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The No. 1 Way to Increase Your Productivity

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Life is a cornucopia of routines and distractions, expectations and disappointments, necessities and frivolities. A lot can be packed into a day, and if you don't have a plan of attack each morning, you could end up wasting time and killing your chances of being productive.

While there are several tricks to increasing your productivity, one practice can help you in both the short- and long-term.

Be a creature of habit.

Examine your day-to-day practices. If unexpected situations increase your blood pressure and daily tasks continually get pushed aside, your load could be lightened by creating positive habits. Get into a routine each day, and you'll find you have more time to accomplish all the things you want and need to get done.

Now, the old adage says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Unfortunately, recent research says it's actually not that simple. It varies for each person and circumstance and can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. Only you can find out where you fall on that scale, but you can start crossing off days right now by making today Day 1.

Here are a few tips to help you increase your productivity and become a successful creature of habit:

  1. Allocate time for daily necessities. Charles Buxton, an English writer born in the 1800s, said, "You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it." You set aside time each morning and night to brush your teeth (hopefully), so make time for the other necessities. Allocate 10-15 minutes each day to straighten up your house and do the dishes. Try to do it at the same time every day. Find what works best for you – maybe it's right after you get home from work. Before you sit down to watch a movie with the family, put in a load of laundry. On Sunday night, pull out your work outfits for the entire week. These little routine adjustments can make a big difference in freeing up your time for everything else you need – and want – to do. Speaking of making time ...
  2. Exercise. Ah, the dreaded word! Before your eyes quickly jump to the next tip, hear me out. Exercise does not mean running at breakneck speed or strenuously lifting weights for a full 60 minutes. Forms of exercise differ for every person, so find what fits for you. Not into sweating? Try 20 minutes of Pilates or yoga before work or a 20-minute walk before dinner. Feel like you have pent-up aggression? Sign up for a kickboxing class. Making time to exercise each day can boost your energy levels; thus, you'll have more energy to cross items off your to-do list. (While there is no shortage of articles on the benefits of exercise, here is a good one to inspire you.)
  3. Train your emotional responses. Being a creature of habit isn't just about physical routines; it can extend to your mentality. You control your thoughts, so make them positive. If you groan every time you are assigned a new project, your brain's default is going to think negatively every time you are assigned something new. Instead, smile and think, "I will complete this assignment to the best of my ability." If you wake up each morning and think, "I have so much to do today," make a conscious effort to throw in, "But it's a brand new day, and I will do my best to make it a great one." The power of positive thinking is no joke, and you'll be more inclined to get stuff done if you're not moping around like Eeyore.
  4. Be fluid. Start each day with the realization that you may not get everything done – routine or not – but you'll try. You have no idea what each new day will hold, so plan for the worst and hope for the best. If you decide you need to prioritize and delay certain tasks, do it. If you need to skip laundry for one night to study for a test, study! You know what is best for you. Always try to stick to a routine, but don't beat yourself up if you need to stray.

Your time is precious. You have lots to accomplish. But you can make time to be productive every day. You just have to create positive habits – and stick to them. Following these tips, you'll soon become a creature of habit and find you're able to accomplish more in less time. Start by creating a new habit today!

Find more time management tips - read our College Success blog.