In this article we will accomplish a definitive goal: Increase productivity at work and give you a personal blueprint for feeling like a winner all day long. All you need to do is fill in the blanks with your own personal activities and to-do list and follow through by taking action.
This is a blueprint I actually use to get things done day after day. It has served me well, and if you put it into use, I am sure it will serve you as well.
1. The Night Before: Increase Productivity by Planning Out Your Day Ahead Of Time
Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War”, instructs readers to “win the battle before it has begun.”
We are going to take his advice.
Sculpting a productive day starts the night before, when you plan out your day.
I have talked about this in my article about planning your day out ahead of time. Creating a schedule for the next day does a few things for you:
- Goal Setting: By actually writing out what you are going to do the next day, you are giving your mind something to focus on. As with anything in life, if you don’t have a target or a destination, your mind is going to wander and your efforts will be aimless. Goal setting is a simple action that will give you focus and direction, and by writing out your entire schedule the night before, you will not only have that focus, but you also give your mind time to prepare while you are sleeping. Which brings us to our next point…
- Win the Battle Before It Has Begun: A little more background on the advice we started with. Your mind is amazing. And if you know how to use it, you can harness it to accomplish some amazing things:
- Your mind cannot tell the difference between your imagination and reality: Ever have a crazy dream that just feels so real that when you wake up you have trouble believing it didn’t really happen? Case in point. But we can use this to our advantage. An experiment was done many years ago involving basketball players who wanted to improve their free throw shooting. Two groups were formed. One group simply practiced shooting for a specific amount of time per day. The second group did the same practice, but added a visualization session, where they visualized themselves shooting the ball into the hoop. At the end of the experiment, can you guess who performed better? That’s right, the group who visualized. Planning and writing out our schedule has the same effect. By doing this the night before, we trick our mind into actually experiencing the next days events, actually giving our minds a chance to practice ahead of time, and experience the victory before it happens. This is an extremely simple, yet powerful tool that can add a potent boost to your productivity if done consistently and with intention.
- Break down your day: Planning and writing out your next day’s activities also have the effect of creating a checklist. The reason why checklists and to-do lists are so great for productivity is that they break down your day into manageable chunks. Instead of having a bunch of ideas floating around in your head about what you have to accomplish for the day, they are in list form. This allows you to focus on one item at a time and cross them off your list once you are finished. This not only makes your day more manageable but also gives you a sense of progress as you continue to complete tasks and cross them off one by one. A great way to give yourself small wins over the course of an entire day and keep your mood positive and upbeat.
- Keeping the Big Picture In Mind: This isn’t exactly something that planning out your schedule does for you, but more of a guideline to keep in mind when you are doing your mental rehearsal. Make sure you are keeping the big picture in mind. It is easy to fall into the trap of just getting by instead of designing your life. We obviously all have things that need to be done, but it’s important to make an effort to fill our day with actions and activities that carry us towards a goal. If you are building an online business a few of your goals might be to purchase a domain name, find a hosting provider, and create some content for your site. The next week you might focus on optimizing your site for payment so your customers have credit card capabilities. It’s just a concept of aligning your actions to work together to achieve a greater goal
2. Win All Day Long
This is by far the most important part of the blueprint, because it involves not only how you manage your day, but also how you treat yourself.
Put more simply, this is how you win.
We’ve all had a good win before. It feels amazing. Whether it’s sports, getting an A on a test, getting a big commission at work, or achieving any kind of goal. There’s a kind of zen peacefulness that comes over us along with a boost of testosterone and sometimes adrenaline that makes us want more.
But I think that a lot of us put ourselves in a box when it comes to winning, and we only let ourselves win when we accomplish something epic. But if you want to be a winner, you have to win all the time, and I’m going to show you how to do it.
You choose when to win – Think of all of the things you successfully accomplish throughout the day that you never give yourself credit for. Brushing your teeth. Washing your hair. Going to the gym. Reading a chapter of your new book.
Clean teeth and hair, working out and learning are important right? I think so. But a lot of us don’t reward ourselves for these simple activities, and I think we should. I think we should reward ourselves whenever we make progress towards a larger goal, even if it is cleaner teeth and hair. So let’s apply this to our day to turn ourselves into winners and be more positive and productive than ever while basking in the afterglow of victory.
Reinforce yourself – Give Yourself a Treat – The whole idea behind turning ourselves into winners is to experience winning and receiving rewards more often, so that winning becomes part of our day. The way we do this is positive reinforcement.
First step: find a treat. Pick something you like to eat, preferably something small that won’t take you a long time to chew and swallow. I use wasabi peas, pistachios, and sunflower seeds that are sprinkled with bacon salt. Fantastic.
For you it might be chocolate chips, gummy bears, almonds, or something else. I try to stay away from too much sugar. I think it’s a little too much to be rewarding yourself all day with candy and chocolate, but it’s your victory so choose your reward accordingly.
Next step: Accomplish your task and reward yourself.
As a quick example, 2 items on my to-do list for today are to write 2 blog posts, and record a podcast with Wells. I already wrote my first article earlier this morning, and after I finished I immediately(timing is important) grabbed a small handful of sunflower seeds and patted myself on the back while I enjoyed the feeling of successfully completing a task that brings me closer to a larger goal of mine.(Yes I actually pat myself on the back. It’s something I learned at a seminar, and it may seem stupid but it actually works. Try it.)
It’s also important to be versatile with how you reward yourself, otherwise you may either run out of steam or get bored. The article I am currently writing is much longer than most of my other articles, so I have been rewarding myself every time I complete a subsection of this article. This helps me to experience small mini-victories on my way to completing this long article.
On the other hand, if I am writing shorter articles than usual, I might not reward myself until I complete 2 or 3, as opposed to just 1. This is called variable reinforcement, and is designed to surprise you and keep you from getting bored. If reinforcement becomes predictable, it becomes boring and loses its effect. The victory is not as much of a surprise so it isn’t as enjoyable any more.
It’s also important to vary the size of your reward depending on the difficulty and time spent on your task. I’m not done with this article yet, but when I am I guarantee you I will walk outside and enjoy the fresh air for a few minutes while I walk my dog.(Another way to reward yourself). This is called a jackpot and can be used to give yourself a big boost when you have completed a difficult or lengthy task.
This is How You Win. You are the one who is deciding when you win, and now that it’s in your control you can give yourself more little victories throughout the day and experience being a winner all the time.
What’s great about this is that it’s a method that helps you to treat yourself better and with more respect. By combining reinforcement with your schedule, which breaks your day down into smaller chunks, you combine a more manageable day with more wins.
You’ll find that you become more positive and happy as you continue this practice. And the best part about it being a method is that you can apply it to anything.
Use rewards to your advantage, whether it is food, time outside, briefly talking with a friend or coworker, or just taking a few minutes for a break to rest your mind.
This is an extremely important part of this article, so if you did not understand this subsection of the article please comment below and ask questions. We are happy to clarify any misunderstanding. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THE BLUEPRINT SO BE SURE TO UNDERSTAND IT BEFORE IMPLEMENTING IT IN YOUR DAY.
3. Start Your Day Off Right
Now that we have figured out how we are going to manage our day to make ourselves feel like winners all day long, it’s time to get down to business.
The first thing you need to do is start your day off right, not only with a win, but with something that will get you pumped up and primed for the rest of the day. This is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of your day. Start if off well with energy and enthusiasm, and you increase the probability that your good mood will not only carry over to the rest of your day, but hopefully to the people around you as well.
Here are a few recommendations to start your day, before you do any actual “work”:
- Exercise: Exercising is one of my favorite ways to start the day. It gets your heart pumping blood into all corners of your body, stimulating your brain, lungs and nervous system. You don’t have to go crazy. Do a set amount of push ups and pull ups, or do a resistance band workout. Take 10 minutes to get your body moving and you will not regret the energy boost you get from this quick activity.
- Cold Showers: One of my personal favorites. Few things get your blood pumping and break you out of your morning haze like a cold shower. It’s also good for your hair and skin. Try taking a cold shower and notice the difference in how your skin and hair feel. It also builds mental toughness, which over time will help you to persist in the face of difficult challenges.
- Listen to music: Whether it’s in the shower or in the car, listen to your favorite music, but pay attention to your selection. Choose something that is upbeat, positive, motivational, and energetic. I like some songs that are slower, darker, and have more of an edge to them, but there is a time and a place for that. Think about productivity and winning when you choose your music and see how it enhances your mood as you are starting the day.
- Eat a good breakfast: I’ll keep it simple. Eat breakfast. Don’t go overboard. We obviously need energy for the day so make sure you don’t skip it, even if you only eat a little bit. Eat some fruit like an orange, apple or banana. It will give you quick energy. Eggs are good for protein. Also, stay away from too much sugar. It’s okay to eat some fruit or maybe a glass of OJ, but don’t go too crazy. If you are eating Captain Crunch with an apple and some orange juice, that is way too much sugar and you will most likely hit a wall and crash once your morning sugar high wears off.
4. Getting Down To Business
Now it’s time to get down to the real work.
We plan ahead the night before so we know what we are in for, and we give our mind time to mentally rehearse and practice, allowing us to win before the battle has begun.
We start our day off strong with some exercise, music, and a healthy breakfast. We are in a great mood, and the momentum from these small wins is carrying us forward.
Time to start the day: Take out your toughest tasks first.
This is more of a personal preference, but I hate to save the task that I look forward to the least until the end of the day. I’d rather get it over with, get the win, and spend the rest of the day doing things I look forward to more.
When you start the most difficult task first, you are taking advantage of your good mood, energy, and momentum you have created earlier in the day. That being said, even with all of those things going for you, roadblocks will inevitably come across your path and not every day will be easy. Below are a few tips to stay positive and persistent in the face of resistance and difficulty.
5. In the Trenches
These are some tips for you to use while you are doing work, getting after it. Sometimes we come across difficult times when it is hard to keep going. Refer back to these pointers to change your mood and give yourself the boost you need to keep moving forward.
Pay Attention to your Body Language: I’ve written about body language before and how important it is, but here is a quick overview of why body language is so important and how it affects your performance.
- mind/body connection – Imagine two different people. One is depressed, one is happy. What is the immediate difference you notice in their body language? If you are like most people, you notice that the depressed person’s body language is directed downward. They are looking at their shuffling feet, shoulders slumped, corners of the mouth downturned, head is down. The happy person is open, with their chin literally up, their vision is directed outwards and upwards, corners of the mouth are upturned in a smile. Now do a quick exercise. Stand up from your chair or wherever you are and look down at your feet. Now frown like you are sad, and slump your shoulders. How do you feel? Now take on the body language of the happy person. Puff your chest out, literally keep your chin up, put a big goofy smile on your face. When you do this, do you notice that your mood and how you feel actually changes? This is because your mind and body are actually connected. Most people think that when we are sad it causes our body language to take on a downward and depressed direction. This is true, but it also works the other way. If you take on a certain pose or position with your body, you activate the emotions associated with it. Act confident, feel confident. Act insecure, feel insecure. Act fun, feel fun. Act jittery, feel jittery. Your body language is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to change your mood and how you feel. In turn, your mood affects your performance. Don’t overlook this simple but powerful way to change your feelings and performance, and use it to act and feel like a winner at all times.
- Check out the Power Posing Ted Talk. It’s a good primer for how you can use body language to improve your life.
Surround yourself with positive and productive people: Even more powerful than body language, the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of yourself. Take the 5 people you spend the most time with. Think about how productive they are, how positive they are, how much they help others, and how they treat you. You are the average of those 5 people.
Want to bring up your average? It’s difficult, but you have to drop the people who are bringing you down and are being a negative influence on your life, and surround yourself with positive people.
Ever hear of peer pressure? It’s simply instinct, and it’s not just people verbally pushing you to do something. As humans, we are social creatures, and we need to fit in to create social value for ourselves. It is our nature to go with the pack, so use peer pressure to your advantage and go find a productive and positive pack that is going to push you to be better and continue to improve yourself every day.
Listen to Music: Refer back to starting your day off right. Listen to the right kind of music that gets you pumped up, optimistic, and ready to overcome challenges. It’s a huge help and an enjoyable tool to use to boost our mood in tough times.
6. Move Forward and Win
Once you get the toughest part of the day out of the way, enjoy your win. Reinforce yourself, give yourself a jackpot reward. Take a break. It’s a great time to go out and have lunch with a friend. You give yourself a nice fat reward, and come back feeling refreshed and victorious, ready to take on anything.
The rest of the day, continue the theme of knocking items off of your checklist for the day, and reward yourself as you do so.
When you reach the end of your checklist, give yourself another jackpot reward and bask in the afterglow of victory, and appreciate what it feels like to be a winner all day, be productive, and finish out your day with strength and another win.
This is your jackpot reward for completing the entire checklist for the day.
Go to dinner.
Grab a hot date.
Call someone you love.
Watch some tv.
Crack open a beer.
Do all of the above if you want, just don’t go overboard and undo the momentum you have given yourself by not being ready for the next day.
8. Plan Out the Next Day
Congratulations! You’ve finished your checklist for the day and enjoyed a series of wins all day long, ending with some rewarding and relaxing time to reflect and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Before you go to bed, make sure to reflect some more and think about how you are going to continue winning the next day. Learn from the mistakes you made today, and change your schedule around to experiment and see what works best for you, while keeping the big picture in mind. It’s important to arrange your schedule so that as many activities as possible are carrying you even one step towards a larger goal. This is a huge way to increase productivity. Just remember to keep on winning, stay positive and always keep giving yourself a chance to come out on top.
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