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Vishal Ostwal

I Write About Life

15 Quick Changes to Make You Instantly Productive

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Here’s a lesson I’ve learned from the changes I try to bring in my life – little changes work better than the bigger ones. Or at least, it seems to be so in my case.

Your lifestyle might be different than me. Maybe you are busier, have lesser time, or do a lot more tiring chores than me.

But here’s the deal – what’s mentioned below is quite simple. Something you can use regardless of what kind of life you lead.

Note: These aren’t some misleading quick hacks. I’ll be as honest as I can be.

Here are the quick changes you can use to be instantly productive

1. Turning-off notifications

If you crave your cellphone then you’ll find a way to use it

Deactivating your Facebook account, uninstalling messengers or taking hard steps won’t help you end your relationship with your cellphone. You’ll find yourself staring at the screen a week later, in spite of using those cold-turkey kind of things.

So honestly saying, the most useful steps you can take to loosen your grip from your cellphone is to turn off notifications, or maybe putting it in a drawer. Just try to make it less accessible and try losing your interest in it.

2. Wearing a wrist-watch

When I take out my cellphone to check the time, I do almost everything except checking the time

It’s almost the same story with everyone. You slide out the phone to ‘just check the time’ and suddenly get lost in the tiny wonderland of notifications, games and photos – then the daydream breaks.

It’s not your fault; your phone has interesting stuff in it. Here’s a little thing you can do to overcome this – buy a watch, and use it instead.

Watches look classy anyway.

3. Keeping a plain wallpaper

Whatever I see makes me think

You might say I’m a moron to mention such a trivial and unrelated thing, but it worked for me. It has been months since I’ve changed my desktop wallpaper. It’s a solid shade of blue. The screen seems peaceful.

No clutter. No distractions. All that I see are the icons that suggest me what I should be doing in the moment.

A plain wallpaper can keep you more focused than any other kind. Maybe scientists should conduct a research on this.

4. Having a jotting paper

I have a mind that wanders

I get random ideas while working, and sometimes I come across meaningful work when I’m daydreaming – I don’t want to forget or lose them – but it isn’t always a fair idea to quit the current job to switch to another task either.

So I do this – I keep a ‘jotting paper.’

It’s a fancy name I have given to the scrap paper I keep beside me – I write whatever that comes to my mind on it, instead of acting on a thought right away. It can be anything from a self-reminder about an incomplete college journal, a writing topic, finding the meaning of a word, or a video I want to watch on YouTube.

Once I jot down my thought on the paper, I don’t need to worry about forgetting something and I can peacefully go back to what I was doing.

5. Creating references

Searching for the same thing a hundred times is just a waste of time

There are books that I needed to read often, but I had to go through the index, every time. Every semester. It tired me. So I found a way out.

Once I find the things that I need, either in books or online, I keep a reference to them. For instance, I jot down the page number of certain sub-points so that I know exactly where they are. Also, I bookmark the websites I need often.

Keep a reference to something you need often and you barely need to search it again.

6. Keeping priorities visible

You forget, so you need something to remind you of your priorities

My computer screen tells me what I should be doing, and so do my lists.

If there’s an article I need to finish first, I put it on my screen. I do the same to the books I’m reading, projects I need to be working on and for the subjects that should be my academic priority.

It’s easy to forget what matters in world where you have enough things to do. It’s better to keep your priorities visible to you instead of anxiously thinking about them the whole day.

The best way is to keep your priorities visible, such that you can see them.

7. Subscribing to newsletters instead of using Facebook, websites or something

Newsletters are still the best option for you

I used to read news sites to read news, I then checked Facebook often for similar purposes, and I read random science stuff sometimes to update myself – in short, I wasted a lot of my time.

I got rid of doing this by subscribing to the newsletters of the websites that matter to me. Over. Now my inbox is a bit fuller, but there’s less disorganization. I saved my time. News, updates, trends – all in my mail. I can spend time browsing and digging all those sites, but I don’t.

8. Finishing small tasks altogether

Small tasks are like itch. They don’t let you focus on bigger things until you end them

You know what small tasks are.

Shopping groceries, fixing a leaking tap, or maybe something similar. Finish them all at once and make time for important things.

You need peace of mind and serenity to focus on important things, which can only be achieved by reducing the existing chaos in life which your daily chores bring to you.

9. Using a simple non-distracting mobile theme

If you want to use your cellphone less, make it less interesting

I spent a lot of time beautifying my cellphone – nice colors, cooler themes, moving animations, I wanted to always play with it. What I did was useless. Now I don’t spend time doing that.

The point is simple, the more interesting the screen is, the more distracting it will be and the more time you’ll spend playing it.

Nokia Z launcher – heard of it? It’s minimal Android launcher I’m using since about 9 months. I haven’t used any other mobile theme since then.

You may find something else you prefer. Something that’s simple and less distracting. See if this change works for you – switch to a minimal theme.

10. Quick Planning

You don’t get lost when you know where you’re heading to

My work always used to be a bit of random. It still is, though, what I’ve known is that a bit of planning can help you stick to your plans.

I used to start writing immediately. Now I create an outline and follow it.

I picked a random subject and started reading it. Now I figure out what’s important and follow a hierarchy.

So making a quick plan solves the problem.

Also, planning in your mind what you’re going to do on a particular day can vanish you confusions and make your actions clearer.

11. Understanding the choices

Once you figure out who you are, you can easily find out what you want and what you need

It’s always confusing to choose. Whether it be clothes, movies to watch or something else. In fact, a lot of your time is spent on these things without you noticing them.

I used to be such. I never knew what to wear. I didn’t knew what I’d prefer eating. I stayed confused about most of my choices.

To counter this, I learned more of what my identity is and what my preferences are. Sure, that took some time. But once I got a clear idea about what kind of a person I am, I’m able to make clearer decisions.

I wear solid colored casuals. I read more non-fiction. I learn from a list of my favorite sites. In short, my choices are clearer. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking over those things, still, having a set of choices at hand can be helpful.

12. Asking for help

You can’t do everything. Ask for help

I do what I’m good at.

Meanwhile, I try to get good at what I’m bad at. It’s as if I’m fixing my flaws. But while I do so, I don’t pretend to be a superman. I know what I suck at, so I’d rather ask for help instead of wasting my time without arriving on a conclusion.

For instance, I’m bad at technical ins and outs of maintaining and customizing my websites, so I ask Mayur, my friend, to help me out with that. Similarly, writing isn’t his cup of tea, so he rather lets me do it than getting his hands dirty.

But I understand how useful this practice can be – we all could be usually compensating for each other’s weaknesses. We grow faster that way.

So if you’re stuck in a certain situation and asking for a bit of help might rescue you, then be humble and ask for help.

13. Staying with the right people

You’re always being molded by those around you

Stay with the right people, or at least, stay away from the wrong ones.

Staying with the right people can actually make you a better person. They believe in you, make you feel loved and valued. The existence of a handful of right people can fuel the pace at which you progress.

Opposite to this, having a wrong company can make you timid and shatter your self-esteem to pieces. I’ve seen this happen to people. It’s a truth.

14. Setting Little Milestones

When you’re willing to go from one point to another, you reach where you want to go

Life can be somewhat blurred. You don’t always know where you might go next. So how do you go big? You don’t do it at once but keep traveling from one point to another. You do it by setting some milestones for yourself.

I may not know you should be doing, but you’re always in a state of doing little things. Take small step, towards your next success or dream. Then take another, and another. Setting milestones ensures that you’re moving in the right direction.

That’s how you get what you want.

15. Staying organized

Worrying about and searching for the same things each day seems foolish

I’m obsessed with this one – though, I can’t tell whether it’s good or bad.

I organize everything. And by everything, I mean my belongings, the stuff inside my bag, and even the order of icons on the taskbar in my laptop.

Similarly, most of the things I need are within my reach. That helps. I don’t have to waste my time hundreds of times a day. Think you waste a lot of your time searching for keys or wallet? This tip might be for you.

Additional Tip: Productive thinking

Ideas come when you seek them

I usually keep analyzing my surroundings and try to find out what can be improved and how. This habit is helpful.

In fact, if you forget everything you’ve read above, just make it a habit to observe all that you do and question yourself, “How could things be made better?”

If you do that occasionally and find out what habits or ideas work for you, you’d barely need to know something else.

You’ll remain productive forever.

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