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3 Ways to Be More Productive 

 January 21, 2021

By Collin Adams

I apologize for not writing a blog last week. My wife and I were visiting Seattle, WA to spend some time touring a few apartments.

We are planning to move there in June of this year, upon the completion of my wife’s grad school program.

The trip was wonderful! The Emerald City (Seattle) is almost too good to be true. A great mixture of natural beauty and city-living has both my wife and I thrilled for our move.

But, as is common during travel, my schedule got flipped upside-down. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

We often set out with the best intentions but, when even the smallest of circumstances change, we fail to see them through.

In this blog, I hope to end that pattern for you. Or at least get you moving in the right direction.

Here are 3 simple strategies for fighting off follow-through failure and getting more productive:

  1. Reduce Friction

The famous Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is well-known for his sense of fashion. Zuckerberg wears nearly the same outfit, every single day.

As I once did, you may be thinking, “ummm… gross?” To settle your mind, Zuckerberg just decided to purchase multiple sets of the same outfit, not wear the same articles of clothing each day.

Why does he do this? Simplicity.

You see, each morning, each of us wakes up with a finite amount of cognitive bandwidth. This is your capacity to think, learn, and use your brain throughout the day.

Ever got to 2 pm feeling drowsy and unfocused? That would be a great example of depleted cognitive bandwidth.

Some examples of waisted cognitive bandwidth are choosing what to wear in the morning, choosing what to eat at breakfast, deciding what you will work on that day, mindlessly wandering through emails, scrolling endlessly through social media…

All of these create friction in your ability to be productive by using up your cognitive bandwidth.

Here’s how you can solve this problem:

  • Set out your clothes the night before.
  • Plan out your day, using day scripting or checklists, the night before.
  • Plan out your meals the night before, or even spend a Sunday afternoon doing meal prep.
  • Plan out your workout before you begin.

That way, when you wake up in the morning, you have a full batch of brand new, fresh out of the oven, cognitive bandwidth to use on the things that matter.

I’m sure you can come up with hundreds of other ways that fit specifically into your life experience. These are just general tips to get the ball rolling.

  1. Set a routine.

We are all creatures of habit. Whether we always realize it or not, we often follow similar patterns of behavior, i.e., sitting down with your spouse after dinner to watch something on Netflix.

We create habits and routines without even noticing we are doing so. Why don’t we take the time to work on intentionally setting a routine in place for our betterment in productivity? Well, old habits die hard I guess… WRONG.

I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. We have an idea in our heads of who we would like to become or the level of productivity we would like to reach, but we aren’t willing to make the small changes necessary to get there.

Let’s take the clothes example again. Do you know how long it takes to set an outfit out in the evening? About 30-60 seconds (if you take your style very seriously, this may take 120 seconds).

So, why is it so difficult for us to do such a simple task? Probably because we don’t think to do it.

We listen to podcasts, videos, and even attend conferences on how to become more productive, yet we miss the simple things that will push us in the right direction.

Whether it’s sleep, productivity, performance, you name it. If you set a routine and show up for your routine, you’re already on your way.

When you show up for your routine, day in and day out, you give yourself a chance to be highly effective and successful.

  1. Give yourself a break!

Now, I know this may seem to contradict everything I’ve said above. But that’s not my intention here.

This has been an area where I have struggled mightily over the past 2 years. As we stand today, I am a 25-year-old living in a simple apartment in Pomona, CA with my beautiful wife.

If you were to ask the 12-year-old version of me what I would be doing at age 25, it would look a lot different. I would probably say something like:

“Oh, that’s an easy one! I will be a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, making millions of dollars per year, living in a mansion and driving a Chrysler 300.”

I’m not sure why I had such a deep obsession with the Chrysler 300… however, it still rivals as one of my favorite cars to this day.

All of this is not to say that I am in any way unhappy with how things have turned out for me so far. If I could do it all over again, I would not change a thing! Mostly, because my strange, around the country journey brought me to Michel, who I love more than any baseball award or any amount of money.

My point here (about time, right?), is that we can often get so wrapped up in our imaginations of who we want to become, that we forget to allow time for rest.

Recently, I have been struggling through a bout of burnout. Somewhat losing interest in what I do on a daily basis, struggling to have the motivation to work and complete my tasks, and having a very hard time focusing.

You know the drill.

However, in a recent conversation with a trusted friend and colleague, I was reminded that I am finite and I need to cut myself some slack and allow time for self-care.

Essentially, I was burning at both ends, trying to be as productive as possible. Allowing my guilt for not being where I want to be to drive my behavior, instead of taking a “chill pill” and allowing my passion and love for what I do to drive the ship.

We all fall into this pattern at least once in our lives. For some, it lasts a few days, and for many, it lasts years.

In your process to reduce friction, cognitive load, and structure a routine… build in time for what is important. Spend time talking with the people you love, go out for a walk-in nature, and just listen to the sounds, or just take a deep breath!

In our lifelong pursuit of high performance and great health, it can be easy to forget the simple things in life that provide joy and reignite the passions within us.

So, my charge to you as you go into this weekend is to consider how you can reduce friction and cognitive load, set a routine to follow-through on, and give yourself a break!

All with the intention of driving productivity, passion, and a sense of service for whom you do all of it for.