As inspiring as it is to read about productivity hacks and how to make every second count, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to believe that the points mentioned in all those listicles would be practical. Come on, how is ‘Don’t make excuses’ even possible for an average human being like me. To be honest, the ones who aren’t making excuses aren’t going to Google for productivity hacks in the first place. However, despite these ‘unrealistic’ factors, some of these articles make you want to believe that are very much practical and doable. This gives you the much needed trigger to push yourself into being productive.

Having read enough number of personal experiences of inspiring people, I set out on a mission to make my days more useful.

Understanding what to do

The first challenge for me was to understand what I really wanted to do. Yes, people around me were doing a lot of exciting stuff and that excitement was definitely contagious.  So I had a task of separating stuff which I really wanted to do and the stuff which I wanted to do just because others were doing it. It was more difficult than it seemed. I found out that the only way to get this done was to write them down and evaluate the tasks under various parameters such as how long I’ve been wanting to do this and if it was something that would keep me focused for more than 10 minutes at a time and so on. That gave me a better idea of the things I was interested in doing because I really wanted to.

Understanding the habits

Now that I knew what I wanted to do, the next challenge was to find out how I was making use of the time I had. Again I took to the pen and paper because nothing convinces me better than seeing a visual representation which could possibly not be wrong. It was easy to see a pattern and to find out where exactly I was wasting time. For instance, every day after I get back home I would wait for half an hour before doing any work. In that half an hour I’d mostly be looking up what I’d missed in Social Media or aimlessly be reading something that I would not even remember the next minute. I considered this a time waster as I could easily do this when I was waiting in a queue or just waiting for something to happen and often I would end up spending more than an hour with just the phone. So then, I ensured the half an hour rest was completely mobile free (and Television-free) and spent that time reading paper or talking to mom or do some coloring for a while. That way I got the rest I wanted and also did something I liked without working my brain beyond what was necessary.

This activity was an eye-opener for me. When you’re talking or thinking about how you spend time, you tend to get defensive. But when you have the evidence staring at you, it’s tough to not be convinced. I’m glad that I finally got to do the root cause analysis.

A new course of action

Having felt guilty for wasting previous time I knew it was time for immediate action. Instead of making a radical change to my routine, I started by incorporating small changes here and there. I planned to come up with a routine to help me adapt to the new changes I was planning on proposing. All good things seem lovely for the first few days and if it ends up making too many changes in too little a time, chances are more that we may abandon the plan altogether. I didn’t want to end up there after all the hard work and resolved not to go beyond one step at a time. I charted out a very realistic and flexible schedule with not more than 3 tasks for a week. This way I got something done and it felt so gratifying to see a job completed on time.

I kept two schedules, one for the weekdays and one for the weekends. I don’t wait to sit and come up with a list. I use my Notes app to make a note of the tasks as and when they come.  So my weekend task list keeps getting filled up through the week and it saves me the trouble of recollecting them later. The ones that are pending still remain on the list and I tick off completed tasks. So the pending ones stay there forever, on your face, and refuses to go unless you actually get to task. That worked for me.

The best part in writing it all down is that I have a clear idea of the big picture. It also tells me how one missed deadline would overlap with the others and before you know it, things get out of your control. I don’t plan things up to the minute, so it still gives me flexibility even within the schedule. And I like the old-school way of ticking away tasks which are done and that instant gratification at being able to track your work and to be able to clearly see how much you’ve done, gives you a great sense of accomplishment. I save up all the sticky notes and other notes where I write them down and don’t discard them even after ticking off the completed tasks. Looking at that makes me want to continue the good streak.

Nothing inspires you more than a good track record. That’s enough inspiration for me.

So, do you have any productivity hacks or any process you follow? I’d love to hear about it.

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