New Years resolutions do not work. Studies show that only eight percent of people keep their resolutions. That means most of your friends, including yourself – were not resolved enough to keep your resolutions.
I want to give you ten quick tips that will equip you to become as productive as possible – starting right now. Instead of trying to keep your resolutions – or getting super-frustrated that you are not able to do so – you need to create a rhythm in your life where you create, work and live – in a way in which is most productive.
The bible encourages us to be wise stewards of our time (Eph. 5:16). It is biblical to be positioned for productivity. Jesus prepared a plan for His disciples to follow before He left earth (Luke 9:1-6; Matt. 28:16-20). Being productive is biblical because it positions you to make a maximum impact for Jesus and His gospel, during your short tenure here on earth. Our life is but a vapor, gone like the morning mist – so let’s make it count for Christ’s sake — are you ready? Here we go:
Throw Away Your New Years Resolutions. What you will read below will equip you to accomplish everything you wanted to. But it will happen in incremental stages. Instead of trying to accomplish a lot all at the same time – create a rhythm in your life where you go from surging to retreating. Doing this helps you create a sustained momentum.
1. Front Load Everything. Never put off something until later, what can be prepared for today. The more you can get done before it is due – the less stressed you will be. Some people say they work better under pressure — maybe they do – but the people around them do not. If you have a meeting in the morning – or you are always late to work – get everything you need ready the night before. This includes your lunch (if you make your own), your clothes (so you won’t have to frantically search for what to wear in the morning), your car keys (that’s important) all your accessories (cellphone, laptop etc). Set everything out. This makes your morning super smooth. Embrace this front load principle.
2. Turn Off Push-Notifications. I have fallen in this trap way too many times! Turn off all notifications on your phone. This means you only check your email, social networking, etc. only when YOU decide to do that. Isn’t your list of things to get done more important than the myriad of other people vying for your attention? I love the iPhone 5 in that it has the “Do Not Disturb” setting. Flip that on and you are good to go. You can still get important notifications from your “favorites.” Push Notifications are the death of your productivity. Turn them off. Check your email twice a day. Have time blocks where you check social networks. Make your electronic devices your servants, not your masters.
3. Cut Your To Do List In Half. Get your to-do list out. Now delete or erase half of the items on it. Here is why: We get super excited to accomplish a lot. So we have a tendency to overextend yourself. Do not deceive yourself. You can’t accomplish as much as you think – in the time that you have. Once you cut the list in half, it is not horrifically looming over you. Start with the most difficult task first. Finish the easiest tasks last.
4. Stop Multi-Tasking. Multi-tasking murders productivity. Finish something you started – and then move on to the next project. Every single time you switch an activity, it takes you about 15-20 minutes to gain momentum to start it back up again. No matter how talented you are. If you have made it this far reading this post – I applaud you! You are more determined than 90 percent of the people that you probably know.
5. Use A Calendar. It is amazing how much you can get done in a day. At one point, I was attending seminary full-time, working full-time and volunteering at a church full-time — all the while being married. I was able to get everything done because I schedule time for everything. I don’t care what you use to schedule (iCal, iPhone, paper calendar) so long as whatever you like you actually use!
6. Cancel your next meeting. Before you attend a next meeting – ask yourself these questions: Do you need to attend? Will the information that is present be relevant to whatever you are involved in? Does the meeting need to happen in the first place? Are you meeting for the sake of meeting? Will something be derailed or not happen if you do not meet? If not, why then are you spending your precious time in a meeting – that is not bringing you closer to your goal.
7. Start small and excel at the simple. If you have never read your bible all the way through in one year – it is an unwise idea to cram 20 chapters a day, just so you can check them off the list! This sets you up for premature failure and frustration. Begin with something bite-size and increase your reading from that. If you want to wake up earlier – do not adjust your time to awake three hours earlier than regular. Start with 15-30 minute increments. I made this mistake last year. I wanted to write a new post every single day, five days a week. I was able to sustain this momentum – but only for a short while. Other priorities crept in and I could not sustain it. This year, my goal is to start small and excel at the simple. I hope to write at least one fresh post a week. If you want to lose weight, don’t do a two-hour workout the first time you hit the gym – when you have not been there for two years. Start simple, start small and gain momentum, gradually.
8. Don’t watch T.V. Most everything on is pretty much useless. Watching T.V. is like eating tons of sugar – not healthy and not smart. I don’t mind an episode of The Office now and again. But think about it. What else could you have been doing for those 25 minutes – that would propel you into a greater area of maturity – in whatever sphere you are growing in? Those 25 minutes are gone forever. Time is ticking. You have one life to live. Make it count. For Jesus’ fame.
9. Say No To Everything. Narrow your focus. Most people can be really good at about two to three things. Stop trying to excel at that which you are not called to do. Instead of spending time on ten hobbies, narrow your focus to three things that you absolutely love. Keep perfecting and honing your craft at those things.
10. Treat Your Day Job As If Was Your Dream Job. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” So take your broom—whatever it may be, wherever it might take you—and sweep it like you mean it. If you can’t do your day job excellently, what makes you think you will do your dream job, greatly? Use every opportunity as a chance to sharpen your craft.
My prayer is that any or all of the above will catapult you into a sphere of productivity that you have not been in before — for the glory of God and for the joy of the people that surround you.
The above might not work for everyone. It does work for me. The key here is not methodology (how you do it) but consistency (actually doing it).
Find the system that fits your personality and works in your environment. This will help you gauge the progress you are making. It will allow you to have a more thorough and thoughtful reflection as you progress in life.
Do all this for the glory of God, by the grace of God.
What are you doing right now to make sure you excel at your art or craft? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!