Being highly productive is a core skill for professional success. It’s what separates the high-performers from the low-performers.
Most people, however, struggle with productivity. For most, it seems like the to-do list never ends, distractions never stop, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Fortunately, becoming highly effective doesn’t have to be rocket science. Let’s dive into four ways to be 10x more productive.
#1: Stop Doing ‘Busywork’
Most people are very busy, but not truly productive. They spend way too much time on ‘busywork’ activities and too little time on tasks that truly move the needle. It’s like running in circles. You’re very active and busy, but you’re getting nowhere.
The best thing you can do to massive upgrade your productivity is to eliminate, delegate, or outsource the tasks that don’t significantly contribute to your goals as much as you can.
This way, you save valuable resources — time, energy, and attention — that can be dedicated to the tasks and projects that significantly move the needle towards your goals instead.
In reality, only a few tasks truly matter.
According to the 80/20 rule, about 20% of your tasks cause 80% of the desired results. They create the most value and lead to the most meaningful results. The remaining 80% of tasks only contribute to 20% of results. This is what we call ‘busywork.’
(Obviously, the 80/20 rule is not always set in stone. The ratio can also be 70/30 or even 90/10. The key takeaway is that a minority of input causes a majority of output.)
To make this year your most successful one so far, it’s essential you focus much more of your resources on your most important tasks and much less on the ‘busywork’ activities.
This may sound obvious — and we all intuitively know it — but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get distracted by ‘busywork’ when you’ve never clearly identified which tasks are mission-critical and which ones aren’t.
Therefore, make a list of your 1–5 most important tasks and of your most time-consuming, energy-draining ‘busywork’ activities.
By dedicating the majority of your time, energy, and attention to these mission-critical tasks (instead of on ‘busywork’), you’ll make faster progress and gain more meaningful results than you’ve ever thought possible.
#2: Work With Laser-Focus
It’s those who can focus deeply on their most important work — without getting distracted every few minutes — who get it done fast and of high quality. In fact, they are the ones who get ahead in work and life.
“The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell
Distractions are enemy number one of our focus. Especially distractions in the form of smartphones, social media, email and news websites, but also distractions such as inner chatter or interruption from colleagues.
The problem is that, more often than not, these kinds of distractions are a lot more enjoyable, stimulating, and exciting than the task that we should be working on. They’re also more easily accessible than ever before. This is precisely why most people have trouble resisting distractions.
It’s human nature to look for the easiest and fastest way to be stimulated the most. We’re wired to seek the path of least resistance. However, it’s hurting your performance as it decreases your productivity.
If you want to get real results this year, you need to resist the temptation of distractions.
Especially when working on your most important tasks, you need to remove all possible distractions from your environment. You need to go into ‘deep work’ mode, as author Cal Newport puts it. This is the most productive state where you create your best work.
When you work for at least two hours on an important task with your undivided attention — when nothing is distracting you — magic happens. When you focus your mind on one task for a while, it’s capable of amazing things.
Unfortunately, in our distracted society nowadays, most people have never experienced what their minds are capable of when they direct it towards one thing for an extended amount of time.
Therefore, for the new year, incorporate a 2-hour deep work session every workday, in which you work on one highly important task without any form of distraction. I can guarantee it’ll transform your productivity.
#3: Invest More In Yourself
You can try any productivity hack in the world, but nothing will match the results gained from investing in yourself. The better you become, the easier it will be to get more meaningful results. You are your greatest asset.
“By far the best investment you can make is in yourself” — Warren Buffett
By gaining more knowledge, developing high-value skills, and investing in your health & energy, you’ll become a person capable of doing extraordinary work. Not only will you be able to execute your tasks and finish your projects more efficiently, but it’ll be of much higher quality as well.
All in all, when you invest in yourself, you’ll be able to get better results in less time — which, in my eyes, is the definition of productivity.
#4: Follow A System To Achieve Your Goals
A lot of people have goals, but only a few have a system that gets them towards those goals. Yet, it’s the system that leads to success. It helps you make consistent, daily progress towards your goals.
As Pablo Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
The problem with not following a system is that you’re prone to engage more in ‘busywork’ because there’s no focus. The long-term goal is too intimidating, and it’s unclear what best next actions to take.
Therefore, most people procrastinate or get distracted by other ideas, projects, or lesser important goals.
By following a system, however, you have the ultimate clarity on what needs to happen now — today — to make focused progress towards your long-term goals. This focus will make you incredibly productive.
Personally, I follow a system that chunks my big and ambitious goals into much smaller ‘checkpoints.’ This way, I no longer get intimidated or overwhelmed by the size of my goals.
Furthermore, I have the ultimate clarity of what needs to happen today or this week to get closer to my goals. I’ve experienced this to be a game-changer for my productivity and success.
As Don Lancaster said: “Most impossible goals can be met simply by breaking them down into bite-size chunks, writing them down, believing them and going full speed ahead as if they were routine.”
What I recommend you to do is break your big goals down into the following checkpoints:
- Quarterly goals
- Monthly goals
- Weekly goals
- Daily goals
Instead of being intimidated by the ‘size of the mountain,’ all you have to do is make it to the next ‘checkpoint’ and take the next step. You only need to focus on maximizing the day, as it sets a chain-reaction in motion — a domino effect— as your daily actions are fully aligned with your long-term goals.
As Brian P. Moran said: “To be truly effective, your daily activity must align with your long-term vision, strategies, and tactics.”
Now Do It
Knowing is not enough for real change — you must take action upon what you know. Therefore, as an action point for this article, implement one of these tips in your life right now.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
P.S. If you’re dedicated to making a positive change in the new year and you want to learn how to systematically achieve your goals & resolutions, check out the new ‘Goal Mastery‘ course.
After months of hard work, I’ve finally opened the doors to this program – but only for a few days…
==> Click Here To Learn More About The ‘Goal Mastery’ Course