We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money and money is time.” The older I get, the more I value every second of my day. When I was single, I wasted so much money and time. Being productive and eliminating debt were not huge priorities. But once I got married and we had our son, it seemed like I never had enough time or energy (or money) to attend to all of my responsibilities.
I was regularly late for appointments, lacked mental energy to focus at work, and watched way too much television. I overcommitted because I didn’t know when to say “no” to invitations, which left me completely stressed. On top of all of that, I always prepared for responsibilities and meetings at the last minute which severely affected my performance. I was miserable, and my life was chaotic.
I quickly realized I needed to adopt new habits to make the most of my time. Some of you know a little of my story regarding money and how I went from someone who blew $106k in a year to a finance blogger who loves budgeting and hates debt. But around the same time I had an epiphany about money, I began to understand that my poor time management was not only affecting my mental health, but it was also negatively impacting my finances. My life was chaotic, my marriage was suffering, and I felt like I was spiraling. Something had to change.
The Root of the Problem
But where to begin? I found thousands of articles on ways to become more productive. The more I researched, the more I overwhelmed I felt. It seemed like they just gave me more methods and tactics but failed to help me get to the root of the chaos in my life.
My boss and mentor at the time, Scott, was a productivity machine. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was a robot. Please don’t misunderstand, Scott was not a workaholic nor was he perfect. But to my knowledge, he does such a fantastic job balancing work and home life. In many ways, he’s the man I aspire to be.
But I didn’t merely need methods or tools; I needed to understand his value system, so I studied him and others I viewed as highly productive people. I combined what I discovered with other things I found to come up with a plan for beginners. This seven-step process will help anyone become more productive and efficient.
Our Productivity Process
When we attempt to make changes in our life, we try to do everything at once and eventually fail because we become overwhelmed. So how does change happen? Small, gradual modification over time. Changing too much too quickly will always impede progress.
These are seven pillars as much as they are steps. They work best if you initially do them in order. But they’re meant to be revisited any time you feel your life is becoming a bit chaotic. Once you put them into practice, you’ll notice your quality of life increase and the chaos decrease.
1. Make sleep a priority
As adults, we think bedtimes (like Tricks) are for kids. But studies show that a sufficient amount of sleep will improve your mood, memory, appearance, financial decisions, health, and much more.
Despite the benefits of sleep, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) reports that 1 in 3 adults aren’t getting enough of it. How much is enough? That same article recommends “at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”
From personal experience, it wasn’t hard to conclude that nearly every unproductive person in the world is probably neglecting sleep. But if you want to make progress, you have to prioritize sleep.
2. Pay attention to your diet.
I’m not recommending an extravagant new diet or that you only shop at Whole Foods. When it comes to nutrition, I just want to cover the basics. While you can certainly do more, I’m recommending two things: stay hydrated and eat.
A Mayo Clinic article reported that a healthy adult living in a temperate climate needs between 9-13 eight-ounce cups every day. Although the “8 cup” rule isn’t supported by research, it’s easy to remember and should accomplish our hydration goals. It’s important to note that the “8 cup” rule refers to all liquid, excluding alcohol, not just water.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner — if you’re missing meals, it costs you energy. It’s astonishing how much of a difference a common sense diet can make. When you eat correctly, you can start and finish the day strong.
3. Establish a routine.
If properly planned, routines empower you to accomplish your goals and live with less regret. They also allow you to be more efficient and waste less time wondering what you should be doing, which helps you avoid mental fatigue.
The type of routine I’m prescribing doesn’t cover your entire day — instead, it is for your morning and evening. This is a routine for when you wake up and before you go to sleep. Why?
The way we begin and end our day is the most crucial part of our day. Morning routines set the tone for your entire day. If you have a good morning routine in place, your number of good days increase and your bad days decrease. Evening routines affect your mornings as well as the quality of your sleep — doing the same thing every night can set you up to rest each night soundly and wake up ready to jump into your day.
4. Plan your day.
I’ve personally experienced how useful planning can be. When I say useful, I don’t mean that it’s merely good for getting things done. Planning is helpful for reducing stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions that arise when we don’t prepare.
Planning is a proactive approach to making every day enjoyable. In other words, a good plan can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. A sound plan can also be the difference between a busy person and a productive person.
But planners have to remember to hold their plans with open hands. Events arise that are out of our control and when this happens, we have to be flexible and make the necessary adjustments. But when held in its proper perspective, planning can be beneficial and productive.
5. Delegate tasks.
Productive people focus on what they’re great at and surround themselves with people who excel in areas where they’re weak. If they happen to be great at everything (extremely rare), they focus on the things only they can do.
The art of delegating is essential to your health, happiness, or overall efficiency. The willingness and ability to delegate ensures that you will spend your time wisely by focusing on a few essential tasks and assigning everything else to capable collaborators.
Whether you’re managing a household or the owner of a company, delegation can help you minimize the chaos and increase productivity.
6. Establish boundaries.
Do you feel overwhelmed? Does it feel like there isn’t enough time in the day? Are your relationships causing anxiety and guilt? Is it hard to make decisions? If you answered “yes” to at least two of these questions, it might be a sign that you need better boundaries.
People without boundaries attempt to be everything to everyone, making themselves regularly available without any regard to their own needs, wants, desires, values, and passions. People without boundaries also tend to disappoint because they’ve taken on more responsibility than they can manage.
Productive people understand the importance of setting up boundaries so that they’re not always at the mercy of others.
7. Make time to exercise.
A government study from 2013 reported that 80% of Americans aren’t getting enough exercise. What’s enough? The recommendation for adults is at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week or one hour and fifteen minutes of high-intensity activity. That is 10-20 minutes of exercise per day. Adults are also recommended to lift weights or do push-ups at least twice per week.
The benefits of exercising are numerous. Exercising has been proven to make you happier, increase your energy, help your memory, increase your quality of sleep, improve your health and much more.
But physical inactivity can lead to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, abnormal blood cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and even death. One study also found that being inactive might be worse than being obese.
Anyone who wants to be productive but neglects exercise is putting themselves at a considerable disadvantage and health risk. Given the advantages that it offers, it would be foolish not to make exercise apart of our daily routine.
Become More Productive Today
I’ve developed a free email plan for beginners that will help anyone increase their productivity. If you sign up, I’ll send you a seven-step plan that will help you live a more efficient and productive life. Each email will give you explanations, tips, and tools to help you win at life. What you’ve read so far is merely an outline of what you will receive over the next 28 days.
The steps aren’t complicated. Anyone could have come up with this plan. But the key to reaping the benefits of this plan is execution and patience. Making a program isn’t enough. It won’t cause change. Acknowledging that you need to do these things will not make you more productive. To see a difference, you have to live differently. The information in this free plan will help.
If you’re okay with procrastination, anxiety, and fatigue consuming your life, this plan is not for you. But if you’re ready to get more done in less time, increase your energy, and decrease the chaos in your life, you should sign up today! You’ll have more time for the things that matter and spend less time stressing about the things you didn’t have time to do.