We all have dreams we want to fulfill. The corner office. Owning a business. Writing a book. A sprawling condo and a second vacation home by the sea. A tidy nest egg. Or you probably have some other dream that you want so badly to come true.
So how are you making your way towards your dreams? Undoubtedly, you are working very hard.
But are you being productive?
Slogging away does not mean that you are getting things done quickly or getting them done at all. You may be, unknowingly, working on tasks that won’t take you to your dreams. Being busy does not mean that you are getting closer to your goals. You have probably taken the longer route.
In this hyper-competitive age, you don’t have all the time in the world to reach where you want to go; someone who is more productive than you are might get there before you do. It is not enough to put in longer hours at work. You need a “strategy” to be highly productive. Here’s what you have to do:
1. Set goals
Your goals are the roadmap to your success. Setting goals keeps you on track and ensures that you don’t fritter away your energies on needless tasks. However, setting goals is not just about creating lengthy to-do lists that you have to flog yourself to run through. You should create SMART goals.
Set specific goals, so you can create focused plans. Set deadlines, so you are on your toes. But make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. Unrealistic goals and unreasonable deadlines set you up for frustration and discouragement because they delay success, or worse, may not bring in results at all.
Your goals should inspire you to spring out of bed every morning. They should motivate you to carry on even in the face of obstacles. They should give you the strength to keep working when there is no one to cheer you or shoulder your burdens. The goals you set should resonate with your soul and sync with your core personal values, so you always know you are living on your own terms.
2. Prioritize your goals
Your dreams matter. You are here in this world to realize your highest potential. You owe it to yourself to become your best version. So prioritize your goals.
Prioritizing ensures you do first what matters most to the success of your goals. It is imperative that after you create your to-lists, you order the items according to their relevance to your goals. There will always be a few mission-critical tasks; accord them the highest priority and tackle them right away. Just knowing that you have taken some giant strides towards your goals boosts your confidence and motivates you to go the extra mile.
Prioritizing goals also ensures that you can create a schedule that permits you to assign most of your time and energy to the mission-critical tasks. So these tasks are executed to perfection.
But prioritizing is not just about listing the tasks that you will carry out one after the other. Prioritizing also means that you identify the tasks that have no relevance to your goals and strike them off your agenda. You can delegate these tasks to other people or put them on the back burner.
3. Stop procrastinating
Laziness. Anxiety. Striving for perfection. Fear. Your beeping and blinking phone. The game on TV. A chatty co-worker. Don’t let anything or anyone keep you away from your goals. Procrastination is a deadly habit that you build unconsciously and which then, sets you back on your dreams.
Try to get into a “flow” to beat procrastination. If your to-do list looks overwhelming and panic freezes you in your steps, break down the tasks into smaller chunks of jobs. Start with a small, easy job to get into the zone, and when you tackle it successfully, you will feel much more confident and enthusiastic about moving onto the next job.
Deadlines are hard taskmasters. You can will yourself to dive into the tasks by constantly reminding yourself of the deadlines. Having your time-bound goals posted somewhere in plain sight will remind you how little time you have and create a sense of urgency.
4. Visualize yourself as being productive
Being able to visualize your success motivates you to keep working when you want to watch TV. Being able to "see" yourself as being productive excites you, so you can shrug off setbacks and criticisms and instead, focus on your goals.
"See" yourself going through the day accomplishing your tasks with steely focus. "See" yourself overcoming obstacles, reaching your goals, and celebrating. This is a sort of mental rehearsal, a technique that Michael Phelps, the legendary American swimmer, practiced for two hours every day for months before a race.
Michael Phelps went through the drills in his mind. He swam the entire length of the pool. He tasted the water, smelled the air, heard the sounds from the stands, and saw the clock, all in his mind. Phelps had won his 18 Olympic gold medals in the mind even before he actually jumped off from the blocks.
Visualization is a powerful motivational exercise; make time for it every day. But it is easier said than done. You may blame it on conditioning or the pressure to stay always on and "real", but many among us have lost the ability we once had, as children, to daydream. Constant exposure to external stimuli from the digital world have blunted in many people, the ability to imagine or conjure images from nothing.
If you have trouble "seeing" with your mind’s eye or holding on to the images with conviction, let the Meditable app guide you through the exercise. Use a guided visualization audio to first calm your chattering mind and shut off external distractions, and then let it guide your mind to create the images with suggestions.
5. Practice positive self-talk
Give yourself a pep talk. Inspire yourself with positive self-statements.
We know that reminding yourself of what you value and what your strengths are helps reduce negative emotion and brings forth a sense of self-assurance.
In an experiment by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, brain images of the participants who practiced self-affirmation showed increased activity in those regions of the brain known to be involved in expecting rewards. Positive affirmations anchor you in a deeper part of you and nurture the trust in your own abilities to reach your goals. If done right. It is not about merely repeating some words. It is about consciously giving yourself a message that is meaningful, believable and can orient you towards the direction you value.
The simple practice of self-affirmation can reduce stress. When you tell yourself "I solved difficult problems before. I am capable and resourceful" the thoughts help you stay calm during crises and solve problems more efficiently.
A more stable sense of self-worth makes you more open to negative feedback and more tolerant of your own mistakes. It is human to make mistakes, but it is more important to learn from them and move on. When you tell yourself "I can learn from this. I have the knowledge and creativity to solve this and move forward" you don’t beat yourself up for committing the slightest of errors, and instead, feel empowered to create the positive mental space to look for solutions.
6. Every day, do something that impacts your goal
Even if it is a single task, you feel empowered knowing that you have progressed considerably towards your goals. Ticking off high-priority items on your to-do list gives you the confidence that you are on track and will reach your goals soon. Most importantly, this daily practice creates a powerful, positive habit that keeps up the forward-moving momentum and takes you to your goals quickly. Furthermore, the more you get things done, the more people perceive you as a capable, efficient, and focused individual and a person who they would like to collaborate with.
7. Create a morning meditation ritual
Productivity is more a mental game than it is about doing the legwork.
Our minds rule our physical beings. We procrastinate even when deadlines loom in front of us. We are distracted by Facebook while we are in the middle of a task. Fear of failure, low self-worth, and feeling compelled to conform to societal conventions drive us to work on other people’s agendas instead of focusing on our own wishes and soul’s call. Only a powerful mind can rise above negative emotions to focus on fulfilling one’s calling.
Meditation helps you tame your mind to make it work for you. Meditating at any time during the day is beneficial, but creating a morning meditation ritual primes you for the day ahead. You start your day with blue-sky vision, your intuition sharpened to spot opportunities, your mind focused on your goals, your heart full of gratitude, and your will steeled to repel all distractions.
It is no surprise that successful and highly productive people start their days by meditating on their goals and taking time to express gratitude. Take cues from Oprah Winfrey (media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist—a lady who wears many hats), Steve Jobs (entrepreneur, inventor, industrial designer, and the co-founder of Apple Computers), or Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., politician, scientist, author, and political theorist).
A guided meditation app can be a great prop to get you into the habit of meditating and actively train your mind to be more focused and effective. The Meditable app is designed for that purpose.
Productivity is a habit and a skill that comes from practice, perseverance, and careful strategizing. Being highly productive requires that you exercise your physical and cognitive abilities and mental muscles. It is a gradual learning process, but one that will help you stay on top of your game and ahead of the pack.