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A New You for a New Year

7 Steps to Incredible Personal Productivity

“Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.”
– Anonymous

Happy New Year!

With the New Year comes our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions. Normally, we tell ourselves we will lose more weight, spend more time with our families, and/or find a better job that we actually like doing.

How often do we find ourselves actually sticking to our New Year’s resolutions? As the quote above insinuates, not many do.

It’s all about goal setting. We are notorious for setting goals without any way of measuring them. For example, we say, “I’ll lose more weight,” but how do you measure losing weight if you don’t have a number in mind? Okay, so maybe you say, “I’ll lose 10 pounds.” Closer, but no cigar. What’s the measurable deadline? Losing 10 pounds in 10 weeks is a goal you can actually measure, thus actually achieve.

Before we go about setting goals, it’s important to improve our personal productivity in order to realize those goals.

Here are 7 Steps to Incredible Personal Productivity:

1. Let Everyone Know

Interruptions destroy focus and kill productivity. Let coworkers and family know you’re planning a “project day.” Tell key customers, too. Announce you will be tied up today and that you will respond to calls and emails on Thursday. Let people know who to contact in an emergency. Some will get with you before today, and the rest will make a mental note you’re not available. In either case, you’re covered.

Plus you get the “peer pressure” benefit: When you tell people you plan to finish a project, you will be more likely to see the job through. Peer pressure can be positive motivation. Harness it.

2. Set a Target

Don’t plan your project day based on fuzzy parameters like, “I will stay at it as long as possible,” or, “I won’t leave until I no longer feel productive.” Those approaches give you an easy out. Commit to working for as long as you estimate it will take. Pick a number.

There’s a cool benefit to this approach too: The longer the time frame you set, the quicker the early hours seem to go by. Normally, people work eight-hour shifts. The hours before lunch seem endless; the last two hours of the day are even worse. Try workin one twelve hour shift a week. You will find the mornings seem to fly by. There’s something about knowing you will be working for a long time that allows you to stop checking the clock. When you know you’re in for a long haul, your mind automatically adapts.

3. Start Unusually Early or Unusually Late

When you step outside your norm, your perspective of time shifts as well. Start at 5 a.m. or revisit your college days and start at 6 p.m. and work through the night. Set the stage for an unusually productive day by dramatically changing your normal routine.

4. Delay Gratification

As a society, we love instant gratification. As we become more technologically advanced, that gratification seems to become even more instant than it was before (I don’t know how I survived without my Smart Phone!)

Try to delay that gratification. Say you like to listen to music while you work. Don’t…at least for the first couple of hours. That way, when your enthusiasm really starts to wane, turning on the music will perk you back up. Hold off on whatever things you use to brighten up your workday, at least for a while. Delayed gratification is always better gratification, and in this case can provide just the spark you need to keep going.

5. Refuel and Recharge Before You Need To

When endurance athletes wait until they are thirsty to drink, they’ve waited too long. The same premise applies at work. Have a snack a little earlier than normal. Start drinking water immediately. If you normally sit, stand up before you start to feel stiff or cramped. If you normally stand, sit before your back stiffens or your legs ache. Be proactive so discomfort can’t dampen your motivation or weaken your resolve.

And make sure you plan meals wisely. Don’t take an hour for lunch. Plan food ahead of time that you can prepare and eat quickly. The goal is to refuel, re-hydrate, and keep on rolling. Remember, this is an unusual day–treat it that way.

6. Don’t Take Rest Breaks. Take Productivity Breaks

Newton’s Law of Productivity states that a productive person in motion tends to stay in motion. Maintaining momentum is everything. Don’t take a TV or Internet break. Take breaks that reinforce your sense of activity and accomplishment. Take a quick walk and think about what you’re tackling next. Then jump back in. Even a few minutes spent in the land of inactivity make it hard to regain momentum.

7. Don’t Stop Until it’s Done

Stopping simply because you’re tired or bored is habit-forming. If the only barrier to completion is effort or motivation, stay at it and bust through that barrier.

Think about your normal workday. At some point, you typically think, “That’s it. That’s all I have in me today.” That limit was set long ago, but it’s an artificial limit based on habit. Pushing through the “pain” is a habit anyone can develop, and when you do, you automatically set your effort limit a little higher…making you capable of even more on a regular basis.

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Wake Up Productive

How to Decide What to Do First

A huge part of personal productivity depends on focusing on the right projects. But, how do you decide which project to do first?

Check out Eben Pagan’s video on productivity:

You’ll notice your productivity skyrocketing if you follow Eben’s advice.

Here’s to a massively successful, productive 2012!



Biomedical Engineer who earned his degree from The Johns Hopkins University & Columbia University. Named one of Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-Founded America’s first Pure Play healthy vending company in 2003.
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