How To Reach Peak Productivity

James Preston Reply 6:30 AM
I believe productivity is more important than time.  If you think that how much time you spend on a project equals how successful you were, then you might be missing something.  Don't fall victim to the assumption that, for example, 2 hours reading your Bible will inspire you better than 30 mins would.  It is not about quantity, it's about quality.

Here I have outlined some basic tools that I've learnt over the last 10 years that should be taught at school level.  Why I didn't is beyond me, maybe I missed class that day?  But if you understand these basic tools, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly productive individual.

1.  Set Goals - Use a To-Do List
If you don't have a To-Do list, where have you been hiding?  Get one!  Now!  Grab a piece of paper, and write down what you need to do today.  A simple start.

I was born pretty disorganised, but as my responsibilities in life increased, I have realised the importance of a To-Do list.  I started keeping one religiously about 5 years ago.  It used to be on a notepad once a week.  And I would cross out what I had accomplished, and re-write the unaccomplished tasks on the next week's paper.

I have since turned digital.  Todoist is one of the greatest online apps I have discovered on the internet.  It is completely free and runs online, on your smart phone, as an app on the computer, you name it.  All tasks can categorised by projects, given due dates.  Etc.  The features are endless.  If, like me, technology is your friend, open a free account today!

On top of my digital To-Do list, I often use a piece of paper for the day.  I jot down the basic things I absolutely need to get to in my day ahead.  My online version has my tasks for the day, but sometimes planning my day ahead on paper can give me the extra clarity I need to get things done.  This could be basic things like "buying tickets to the soccer".  But if I don't write those things down, I might just forget and I might miss out.

Write things down.  Get more done!

2.  Prioritise Your To-Do List
Identify which tasks are more important than others.  Don't just get the things done that you like doing. Get the things done that are important first.  That way, you won't be stressed when you get round to those important tasks later.  And if you don't have time to complete all your tasks in one day, at least it is only the lesser important tasks that get moved out.  Get the important stuff done first.

Sometimes, getting one important task done in a day holds more weight than accomplishing 10 less significant tasks. Prioritising your task-list will make you more effective than ever.

3.  Focus On One Task At A Time
In a world of information overload, this is becoming more and more difficult.  With Smartphones that beep incessantly, ads in our Email vying for our attention, Social Network notifications, it is becoming an enormous task to focus on one thing at a time.  But the benefits of doing so remain tremendous.

I am an easily distracted guy.  And focussing on one thing at a time requires serious concentration.  Even when it is reading a 4-paragraph email.  But I can promise you...  it is a learned skill.  The more I have practiced doing this, the more natural it becomes.

When doing a task, concentrate on getting that task done before doing anything else.  And I mean anything.  Don't respond to your phone, your Emails, or even ideas that pop in your idea (write those down for later!).  Check all those things in between tasks, and don't give more than 5-10 minutes at a time doing so before moving on to the next task.

By concentrating on one task at a time, you will prevent yourself from getting distracted and risking not coming back to that task and not getting it done.

4.  Plan Your Weeks
On top of my To-Do list, I can't live without my calendar.  Google Calendar has helped me become more productive than ever!  I don't actually log on to Google Calendar, I just have a Google Cal account, and use my BlackBerry calendar and my BusyCal App on my computer for the Google Cal accounts.  (Note:  iCal for Mac has been playing up with Google Calendars, I recently switched to BusyCal and have been very impressed!)

I write all my appointments down.  Sometimes even times with my family, friends, and sport games!  This is to ensure nothing clashes in my week!  And because my BlackBerry is on hand 24/7, I enter new appointments immediately.  Those appointments then get synced straight to Google Cal, which in turn sync it with BusyCal.  And if I am not near my phone or my computer, I can log on to Google Calendar wherever there is an internet connection.

Now that you have a calendar, plan your week ahead.  On Monday morning (or in my case, Tuesday), sit down and look at your week ahead.  Then, in your mind, plan when you will work on what.  This could be anything from prayer to working on a hobby to spending time with family.  What blocks of time in a week are most conducive to the tasks on your To-Do list?  Then plan accordingly.


That's just a basic run down of how I have come to get everything I want to get done, done.  It may be very basic for some of you organised folks, but I am acutely aware many people today battle with planning their time.  These 4 principles can help you immensely if you start putting them into practice.

What are some of the ways that have helped you become more productive?  

What apps / tools do you use to organise your life?

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