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Lately I’ve read a lot of articles and spoken to a few people about productivity.  A few common themes keep popping up.

First, Go Directly To Work.

Don’t start your day by checking your email.  You get dragged into someone else’s priorities, or you allow yourself to indulge in lengthy personal conversations.  Instead, start your day by opening your most important task first.  And “a quick win in the morning sets the right tone for the rest of the day.” (Jonathan at Illuminated Mind)  This is a great habit to develop.

Just Start

Starting is often the hardest part of a task.  Just starting, without over-thinking things, moves you past the anxiety that you’re holding for that task, and gets you immersed in the project again.  Once you’ve started, things are clearer and less scary.  I am hearing this advice from a lot of different sources lately, and it’s good advice.

Resolving to finish something is a big scary goal.  Just resolve to start.  Then start.  Then keep starting – it gets easier – until it’s finished.

The Power of Focus

Forget multitasking.  Constant distractions and task-switching leads to shallow thinking and makes creativity impossible.  Spend as much of your day as possible on your #1 priority.  This doesn’t mean don’t take breaks – just don’t spread your energy around.  Make sure your breaks are actually rejuvenating.

Actively control distractions.  Change your environment if you have to.  Lock out access to Facebook and other highly-addictive entertainments.

Goals

I should have specific, clearly-defined, prioritized goals.  With deadlines.  And plans.  I don’t have these.  Why should I have these?

Visualize

Imagine yourself living by the habits that you most want to cultivate.  Don’t imagine yourself as rich and successful, that can lead to disappointment.    This is about how you live and work, day to day.  And remind yourself every day about your long-term goals, and how today’s tasks serve those goals.

“I try to spend the first few minutes of my day thinking about the life that I’m creating, the people that I’m serving and why I care about what I do. Keeping those things in the front of my mind helps me stay synced with my reason why.” (Jonathan at Illuminated Mind, again)

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