Tuesday, 3 April 2018

7 Habits to Become More Productive

Today I wanted to talk about positive and constructive habits. Habits are often thought of in a negative way, but if you make productivity a habit, you'll ultimately have a positive outcome and outlook. I thought I'd discuss 7 habits I'm attempting to enforce in order to become more productive and, therefore, potentially more positive.

The first is an age old, tried and tested habit: waking up earlier.
Let me tell you, my friends, this isn't an easy one if it means waking up during the dark hours of the morning. I have struggled to do this through the colder months, but as it's getting lighter earlier in the mornings, it's working a lot better for me. If you wake up earlier you obviously have more time in the day to get things done, and equally to work on your own personal goals, as you've added in that extra time before work/any commitments you may have. As much as just waking up earlier is great, it's also important to wake up at a consistent time each morning, so that your sleeping pattern doesn't get caught up and lead you to become more tired. Therefore, even on my days off I try to get up at the same time as I would if I were working. I aim to get up between 6.30am and 7am each day, so that I can get that extra half an hour of sleep if I really need it. But generally, this just opens up your day and allows you to fit so much more into your daily routine, ultimately making you more productive and giving you more of a 'can do' attitude.

Another great habit is: exercising regularly
Like waking up early, exercise is something that requires a little motivation to start with, but once you get into the swing of it, it becomes not just a positive habit, but a part of your lifestyle. It doesn't really matter how you get your exercise in or what form of exercise you choose to do, it just matters that you do it. According to the British Heart Foundation, in 2015 only 67% of men in the UK met the recommended physical activity requirements to lead a healthy life, and the percentage of women was notably less at 55%. It's recommended that we do at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, whether that be walking, running, cycling, rowing etc. Exercise isn't just important for your physical wellbeing, but also for you mental health; it's a great way of clearing your mind and working on yourself without distractions. I personally love going to the gym and do so 3-5 times a week, depending on how busy I am, and I additionally walk a lot each day. Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, which trigger a positive feeling through your body. Exercising will help you feel good, which will therefore contribute to your productivity, as we naturally feel more productive when we're happier.

(beautiful places are great for getting in a good walk, as you often walk for longer because you're enjoying your surroundings)

Linking on from the previous habit: care about your health
Productive people care about their health and they make their health a habit. Of all the habits here, this is the most essential to become more productive. If you don't make your health a priority, you will become ill more frequently, which will of course hinder your productivity. The main ways to do this are to eat well, drink lots of water,  exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and make time for yourself. You might think that the first four are more essential than the latter point, but making time for yourself - whether that be through meditation, or reading, or going for a walk by yourself, or tuning out and listening to your favourite album - is very important for your mental health, which, as it should be, is now recognised as an important factor in our overall health and wellbeing. I think the whole concept of health can be slightly overwhelming if you're not doing enough to look after yourself already, but the only way to improve your health is to recognise what you're doing wrong and make gradual changes to benefit your wellbeing.

Next up: set goals
As I mentioned, you often need motivation to be more productive. Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself, as you know that even though you're going to have to do something you might not want to do right now, if you get the task at hand done, you will move closer to achieving the goal you've set yourself. Sometimes your goals are reward based and sometimes they are just things you want to achieve/do. For instance, my motivation to go to the gym is the knowledge that I'm not entirely comfortable with having my legs out in the warmer months, therefore I know that by going to the gym and exercising regularly, I will begin to see changes in not just the way my legs literally look, but also in the way that I see them myself - I know that they're stronger and they can take me further in life because I've made a health conscious decision to work out. For me that's both an achievement and a kind of mental reward that helps me to understand what my body is capable of.

Similar to setting goals: remain focused
You won't achieve your goals if you don't focus on what you want and how you're going to do it. For example, I'm really working on my skin at the moment - I'm trying to look after it and keep it as blemish free as possible. As a result, even when I've gotten home late and want to just fall into bed, I know that I need to take off my makeup and do my whole evening skincare routine. It only takes five minutes and the following morning I know I'll glad that I took that time to do it, as my skin will look all the more clear for it. Focusing can be a tough habit, as we have the tendency to think 'well, does it really matter that much' in the moment and then regret it later on. Think about the long term outcomes of you goals and make time to truly zone out from all distractions and focus on what you want.

The penultimate habit is: carrying a book everywhere
The saying 'knowledge is power' comes to mind with this one. A great way to become more knowledgable is to read more, and more often than not you can use this new knowledge in a productive way, whether that's helping you with your job or your hobbies and interests. Or maybe you just enjoy reading in general but don't do it often enough. The best way to be more productive in the time between tasks/meetings/working hours is to carry a book with you everywhere you go. Aim to stop pointlessly scrolling through your phone at every opportunity (we all do it), and instead, read a chapter of your current book. You'll learn more, you'll unwind from technology, disconnect from the potentially negative results of social media and relax more. I'm an avid reader anyway, but since enforcing this habit, I have read so much more than I usually would, which personally is something that brings me a lot of joy. I tend to read novels, but I'm trying to branch out and read more essays and non-fiction texts, as once you're out of education, if you're not teaching yourself, you're not going to learn anything.

Lastly, and probably the most important habit in terms of implementing all these other habits: plan ahead
To-do lists will become your best friend. The best way to be productive is to know what you've got to do and write it down in a prioritised or timetabled list. I like to write a to-do list in the evening for the following day, adding in any commitments/scheduled plans first, and then working in what else I want to achieve that day in the time I know I will have left available to me. Personally, I find great satisfaction in ticking things off, so this is what works best for me. This way, you know what you're doing when and what you'll have time for in between those things. You'll know to bring your book, you'll know when you've got time to workout, and you'll know when you've got time by yourself. Planning is the catalyst for productivity and for enforcing your productive habits.

So that's what I'm doing to try to become more productive. So far, so good.

Until next time.

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