how to be more productive

I am always wondering how to be more productive, to make sure I can do everything I want or have to do in a day.

Juggling work, commute, house chores, spending time with family and friends, pursuing my hobbies, keeping up with everything that’s on Netflix and dealing with my procrastination tendencies (no point hiding it) definitely require more than the 24 hours we have in a day.

That’s why I decided to learn how to be more productive.

Everywhere on the internet I see articles that picture an average day like:

  • 8 hours sleep
  • 8 hours work
  • 2 hours cooking, cleaning and general stuff like showering and washing your face
  • 6 hours for yourself

6 hours for yourself? 8 hours work? Who lives like that – even with no children.

Hermione from Harry potter showing how to be more productive by using a time turner

(I honestly don’t know how people with children manage to carve out time in their day to read a book or even have a shower. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that new mums are given a secret time turner at the hospital.)

Anyway, I have no children and my partner is self-sufficient; I should have all the time in the world, but my days look more like:

  • 8.5 hours sleep (don’t judge me)
  • 9.5 hours work
  • 3 hours commute
  • 2 hours get ready to work in the morning/cooking, cleaning in the evening
  • 1 hour for myself

I dream of days where I won’t have to work or commute such long hours but I have to do with what I have, and at the moment is 1 hour a day, between 8:30 and 9:30 pm exactly when my brain turns into mushy peas.

How to be more productive

I’ve been looking for ways to spend my precious free time more productively, and the advice on internet around productivity can be summarised in one sentence: “get off instagram, write a to-do list and do it“. Easier said than done for a professional procrastinator like me!

Then I found this book that changed everything:

The Productivity Project: Proven Ways to Become More Awesome

Finally, someone talking about productivity in a relatable way and full of actionable steps – a game changer!

Chis is an authority on all things productivity and he wrote this book after a year of experiments, interviews with experts all over the world and countless of papers read on the subject.

I have devoured his book in a weekend and found many ideas on how to be more productive.

These are the three hacks I decided to introduce in my life:

(by the way, if you’re looking for a practical way to implement these ideas in your life, scroll to the end of the post – I have a freebie for you)

The rule of three

This is definitely the easiest to implement, and if there is one thing you take away from post, please let it be this.

Chris learnt it in a book called Getting Results the Agile Way from J.D.Meier, Director of Digital Business Transformation at Microsoft (if that’s good for a Director at Microsoft, it must be good for me too).

This is how it works. Each morning ask yourself:

“What are the three results I will want to have achieved by the end of the day?”

I also add “What will Future Me thank me for?”. That’s it, that’s the focus for the day.

To give you an idea, the 3 results I will aim to achieve today are:

  1. Finish My 3 Productivity hacks post (if you’re reading this, it means I have achieved it)
  2. Holiday prep
  3. Research the internet for better saving account deals

You can do the same for each week, month and year. Or you can do it for various aspects of your life, one for work, one for personal development, one for house chores.

Speaking of house chores, Chris came up with a great idea:

Maintenance Day

This again is a very simple and easy to implement idea, but extremely powerful. And it can save loads of time!

What does Maintenance mean?

Maintenance tasks are for example grocery shopping, sorting up the rubbish, prepare lunch, do the laundry and ironing, all things that are “essential, because they support your personal life and work, but minute by minute provide you an abysmal return compared to your most important and meaningful tasks” and, they take up so much mental space.

So, instead of doing these tasks throughout the week, or worry because I haven’t, I collect all mine in a list and action them all once a week, on Sunday afternoon. That might not be the right time for you, but it works for me because I would otherwise spend the afternoon with Sunday blues; instead I can distract myself from the dreaded Monday and be productive in something that the future me will thank me for.

By setting out some time to do it and collating them in Google Keep (or any note taking app) as they pop into my head, I can stop thinking and worrying about them and trust that they will get done. On Sunday.

This is my list for this Sunday (so far):

  • Prepare packed lunch for next week
  • Email the dentist’s to get an appointment
  • Review my monthly budget (need help budgeting? check out my budget strategy post!)
  • Clean the kitchen cupboards

(Speaking of cleaning, did you know that I don’t do spring cleaning? Head here to see an easier way to clean the house.)

Clearly, Maintenance day and the rule of 3 only focus on the immediate or short term actions and do not give us a full picture of our life. That’s where hot spots solved the problem.

Hot Spots Review

This tool was originally created by J.D. Meier as well, and it defined Hot Spots as:

“How to see the forest from the trees”

Basically, Hot Spots are a list of high level tasks, projects and commitments that form your life, all bucketed into 7 categories:

how to be more productive
  1. Mind
  2. Body
  3. Emotions
  4. Career
  5. Financial
  6. Relationship
  7. Fun

What I loved is how Chris in his book “The productivity project” brings this concept to life and makes it a very powerful tool to manage the amount of stuff we have to do/remember in our lives. What he recommends is to break down each category into smaller, more practical items, so under “Finance” I have:

  • Pension
  • Cash ISA
  • Stock and Shares ISA
  • Learn about investments
  • Find ways to reduce monthly spend

Then on a (hopefully) weekly or (most likely) monthly basis I review my list and think where I am with each item and where my focus should be, and add relevant tasks to my “Daily Three”(see Rule of Three above). With this system I am sure to give attention and progress on all my tasks, and don’t waste time worrying about the fact that I forgot to do something!

The Productivity Project book offers so many more actionable steps to increase our day to day productivity and I highly recommend checking it out.

These hacks are proven to increase your productivity. I use them every day in my daily planner Trello board – check out all the details and how to get a copy for free here!

No idea what Trello is? You’re definitely missing out! Trello is the ultimate tool to be organised and get stuff done. Read all about it here.

Let me know in the comments if you’re trying any of the hacks above or share how you’re staying productive in this busy world!