Sometimes you go through an entire week—seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes—feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing. Minutes melt into hours, hours into days, and days into weeks, and you’re left wondering where it all went. Why haven’t I done more? Why are there projects that still need to be completed? Why is my to-do list still two pages long?
At this point, you may not be able to answer those questions, but you can certainly avoid needing to answer them in the future. The key is to discover who the most productive you is and how to make that person a permanent part of who you are. To do this, you need to adopt daily habits to keep yourself in a state of optimal productivity.
While these daily habits may differ from person to person—depending on how you work best and what types of working conditions you’re under—here are a two powerful habits to help you find the most productive you.
Schedule your activities.
To-do lists have been around forever, and their value can be hard to see at times. You might go through the motions to create a list and then a step further to prioritize the items listed on it, but when it comes to crossing off the items, you may never actually get around to that part. Some items permanently live on to-do lists and others never make it onto one—like if you avoid them for long enough, they won’t need to be done anymore. But, unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way.
A more modern approach to the traditional to-do list is to schedule your to-dos rather than to create an actual list. The most efficient way to do this is to schedule activities as they become known—in other words, don’t wait till nighttime rolls around to gather all your to-dos like many people say. For instance, if you receive a notice in the mail to update your license, immediately schedule a time and day on your phone’s calendar to complete the license renewal (keep in mind this doesn’t have to be done on your phone). If you do use your phone, place a calendar widget on your home screen that displays your scheduled and upcoming activities (this will keep everything top of mind). You should further separate your items into personal and professional categories.
Do first what you hate most.
Normally, the items that have lived on your to-do list for weeks are the tasks you desperately don’t want to do, and you’ll do whatever it takes to avoid them for as long as you can (which is another reason you should never use to-do lists). This destructive habit only leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety and contributes to your inner-turmoil… I really need to do that. Why haven’t I done that yet? Gosh, when did they first ask me to do that? Now, I really don’t want to do it because then they’ll notice I haven’t done it yet… You get the idea.
Mark Twain referred to this habit as “eating the frog.” If everything on your list is simple or relatively harmless, then do first what you hate most and the rest of your week couldn’t possibly get any worse than that. Crossing off your frogs also provides you with a fantastic source of motivation that will empower you to complete the rest of your upcoming activities.