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Productivity Tips for Ordinary People

productivity tips for ordinary people

I have written a post about email productivity tips. Productivity isn’t just about time management. I just wanted to start out by saying that productivity is about so much more, and to me, productivity is mostly about having fun, while focusing on the most important things in life (or at work, as I’m explaining in this post). At the moment, I am using IQTELL as my main productivity tool.

I am always juggling tasks, and a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. It just felt like I was adding new tasks to an enormous to-do list, and the list was only growing. It felt like I didn’t get anything done. Productivity wasn’t even in my vocabulary.

I’m no expert when it comes to productivity, but none the less, this is my experience and I keep improving all the time, and I’m having so much fun while doing it.

Productivity in six simple steps

To me, productivity is related to what I want to accomplish in life and my work, and the niche I’m focusing on. So my take on this, will be from my perspective, and I’m a writer, who are focusing on marketing to make a living.

Let me explain productivity in six steps. And, I’m not saying that six steps is enough, because it might not be. But it’s an example from how I’m currently focusing on productivity.

Remember, I’m not focusing on the software or the servies, but on areas in my life which needs improvement.

Productivity in getting things done

I have really been struggling to get things done. I don’t remember how many books I have been reading on this topic alone, but I have been reading a lot. And, I have been testing so many types of software, and things to get me to focus. But, the one thing that really made me realize what I was doing wrong was The Pomodoro Technique.

I’m not going to use many words to explain it, because Steve Scott did a fantastic job explaining productivity using the pomodoro technique.

The short version is that I’m now working in batches of 25 minutes at a time, focusing on a single task, and I have 5 minute breaks between each session. It works great for productivity, and I get a lot of things done, because I am now on a whole different level when it comes to focusing on the important things on step at a time.

Productivity in writing

I really want to become a better writer, and I’m writing my first novel. I want to keep writing every single day. I don’t need to write for hours. I can settle for a few minutes, but my goal is to write for one pomodoro session, and here’s an example of what I wrote in 20 minutes.

The thing about writing is that I need to use the right software. I have been testing so many different things, and what I’ve discovered is that for productivity, I need to use a plain text writer, like WriteRoom, iA Writer, and Scrivener. And I need to be writing in full-screen mode in order to not get distracted.

Take a closer look at the software I’m currently using:

Productivity in tasks

I did have a problem keeping track of what to do, and to keep track of all the new tasks I was adding to my already enormous to-do list. So, instead of using a traditional to-do list, I started creating projects, and adding every single detail I needed to do in order to finish the projects. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t have a list of what to do, but I have many projects, and I keep working on the projects I feel like doing throughout the day. This is a lot more fun, and when it’s fun, the quality of the work is a lot better.

I use a software called Things, in order to keep track of all my tasks and projects.

Productivity in taking notes

I walk a lot, at least for one hour every single day. And, one of the reasons that I’m able to write every day, and to stay focused, is because I take a lot of notes. I add notes as soon as I come up with an idea, because if I don’t add the notes, I’ll probably forget what to do about the ideas. I use Evernote for all my notes, and when I walk, I use Evernote on my iPhone, and it syncs to my Macs and to my iPad. This way I have my notes with me everywhere.

Productivity in creativity

I decided to write a novel, even though I didn’t have a plot or any idea what genre I wanted to write in. I love all sorts of books, but I had no clue what my first one was going to be about. I started to think, take notes, and ended up testing mind maps. I’m still terrible at using mind maps, but I believe that to stay creative and to focus on productivity, using mind maps is a great resource. I’m still trying to get better at it, because mind maps makes everything visible and it’s easy to see how things are connected.

I don’t have a favorite software for mind maps. I have tested several, but I’m still looking around. I use regular paper for many of the mind maps I create, but I have tested some free and paid software as well.

Productivity in life

I used to only sleep three or four hours a day. I kept working as often as I could, and often both day and night. My level of productivity was high, and I was satisfied. Usually, I got to bed between 1 am and 2 am, and got up between 5 am or 6 am. I didn’t think that I would have any problem with that little sleep, because I felt full of energy and I felt that I was on top of things.

But now, it’s different. I try to get as much sleep as possible. And hopefully as much as 8 hours a day. I never get more than 8 hours, but 8 hours is perfect. And, even though I felt fine with a lot less sleep, I feel a lot better with more sleep. And, my productivity level is a lot higher than it used to be, even though I work less hours.

I’m a vegetarian. I’ll tell you why in a different post. Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean that I’m healthy, and that I’m just eating all the right type of food. I love Coca-Cola Zero, Pizza, potato chips and more. I could probably eat it every single day for years, because I don’t get tired of it. But, productivity is also about having the energy and being healthy. So, I’m doing my best to stay healthy, and I drink a lot of fresh vegetable juice and I have started to drink water instead of Coca-Cola Zero.

I used to play basketball all the time, but that’s more than 10 years ago. After I stopped playing, I didn’t know what I was going to do in order to get my exercise. Excercise is important for productivity, and I’m so happy that I discovered running. I walk a lot, but I need to run at least three times a week in order to get the energy for the productivity to be on top.

What’s important isn’t what I am doing to increase my productivity. What’s important is that you focus on the areas in life where you want to make changes and feel an urge to increase your productivity. Keep the end in mind, and then find the methods.

Do you focus on productivity in different areas in life?

31 responses to “Productivity Tips for Ordinary People”

  1. Carolyn says:

    Excellent advice, Jens. With starting your new business soon you will need to be extra productive and healthy. I’m glad you are taking these steps to maximize your efficiency.

    If you want an iPad app for mind mapping, check out iBrainstorm.

  2. It’s amazing to me how much people have in common with each other. I guess this is why there are programs and applications that support our need- because its common. I also love Evernote (and Skitch). I recently started to use Insightly for managing my CRM/tasks/projects etc. and it’s keeping my staff and me organized quite nicely! I will be very interested to hear what mind-mapping software that you have been exploring and what your take on them is. I have not attached myself to any particular product in that area, either.

    P.S. I’m starting a Social Media tribe on Triberr and sent you an invite. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Larua,

      You’re absolutely right. I have been reading a lot about productivity, and it seems that most of the people I know online are doing the same things. And that’s probably because we do the things that work. I haven’t heard of insightly, so that’s something I need to take a closer look at.

      I have tested xmind, MindNode, freemind and MindJet, and probably a few more. But so far, I haven’t found “the perfect software”. I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, but it just needs to feel right πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot for inviting me to your social media tribe.

  3. Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Jens,

    I did check out Steve’s article on the Pomodoro technique (one of the best I’ve seen) but I also liked how you are managing your time yourself.

    I don’t know any of the writing tools you mentioned but I’m definitely checking them out, thanks!


    • Hey Sergio,

      Yes, Steve’s article is awesome. I have been testing the pomodoro technique on and off for a few months, but after reading Steve’s article I really wanted to do something about it, and I’m turning it into a permanent part of my daily work.

      Let me know what you think about the writing tools. I believe there are free trials on all of them.

  4. Mark Harai says:

    Hey Jens, these are some great tips; I’m going to steal your ‘productivity in tasks.’

    I like the concept of turning tasks into projects. A defining start and finish : )

    • Hey Mark,

      “Steal” as much as you want πŸ™‚

      I think that part of the productivity is the best, and the reason why I have been able to do so much and still have a lot of fun doing it πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Jens,
    I like the idea of limiting “time frames” to fulfill certain tasks. I have been trying to set a timer for 15 min. and setting up tasks that need to be done and assigning an “appointment time” to get it done in. Seems to help. I’ll have to try the 25 min. interval, that might work better!? Thanks for sharing this productivity system. I’m going to do more reading on it. We need great ideas to trick ourselves into getting more work done. : )
    My Best,

    • Hi Stephen,

      15 minutes seems a little short for me. I have been testing a lot of different “techniques” and the pomodoro is what works best. I get just enough done in order to take a short break, and I work 4 sessions before a longer break. I have an app on my iPad and on my MacBook in order to keep track of the time and the tasks.

  6. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    Love this post on productivity and for sharing some of the things you are doing and using.

    I had also read Steve’s post on the Pomodoro Technique but I work in 50 minute increments and take 10 minute breaks in between. I learned this from Mike Dillard and I even use a timer to help me know when my time is up. It really does help become much more productive I admit.

    I do have my to do list and am usually able to accomplish everything on it each day. There are some days they run over but that’s okay, as long as I get the majority of my work finished I’m good.

    Great suggestions and I have no doubt this helps you become very productive so congratulations. And I hope the novel is coming along too!

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Wow, 50 minutes. It looks like it’s working great for you. I’m not sure, but for me, 50 minutes might be a little long. It all depends on the task. I always get sidetracked with some tasks (tasks that are kind of boring), but with 25 minutes, I can always stay focused πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot for sharing your productivity tips Adrienne.

  7. Bill Dorman says:

    Damn Jens, way too organized; sounds like work to me……..I’m the ‘just show up’ guy, remember.

    Actually it sounds like you can probably fit a lot in your day if you take the time to add a little more structure to it. It would be interesting to see a follow-up post in 30 days and you could talk about what really worked and what you were able to accomplish; or if you fell back into your previous routine.

    Keep that in mind and drink plenty of water; no Coke……..:)

    • I do my best to stay organized Bill, but it may sound a lot more than it actually is. Some days, like today, I don’t get anything done. I’ve been out walking for 3 hours though, and I’ve had some interesting ideas, but that’s about it πŸ™‚

  8. Hajra says:

    Hey Jens,

    I would agree with Bill. This is way too much organization! And all I organize is my room and desk and then I am just tired! πŸ™‚

    I think to be productive we need to have the motivation to keep going. If we lose the steam, we lose the will to actually be productive and do something on a constant basis.

    I think the best way to list the goals and follow up every week or every month or better, have an accountability partner and see if things are working on the whole!

    And yes, focus and determination goes a long way! πŸ™‚

    • Motivation is the key, that’s true. And we’re all different when it comes to productivity. I like to stay organized on some things, and for instance, when I’m out walking I know what to do with an idea if I get one, but I’m not organizing my thoughts. I just let them flow, and that’s when I’m at my most creative πŸ™‚

  9. Ashvini says:

    Hi Jens,

    You have really listed some good tips. I often have set agenda for each day and I try my best to fulfill it.

    I use a few tools which I am listing here.

    Freemind for mind map
    Google Desktop for taking notes.
    Jorte – Android app for activities
    Google Calendar for setting up activities
    Live writer for writing blog

    • Hey Ashvini,

      I have tested Freemind, and I really liked it, and the same with Google Desktop and Google Calendar, but that’s about it.

      What do you use for writing, are you always using Live writer? I write all my drafts using software like WriteRoom and iA Writer, and when I’m done with the draft, I copy and paste it into wordpress. I’m a lot more creative when it comes to writing in full screen mode.

  10. Jack says:

    Hi Jens,

    I am a fan of working in 25 minute increments. It works well for me. I can bear down and get quite a bit done in that time frame but still be able to take a moment to catch my breath and relax.

  11. olatoun-graceny says:

    hankyou for sharing your productivity tips, I Learnt a lot… One of the problems I have with writing is procastination I need to work at that. I will also check out all the soft
    wares you mentioned. Wishing you the best as you work at your marketing career this year.

    • I certainly understand the problem with procastination. The best way to do something about it is to use the pomodoro technique, that’s how I started to get more focused and to get a lot more done.

      Thanks a lot for your kind words and your support.

  12. Beth says:

    Same thing here. I used to stay up late doing both useful and nonsense things! LOL But, as grow older (though I’m just close to mid 20s), I can feel that I need to change my routine now. Cause I don’t want to grow older without finally enjoying my life because I acquired lots of sicknesses in my body, all because I’m careless when I’m younger.

    • Hi Beth,

      It’s true that we get a lot wiser as we grow older. We need to focus, and one of the best ways to do that is to get enough sleep. I don’t sleep 8 hours every single day, but I do my best to get close to 8 hours every day… and when I wake up in the morning I feel so much better and I’m ready for a day of fun and awesomeness πŸ™‚

      • Beth says:

        Yeah, sleep can re-energized us so we can do another set of tasks the next day. Finding enough time to sleep is a must in order for us to maintain healthy body too.

  13. Daniel says:

    Very interesting article from which I learned interesting things.

  14. tony hao says:

    Hey Jens, these are some great tips; I’m going to steal your β€˜productivity in tasks.’

    I like the concept of turning tasks into projects. A defining start and finish : )

  15. Alex says:

    Productivity is being efficient and effective in every way you do. It’s being dedicating yourself to future goals and challenges that may come in our lives.

  16. Salifuj says:

    This is one of the most concise productivity article i have seen for a while now. In as much as we all strive to be productive in what we are doing, just a few of us get to that level. Hopefully, Jens, this article will help readers in their effort to improve themselves.

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