It would be false of me to say that I am always productive and motivated. But for the most part, I feel I am. I get my tasks done. I read two to five books a week. I get my writing done. I keep up with my social media myself (this is becoming a struggle – so I'll soon be searching for someone to help me with this. If you're up for this, drop me an email). Oh yeah, I also get the chance to have lie-ins and naps. Every. Single. Day. So how do I do it?
The Motivation Myth
I recently re-read a book called The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up To Win by Jeff Haden. Until quite recently, I believed that we cannot do things if we are not already motivated to do so. Haden says that motivation is like a sugar rush for most of us, in the sense that it is a spark that never lasts. He gives the notion that it isn't motivation that leads to action and then success, but it is in fact a cycle in that, action leads to success, which in turn motivates us to repeat the action.
This is where he introduces the second theme of processes over goals. There's nothing wrong in having goals, but just having goals isn't going to benefit you in the long run. Success depends on our processes. By setting up processes, we develop foundations and routines that generate momentum and feedback-loops which sustain motivation and action. This is basically the same idea given by James Clear too, in his book Atomic Habits (another book I recommend you read).
Today, I want to share with you what I do to 'stay on top of my stuff', and how you can too.
1. The Importance of Scheduling
We often feel that there is no point in using a calendar to schedule our events, because we never end up doing things anyway, but why? It's because we're not using our calendars in the right way.
Many successful leaders like Elon Musk use the time blocking method to intentionally plan their days out and ensure tasks get done. For example, in my calendar, I schedule in around 2-3 hours for reading at specific times throughout the week. This way, I get a reminder when it's time to read. I also do the same for eating (around 30 minutes), emails (around 10 minutes), social media checks (around 1 to 2 hours spread across the day).
It may seem tedious, and you might think, "What's the point in scheduling email checks or WhatsApp replies?" But trust me on this one, it can benefit you greatly. When you use time blocking to assign specific tasks and activities, slowly with the formation of habits and repetition, you naturally follow the routine that you yourself set on your calendar.
2. Turn Your Phone Upside Down
Studies have shown that when we're trying to focus on a task, and then we are distracted by a notification vibration or sound, our attention is lost and it becomes more difficult to regain focus on the task. A simple way to tackle this is to put your phone on 'Do not Disturb' mode and turn it upside down. I'm not going to tell you to put your phone in another room, or in a lock-box, because I don't think that works. I don't do it, so I don't expect you to do it either. But this works for me, because when the screen is facing you, there is a natural temptation to tap to see who has messaged you or liked your post. Remember, you can never trust your mind.
3. Make a 'Could-Do' List
You've heard of a 'to-do' list, but have you heard of a 'could-do' list? The way I see it, if something needs to be done, it can be time blocked into your calendar.
Small tasks which can be done in the day or later, but may not serve me great importance in the week, I put into here. These tasks still need to be done, but not immediately. I later move things from my 'could-do' list to my calendar (i.e. I time block them later).
The app that I personally use TeuxDeux. It's free for a month, and then it costs around $2 monthly, if paid annually. Of course, there are many free alternatives out there. You can even buy index cards, or use a diary for this.
4. Have a 'Daily Highlight'
This is a concept I learnt from the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.
It's a simple and effective way to make sure you get at least one task done daily. What I do is, I look at my 'could-do' daily, and I pick out one task that can be made a 'to-do'. I then time block it (if needed) or I just complete it in the moment. I usually do this within my free time, so it doesn't disturb what I may have already planned.
5. Other Things I Do
Keep water with you. This way, it becomes a constant reminder for you to hydrate yourself. It'll not only get your brain juices flowing, but sometimes when we feel we are hungry, we are just thirsty. You won't only save time, you'll save your body in the process too.
Seek solitude. Have some form of relaxation set into your day. Whether that be meditation, a walk or run, reading, listen to music. Just do something for yourself. In a world where we are flooded with information and things to do, it's important that we take some time our for ourselves. Every day.
On a Side Note...
I'd like to know what you sort of content you would like to see from me. Would you like to see more podcast stuff, YouTube-style videos, more blog posts or something else?
Feel free to comment below, send me an email, or just drop me a message on Instagram.
Have a great week,