We all want to set new goals and do our best to maintain them. With the new year having set in, there comes a sort of renaissance tinge to being productive. Everyone wants to revamp themselves in the new year—the way they behave, the way they live their lives, and the way they go about doing their daily activities.
With the new year, one of the most frequent resolutions is to be more productive. With 2020 and 2021 being life changing years in terms of productivity, people have started realizing that "working hard" and "hustling" do not mean the same thing. Just because you work late or long hours does not mean you are being productive. Your biggest focus should be on making your work hours, however long or short, as productive as possible. No one should lose all the hours of their day in pursuit of productivity.
Most of the times, we end up focusing on the trivial aspects rather than doing meaningful work. This happens due to a cognitive bias called "bikeshedding". Bikeshedding or Parkinson's Law of Triviality was coined by the historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson.
The term comes from a fictional story quoted by Parkinson, about a committee tasked with designing a nuclear power. Designing a nuclear power plant is no joke; it involves a lot of hard work and thought. Rather than actually working on the task at hand, the committee of engineers would argue over what material has to be used for the bicycle shed in the parking lot. This resulted in the team going to "work" everyday, yet failing to get anything substantial done.
So how is 2022 going to be different in terms of productivity? Rather than piling up your to-do lists and resolutions for the year, why not take little steps everyday towards your goals and resolutions.
There are many productivity hacks that I have personally tried and tested over the years. Let me share a few sure-shot ones that have immensely helped boost my productivity and have become more of a lifestyle rather than just another new year resolution.
Conduct a past year review
After having heard people raving about "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferris, who is also known for his time management and productivity hacks, I decided to hop on to the productivity bandwagon by listening to Ferris' Podcast "The Tim Ferris Show". In his podcast, he discussed an alternative to setting new year resolutions. Ferris said he first started it 10 years ago after the death of a close friend's daughter and conceptualized the "Past Year Review".
This is a five-step process, aimed at being more proactive about putting plans in your calendar.
1. Grab a notepad and divide the page into "Positives" and "Negatives".
2. Go through your calendar from the previous year, by looking at every week.
3. For every week, write down against every person, activity, or commitment the positive or negative emotions that were triggered for that month. Plot them in the respective columns.
4. After having gone through your past year, look at the list that you made and identify the top 20% of each column that had the most reliable and powerful peaks.
5. The positives should then be rebooked into the new calendars, and he suggests to book it as soon as possible, since they have a feel-good feeling attached to it. He goes a step further and even suggests to prepay for events because of the positive outcome of such events in the past year. When it comes to the negatives, rather than ignoring them, he suggests keeping track of them in a "Not to Do" list.
In other words, Ferris applies an 80/20 rule to identify the top 20% of things in his list that makes him the happiest, most satisfied, or the least satisfied. The same has to be done for the positives and for the negatives.
You can learn more about it at his blog.
A 30-Day Challenge
Every year around this time, I see people taking up 30-day challenges. Initially, I was skeptical in thinking that 30 days can change my habits or thought process. But after looking more into it, I understood that the goal isn't to become a brand new person overnight but to build small habits over time. As Matt D'Avella, who is famous on Youtube for his 30-day challenges, says, "The improvements can be tiny — as long as you’re headed in the right direction." You don’t have to go from 0 to 10 immediately when forming a new habit; you only have to start small and nudge yourself in the right direction.
So what exactly is a 30-day challenge? It's a challenge to set the ball rolling. There are two important aspects to building a habit:
The challenge can be as simple or as complex as you like.
For example in case you want to become a professional blogger, challenge yourself to write everyday for 30 days. This is not going to make you an award-winning blogger, but it will encourage you to write consistently. Want to take things up a notch? Set a word count or a timer for the challenge.
There's no one right way to go about a 30-day challenge. You can curate your own 30-day challenges or you can look them up online and join a community of like-minded people.
You can read more about the 30-Day Challenges here.
Just show up for 2 minutes
Here's the thing: I've fallen prey to the idea of getting a system in place to tick things off my to-do lists, and in doing so I kept postponing actually getting started. I like to call this productively procrastinating, where you try to get a system or process in place but never get to the core of the task. There is no doubt that we can keep introducing ways and methods to get ourselves to be more productive. But what if we just did our task without thinking for more than two minutes? What if we just focused on getting started?
"If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis" ~ James Clear
As you keep showing up, you will master the art of consistency, which will then lead you to better results, and finally ticking off the to-do list that you set at the beginning of this year.
The idea is not to automate anything, but just to get started without procrastinating too much. This can be used in every aspect of life. For example, if you have a sales target that you are trying to achieve, then the first step would be picking up the phone and dialing the number, which should only take a minute, while the next minute you can spend speaking to a prospective client.
Or, for instance, you want to read consistently (given that it is one of the most common new year resolutions), your main goal would be to pick up the book and read the first page.
It basically boils down to what you do for the first two minutes.
You can read more about the "2 minute Rule" here
Hopefully, the above methods can help you achieve your goals and targets for this year. If you lag or skip a day/week/month, don't beat yourself up. Remember, you're only human. You don't need to wait for a new year to achieve your goals; all you need to do is to show up.