Productivity is a precarious game of balance. I've only recently started to focus on maximizing this enigmatic variable. Here I will share my efforts with the most success. For productivity, I believe, it is necessary to be of good mental and physical health. Additionally, good time management is required. These things are easier to quantify than productivity itself, lending themselves well to visible change.
Meditation is the single biggest improvement I have been able to work in this area. It has given me the ability to see clearly, to understand and remove unnecessary feelings, and to magnify the person I wish to be. It has allowed me to define clear goals, to analyze my habits daily, introduce new ones, and remove old ones. It is a time specifically allotted in my day to think, to understand myself. The payoff has been beyond my wildest skepticism's.
There are countless schools of meditation and it has taken me some persistence to find the correct one. I began with a school which teaches to empty the mind and remove all thought. This type of meditation was not for me. Due to fortunate circumstances, I stumbled over a book: "Mindfulness in Plain English". The free pdf is available here. It is a short book, I highly recommend reading it. It is the introduction to meditation I wish I had.
The goal of these teachings is to be aware of ones own mind. Rather than shutting off all thought, one removes the self from the thinking process and watches from a distance. It is incredibly what I have discovered about myself during the first ten minutes of attempting this. It convinced me beyond doubt to keep going.
It may be hard to begin the habit of meditation. The book also offers an amazing insight to the solution of this problem. The author urges to force meditation daily, however only for a few seconds to begin. As with all habits, he argues, once the seed is planted, it is easier to expand upon the pattern of thought.
Physical health is also largely defined by habit. Daily decisions cause long-term consequences. Changes in habit take some time to display, and thus it is difficult to stick with something long enough to see the advantages. I can only tell you that improvements will have a significant impact on your life.
I have found that exercising twice a week bears many advantages. Most are hard to see however. They include improvements in posture, and strikingly, mood. Often the mind makes many excuses against exercising. I have found all of mine to be null and void through meditation. I have found that a healthy mind can thus lead to a healthy body, the inverse being valid likewise.
The largest improvement I have observed however, comes from a steady sleep schedule. It is impossible to expect to wake up refreshed after a long nights sleep if you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. Why people do it, is beyond me. I have found that a steady pattern of sleeping takes at least half a month to take effect, however the consequences of sleeping at the same time, 8 hours a night, are incredible.
As with meditation, these habits are perhaps best introduced by gradual change. Do one minute of pure exercise bi-weekly. Most likely, your body will even ask for you to keep going. If not, you still have planted the seed. Sleep half an hour early, wake half an hour early. Iterate weekly until you are convinced of positive or negative change.
It has taken me long to find a good time management technique. I am currently convinced however, that at least I have found a good one to begin with.
The pomodoro technique (site) is humorously named after the tomato timer. This technique encourages setting aside 25 minute blocks of time. During these "pomodoros", interruptions are not allowed, and are actively removed. The goal is to work non-stop, highly concentrated, on a single task. A five minute rest is then granted. During this time you may not think about what you are planning to work on, or what you worked on. You should let your mind wander towards unrelated things, make a tea, or chat with a friend. Repeat the process.
I have found the five minute breaks to be crucial. It is easy to get carried away by a fun project, only to discover after an hour of non-stop thinking, that your mind has grown wary and your mood has grown stressed. These forced five-minute breaks allow for recuperation and in the end, a longer time of productivity.
There is much more to this technique than I have covered, however it is enough to try it out. Set aside 25 minutes, work uninterruptedly, and be amazed at the results. It is only half an hour, yet it could change the way you live a large part of your life. In this category, at least, it is possible to see fast results.
I am aware that techniques vary from person to person, however I strongly encourage attempting to improve yours. Discover and try new things. There is so much to gain.
I am interested in your discoveries,