We live in an era of illusion. We’ve been busier than in any previous point in time. But that doesn’t mean the world has become a more productive place.

Firstly, let’s ask us what does the word “busy” actually mean? The simplest explanation would be “to keeping oneself occupied.” Personally, I believe there are two categories of busyness in general.

Being busy by being productive

That is what everybody strives to achieve. The elite class of makers. A place where success happens and dreams are made.

Being busy doing nothing

Sadly this is where a majority of people fit in. The illusion of keeping oneself occupied by the things that don’t matter.

People in both categories have the same goal – keeping themselves busy. The main differences are just the things they’re occupied with, the end result, and most importantly, the feeling they’re getting out of it.

People from the first category are the ones who we look up to –successful people, great minds, and industry leaders. In contrast, people from a second category are very often the ones that are great at finding excuses. There’s always this one thing that’s preventing them from starting.

Let’s face it. Procrastination is a serious problem in a modern world. We’re carrying devices which are continuously connected to the internet everywhere we go.Being available all the time don’t come without consequences. We can easily get distracted from the things we should be doing. How can we change that?

“Do something instead of killing time. Because time is killing you.”

Paulo Coelho

Only do the things that matter

You’re standing here because of the choices you’ve made in the past. Every single action you’ve done shaped the reality, you’re currently living in.

Ask yourself, what would your future look like if you were able to cut off just one hour per day and replace it with focused activity. That means 28 to 31 extra hours of focused time per month! Imagine what you could accomplish with those extra hours. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, stay with me as I explain how you can achieve more by working less.

1. Learn how to say “NO”

That’s the most important thing that will change everything. For a very long time, I didn’t have the guts to say “no” because I thought I would miss out on something. In fact, when I was just starting out with my design career, I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way, even if that meant I would need to sacrifice things that were important to me. That lead to unnecessary stress which affected the quality of my work.

Saying “no” is hard. Harder than saying “yes” even when your schedule is already full. By working on six projects at the same time, you will have to make compromises, and that’s almost always a bad thing to do. It would be much better to give your complete attention to just one projects and go the extra mile with it. You will be able to reduce stress and deliver exceptional work. On the other hand, clients will be satisfied with the result which means everybody wins.

What are the actual benefits from saying “no”?

  • It creates margins. You can use that space to think, evaluate and plan for the future.
  • It reduces unnecessary stress. Life is full of uncertainties, so having more room to breathe is always a good thing to have.
  • It boosts productivity because now you can focus only on the things that you’re passionate about.
“You have to say no to a lot of good things in order to be able to say yes to a lot of great things.”

Sean McCabe

2. Focus on essentials only

Now that you are familiar with the benefits of saying “no” you can start applying that to get rid of all of the unessential things in your life.

The first step is to drop everything that you don’t want or need to do. What you are left with is the list of things you need to do. Here’s the good part, you don’t just stop here. It’s crucial to identify which task is essential and prioritize accordingly. That might often mean that you will have to say “no” to a lot of good things. But remember, that way you will be able to say “yes” to a lot of great things. When identifying the essentials, you can help with asking yourself questions like:

  • Which task will have the biggest impact on my life at this moment?
  • If I would only need to do one more thing before I die, what would it be?
  • What is the most valuable thing for me that I could do right now?

Identify essentials and start with the most important thing. One thing at a time. When you complete the top priority task, you start over and repeat the process. That way you are only focusing on the things that will have the biggest impact on your life.

3. Set aside time to think

The world wide web connected everything together, and it is a great thing, but what came with it is information overload. Ask yourself, how many social and other platforms do you use on a daily basis? What do you do when you have 5 minutes of spare time while you’re waiting for the bus? I’m not pointing fingers, but the majority quickly hops on social media for a fresh dose of dopamine.

We try to fill every single minute in our days with something. This busy lifestyle has driven us to the point where we stopped spending enough time with ourselves. If you don’t connect with your inner voice on a regular basis, you are just a reflection of society and the things that influence you. It’s hard to make the best choices for yourself in that state (that aligns with your values).

That’s why we need to set aside the time to think. Schedule a daily block of uninterrupted time. You can use that time to plan for the future, evaluate the current situation, meditate or just to think. That way you will clear your mind and sharpen your focus.

4. Improve yourself on a regular basis

This is self-explanatory. There is no better way to boost productivity than to improve yourself first. Besides focusing only on the essentials, you can do this with various other ways such as:

Positive mindset

The mind is the most powerful tool a human being is having. It is important that you remind yourself to think positive even when the reality is far from that. Learning how to get into positive mindset when something is wrong will help you get back on your feet quickly. Remember, you can’t change the past, but everything you do at this very moment will shape the future.

Deliberate practice

The more you practice, the better you get. But don’t just practice the process from the beginning to the end. Evaluate your work and identify your weak points then deliberately practice that particular thing over and over again.

Getting out of your comfort zone

That is a scary thing to do, but if you want to grow, you will need to step into the shadow of uncertainty. That will expand your horizon and prepare you for the future battles.

Reading a book every day

A lot of people stops reading because they had bad experiences with books in the educational institutions. If you are forced to read a book that you’re not interested in or isn’t stimulating enough can lead to seeing reading books as a waste of time. There’s an entirely different story when you’re reading the things you’re passionate about. The mental stimulation from reading can reduce stress and improve memory, focus, and concentration. Not to mention the knowledge you gain from the books!

Exercise

They say you are as old as you feel so don’t sit behind your computer all day. Twenty-minute exercise in the morning or long daily walks can drastically improve your health and productivity. It boosts your metabolism and increases the endorphin levels which will make you feel great.

“Look forward with hope, not backwards with regret”

Unknown

Conclusion

Stop living other people’s lives. Focus on yourself and ignore what others think of you. Once you do, you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. That will clear your mind and help you to become more productive.

Stop worrying about other people’s opinions. Haters are going to hate. Deal with it. That’s just a burden that will make you sink with the ship. You don’t have to explain your actions to anybody but yourself.

Stop wasting time with the unnecessary things. There is nothing more heartbreaking than looking back on your life and regretting you didn’t reach your full potential.