Written on April 9, 2015
I always want to be as productive as possible. Hence, after moving to the United Kingdom to study and have more control over my life, I tried out several ways to increase my productivity.
In this year, I’ve developed a number of habits which made me more productive. In this post, I would share the 9 things I do to be more productive. I hope they would be useful for you or they would inspire you to try news ways to be more productive.
Many of the things I do is to allow me to make fewer decisions. This is because making decisions uses up brain power and can cause decision fatigue.
Alright, so let’s dive right in!
1. Sleep Early, Sleep Enough And Wake Up Early
I try to sleep at 10pm every night. I don’t succeed all the time, but most of the time, I would be in bed before 11pm.
My recurring alarm is set as 5:45am. I choose to wake up at the same time every morning so that I don’t need to decide every night what time to wake up the next day.
There are exceptions when I do not sleep by 11pm. It is usually when I’m travelling or when I have friends over at my place. I would then adjust my alarm accordingly so that I would get 7–8 hours of sleep. This is because I know that when I sleep less than 6 hours, I would not function well that day.
I think that different people have different sleep cycles that make them most productive. I am a morning person so I prefer doing my work in the morning. I have a housemate who usually sleeps at 3–4am, wakes up at 2pm and naps in the afternoon. He does most of his work at night because he is more productive then.
2. Have Morning And Night Routines
Having a morning routine allows me to make almost no decisions in the first few hours of the day so that I can save my brainpower for more important things later in the day.
My morning routine goes like this: Wake up at 5:45am (no snooze), heat up my overnight-soaked oats in the microwave, turn on kettle, brush my teeth, make my tea, have my breakfast and go for my morning workout.
Yes, I have the same breakfast every morning — microwaved porridge with raisins and almonds.
I have a night routine because I’m usually too tired to think about anything an hour before I sleep. So I would shower/brush my teeth, reply my girlfriend’s email, meditate with the guidance from Calm mobile app and sleep.
3. Plan The Day’s Schedule The Evening Before
I cannot remember where I learnt this from, but it has been pretty effective.
Many people advocate spending some time each morning to plan for the day. This strategy is to do the planning the evening before.
Again, this is about making fewer decisions. Not having to decide in the morning what I need to do for the day saves me some brainpower for the main tasks of the day.
Since I’ve already planned out my day the evening before, I can simply execute my plan.
I’ve read that exercising improves productivity but I’m not certain about the effects on my body because I have been exercising regularly for a long time. I don’t know what’s the difference in my productivity when I exercise and when I don’t.
A few weeks back when I injured my knee, I forced myself to stop exercises so that I would not aggravate my injury further. During this period, I could feel a dip in my productivity, especially in the morning.
Usually, I would work out in the morning and feel refreshed when I start the day. When I stopped exercising in the morning, I don’t feel awake. I would tend to be in a daze for a few hours in the morning.
Recently, I’ve started swimming and doing my core exercises in the morning. I could feel that I’m more energised and productive.
5. Do Two Main Tasks A Day
For the past 2 weeks, I have been trying this out: I would only do 2 main tasks each day. If I know what needs to be done for the week, like this week, I would plan out the 2 daily tasks for the entire week on the Sunday before the week starts and make adjustments along the way if necessary.
For today, the 2 tasks were working on my school assignment and writing this blog post. I allocate about 3 hours for each tasks so they add up to be 6 hours of “work” each day.
I realised that it helps me to focus on the important tasks and eliminate the smaller and less important tasks. As long as I complete the 2 tasks for the day, I would consider it as the day as productive. I would then do some of the other tasks such as reading articles online and replying to emails.
6. Cook Several Meals At Once
As a student, I cannot afford to eat out or order takeaways often so I cook about 95% of my meals. (There’s an additional bonus for cooking my meals. I eat more healthily and I believe that increases my productivity too.)
Like I’ve said previously when I shared about my “remote working” day, I cook several meals at once. I would prefer to have my lunch cooked the evening before since I’m more productive in the afternoon than in the evening. Cooking 2 meals at once means one less decision to make.
Because I don’t live near a supermarket, I order groceries delivery from Morrisons. (The delivery charge is usually £1 and I split it with a house mate, so it’s only 50p per person for each delivery.)
I spend way more time when I shop in a supermarket than when I order online because I would walk through all the aisles. By shopping for my groceries online, the time taken reduces to 5 to 10 minutes.
Tip: Selecting from “Favourites” section speeds up the ordering process.
7. Take Naps
Since last year, I have developed a habit to take short power naps when I’m tired. I’ve played around with the duration and a 25-minute nap seems to work best for me. I found that taking naps recharges me and allows me to think better.
When I feel sleepy, I would take a nap as soon as possible. Depending on how tired I am, I might nap twice a day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
When I’m working at home, I can nap any time I want. However, when I’m travelling or when I’m in school, it would be harder as it is difficult to find places where I can nap.
8. Read Whenever I Can When I’m Outside
This year, I’ve started buying only ebooks because they are delivered instantly and I can read them on my iPad or on my iPhone.
My bus to school does not come very often. Usually, it comes every 15–30 minutes and the trip to school takes about 15 minutes. Considering the journey there and back, that is about an hour of commuting, or an hour for reading.
While waiting at the bus stop, I would take out my iPhone or iPad to read. With this practice, I’ve managed to finish quite a number of books (Reinventing Organizations, Zero To One, Buzzing Communities) in the last few weeks.
I used to check my Facebook news feed or Twitter feed while waiting for the bus. After starting this habit, I realised that reading a book is a much more productive use of my time than scrolling through social media aimlessly.
9. Use “Do Not Disturb” Mode
Ever since I discovered the “Do Not Disturb” mode on my iPhone, I put my phone in that mode almost all the time. My phone would not ring or light up when there’s new notifications, unless it is a call. (You can adjust the settings according to what you want. It is in Settings > Do Not Disturb.)
It prevents incoming notifications like chat messages from distracting me when I’m doing my main tasks for the day. (I turn off social media notifications on my phone. I wrote about it yesterday.)
Most of the time, the chat messages are not urgent so I do not need to respond to them immediately. If the issue is urgent, I would usually receive a call. That would light up my phone screen and I would answer it.
With this practice, my friends gradually know how to contact me. If the matter is not urgent, they would drop me a text. If they need me urgently, they would call me.
In summary, here are the 9 things I do to be more productive:
- Sleep Early, Sleep Enough And Wake Up Early
- Have Morning And Night Routines
- Plan The Day’s Schedule The Evening Before
- Do Two Main Tasks A Day
- Cook Several Meals At Once
- Take Naps
- Read Whenever I Can When I’m Outside
- Use “Do Not Disturb” Mode
I’m keen to try out more strategies/tips/hacks to increase my productivity. What do you do to increase your productivity? Let me know at @alfred_lua! ☺
(This is my 27th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)