tips on how to increase your productivity to ultra human levels.
These methods give you a kick-start to instantly bring about change.
You will see a dramatic change almost instantly with any of these tips, but remember to make sure these tips have a long-lasting effect you have to constantly be working at them. It is only with practice that we will really master being both focused and productive. So use these tips to reassess where you are now and to give you a kick-start into ultra high productivity.
Remember, I struggled for years with being unproductive and I managed to crack it by using the tips are outlined below. If I can do it so can you, with just a little effort.
Tip 1 on How to Increase your Productivity: Take stock of your Environment
Your environment is very important when it comes to being productive. We all know the basics that we should allocate time to work and during this time we should shut off all our distractions. We should try to turn off our e-mail, put all phones on silence and to make sure we are always from noise and people who are likely to disturb us.
Some people find that they work better when there is music, whilst others like me prefer total silence. A little trick if you use music is to make sure you are listening to a play-list or continuous songs rather than the radio. Research has shown that when we listen to people talking our mind switches from our work and we concentrate on them, whereas music tends not to have this distracting effect.
Another big mistake people make is to listen to podcasts or other trainings whilst you are supposed to be working. If someone is talking, your brain is hardwired to listen, so you will only really be pretending to work. You will neither get good work done, or be able to catch everything talked about on the training you are listening to. Avoid all types of conversation/dialogue if possible.
However, that is not the only thing you can do to improve your environment.
I know a big habit of a lot of entrepreneurs is to work from their bedrooms or in their beds. This will cause you lots and lots of issues because you do not separate your rest time from your work time.
This is why most people prefer to have an office or a designated room or area where you will only be working. This helps you to create the working mindset every time you sit down in this special place. Working from your bed or your bedroom often confuses this issue and naturally will not help you to feel productive as traditionally, your bedroom is a place where you go to rest.
I have found, that when I get ultra unproductive, then a simple change of the environment helps me get back into working mode.
Sometimes moving in the direction of the table, rearranging where I sit, or simply making the area clean and tidy can help me to get back into the working mindset.
Another very useful tip here is to make sure your environment works for you.
Here is a picture of my current ‘work station’.
At my workstation at my own home ( which actually happens to be in the spare room I’ve converted to an office) I have to 2 screens and a giant white-board that sits behind my desk.
I can jot all my ideas openly and clearly on the huge white-board and then sit back down in my chair and not only see everything that I have written but easily add to it to.
(I recently had the white-board standing on the floor behind my desk, but found I needed more white space, so lifted it horizontally, thus explaining the text on the left)
I mentioned I have two screens. The first screen is naturally on my laptop, and the second screen is an additional screen which I link to my laptop. Not many people do this, yet I was introduced to this concept when I was working for Europe’s largest retail organisation. I would go into work and on my designated desk was a screen which I could link to my laptop to in order to see more things at once.
So now instead of having to scroll through all the different open applications on my laptop I could simply have a few of them open on different screens at the same time. This for me has been a real time saver and allows me to see things very quickly. The screen I have is a 24 inch model which cost me around £100 (Asus VH242).
Setting up the second screen is often very easy, you simply need a linking cable and off you go. On my Mac the second screen is detected automatically, I just have an HD adapter on my Mac, use a HD cable from the adapter to the monitor, plug it all in and I’m good to go.
My setup may not work of everybody, but the key message here is to make sure your environment works for you. Your environment should help you get in the frame for working and also to make working easier for you.
Tip 2 on How to Increase your Productivity: Three hours a day concept.
Now, I’m not about to do a Tim Ferris on you, in fact I don’t believe that anybody can really do just four hours a week and have a viable business for long (Tim himself works very long hours but calls it ‘fun’ rather then work but that is another story). Rather what I want to speak about here is the concept of truly working productively for three hours a day.
I know many of you would be thinking: “but I’m working 15 hours a day, how is it even possible?” Well let me tell you this, it’s not my theory it is the actual practice I have seen after Shadowing some of the most influential CEO’s in the world.
A CEO typically works very long hours. Everybody has something for them, and everybody wants something from them. They are in endless meetings and have to make numerous decisions. Yet, they still have to do their work own work. That is work where they actually add value to the company, not simply listening and making decisions but doing something practical which is of their creating.
I guess this is very much the same as a person who works very long hours within online marketing. Often you only have a little bit of time to work on building your business and you spend more time with firefighting other people’s problems, routine tasks or reacting to situations that have arisen. (Remember we entrepreneurs are all supposed run a business – not run around within a business)
This is where I discovered the three-hour principal. Even though a CEO is in high demand all day long, they try to set at least three hours each day to be on their own so they can actually work. Usually they come in one hour before anybody else and they leave slightly later than everybody else thus giving them two extra hours with no distractions. The other hour they try to make up throughout the day.
When I noticed this with a few CEO’s I decided to ask them directly about the concept. What most CEO’s told me is that if everybody was to do three hours of work each day that added value to the company, the company would and grow and grow like never before. One CEO actually asked me to go round the company, which had 22,000 people and just ask how much actual work people do in a day. Do you know what the answer was? Yup, much less than three hours of actual work a day. The rest was spent chasing up information required to do the real work.
The rest of the time was also spent handling issues that didn’t perhaps add any extra value to the company. They still needed to be done, but they didn’t help the company to grow directly. Such examples in the online marketing world may be answering e-mails or client support issues.
The core concept the CEO had was that doing three hours of quality work a day, that actually adds value to the company would be more than enough.
The other key advantage of the three hours concept is it helps you to stay super focused on the most important tasks as you are giving yourself a limited time to complete them. This will help stop you procrastinating and focus on just getting the job done. Something CEOs are very well known for.
Think about your average day, and how much real work you do that adds value to your company. I bet most people cannot even remember what they did last week that truly added value to their business. If you can, then you are quite rare.
The key lessons from this rule is simply to ensure that you amass at least three hours of real work every day. It does not help you to sit in front of your screen hours and hours on end, that does not mean you have been at all productive. Rather, it is more important that you can look back each day and say that you worked very hard for at least three hours that day.
That in itself will help you become increasingly productive as now you only have three hours to get out of the way as quickly as possible. You do not have to put all the three hours together in one slot, you can work it like the CEO’s that I know And split the time throughout the day.
Make sure you truly work three hours each day productively and you will see a massive improvement in your business.
Tip 3 on How to Increase your Productivity: My three things a day concept
Anyone who has been following me for some time knows that I have a special thing with the number three! For me, three has been a magic number ( even though I titled my first e-book four magic words, you can get this for free by using the link on the top right of this page).
I structure my day primarily to ensure I achieve three things each day. when you come from a place where you struggle to complete one thing each day, then completing three is really something special. This rule goes hand-in-hand with the three hours a day rule.
What I do each day is to write down on my big whiteboard all the important tasks I have to finish. I even list the none important tasks that I also have to finish. I then look at this list and number all the tasks one, two or three. Where number ones are the most important tasks, number two’s can wait but should be done, whereas number three’s really are optional.
Number three is I generally tend to ignore until I have free time as it is more important to concentrate on the tasks that I have numbered one and two or more important.
What people will generally find is that most tasks will be number two and very few will be number one. So now, naturally you know which three tasks should be a priority for today.
What most people used to do is to concentrate on the number threes first, because they forget to prioritise. This method helps me clearly see which duties need my urgent attention, and I find that once I get these jobs out the way business really starts to become fun.
It’s when we avoid doing the most important thing is that we allow stress to build. Yet, when we start to complete them, we find that they were never that hard in the first place!
So remember, learn to prioritise by numbering your tasks one, two, three and then concentrate on the number ones. Just doing three of the most important tasks of your business will have a more profound effect then doing 100 tasks that are of virtually of no real importance.
Tip 4 on How to Increase your Productivity: Diversify your week
I am one of those people who really does not like doing the same thing day after day. I need variety or I find it mind numbingly boring.
In order to prevent this and to ensure that I build a well-rounded business, I have come up with a concept that helps me diversify my week.
It is based on a five-day working week principle, although of course sometimes we do roll over to the weekends — well come on we entrepreneurs sometimes we do work hard.
I have many other business interests but I have set aside a certain amount of time each day that I work towards the development of this blog. The time I’ve set aside each day specifically for this blog is split daily between different focuses. Let me explain…
Based on a five-day working week, this is how I break up the process of developing this blog:
I spent two days a week developing content directly for this blog.
That means that the allocated time on these specific days is spent creating core content for this blog. That means I will sit down and write posts such as this one, create videos, audios some kind of content that will go directly onto this blog.
I spent two days a week developing content that will go on other people’s blogs, yet still represent my blog.
This is very often in the form of guest posting where I create a post or content that is used on other people’s blogs. The advantage for me is that I reach a much wider audience and through a link back to my site many of those readers end up becoming regular readers of my blog too.
Sometimes this content can be interviews or joint webinars, however the principle is the same: this content will not go directly on my blog yet was still help people reach my blog.
The last day in the week is something special.
This last day is a lot more unique and uses a lot more creativity. On this particular day I have to do something, or plan something slightly unusual that will help expand the readership of this blog. Last week for example I spent some time getting to know some very well known people within this industry.
We worked on something of mutual benefit, however the key for me was that it would still promote this blog.
Simply take a look at my twitter (@dee__kumar)And you will see that even though I have a small number of followers, some of the people who follow me a very influential people in this industry. The way I got them to notice me to read some of my comments all came from the planning in this one special day.
So I use this one day to do things I would not normally do, yet could still have a very being influence on the development of this blog. If you keep doing the thing’s that you have always done then you are likely to always have the same results. That is why I diversify.
The advantage of diversifying is that my week becomes much more diverse in terms of its work. So the work never becomes tedious and it actually begins to become quite interesting. I am really enjoying blogging this year, whereas last year I did not take the time to ensure that blogging was both productive for me and fun.
Tip 5 on How to Increase your Productivity: Change the way you work
I talked a little earlier about changing your environment, and I wanted to make one point clear. Sometimes, when you change the environment a little, you begin to become a little more focused and in turn more productive. So a little change could have a massive effect on your productivity.
Now, think about the way usually work. Most people sit in a chair at the same place, at the same height for the entire working day. I was exactly the same until, I saw a video by Gideon Shalwick in which he showed us his new office. What was most noticeable in his office was that he was always standing when he worked.
I can’t claim to know exactly why he does this, but one advantage is quite clear. By standing up it is a slightly less comfortable position where you would not want to be for hours on end. This means by virtue of the way you are working, you may tend to be a little more focused.
Then I thought back to a guy that I once worked with. He was newly in charge of finance and handled a €2.4 billion balance sheet. I had the pleasure to help him try to track down where millions had been disappearing too (long story). There is one thing distinctly I remember about this guy in regards to the way he worked.
He would sit in his chair for about 45 minutes, then he would move his chair away, raise the automatic desk to standing height and work standing again. After 30 minutes he would lower the desk and go back to working from his seat. It used to make me laugh but it was only until after I saw Gideons video that I decided to ask him why he used to do.
What he told me was that being in such a high-pressure job with so many numbers, meant that he had to stay super focus of a long periods of time. By raising and lowering the desk he was able to keep himself refreshed and focused for much longer than his colleagues.
Interesting right? A simple change of raising or lowering your working height can make such a difference above your focus and your productivity.
Now, I don’t really have the room in my office to have a huge electronically operated table however, I managed to find a solution that has worked pretty well for me.
The first thing I did was to replace my nice comfortable office chair with a much simpler chair with much less padding. I should not feel so comfortable in my chair that I never want to get out of.
The second thing I did was to relocate my gym ball. I used to be a personal trainer so have a few of these lying around, however you can find these very cheaply in most stores. They are a round inflated ball which you sit on to perform exercises and strengthen your core. You will have no doubt have seen these on Yoga or Pilates workout videos.
I don’t have the luxury of an electronic moving table, however I do have the luxury of replacing my seat with a gym ball from time to time. This gives me the same effect but also allows me to do some subtle exercise within my working day.
Actually my ball is too small for me to see my screen comfortably if I use it as a replacement for the chair. What I do instead is to place the ball on top of my chair and then simply lean/sit on the ball. The still has a similar effect of me having to work my core muscles to keep my back straight. It also has the same effect of changing my environment in a very simple way, yet I find it works extremely well.
Give it a try it might surprise you.
Tip 6 on How to Increase your Productivity: is simply to reflect
This tip is perhaps the most important of all the tips that you will ever be given. You see, we only learn when we look back at things and reflect, that is the only real way of changing habits.
That is why children will keep doing naughty things until they realise that those naughty things have consequences. We as adults will keep doing naughty things or following bad habits until you realise by reflection, that unless we change these actions we will have negative consequences to.
Becoming more productive and ultra focused will not happen in a day. It may take many months of practice and improving yourself one step at a time. That is why it is very important to constantly reflect, to take stock of where you are and how much further you still need to go.
I have a very simple way of reflecting. At the end of each business day I set aside at least 10 minutes for my reflection time. During this time I look back at the day and write down firstly all the things that I did right. That means I think of all the times that I managed to work hard and said no to all the distractions.
I then look back and think about all the times that I let the distractions get the better of me. For each of these times that I was less productive, I must think of a way to become more productive if the same situation was to replay itself. So I’m not simply listing down all the times that I got distracted, I mentally imprinting actions that will help me stop being distracted in the future.
This is a technique that many famous politicians and celebrities have used to create the habits of highly successful people. Our brain is a very powerful machine, we simply have to give it the right directions.
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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and i hope you see the value in me sharing these six key tip on how to increase your productivity. I once struggled with being even slightly productive, but with the help of these six core tips I turned that around to a point where people now ask me for advice on how to be productive. It will take effort but everyone can be where I am today.
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