The 6 Keys to Achieving Maximum Productivity
I have always been really anal about improving my efficiency and producvity at work. Getting things done, and not wasting any time is always at the top of my mind. After years of trial and error, and many small tweaks, I feel that I am close to reaching maximum productivity, and I’d like to share with you how.
Having a clear objective is key.
I don’t know how many times I’ve forgone planning just to find myself wandering aimlessly and wasting so much time. Planning is like Test Driven Development in that you spend a bit of time up front to save yourself enormous amounts of time later.
Planning doesn’t have to be this massive event. Also, it is something you have to practice to get good at. Just start by writing down 3-5 important things to focus on. Keyword: FOCUS. Be very specific, and try to keep the task as small as possible. You should be able to complete it within 30 minutes to 2 hours. If it takes longer, you can probably break it down further.
Simple Example: For my recent planning, I had an overall focus for the week of “complete minimum viewable experience for blog” which I completed two days ago. I did complete that focus, but I had also planned to get out several pieces of content as my next focus, therefore I spent a few minutes brainstorming 3 articles I could write.
Now when I go to get started for the day, I see the topic I am to write about and there is no thinking involved (which is great for just waking up). I got on my computer, and went straight into writing.
Unlock the power of MICRO habits and consistency
I believe many do not truly recognize how powerful habits can be in our lives. It is a really amazing topic that you can spend hours reading into and debating, but for our purposes I am here to tell you that if you can harness just a fraction of the power that creating strong micro habits gives you, then soon you will be unstoppable.
In the past, I always had trouble making changes in my life because I am such a big dreamer and almost always bite off more than I can chew. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty cocky. Sure this causes me to fall flat on my face quite often, but by stretching myself I am always growing.
For now, I suggest opening this link in a new tab and getting yourself an overview of micro habits. The idea here is to make it next to impossible to fail. For example, if your goal is to do one pushup a day and you get sick with the flu, you can still complete your goal.
One selling point I will give you here, is that by creating as MANY default behaviors as possible, and removing any thinking involved with figuring out how your day is going to go, you will de-stress by a huge amount. I can’t tell you how good of a feeling it is to think only about your main motivations each day, instead of all of life’s little details.
The rest of the things I am going to talk about all tie into this major concept, so it is very important that you understand it. At the end of this article, I’ll give you a breakdown of what my day looks like.
I can’t fucking stand sleep. I wish I was a cyborg that didn’t need rest. Perhaps a human in a terminator body. That would be kickass. I’ve done hours and hours of research on how to reduce sleep, and even tried The Uberman Sleep Schedule. For now, I sleep 4-5 hours a night, because that works.
Many people cling to the idea that they need 8 hours of sleep, and tout just how much they LOOOOOVE their sleep. This is completely unnecessary, but I won’t get into that debate. For now, check out this article .
Rather than setting an alarm to wake up at, try setting a TIMER for exactly the amount of time you would like to sleep. The trick is to discover the window of time that your body is in REM sleep, and wake up during that time. If you don’t frequently wake from a dream, you need to adjust the amount of time backwards (or maybe forwards if you are like me and sleep 4-5hrs)
In the same way that I hate sleep, having to constantly worry about food is a big pain. For any repetitive task, I am always looking to optimize, and preparing / eating food is no exception.
I cook my meals for the entire week, and have pre-planned meals ready to go. Save for allowing myself to eat out with buddies as a reward, I don’t concern myself EVER with thinking, “Hmm, what am I going to eat?”
Tell me, how many times during the day do you think about food? Seriously, I can probably count about 5-10 times a day that I hear my roommate call out, “I’m hungry.” It is absurd how much brain power gets lost thinking about food.
Don’t get too caught up in healthy eating if you aren’t very familiar with the subject. Definitely set aside some time to learn, but for now include as many vegetables as you can, and reduce as many “white” foods as you can IE. Breads, pastas, rice, sugar, milk, etc.
This can be expanded into multiple articles, so I’ll leave you with a few tips.
- Pre-plan 5-10 enjoyable recipes that you can easily buy and prepare each week.
- Never concern yourself with deciding on what to eat. If you get bored, plan time to come up with new recipes, and then eat what you have in the meantime.
- Create meals for the entire week. Crockpots and casseroles are your best friend. It is extremely easy to make tasty, healthy, lasting meals which can be portioned into tupperware for the week.
- Do some research on eating healthy. It will drastically improve your brain-power while working
Here is an area I could really improve on, but have done much better with recently and am already seeing huge returns. At some point, no matter how efficient you get with your processes, your brain-power is just going to fall off.
I’ve found that so far, I can get in about 6-7 hours max of peak performance pomodoro productivity. Anything after that and my ability to work strong is just crushed, and I find that my brain is in a funk. The only way to get peak hours into the day is to improve health and stamina.
Spending 20-60 minutes a day exercising will add WAY more time to your day than working an extra couple of hours. There has been tons of research on the correlation between brain function and exercise.
I’m actually not a fan of spending multiple hours in the gym. It really isn’t necessary to get the benefits we are talking about here.. It is more important to get a moderate amount of activity in THROUGHOUT the day, than just chunking the exercise all together in the morning. You should be taking 5-10 minute breaks at LEAST once an hour to get up and move around. If you are completely sedentary, this will change your life.
Here are some simple and easy exercises you can do during a 5-10 minute break.
- Dance to some EDM music
- Go for a quick run or brisk walk
- Pullups (would need a pullup bar)
- Calf raises
- Jumping Jacks
- Do some stretches
Eliminate ADD issues and distractions
So to tie everything together, with possibly the most important focus technique for me, is using a “Get Things Done” strategy. Mine is the Pomodoro technique .
I am extremely ADD, and my mind tends to wander all over the place. I’ve tried many systems for staying focused and nothing has ever worked for me until I started doing Pomodoros.
My tool of choice is KanbanFlow. This is a tool similar to Trello, but it adds a timer to your tasks. The idea is that you work in 25 minute intervals, and take 5 minute relax breaks in between. After 4 pomodoros you take a guilt free 15 minute break to do whatever you please.
Not only does it help me to keep my mind fresh, and focus on not being distracted, it also is a nice history of what I did for the week which I can go back and review.
My daily routine
As promised, here is my daily routine outlined for you. There are a lot of smaller things interwoven in here, but I wanted to give you an example in order to see how serious I am.
- Wake up, turn on side lamp immediately, sit up, take a big deep breath and stretch out. This helps me not go back to sleep, and I already start to feel awake as my body recognizes it’s time to stop drugging itself.
- Make cup of coffee (which is set up from night before), and do 20 squats, or pushups depending on the day.
- Now that my brain is primed, I sit at the computer and begin immediately working on my most high value task, determined from the night before.
- I work in 25 minute intervals, and then I take 5 minute breaks during which I do some light exercise and look at any notifications such as texts or Twitter etc.
- At exactly my pre-planned time window (around 1:30 - 1:45) I begin getting ready for my day job which involves the same habitual tasks of putting dinner in my bag, brewing up some coffee or tea depending on my mood, and brushing my teeth.
- When I get home at night, I clean out my coffee cup, refill my water, get the coffee machine ready, and sit down to plan out my most high value task for the next day.
- Finally, I relax by reading Reddit, a book, or watching a short Youtube video.
- I set my timer for exactly 5 hours, and I am asleep by no later than 12am.
Now some of these things may seem a bit excessive or anal to you, however keep in mind I am currently in a highly devoted crunch mode for a couple of months. I’ve given up 95% of my “free” time to do nothing but study and learn web development. A small short term price to pay for rapidly accelerating my future career, rather than spending years.
In conclusion…but not really
As long as this article ended up being, it really only scratches the surface. I am hoping I at least opened some doors of thought for you, so that you have room to explore the subject further. Definitely let me know if you have questions as I’d love to hear feedback and suggest help for your particular situation!