6 actions that made 2017 my most productive year ever

The amount of things some people get done seems endless. You start to calculate the hours and it doesn't add up.

What is their secret? How are they getting so much done? We all got the same 24 hours a day limitation.

I've always been fascinated by productive people.

I've tried a lot of the different productivity hacks out there — and a lot of them work. However, the struggle has always been to keep them going.

Things happens in life that will challenge your newly adopted habits and suddenly your hard earned habits die and you're back to square one.

This year I decided that this had to stop. No more creating habits I couldn't keep up with. I needed to create habits that I could stick to.

Now that the year is about to reach its end, I've ended up with 6 actions that have helped me get more productive than ever — and that I'm confident I'll stick to.

Getting up in the morning

The alarm is beeping — the clock is 0515.

I have to admit, it's a horrible feeling. All sort of thoughts are spinning through your mind trying to justify hitting the snooze button, giving yourself a few more minutes of sleep.

Don't!

It's not always easy, but getting up an hour earlier has been one of my biggest improvements.

It's amazing what you can get done with an extra hour on the clock!

I find this extra hour in the morning my best one.

First of all, it's the easiest hour to create habits. There are no disturbance or any sudden change of plans. Because what else are you going to do at 0515, right? Who else wants your time at this hour?

Another thing is that you're really raising the bar of how the day should be — and all this before the sun gets up.

Making priorities

Life is exiting, and there are so many things we want to do and every day there are new things to get hyped about. Sadly the day only consist of 24 hours, meaning you have to make priorities.

This was a major thing for me — to not only realise - but also to make happen.

Sure, I wanted to do all sort of things — and that is a good thing. However doing all of them at once left me with nothing. I just got lots of things half way done.

When I realised this I simply made a list of what I wanted to achieve and what I needed to do to get it done.

Then every time I feel the urge to dive deep into something new I take a step back and look at my list of priorities — is this really what I want to do? Do I want to sacrifice my current priorities for something new?

Usually the answer is no.

After introducing this list I quickly saw results. I produced way more than before — and everything was measurable which kept boosting the motivation.

So to summarise - make priorities. What are your long term and short term goals? Write them down and stick to them until their done.

Avoid context switches by writing down thoughts and ideas

New thoughts and ideas pop up all the time — it's a great feeling. The problem however is that these thoughts quickly remove focus from what you're currently working on.

This can quickly lead to unfortunate context switching that will slow down your productivity.

To address this I started writing down new thoughts and ideas straight away. When their written down I leave them to continue on what I actually am working on.

I've found Trello extremely useful for this type of brain dump. It's really flexible and allows you to structure your things however you like.

Plan ahead — schedule what to do

You finally found some time to get things done. However, there are zillions of things you want to address. Suddenly you realise that your time is up without you even getting started on a task.

To make sure this won't happen I'm always trying my best to plan ahead. As soon as I know I got some time in my schedule to get some work done, I dive into my Trello board to find a task that is fitting for the given time. This way I know when the time comes exactly what I'm going to do.

Doing this makes me productive from the first minute. I've found this really helpful, because gaps in the schedule often are spread all across the day in smaller batches. So wasting valuable minutes every time to figuring out what to do quickly becomes a huge cost.

Being productive while traveling

Everyday I take the subway to work. If you look around we're all doing the same — looking at some random newspaper or scrolling through some social media. It's just a few minutes right?

But then ask yourself this: How much time do you really use traveling around everyday? If you combine all this time, minutes quickly become hours.

So instead of pulling up my phone to look at something random, I try to work on my priorities. In alignment with the previous section about planning ahead, I've already identified a fitting task for the 20 min subway ride. This way I can start being productive even before the train leaves the station.

Making things convenient

Creating habits is hard. So what can we do to ease the pain? I've found especially one thing really helpful:

I need to make the habits convenient to follow.

So what does this mean?

I need to focus on trying to figure out how I could make everything around the habits as smooth as possible so I only need to focus on actually keeping the habits alive.

For my reading, this meant buying a Kindle. Sure I could read on my phone, but I find it easier and more comfortable to read when using the Kindle.

Same goes for everything else — I kept identifying ways to make the habits as easy as possible to follow.

Another example is that I signed up for the gym straight beside work. To keep the habit of going to the gym as often as I strive for, I needed to make sure that the effort of actually getting there was next to nothing — plus it saves me hours every week that I can use on other things.

So there you go...

6 changes that have made 2017 my most productive year ever. Some of them — if not all — may seem obvious, but by bringing awareness to them and bringing them to action is what really makes the difference.