My Attempt At Productivity, What I Learned.

source: alamy

Introduction

A few weeks ago, I presented to my teammates some tips I have learned from my effort to be productive. I decided to put them down in writing for myself and anyone who finds them helpful. They are eight tips, each divided into three — the what, why, and how. The what defines the tip (from the dictionary or as I understand it), the why gives the importance of the tip in relation to productivity, and the how gives some ways I have learned to accomplish the tip. Let's jump into the first point which is diet.

1. Diet

What?

Diet has two definitions from Oxford Languages.

  • The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
  • a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

In the context of productivity, I define diet as the food I eat to enhance efficiency.

Why?

  • The type and quantity of food eaten determine the energy levels we feel throughout the day.
  • Food determines our overall health which is essential for productivity.

How?

When it comes to food and sleep, your body is the best judge. Sadhguru

Food is information that tells your body how to operate. Novak Djokovic

The type of food which enhances productivity is mostly up to your body. I experiment and make decisions based on the energy levels I feel the next day after eating particular foods.

There are a few general tips I got from the book All Day Energy.

  • Alkaline food improves the efficiency of blood flow which transports everything through the body like oxygen, nutrients, hormones, etc. Acidic food clumps blood vessels and reduces their efficiency. Acidic food examples include meat, dairy, processed grains, sugar, salty food while alkaline food is mostly green plant food.
  • Raw food is encouraged as it is rich in enzymes, water and has higher nutritional content.
  • Eat more than 2 hours before sleep.

2. Tracking

What?

It is the act of keeping a record of the work done as well as the pace of work. Tracking is done during a task rather than at the beginning or end.

Why?

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Peter Drucker

  • Tracking helps me know what I am good at and what aspects I need to improve. It is a great evaluation metric that helps in future planning as I know (from past tracking), how much time and effort I need, on average, to accomplish something.

How?

  • Using digital devices: The one aspect where digital devices are handy is tracking. Phone apps can help track a lot of things from steps or spending to the amount of time spent on every app. I try to take advantage of these devices to help my tracking efforts.
  • Planning: With planning, I can set the tasks to accomplish, the amount of time to spend on each task, and the sequence to follow. This sets a perfect foundation for tracking.

3. Questions

What?

A question is a sentence worded or expressed(in the mind) so as to elicit information.

Why?

He who asks questions cannot avoid answers. Cameroon proverb

The questions I ask before a task determine the attitude with which I approach it. The mind searches for answers to questions asked, and when questions have a doubt or fear component in them, the mind focuses on that because it was made for self-preservation.

Questions can be empowering or disempowering, both of which the mind can find answers to. Questions like “Can I ever do this” point the mind towards impossibility, difficulty, struggle and it finds reasons for you to believe these things. Simple questions like “What strategy can I use to accomplish this?” direct the mind to look for answers to solving the problem.

How?

  • Treat the mind as Santa Claus 😃, the guy who will give you anything you ask for. This way, you can start asking the mind what you want.
  • Keep a record of challenges the mind has helped you figure out, revisit them when negative questions linger.

4. Habits

What?

There are several definitions of habits but I love these two

  1. A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. Wiki.
  2. Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day. jamesclear.com

Essentially, habits are the small actions we take every single day without putting much thought into them, for instance brushing the teeth, making the bed, snoozing the alarm, taking a bath, etc.

Why?

  • The sum of our habits defines who we are at any moment— how healthy we are, how energetic we feel, how we see the world. In fact, researchers at Duke University estimate that habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors every day. jamesclear.com
  • Life can be transformed by creating tiny habits.
  • Habits free up creative power because the mind does not have to be thinking about them, making them both effective and dangerous.

How?

  • Consistency: Consistency is the key to making a habit subconscious. I try to focus on consistency rather than immediate results.
  • Cues: Cues act as triggers to a habit, making it important to magnify them. For instance, putting your sports attire where you’ll see when you wake up, putting healthy food in accessible places in the house, etc.

5. Focus

What?

Focus occurs when we say yes to one thing and no to many others. It doesn’t require a permanent no, but it does require a present no. jamesclear.com

Focus is essential for productivity because when you say no to other things, you can employ all the creative and cognitive aspects of your brain in one task.

Why?

  • Focus gets more work done.
  • It gives more time to get more work done.

How?

  • Eliminate distractions: During work, I try to remove all distractions within my power to eliminate, for instance, the phone, the smartwatch, the TV, piles of papers/books, etc.
  • Make the tough decisions: A popular approach is the 3D approach of Delete, Delegate, or Do. I evaluate a task against this approach and schedule it within a timeframe if I have to do it.
  • Measure results: When we have much work, we multitask because we think it gets more done. To convince the mind to focus on one task is to show it evidence of results with one task at a time.
  • Work in blocks: The mind fatigues easily with extended work. I have found short blocks of focus and rest time to be more effective. I do 45 mins work/ 10 mins rest in the morning and gradually reduce to 30/30 in the evening.

Self Improvement

This aspect of productivity involves improving self in all its dimensions. Stephen Covey calls this “sharpening the saw” in the classic seven habits. He explains four dimensions of sharpening the saw which are physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual. We will look at three dimensions (physical, mental, and spiritual) in relation to improving productivity.

6. Physical dimension

What?

This dimension deals with the normal functioning of the body and its parts.

Why?

It is the body that does the work. A sick/tired body will not accomplish any work.

How?

Exercise: There are varied exercises to accomplish particular goals. There is endurance (aerobic exercises like running), flexibility (stretching, yoga), and strength (i.e. weights, push-ups, sit-ups, planks). I have found that combining these exercises within the week improves my performance. These are some advantages of exercise.

  • It increases energy capacity by pushing the heart to surpass its current limits. This gives it more ability to efficiently pump blood through the body.
  • Exercise is voluntary and needs focus and willpower to be able to maintain it. It also involves making the conscious decisions to do it thereby improving the parts of the brain involved in focus and decision making.
  • Exercise causes the secretion of bliss hormones to improve mood. One of the reasons why I do it in the morning.
  • Exercise reduces the risk of many diseases which can impede productivity.

Relaxation

So, to prevent fatigue and worry, the first rule is: Rest often. Rest before you get tired. Dale Carnegie

I have adopted this philosophy because I found it effective. I measure how efficient I was by how “not tired” I am by the end of the day, essentially, I want to never be tired. I find it hard to recover from tiredness, especially in the morning. I strive to work in chunks of time and rest as much as possible. This gives me the energy to work for long hours cumulatively and also be more productive.

Diet

This was so important that it took a part in this article. The basic idea is to go as green as possible.

7. Mental dimension

What?

This deals with renewing the mind in terms of continually feeding it with vital information and giving it much rest(switching it off).

Why?

  • A healthy mind is a healthy body. Most diseases in our connected and fast-paced world originate from the mind through worry, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, restlessness, and you can name the rest.
  • The mind makes most of our productivity decisions.

How?

Knowledge renewal

  • Revise: Revision is as important as learning new stuff as it renews forgotten knowledge.
  • Learning new skills: New skills keep the mind vital.
  • Reading: Reading books/articles/papers in areas you want to improve is a great way to enhance productivity. I dig up literature/books/videos of people who have done what I want to do and study how they approached it.
  • Games: Involve the mind in games that encourage focus and thinking.

Resting the mind

  • Daily Gratitude: This is a form of rest or prayer as the mind is focused on finding what went well during the day. Giving gratitude twice a day improves my mood and productivity.
  • Meditation. This is a way to put the mind’s engine to an idle mood. Let the mind be on but not doing any work. This is more rest than sleeping.

8. Spiritual dimension.

the sources that inspire and uplift you and tie you to the timeless truths of all humanity. Stephen Covey

This dimension deals with our very core and our commitment to the value systems which we hold dear. This encompasses aspects like values, meaning, self, source of power, etc.

Why?

  • The spiritual dimension keeps us grounded and gives an inner sense of meaning which reflects outwardly in productivity.

How?

  • Personal mission statement. This is a written account of your purpose, your commitments, and your desire to stick to these commitments. This is like an operation manual, like a constitution which you want to live by. This is your go-to source when you are confused about what your priorities are.
  • Values: Values are belief systems that guide our attitude and actions. Values help us determine what is important to us, guiding what we pursue, what we eat, how we interact with people.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope one point out of the eight resonated with you. Please let me know in the comments which one stood out and how you have been/plan to implement it to enhance your productivity.

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Software Engineer, aspiring Writer and Entrepreneur.

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Clasence Neba Shu

Clasence Neba Shu

Software Engineer, aspiring Writer and Entrepreneur.

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