“So much to do, so little time!” Too many of us know that feeling… like when you’re thinking of all the things you have to do and those thoughts are interrupted by more thoughts of other things you have to do…yes, that feeling. A favourite quote by renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar sums up what you are about to read:

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing–that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Consider yourself motivated! Writer, Jeff Haden gives seven simple ways to improve your personal productivity:

Tell everyone your plan. Letting your family, friends, colleagues or clients know that you will not be available to take calls or answer emails for a certain amount of time may sound foreign in a technological environment demands that you’re always available. However it may be the key to avoiding interruptions and distractions, which are major motivation killers. It may be as simple as shutting off your phone or as drastic as going to an isolated place. By communicating your plan to those who care, you minimise potential distractions without ignoring them. They also provide much-needed accountability when you return: ‘so did you finish?’

Decide how long you will work. And make it long. Classic checking-the-clock behaviour comes when you have only 4 hours to work versus 8 or 12 hours. Knowing you’ll be working for a long time (with breaks of course) makes your mind forget about when you will finish and focus fully on the work at hand. Make your time target concrete i.e. 12pm to 6pm and the longer the better. I’ve tried it, it works.

Start really early – or really late. Breaking out of the mould of your daily routine instantly tells your brain something different is taking place today. If extreme productivity is your goal for the day, don’t expect to do the same things you do every other day and get different results. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, choose something that works for you. Remember, an extremely productive day is not a ‘normal’ day for most of us; be ready to do things out of the ordinary.

Pain before pleasure. An old but good one; waiting till you’ve achieved significantly before taking breaks or ‘treats’ (Facebook, Twitter, music) will serve you better in the long run. Your emails and Facebook messages are not going anywhere so waiting a couple of hours will only improve your efficiency. “Delayed gratification is always better gratification”. And speaking of breaks, not all breaks were created equal…

Take productive breaks, not rest breaks. Avoid letting your brain and body lose momentum during breaks by spending time watching TV or wasting time on the internet. Choose breaks that encourage your sense of productivity and accomplishment. The theory is that spending even a few minutes in inactivity will weaken your resolve to keep going. I have to admit I agree with the theory, but it is certainly hard not to think of break time as down time…

Recharge early. Do not wait until you’re completely wiped out and tired before taking a break. Don’t wait until your stomach rumbles to have a snack or until your head aches to step away from the computer. Keeping physically energised is half the battle. Cooking a seven-course gourmet dinner during your 15-minute productivity break might be a bit of a stretch, so prepare ahead of time. Eat light and move often if your work involves sitting at a desk. Finally…

Don’t stop till you get it done. Quitting is the easiest habit to form, most difficult to break. Choose not to stop working until the task gets done even if it is taking longer than you expected. The good news is success is also a habit so make sure your productivity decisions are the first steps in forming a great habit.

We all have 24 hours each day to use. Using it well is what separates the success from mediocrity and failure. If these tips help you complete a single project, fantastic. But if they help you form success-building habits, even better!

Closing thought: “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity” Jean de La Bruyère

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