We all measure productivity in different ways. It can vary between tasks, too. Writing a page a day of your novel can be considered as productive as cleaning your whole house in a weekend. It really depends on how you feel at the end which is one of the trickiest parts of it all. All things equal from one day to the next might not have the same gratifying feeling even if you accomplished the same exact tasks.
It’s important to me that I stay active and productive. I’m not one of those cocaine-fueled adrenaline junkies that the 1980s seemed to be filled with. I just like to complete a couple of tasks each day and feel the dopamine reward at the end.
What’s my secret? I try to stay productive every day by following these rules.
1) How to be productive every day: Get things done early
There comes a point in many people’s lives when they stop being a night owl and start being an early bird. I always thought the most frightening thing would be to become one of those people who wakes up when it’s still dark outside. About a year later after doing this consistently, I stress being awake at night when it is already dark.
Getting things done early in the day allows me to accomplish some goals immediately. For the first hour I wake up, I get some things done online. Maybe I’ll write. Maybe I’ll edit someone else’s work. I do those over breakfast and a morning coffee. It’s not peak productivity time but by at least getting some things out from under my to-do list, I feel a little more comfortable to handle any unexpected moments which may lie ahead.
2) How to be productive every day: Remain consistent
Consistency is essential for me to be productive every day. Along with getting things done early, there are specific goals I may set for the day, week, or month. Because every week is made up of 7 days and every month is made up of at least 4 weeks, consistency each day is important as it can add up.
When something may fail one week, it’s fine to let it carry over into the next. If, let’s say, you plan to edit a video by the end of the week and don’t get a chance, try not to stress about it. You can make up for the lost time in the next three weeks. As long as you’re in control of any quotas, don’t let them own you.
3) How to be productive every day: Complete something no matter how small
The problem a lot of people have with productivity is they aim too high. Leaving things unfinished isn’t a bad thing. In fact, leaving a project unfinished can help you know where to get started when you come back to it.
As an example, I stopped writing this blog post right after this sentence to get back to work.
How strongly can I finish it?
4) How to be productive every day: Know when to stop
We are humans, not machines. At least one Julia Roberts movie knows how to make us cry. Another knows how to fill us with rage. If you’re anything like me, Steel Magnolias can do both.
There comes a point in every day when I realize it’s time to turn off. My brain can only take so much productivity. Rather than crawl through some mind mud and finish something off when I’ve already done what I deem “enough,” it’s time to take a break. Sometimes the break lasts only a few minutes, a few hours, or can signal the end of what I really hope was a productive day. No matter what, I find a point to turn off.
5) How to be productive every day: Be realistic
There is way too much many of us would like to accomplish in a single day. Who has time for patience? All of it needs to be done today and maybe even right now.
Be realistic with your productive goals. You have time. Not even the greatest geniuses in history manage to cross everything off of their to-do list. Imagine how many projects of Leonardo Da Vinci went unfinished. Ernest Hemingway surely had a couple of incomplete books. Most important of all to the history of humanity, Pauly Shore likely has a whole handwritten journal of setups to jokes without a punchline.
Being productive every day of your life shouldn’t be the goal. Living life should be. While it may feel like a day of unproductivity is a waste, there’s always tomorrow. Just don’t waste too much time on getting back on the productivity train.