Creating a Structure for Having a Productive Day
Whenever I work with someone specifically around getting more done during their day, I focus on giving them a few key ideas that they can use for short-term progress and a few that they can use for long-term progress. It’s the long-term options that give them the most growth overall, but it’s the short-term ideas that show them how to have a productive day right now.
I think that this two-part approach is the key to getting the most out of a person’s productivity right away and getting them to a position where they’ll be motivated enough to continue with the long-term concepts until they really start seeing drastic results. Along these lines, here we’re going to look at some things you can implement right away as a part of developing a structure that allows you to get more out of your day.
Step 1: Meditation for Concentration
If you want to know how to become more productive inside of the next half-hour, then a simple concentration-based meditation is the first step you have to take. Virtually all high-performance individuals in all different industries and walks of life have a meditation practice, and there’s no excuse for you to be without one as well.
This step is so important that if you’re going to skip it, you might as well not even read the rest of the steps.
The type of meditation I’m recommending here will take around 10 minutes to do, and you don’t need any special equipment to do it. It’s essentially a breathing exercise that puts your mind into a mode to clear out some of the clutter and make it much easier for you to concentrate on the task in front of you. That puts you in a mental place to have a much more productive day, and it’s a key part of the overall structure of a day that involves getting a lot of stuff done.
Step 2: Systematically Remove Distractions to Boost Productivity
There are two main sets of things that you can do in a day: things that fit into your overall plan of what you’d like to accomplish and everything else. A lot of what falls into “everything else” will be pure distractions. These are things that take up a lot of time, have negative effects on you and/or keep you from getting more important things done. Of all of the ways to increase productivity that we discuss, this is one of the structural things that you have to build into your life to keep getting the benefits, but you can start right now.
An easy way to start with this is to think about all of the things that you need to accomplish what it is you’re trying to do today. If you’re a student, you may need your notebooks, textbooks, course materials and whatever else. If you work from home, you may need your computer, a planner and a calendar app. Regardless of what you do and what you’re aiming for, you’ll have a specific list of things you need to get today’s goals done.
Anything that’s not on this list of what you absolutely need is a potential distraction, and the more you remove those potential distractions from being able to interface with your senses, the fewer drags you’ll have on your productivity. Much like meditation for concentration, this will provide a simple and immediate boost to how you feel and how much you’re able to get done within a period of time. Here are some quick examples:
- Leaving your phone in another room or in your bag.
- Using a program to block programs and/or websites from your computer so that you aren’t able to waste time on them.
- Putting on headphones with white noise, rain sounds or some other type of wordless music (wordless being important) so that people are less likely to bother you.
- The headphones idea above also drowns out a distracting background environment.
- Having a dedicated place to work or study where people know not to come talk to you unless it’s an emergency.
All of these things have to do with creating a structure that puts you in an optimal mental space to achieve what it is you’re aiming at.
Step 3: Use Simple Goals Based Around Personalizing How to Have a Productive Day
What a productive day looks like to you is different than what it looks like to me because we have different goals and different things that we’re trying to achieve. If you clear up exactly what it is that you want to get done in a day based on your own personal preferences and situation, then you’ll have a specific checklist of tasks to work through. This provides clarity and eliminates a lot of anxiety, making it a key part of a daily structure centered around getting more done.
There are a lot of ways to do this, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes or so. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time trying to craft the “perfect day” or some other silliness, which will actually limit your ability to have a productive 24 hours.
From a structural standpoint, you just need to spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the day making a simple list of the things that come to mind that you need to get done that specific day. Alternatively, you can do it the night before just before you go to bed. If you take this approach, you should also focus on that list for a few minutes before you sleep so that your unconscious mind can work through it overnight. This will help you to stay on task as well in the following day.
Step 4: Learn How to Become More Productive by Optimizing Your Environment
This is somewhat related to some of the things we talked about in Step 2, but it deserves its own step when taken in the general sense. At any given point in time, everything that surrounds you is your environment. You should optimize that environment for productivity as a part of a daily structural routine that puts you in a position to naturally get more things done. This doesn’t have to take long, but it can have some pretty huge effects.
One person in particular I worked with studied a lot from his dorm room at college. He had a room to himself, and it was a huge mess. This was a reflection of the huge mess that was going on in his head, and the two became tied together to a large degree. When I had him clean up his dorm room and keep it cleaned up with a daily routine that lasted around 5-10 minutes, he reported back that he felt much less anxious, much less depressed and much more primed and ready to tackle his to-do list.
It’s not hard to understand why. Your environment shapes how you feel quite a bit, and it’s easy to think of countless examples of that. Optimize your own environment for getting things done, and you’ll become happier and more efficient.
Step 5: Incorporate Other Ways to Increase Productivity That Make Sense For You
There are numerous guides that will try to tell you how to boost productivity in specific circumstances. If you’re a ball player, then you have different needs than if you’re a single parent running a business from home. Think about what is specific to your situation and what types of problems you run into for your productivity that are unique to your situation.
Once you have a list of those issues, figure out structural ways to eliminate them or make them have less of an impact. Create systems that make these changes meaningful and long-lasting, and you’ll be working in an optimized environment both mentally and physically that will allow you to achieve what you’re going for.