“I’ll just work on it tomorrow.”
Sound familiar? We’ve all heard this before. Either from yourself or others around you.
It’s easy to move a task to tomorrow’s to-do list. The question is, can you power through that task today so you move even closer to your goal tomorrow?
This article will give you practical tips on how to increase productivity, beat procrastination, and keep you moving forward. Follow these tips on planning, the 80/20 principle, and affirmations to help you get more done in less time.
It’s time to prioritise and execute. Let’s make it happen.
Planning involves setting your goals and writing them down in detail so you can act on them. Completing the planning stage is just as important as completing the tasks themselves. Proper planning will help guide you toward your goals in a systematic, fool-proof way.
It’s time to put your thinking cap on. Let’s get started.
Start out by writing down your short-term and long-term goals. Just put them on the page. We will get detailed in a minute.
If you already have a journal that provides a planning structure, great! If you developed your own planning structure, whether that be in an organiser or on the computer, even better!
The most important thing to remember is to find a process that works for you. You may have to iterate on a few different processes until you find the one that works best, but that’s ok, it’s all part of the learning process.
Now that you have your goals written down, start making detailed action steps for each of them. The key is to be as specific as possible for each of your goals. Set aggressive yet realistic deadlines, periodic check-ins to evaluate progress, and allocate an amount of time you will need per day, week, month, or quarter until you can say you achieved these goals.
Remember, you are planning. Rarely do people plan goals, especially long-term goals, without correcting or modifying a few times along the way. As you work towards your goals, you will learn more about yourself and your capabilities, which will help you make more accurate timeline projections during subsequent planning stages.
Once you have your detailed action plan, let’s use the 80/20 principle to start prioritising and set you up for success.
The 80/20 Principle states that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. Put simply, this means your first focus should be on completing the few, high-priority tasks that will make the largest impact on your work. Once we prioritise your goals, we will introduce scheduling.
Low priority tasks may seem (and usually are) easier to complete and may be tempting to cross off your list first. However, your focus should be on your high priority tasks. Don’t take the easy way out.
Now, let’s use your detailed plan to put the 80/20 Principle into action.
Assign each of your goals one of four priorities: short-term high-priority, short-term low-priority, long-term high-priority, or long-term low-priority.
When assigning these labels, avoid putting all in the short-term high-priority and long-term high-priority categories (the 20%). Yes, all of your goals are important and will get done. However, in order for you to progress in the most strategic way possible, you will need to drop some of your tasks into that 80% category (short-term low-priority and long-term low-priority).
Once you prioritise each of your goals, take a good look at what you have in front of you.
Did you prioritise your goals in accordance with the 80/20 Principle? Are you sure? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, give yourself a pat on the back. You are that much closer to achieving your goal.
Now that we have your goals prioritised, we are all set to schedule those action steps and time allotments you drafted during the planning phase. This is paramount to productivity.
Put those action steps of your 20% category onto your calendar. Yes, this means putting those action steps into specific time slots on specific days. This way, when that particular time comes up, you know exactly what to focus on.
The most important thing to remember here, which will greatly influence your progress, is that you have to stick to your scheduled times and only focus on the task your scheduled for.
If you find after one day or one week that you are breaking up those focus times, you must reschedule and stick to the new timeframes. The last thing you want is fall behind so far to a point where you need to revisit the planning stage once again.
By the same token, if you don’t actually finish those high-priority tasks during your day simply because you have too many tasks scheduled back to back, you will need to make a small adjustment to your plan so you stay on track without overwhelming yourself.
When can I work on those smaller, less-important tasks? Great question.
If you complete all of your high-priority tasks for the day, only then should you proceed to the less important (80%) tasks. Again, don’t take the easy route. If you prioritised correctly, just checking off one high-priority task from your list is much more important than checking off many, if not all, of your low-priority tasks.
Lastly, one pro-tip to manage your high-priority, long-term goals is to have milestones. If you have a goal you want to achieve by the end of the quarter, schedule these milestones either weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the nature of your project and how much work is required. If you need to meet with colleagues or your boss regarding the project, make sure to include those check-ups on your schedule as well. These milestones will allow you to reflect on your goal progress and help you make any necessary adjustments.
Now that you know how to plan and schedule, let’s discuss how affirmations can help keep you moving forward, no matter what roadblocks stand between you and your goals.
The word affirmation comes from the Latin word affirmare, to assert.
The most high-performing and successful business people, athletes, and role models all encounter negative self-talk. In other words, their inner voice tries to keep them from going after their goals. What sets these people apart from those who quit early and never fully realise their goals is an ability to push through the most difficult parts in the process.
To help you push yourself through those not-so-fun times, we will talk about affirmations, what they are, how they can help you progress toward your goals, and give you suggestions on how to get started.
Affirmations are short, positive lines you repeat to yourself, in your own mind or out loud, that will help change the way you think of difficult tasks and situations. You can say these lines before you start your workday (future tense affirmations), or when you feel stuck during your day (present tense affirmations).
Repeat these affirmations as many times as you need. If you never used affirmations before, try repeating each of these lines twice to get you started.
Here are a few present tense and future tense affirmations you can incorporate into your day to keep the positive vibes going.
Present tense affirmations
“I will continue until I am done”
“I will overcome this difficult task”
“I will persist through failure”
“Failure helps me learn, I will push through”
“I am too strong to stop now”
Future tense affirmations
“I will keep going until I reach my goal”
“I will push through all of my work today”
“I will succeed no matter what stands in my way”
“I will learn from any failures I encounter”
“I will move forward”
You can even craft your own affirmations and put them into action. The key, just like any practice we discuss, is consistency. Consistency is the key to mastery.
Through consistency and repetition, you will rewire your brain to stay optimistic during your work, which combined with planning and the 80/20 Principle, will give you a fail-proof systematic approach toward achieving your goals.
As the great Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.”
Let’s do this
Now that we discussed a few, actionable practices to help you increase productivity, beat procrastination, and keep you moving forward, it’s your time to shine.
If you read this article and do nothing, a magic fairy isn’t going to come to do the work for you. You need to do the work, there’s no way around that
Do the work, stay persistent toward your goals, and most importantly, never give up.
Ready, set, go!