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7 Strategies for Becoming More Productive

Accomplish your own creative or career goals using this proven advice.

Michel Meynsbrughen/FreeImages
Source: Michel Meynsbrughen/FreeImages

I admit that I was a little skeptical about Chris Bailey's new book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy.

Would this be aimed at the super-ambitious, those who were never satisfied? Not that I don't want to accomplish my own goals, such as finishing my next novel. I wondered, though, if Bailey would have enough to teach us about productivity when he was measuring his own by how much he completed on this very book.

It turns out that Bailey is a smart guy and does have a lot of good ideas, tips, and researchto share, all of which he's tried out and tested on himself in a reasonably scientific manner. It's not your time you need to manage so much as your energy and attention, he stresses throughout the book.


1. Spend less time on important tasks. When you introduce an artificial deadline, you focus more, work faster, are less bored, and are less likely to have your procrastination triggered. For Bailey, this worked out best with a 20-hour week.

2. Make use of your resistance. Determine how much time you will spend on exercising or writing or any project based on how much resistance it brings up in you. Are you willing to put in two hours? If not, how about a half hour, or a quarter hour?

3. Assign yourself a Maintenance Day. Make a list of all the little chores that you usually try to do in between critical tasks, leaving you feeling like you never get anything important done. Then spend several hours one day a week doing them all, from shopping, meal planning, and cleaning, to watering plants and cutting toenails. If your list is too long, at least plan on doing the items when your attention and focus are at a low ebb.

4. Drink caffeine deliberately. According to Bailey, "Drinking caffeine is a way of borrowing energy from later in the day." That's because in 8-14 hours after consuming caffeine, it's out of your system, and your energy takes a crash. It's more useful for you to plan your caffeine usage before certain kinds of tasks so you don't become habituated to it (as we do when we have a cup or two at the same time each morning).

5. Just say no. When a new task comes up, decide if it ranks in the top 10% of what's essential to you. If it doesn't, don't do it.

6. Don't check your email mindlessly. When you read a message, act on it. If you have no energy for acting on them, don't waste time reading them now.

7. Write a letter to your future self. Get to know that person so that you feel more connected to him or her. Then you're less likely to keep transferring tasks you don't like to upcoming days' to-do lists, and less likely to agree to unnecessary meetings or uninspiring get-togethers in the future.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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