Disclaimer: I promise that this is not your run of the mill productivity porn listicle. I have slowly accumulated these habits over the last few years and they have done wonders to my personal productivity. Hoping they have a similar impact for you too.
#1 Find your core values, know your N.U.Ts and ruthlessly prioritize
I had discovered the blog Art of Manliness sometime in 2014 when I was going through a pretty bad phase in my life. I was stuck in a rut, doing the same things over and over again. Desperate to break out of it I found solace in this 30 days challenge. There was a new task created everyday for Art of Manliness readers to complete that would help them improve in different facets of their lives such as relationships, fitness and health, career, and personal finances. I completed all of them (replacing one or two which did not make sense to me with something which did). There were 2 specific tasks though which left a long term impression on me: a) Finding your core values and b) Knowing your N.U.Ts ( Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms). Please complete the tasks and come up with your own core values and N.U.Ts. I wrote about mine here : Farewell to Coupondunia.
Knowing your core values (and N.U.Ts) gives you a framework to prioritize tasks, plan your day and make life altering decisions. Instead of being uncertain and drifting along life you will have focus and a strong sense of purpose.
#2 Set goals and never have a zero day
Once you have written down your values and N.U.Ts the next step is to set goals which align with your values.
I consider myself to be the most important product I will make in my life and it is my life’s goal to become a better version of myself with each passing day. So how do I make sure I achieve my goal? By doing these two things: Setting metrics and avoiding zero days. Lets turn our focus on these two.
a) Setting metrics. In product management you have Key Performance Indicators(KPIs) which give you a measure of the success/failure of your product. Sachin Rekhi wrote a brilliant post on how you can adopt the same approach regarding your personal goals. Example. If your goal is to lose weight your KPI is your weight.
b) Avoiding zero days. I read about zero days first time on reddit and it has become a key indicator of my day’s success/failure.
There are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single fucking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didnt’ do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behaviour is keeping the vortex goin, that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget.
Promise yourself that going forward you will never have a zero day in your life.
#3 Make your goals public
There are 2 contradicting views on this. Some people believe that telling your goals is the worse thing you can do as it makes you complacent and eventually you end up failing to achieve them. I believe in the other approach. The act of telling your goals makes you accountable.
#4 Take notes
I am an obsessive note taker. I use this app called Inkpad by Workpail. Writing down things help you take them out of your head and concentrate on your most pressing issues. I also use the app to write down lessons learned from the books I read (so that I can revise them later).
#5 Read a lot
I read 63 books last year and am on track to read 50+ this year. I have written about how you can do the same here: How to read 55+ Books per year. Make sure you take notes :)
#6 Set daily reminders. Start new habits
I live my life through any.do. Instead of worrying that I will miss some errand I just create a task on the app and set a reminder. It is good for habit formation too. Want to start a habit? Yoga every morning? Keep a scheduled reminder every morning at 7 AM. After a few days you won’t even have to see the prompt from any.do. It will become a habit.
#7 Avoid the trap of fake accomplishment
When I was in college I used to bookmark all the new articles/posts someone recommended. I would assume (falsely)that just because I bookmarked a post I would end up reading it eventually. Sadly it never used to happen. To overcome this I have set a new rule. I only add something to my bookmarks (or share with friends) once I am done reading it. Creating bookmarks is also a great habit. You will never go ‘Wonder where I can find that article X shared regarding Start-ups few months back’.
#8 Don’t commit to something unless it is a ‘Hell yeah’
I never commit to something I am not absolutely sure about. After slogging at work whole day I seldom have time to indulge in things I am not passionate about. The worse thing one can do in that situation is to say ‘Yes’ just to please people. Saying ‘No’ is hard. Say No so that you can say Yes.
#9 Outsource all personal chores, save time on commute and do more in one go (if you have the resources)
If you can pay your bills online don’t stand in a line. If leaving office one hour early helps you avoid traffic then make sure you do so. Stay near your office (if you can afford it). Spending 10K INR extra to stay near office is worth it if you can avoid wasting 2 hours in commute. Manage to complete more than one task when you go out to run an errand. Basically optimize your life.
#10 Follow 1–3–5 rule
The 1–3–5 Rule states that on a given day you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. Hence you should only focus on only completing these 9 tasks and avoid all other incoming tasks (unless they are really urgent).
#11 Stop procrastinating using the 2 min rule
If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now. If it takes more then add a task on any.do.