Monday, January 26, 2015

8 Minor Adjustments to Maximize Productivity Towards Your Ultimate Goal

I don't think an entire blog needs to be dedicated to changing your daily life.  I think you can get the point across in a single post or two.  Once you have a handle on it, you should be able to assess your own life and optimize your actions - no further blog reading or research necessary on how to maximize the time in your day.  So . . .
Each morning offers the opportunity to start fresh . . . a new beginning, a clean slate.  Many people wake up and immediately begin to stress and dread about what they have to do that day.  That mentality sets the stage for an unorganized, unproductive day.  Others use the morning to plan out tasks they intend to accomplish that day to help them reach their ultimate goal.  That small difference can have an extraordinary compounding effect and create a drastic advantage for that person over others.  For a quick analysis of how little changes can make a big difference, check out a previous post comparing Al and Joe and the differences in their routines.

Making slight adjustments each day can create the foundation for a healthier, more productive life, set you up to ultimately achieve your goal, and pay dividends in your future.  Below are 8 suggestions for maximizing your time each day:

1. Workout in the morning

Planning to workout in the morning can mean an improved chance that you actually do workout that day. 
Staying late at the office, happy hour, work events, , etc. can creep up you and kill your motivation and planned workout time.  Not a lot of interference occurs at 5 or 6 in the morning.

2. Speaking of the gym, walk around between sets

Instead of sitting on the bench and surfing your phone in between sets, stand up and walk around.  Put your arms above your head to help catch your breath.  In fact, let's say you take 3 minutes in between sets.  Lets say you do 5 lifts at the gym, 2 sets each = 10 total sets, with 9 breaks in between sets.  9 breaks x 3 minutes = 27 minutes of walking you could do.  4 workouts a week?  108 minutes of walking, 52 weeks per year = 5,616 additional minutes of walking.  Let's say I just mosey around the gym for my walk at a 40 minute/mile pace (REALLY slow).  Over the course of a year, I walk over an additional 140 miles!  A guy like me will burn about 100 calories per mile walking, or 14,000 more calories per year!  You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound.  Just by putting your phone down and moseying around the gym between sets, you could lose an additional 4 pounds per year.

Not to mention, I would be willing to guess that people who stare at their phones between sets tend to do so for more than 3 minutes.  That additional time will extend your workout and eat in to your day where you could be taking on other productive activities.

3.  Meditate on long term goals

Those extra ten or fifteen minutes you save at the gym by not staring at your phone between sets?  Use them to lay down in a quiet room and meditate after your workout.  Not only is this a great cool down, but it sets the tone for a productive day.  Have your long-term goals written down somewhere (I have mine in a notebook), read through them (no, not skim through - actually read), and then close your eyes for at least 5 minutes and envision yourself accomplishing your goal.  Many successful people have been known to do this before each competition, performance, etc.  Michael Phelps' routine has been well documented - notably in "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg.  He has already envisioned his race a number of times, so when something doesn't go exactly according to plan in the actual event, he doesn't panic.  He is able to overcome the obstacle because he has already run that scenario through his head countless times.

4.  Write down your tasks to accomplish today

Now that you've envisioned yourself accomplishing your goal, write down the small tasks that you wish to accomplish today to help you achieve your goal.  Writing them down promotes accountability and improves the chances that you actually attempt the task. 

5.  Jot down what you've learned, your weaknesses, your achievements.

If you've done something well, write down why.  If you feel you could have done something better, write down how you could have improved.  A number of highly successful investment professionals use an investment journal to continually try to improve their performance and learn from their past mistakes.  Ray Dalio in his "Principles" discusses the idea that mistakes teach us much more than accomplishments, so we must take as much from them as possible.  This doesn't have to be formal and can only be a few words or a line or two, but it is highly effective - but be sure to revisit your list often so these lessons are always fresh in your mind.  I have a draft e-mail to myself where I list my weaknesses so that I always have it at my fingertips in case I need to add to it or refresh my memory on my past blunders.  It helps you to be conscientious of where you might trip up in certain scenarios so you can focus on avoiding those hazards.

Note that #'s 3, 4, and 5, while extremely effective, may only take a total of 15 minutes out of your day. 

6.  Bring your lunch and utilize your lunch hour for productivity

Instead of going out to lunch every day with your coworkers, utilize your lunch hour for productivity.  It may only take you 15 minutes to eat your homemade lunch.  Use the other 45 minutes of your lunch hour to work towards your personal goals.  Are you writing a book?  You have 45 additional minutes for research.  Are you planning to open your own business?  You have 45 minutes more to write your business plan.  There is always something more educational and productive to do than to sit at a restaurant or surf Youtube or Facebook.  This is in addition to the money you save by eating in.

7.  On your commute, do something productive.

Is listening to Howard Stern a step towards achieving your goal?  If so, I'd be interested in seeing what your goals are!  Why not take Spanish lessons?  Listen to an educational book on audio?  Speeches by your role models?  There's myriad activities that would help create a better you than jamming to today's hits.  Use your imagination.

8.  Play Devil's Advocate while lying in bed

Think about what you could have done better today.  Think about your grand scheme and what you did to put that goal within reach.  Most importantly, try to imagine what obstacles could trip you up in your pursuit.  This will prepare you to better handle obstacles that do cross your path.  Investors think about what might be wrong with their analysis of an equity.  Athletes think about optimizing their current training regimen or the quirks of their upcoming opponent.  Writers may think big picture - what if their story took an unexpected turn instead of following the current plot?

Make sense?

These are suggestions that can lead you to a more productive life.  There are many ways that you can optimize your productivity throughout the day - you just need to dig a little deeper and realistically analyze what you are spending your down time doing.  The important part is to make these optimizations a part of your routine.  Doing it once a week or every so often is better than nothing, but doing it daily will work miracles!

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