- Productivity is about working on the right things (effectiveness), doing them in the best possible way (efficiency) and enjoying the process and outcomes (fulfilment).
- There is a formula for being productive. Miss one element, and productivity goes down; hit all five and you will experience extraordinary productivity.
- The formula is productivity = clarity + energy + focus + system – distractions. Print out your guide for better productivity here.
Article provided by Dr. Mark Atkinson, Bulletproof Training Institute
You have 101 things to do, you feel the heat and you don’t know where to start. You’ve arrived at the end of the day and it’s not clear to you (or anyone else) what, of value, you accomplished. You have a tendency to be disorganized, procrastinate, or be a perfectionist, and, if you are honest, you know it gets in the way of being productive. You want to change.
Are any of these familiar? Regardless of your past relationship to productivity, your future is about to become very different. This productivity system will teach you how to be productive and to be so without relying on adrenaline and stress. Are you ready to become an extraordinary productivity ninja?
Why Do You Want to Be More Productive?
Before we dive in, check in to make sure your quest for improved productivity is in service of a larger life strategy — one focused on creating a life of meaning and fulfillment. What is your heightened productivity in service of? Being more productive at the expense of your energy, health, happiness, and relationships is not smart, or sustainable. Being productive and living in a way that enhances energy, health, happiness, and relationships is smart and sustainable. That’s the focus here.
The Bulletproof productivity system consists of five components, each of which is important and synergistic. You need each of them in order to be your most productive and successful self.
Step 1: Find Clarity
Clarity is about receiving answers to important questions, like:
- What is the outcome I want?
- Why is this important?
- What needs to be done to bring this outcome about?
- What is the priority?
Of course, if you are stressed or super-busy, then clarity will almost certainly elude you. Stress negates clarity and perspective. Hence, clarity starts with taking control of your mental state and shifting into a clear mind, using a practice called centering. Try it now:
With no effort, trying or rushing, simply count down from 5 to 1 (you can do this out loud or silently), while simultaneously breathing into and relaxing your lower belly. When you arrive at 1, keep your relaxed focus in your lower belly and resist the temptation to go back into your head. Notice how calm and centered you are now feeling. Notice what has happened to your mind chatter. From this clear mental state, reflect on the questions above and notice how much easier it is to create clear answers. It’s a game-changer.
Step 2: Manage Your Energy
You are clear on what needs to be done, but if you haven’t got fuel in the tank, it’s unlikely you’ll get your best work done efficiently. Tiredness and low energy are precursors to distraction, disengagement, low productivity, and poor-quality work. The goal of step two is to generate more energy efficiently and become better skilled at managing your energy. To experience extraordinary productivity you need both.
- If you aspire to enjoy a high level of energy and productivity, do what many high-performance people do to manage their energy. They intentionally shift between periods of intense focus and productivity (say, 30 to 90 minutes) and periods of rest and renewal (5-15 minutes). Figure out the work/renewal ratio that works best for you. Of course, if you are in creative flow, you can work for hours at a time, and that’s great – go with it.
- To generate energy, engage in activities and work that are meaningful to you, surround yourself with supportive relationships, and practice the Bulletproof lifestyle. Be sure to make these a priority.
Step 3: Take Charge of Your Focus
How well do you stay focused? Let’s find out. Stretch out your right arm in front of you, and point one of your fingers upwards at the level of your eyes. While focusing on its tip, start counting up from one and notice how far you get before an unrelated thought hooks and distracts you. How did you do? The average score (because most people want to know) is 8. With training (in less than two weeks for most people) you can easily get to 30.
One of your most precious psychological resources is your attention. By default, if you aren’t in charge of your attention, your environment and your thoughts are. Learning to control of your attention and focus is a foundational skill for high productivity and performance. If you want to improve your focus (must of us need to), try these strategies:
- Avoid multitasking. Focus on one thing at a time, which means no typing on your computer while speaking to someone on the phone.
- Don’t distract. Stop compulsive checking emails or social media at times when your intention is to get work done.
- Carve out space. Intentionally create an environment that is conducive to focus (See Step 5).
- Calm your nervous system:
- Use the centering practice learned in step 1.
- Take l-theanine. The amino acid l-theanine, found in tea, curbs the stress response and promotes alertness, putting you in a calm, focused state. Dose: 200 mg.
- Try box breathing: Inhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Wait for a count of four. Repeat until you feel calm and centered again. Watch our box breathing video here.
- Meditate. It’s the gold standard for training one’s attention. Learn how to meditate now.
Step 4: Create a System That Works
You’ve worked on building clarity, energy and focus. Now you need an organized system that transforms your creativity, effort, and knowledge into the outcomes you desire. Ideally, your system should do this with some degree of efficiency. Here are the basic principles for creating a productivity system that works for you:
1. Create an organized workspace
- Create paper and e-mail filing systems that make your life easier organized and productive.
- Systematically clean up your workspace and computer. For most people (there are exceptions) having an organized, decluttered workspace enhances productivity.
- Keep water on hand so you stay well-hydrated. To super-charge your water, add trace mineral electrolytes.
2. Schedule your workday
- Do your most important tasks (MITs) work during your “prime time,” that is, when are you feel most alert, alive and focused. For most people, it’s in the morning, but for others it can be afternoon or late evening. What are the one or two tasks you can do, during your prime time, that will make the most positive impact for the day, week or month?
- Plan your week the week before, and your day the day before, and do so from the clear mind state we talked about in Step 1. For example, at the end of your workday, access a clear mind, and from that state, plan and prioritize the MITs for the following day’s work.
3. Stay on task
- Unless you absolutely need to, avoid the temptation to check emails or social media until you have completed your MITs.
- Check your emails 3 or 4 times a day (and definitely not first thing in the a.m. – unless you have to). If your job requires you to be more responsive, set aside five minutes every hour to answer emails.
- Break down large tasks into smaller ‘next actions’, then prioritize and set deadlines.
- Monitor and track your progress.
- At the end of your workday make a to-do list today for the next day.
Whatever system you create, keep it simple and review it regularly. To see how others structure their workdays, invest in these books by productivity experts:
- “Getting Things Done,” by David Allen
- “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey
Step 5: Manage Your Distractions
Distraction is kryptonite to productivity, if it is habitual and recurring. Being occasionally distracted is no big deal. Indeed, mind-wandering can be an essential part of the creativity process (read more about the power of unfocusing here), but if it gets in the way of you doing what you want to do, you need to take control.
Getting clear on what needs to be done and why, consciously generating and managing energy, training your focus and having a system that works all help to minimize distraction and build your resilience to distraction. In addition to these — and many people have found this super-helpful — write a list of your top-known distractions, keep that list on your desk and glance at it at the beginning of your workday. It will prompt you to not engage with them. Then get to work on your MITs.
Read Next: If you want to dive deeper into the world of productivity, try a free productivity master class at the Bulletproof Training Institute.