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Plan. Plan. Plan. Then Live One Day At A Time For Stellar Productivity

If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan – not the goal.

 

I’ve learnt, the hard way, that the absence of goals leads to disappointment and eventually failure. Without a self determined benchmark to aspire towards, your daily actions just become meaningless and your life, a confusing mess. I discovered this when I chose to “live one day at a time”. I was under a lot of stress and was extremely unsure of the future. My education and career path, my relationships were all up in the air. So my smart brain decided it was time to employ the well known plan of action. But in all honesty, looking back now, I was only using that as an escape, as a way out of the indecision I was facing. I couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted, on what my dreams and goals really were. So instead of spending time to reevaluate, I chose to avoid the true problem and started focusing on the daily events of each day.

My aim every morning was merely to get through whatever happens, and then rinse & repeat. I did this for almost 2 years before I was forced out of this rut by a coming-of-age ceremony called convocation. I am so thankful for that rude awakening. Though I had been anticipating graduation for such a long time, when it came, it was a shock. Suddenly, I no longer had assignments or textbooks to keep me busy. My schedule was completely open and empty, and I began to resemble a bum. But it was blessing in disguise. At first I felt hopeless and lazy, but soon I realized I was actually relieved and at peace with myself more than I had been in the past few years. I had no real plans for the future because I didn’t think I was capable enough to achieve what I wanted. How foolish of me. I hadn’t applied for grad school, not for jobs. I spent the first little while regretting that, but soon enough I formed goals that were not only real but also meaningful. I started applying for jobs because I wanted to, not because I had to. I focused on those applications that interested me. Within a month after finishing my last semester, I had a job in a field that I wanted.

So I took a long, hard a look at the pros and cons of being a meticulous planner:

Pros

You are more organized. Planning gives you the ability to organize not just your time but also your space and social commitments so that when you’re doing a certain activity, you can focus on it and perhaps also work more effectively.

You put things in perspective. When you plan for the future, you are forced to look at the big picture and determine what your priorities are. Putting things into perspective this way ensures that you’re always working towards a goal that is important to you and not catering to someone else’s agenda.

Allows for preparation. Planning allows you to indulge in future-thinking. This can actually be a good thing because it often prompts you to get things ready in advance so you waste less time prepping when you’re ready to settle down to business.

You are clear about expectations. How many times have people you work with gotten away with the worst because you didn’t have the forethought to define your expectations in the beginning. This is especially true if you have people working under you or if you run a start-up. In order to stay on track , you need to be able to  define early on to other people what your expectations are. Planning in advance allows you to see the big picture and articulate clearly to toehr people what kind of work it is that you need from them. In turn, it makes things easier for the other perseon as well because they don’t have to keep guessing at what it is that you want.

 Makes you reach for loftier goals. We have a tendency to be easy on our selves. We may be rough with all the negative self talk, but when it comes down to actually doing something, we are as lazy as donkeys on a summer morning. Planning ahead gives you proper insight into what you’re capable of and if you’re like me, it also motivates you to reach just a little further to achieve something that you think is beyond your grasp. That striving, in my opinion, makes all the difference between mediocre work, and creating something exceptional.

You have peace of mind. You know that nagging feeling when you know you advent sat down in a while to do your homework? I don’t mean the kind of homework they give you in kinder garten. I mean the planning kind of homework that makes you list down all the concerns and priorities that are pressing down upon you at the moment, and turning it into something actionable and productive. When you plan, when you do your homework, there is less room for worrying about things you think you can’t do and more focus on taking practical steps to achieve whatever it is that you’re setting out to do. Not only does planning make you feel empowered, it also helps you maintain peace of mind and stay calm so you can work without getting distracted by your worries. Include link bat calm down article.

Cons

You don’t live spontaneously. Sometimes when you’re heavy on the planning, you tend to develop this loyalty to the original plan that can actually hamper your selse of freedom and productivity. You become a slave to the plan , afraid to veer form the planned course for fear that you will lose track of the bigger picture and far away fem your most important goals.

You restrict yourself from experiencing novelty. When you’re so committed to a plan that you tend to dismiss any novel, more attractive options that are presented in front of you, that’s  a problem. Sometimes, our plans blind us to the possibilities that are right under our noses.

You get bored. Sticking to a routine or a monotonous plan day- in and day-out, it is human nature to get bored and seek novelty. Why do you think so many people are opting out of office jobs and working for themselves these days? Even though you still have to plan your days and work, these is a sense of freedom and novelty in working by yourself, from random locations  and on your own terms that you would never be able to experience from the caged comfort of your 9-5 cubicle.

You get lost in the details. Sometimes you’re so caught up in following the nitty gritty details of your previously laid out plans tat you lose sight of the opportunities in front of you. I went on an epic trip to Jaipur this year. As I disembarked form the first ever rickshaw trip of my life, shaking from the adrenaline, I was so caught up in following my itinerary and the map on my ipnone to the last detail, that I didn’t even notice that it was raining. I got off in the downpour trying to negotiate with the rickshaw guy, only to realize that the hotel guard had been tapping me for five minutes trying to alert me to the rain waking up my sleepy baby, telling me that if I needed to look over my map and haggle further, I could slide over to the safety and dryness of the hotel lobby. When you’re planning, don’t miss the forest for the trees.

You become rigid. A corollary to the above point about getting lost in the details is that some of is are obstinate. I know I am. Once I decide upon a course of action, I have this urge to see it through at all costs. Sometimes, having the flexibility to change course or even edit defeat can mean the difference between being a struggling entrepreneur and a successful one that knows when to cut losses and try something more effective.

You become stuck in planning. When you’re stuck in the planning phase, you tend to pour over the plan and edit and re-edit –  but you don’t actually take any action or do anything. By the time you come to the point where you do something, you’ve expended so much energy and anticipation on the planning phase that you’re already bored before the project even begins.

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Goals are what drive and motivates humans. Every person has individual motivations, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time. That is why they say set high goals, dream big. If you have no goals. You won’t achieve anything. If you strive high, you will reach somewhere there depending on how much of an effort accompanies that dream.

Essentially this is the recipe for success, to be added in the order listed:

1. Dream big and set goals, know what you want (I mean it), make them extravagant and don’t allow your mind to wander or convince you otherwise.

2. Make a plan of action, know how you are planning on achieving them

3. Take it as it comes one day at a time, don’t allow setbacks or happenings to get you down and reevaluating your goals. Don’t get too phased by things & think your goals are no longer realistic and achievable because X happened. You don’t need to over think things because often when you are under stress you have odd ideas and make stupid decisions. So deal with anything calmly and logically, now is not the time to reevaluate or worry. That is the next step.

4. On a particularly calm day, when there is no tension or pressure on your shoulders and in your head, maybe once a week take a few hours and rethink and evaluate the week. What things happened that worried you, how did you react with them, have your ideas and values changed, are you goals still what they were, do you wish to alter them a little bit. Never scrap an idea/goal because you never know when it could work out. If you think things have changed and I no longer wish to achieve that because it’s unrealistic and foolish, let me tell you it’s NOT! Because you had thought long and hard about it, that is exactly what you wanted at one point in your life. So don’t undermine it’s value, and don’t give up on it just because you haven’t been able to achieve it yet or because you have already achieved it and now it doesn’t mean anything to you.

Being a planner doesn’t hamper you from a journey of self discovery and improvement, thinking critically about your plans and choices can help you start a personal revolution to stay eager, motivated and productive.

How do you handle the planning phase? Reply in the comments below to share your planning dilemmas and hacks with us. We love hearing form you!

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30 Productivity Hacks to Help You Make The Most of Your Workday

  1. Try the Pomodoro technique. Chunk your tasks into 25 minutes and take a 5 minutes break in between. Use focus booster for getting some serious work done!
  2. Race the clock. Use an old fashioned timer, or for anywhere access try www.onlinestopwatch.com.
  3. Try working in a coffee shop. Train your brain to work efficiently in public.
  4. Prime yourself to get into “the zone”. Set yourself mentally to begin work at a certain time.
  5. Exercise. It gets blood flowing to the brain, making you more alert.
  6. Ditch your desk. Let go of the non-essential gadgets, streamline, and take your essentials outside to work.
  7. Vary work spaces to keep things exciting to boost both creativity and productivity
  8. Stay accountable with apps like WriteorDie, Lift and If This Then That.
  9. Use social media to your advantage. Go public with your tasks to stay accountable and productive.
  10. Ask a friend to check on you. Someone nagging you to finish your tasks on time is unparalleled in its effectiveness to help you get things done.
  11. Have a long-term countdown to your big project. On your cellphone. On social media. On your website. Maybe even on your desk.
  12. Take frequent breaks. Stay productive by recharging frequently and paying attention to body/mind cues.
  13. Make a distraction list. Then determine how to eliminate these distractions.
  14. Spend time with your peeps. Have guilt free distractions scheduled into your day or week so when you sit down to work, you’re focussed on the tasks in front of you.
  15. Don’t watch TV. Its called an Idiot Box for a reason. Watching in moderation os okay, but stay mindful if you’re starting to get fused with your living room couch.
  16. Take care of other needs so you don’t end up interrupting yourself. Pee breaks, food, water, exercise. Deal with these before you sit down to work so that you can work free of interruptions.
  17. Use your strengths. Delegate the tasks that you don’t want to do, or that someone else is better at. Keep your energy focussed on doing things that will give you the highest returns.
  18. Wear comfortable clothes but dress like you mean business. Appearances are important even when you’re working by yourself. A drumpy outfit signals to your brain that you’re not really on your A game.
  19. Limit obsessive email checking. Set times during the day when you will check your emails and reply to important correspondence. Make your habits public knowledge so people know when its best to contact you. Once you’ve checked your email, refrain from checking it again until the designated time.
  20. Be firm with yourself. When working for yourself, especially, if you work by yourself at home, its easy to slack off and tell yourself you’ll do an important task later. Don’t talk yourself into being less productive. Set deadlines like you would at a job. Then stick to them.
  21. Use pen & paper. If you’re getting distracted by your gadgets, try switching things up a bit by going back to old-fashioned pen and paper. You may be surprised at the creative ideas that seem to suddenly crop up out of nowhere.
  22. Wake up earlier. Things seem so much saner earlier on in the day ( or later on at night – depending on whether you’re an early bird of a night owl) when no one else is around to distract you from the task in front of you.
  23. Curb your perfectionism. If a task is done, and is of reasonably decent quality, you need to let it go and stop nit-picking at the little stuff. If a task is done, then label it as done, and move on.
  24. Meditate. Closing your eyes for a few minutes to ground yourself can make a huge difference between getting burned out and staying productive.
  25. Take a walk. Walking for productivity and creativity isn’t just for the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. You can do it too. Take a walk in fresh air whenever you’re stumped by a work problem. You just might happen to stumble upon a creative solution.
  26. Switch to a different task. If you’re on a tight deadline and cannot afford to take a complete break, try switching form a sedentary task typing away on your laptop, to getting up and looking up a reference you’ve been meaning to.
  27. Eat right. Eating clean will keep you alert and active. It will clear your mind of cobwebs and focussed on the task in front of you. Make sure to eat lots of produce, while grains and lean protein. Don’t forget to flush out toxins with lots of water.
  28. Eat on time. So many of us wait until we are starving to start thinking about what to eat. His is the basis of many of our terrible diet choices. Not only is it bad for your health, it also erodes your productivity when you’re sluggish from an unhealthy meal.
  29. Isolate yourself. When working, stay away form distractions. If you’re in an office, put up a temporary “Do Not Disturb” sign to discourage chit-chatting co-workers from barging into your office e or cubicle. If working from home, let your family or roommates know you’re going to be going off to your home office and not to disturb you unless its an emergency.
  30. Don’t stress about productivity. If you keep scaring yourself to death about how little you’re getting done, you’re just going to make yourself miserable and even less productive because instead of focussing on the solution, you’re distracted by thoughts about how you’re going to fail.

 

Your Turn! What’s your best productivity hack? Share it with us in the comments below.

 

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A simple system for eliminating distractions and staying productive

Distractions are everywhere.

Plus, with all our mobile phones and gadgets, they are ominously inviting. At every turn, they lure you like hawkers at an Indian market, diverting you away from important tasks.

Apparently, distractions cost businesses money too. According to this article , a “2007 study by Basex estimated that distractions cost U.S. businesses $588 billion per year”

Aside form the monetary costs, distractions can also make you frustrated and unhappy creating a vicious cycle of stress and poor performance.

So how can you beat pesky distractions and show them who’s the boss? The answer is laughably obvious. Monitor and eliminate the distractions. Just the act of  writing down your common distractions will make you conscious and attuned to the ways in which you waste you r time during the workday.

Quick plan to end all distractions

  1. Make a list of all your distractions. Write down every last little bugger.
  2. Keep this list somewhere accessible.
  3. Across from each distraction, list a possible solution
  4. Just before you sit down to work, review this list.
  5. The more you use this technique, the more mindful you will become about distractions and the opportunities for eliminating them.

 

Here is what my list of distractions and solutions looks like:

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I found the results of this exercise surprising. Many of my distraction problems had common solutions. This little insight saved me a lot of time in the long run because the million distractions we think we are up against, really only entail tweaking a few common things in our daily routine or environment to optimize productivity and eliminate distractions.

 

So I put together a final list after compiling the solutions that fell under a common theme, and here is my final list:

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Final thoughts

Identifying and elimination distractions is as simple as writing down everything that is keeping you from a productive workflow and then analyzing your results to see if you can come up with a master plan of sorts.

To go one step further and make this even more intense, you can write your final list of distraction elimination solutions on to an index card and laminate it. Keep it accessible at all times near your workspace. Then, review it every time you sit down to work. This frequent review will burn the solutions into your subconscious over time. Eventually, you won’t even need the list in order to tackle the distractions you come up against. The beauty of using repetition to change or build habits is that it doesn’t take much more than a small measure of effort on your part to bring about big changes.

You just have to be consistent.

Change things in small increments until the cumulative effect helps you build momentum towards the new habit(s).

Over to you – List your distractions and solutions in the comments below. What did you learn about your own workflow? Our favourite reply will get a shoutout in the next post.

Happy Sunday!