This is a guest post by Ariel Banayan. He is an attorney, and healthy lifestyle entrepreneur. He is a co-author of the Master Your Morning Sidekick Journal – a journal specifically meant to help those individuals who always desired to be “morning people” finally add the habit. You can follow his blog at habitnest.com. You can also follow him on Quora to see more of his writing.
“Productivity is never an accident. It’s the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning & focused effort.” – Paul Meyer
When we think of productivity, we have this image in our minds of just getting shit done. Knocking tasks out one by one until we get to the end of our day and feel accomplished as hell because we did everything we set out to do.
What a beautiful thought.
I don’t know about you, but for me, most days don’t consist of me simply having all my tasks organized, and I sure as hell don’t have always have the focus I know I need to get everything done within the time table I originally set for each given task.
Very often I’ll be reading about the incredible things other people have done throughout the course of their lives – the long lists of accomplishments emanating their brilliance and passion for life when I think to myself, how on earth did they have the time and energy to do all of this?
For most of us, we feel accomplished just getting out of bed in the morning to start our days. For most of us, the actions we know we need to take in any given day are made up of “tasks.” For most of us, the thought of consistently having intense focus for very long periods of time is merely a far-fetched dream.
So the question really is, what do these uber-productive, massively successful people know that the rest of us don’t?
Passion & Routine.
The most successful people on the planet understand in order to accomplish everything we know we want to do in our lives, we need to be passionate about life, and implement routine behaviors to maximize our energy levels and facilitate the focus we need. Because the thing is, we already know what’s necessary to be productive. Being productive means sitting down and doing what you need to get done, done in a timely fashion.
The way you increase your productivity is by increasing your focus and energy.
The way you increase your focus and energy is by cleaning up your thoughts, feeling good about yourself, and being well-disciplined.
The way you clean up your thoughts, feel good about yourself, and cultivate discipline is by waking up early and doing activities that set you up for the day, every single day, with a proper routine.
Maximizing productivity requires consistently taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally, as well as implementing procedures to prevent from getting too distracted throughout the day.
Aristotle said, “We are what we do repeatedly, therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
We are our habits, and therefore, the productive people exhibit daily habits that guide their productivity.
The next question is, what exactly are those habits?
The habits that affect productivity the most are directly related to the reasons we ordinarily complain about as justifications for being lazy or unproductive.
“I’m tired, I’m cold, I can’t stop thinking about my ex, I didn’t sleep enough last night, I didn’t eat enough, my stomach hurts, I just don’t feel right today,” etc.
The habits themselves are the habits related to our welfare – our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Because here’s the thing.
If we’re feeling great physically and have the requisite energy for productivity, emotionally we’re stable and able to withstand the stress of having a lot to do, and mentally we aren’t bogged down by identifying with every passing thought, then we’re setting ourselves up for maximum productivity.
The habits that ensure your physical, mental and emotional welfare are:
(1) Getting enough sleep:
Being tired not only slows down your mental and physical capacity, but it is the easiest excuse you can make to justify your own laziness. The first step in eliminating that excuse is making sure you get enough sleep.
How to get it done:
(a) Have a set, no negotiation lights-out time.
(b) Have a set time to put stop messing around with the t.v., your phone, computer, etc. Social media and T.V. can easily distract you and keep you up for an extra hour or two.
(c) Read before you sleep. Not only do you grow through reading but it helps lull you just enough to get you ready for bed.
(2) Waking up early:
One key to success is having lunch at the time of day most people have breakfast.”– Robert Brault
You don’t have to immediately start waking up at 4:00 a.m. like Tim Cook (Apple’s Chief Executive Officer), but you can gradually start pushing back the time you wake up (I recommend 15 minutes a week), and over time you can be an early riser. The reason waking up early is so integral to success is that there are no distractions whatsoever in the morning time and you can 8-10 hours of work done in 4-5, or you can set your day up for maximum productivity by helping ensure your mental, physical and emotional welfare through eating a good breakfast, meditating, writing, etc.
How to get it done:
(a) Sleep Early
(b) Have the following items done before going to bed
1. All your bags packed and ready to go for the next day so that you don’t have to do anything besides pick it/them up on the way out of the house.
2. The clothes you want to wear the next day should be decided and laid out where you can just grab them and put them on after you brush your teeth.
3. What you want to eat for breakfast (if you want to eat breakfast — I definitely recommend it to get your energy up in the morning — specifically some carbs for long-lasting energy).
4. An idea of the first few tasks you want to knock out in the morning — or rather, what the first few hours of your morning is going to consist of.
(c) When you wake up – Jump out of bed and do something active – 5 pushups, 10 jumping jacks, immediately. It gets your energy flowing and literally forces your body to wakeup instantly.
(d) Have a reason to wake up – you need to know exactly what your plan is, because otherwise you’ll wake up, think about why you’re awake, and just go back to sleep.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha
Looking good and feeling more confident about your physical attraction is just one incidental benefit to exercising. Your body rewards you with happiness, literally, in the form of endorphins. Think about how beautiful that is, you work out for your body and it sends you happiness. Fall in love with that.
How to get it done:
There are a million and one ways you can get your exercise in on a daily basis. The exercise routine you choose should be completely dependent on the goals you have for your body. If you generally just want to stay fit, walking or jogging for 20-30 minutes a few times a week could do the job. If you’re more ambitious, you’ll have to do some significant research into the types of workouts that are connected to the goals you have.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to make exercising really fun. You can hike, run, swim, dance, jump rope, lift weights, or even do quick home workouts. Exercise with friends and loved ones for both accountability, and a good way to create a positive association with exercise!
(4) Eating healthy foods:
Looking good and feeling more confident about your physical attraction is just one incidental benefit to eating healthier. To operate at maximum productive capacity, you need to have maximum energy levels. Pay attention to how your body responds to the different foods you eat and you’ll quickly see the importance of healthy eating and drinking water. Your body pays you with the currency of energy for treating it the right way! Think of your body as a car. If you don’t take care of your car by filling it with water, oil, and gas, it won’t function properly. Our problem is that we grow so accustomed to taking shitty care of ourselves that we forget our body is a very complex machine that needs to be taken care of to function properly.
How to get it done:
(a) Cut junk food. Chips, soda, fast-food, etc. have no place in your life. You need to make these non-options.
(b) Have bread and other carbs earlier during the day for long-term energy, and try to stay awake from carbs after 3 p.m.
(c) Water. As much water as you can possibly have. Ignore the fact that you’ll be constantly going to the bathroom, it’s worth it.
(d) Force yourself to eat fruits and vegetables – the easiest way to get it done is in the form of juices.
“Meditate, visualize and create your own reality and the universe will simply reflect back to you.” – Amit Ray
I can’t stress the benefit of meditation enough. All day long our minds are racing at 100 miles an hour and we’re not even aware of the fact. We don’t think about our thoughts as events that require energy, but every thought we have requires a certain amount of energy, and the thoughts that actually stick and force you to actively think, DRAIN YOU. Meditation helps patch up the leaking of energy caused the neuroticism of the mind.
How to get it done:
(a) Full body stretch for 2-3 minutes
(b) Sit comfortably in a chair, or cross-legged on a pillow on the floor. If you’re on the floor try and sit on the edge of pillow so you’re leaning forward towards your knees as opposed to back, well, on your lower back.
(c) Close your eyes, try to follow your breath. Don’t interfere with the breath, just try to be aware of the fact that its taking place. Your mind starts talking immediately, you become aware of what its saying. It’s not about controlling what the mind is saying, you’ll quickly see you can’t do that. The point is to simply be aware of what is taking place, and come back to your breath when you get taken with the flow of the thoughts.
(5) Stay organized:
When we know we have a million things to do without a plan of attack, we get overwhelmed and we become negative about the fact that we have so much to do in so little time. Without being organized about our days and our objectives, we also have no idea where we should start. You need to have a plan of attack that breaks your big goals into smaller steps, and you need to be strict on yourself about completing every small steps you lay out. Progress then seemingly happens on its own, and you feel accomplished with every step you take.
How to get it done:
(a) Buy a journal or notepad.
(b) Break down the big goals/assignments/projects that you’re currently working on into 5-10 little steps that you’re going to need to take to get them done.
(c) Plan those steps into feasible deadlines, that are flexible enough that you don’t have to stress about getting them done.
(d) Update your journal every day.
In the end of the day, productivity is a function of desire and ambition. If we learn to set goals we’re passionate about accomplishing, we take care of ourselves to limit our own excuses for being lazy, and we maximize our energy levels, we will be highly productive. The dual benefit that implementing healthy lifestyle habits into your life has, aside from filling you with energy, is that it facilitates discipline discipline. All the activities listed above increase your strength and ability to go out and get what you want in this life by way of helping you become a person who follows through on his promises to himself.
Define your goals.
Take daily actions to help your mind, body and heart prepare take on the challenge.
Go get it.
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