How to be Productive and Still Get 8 Hours Sleep
Yes, you read that right. Productive people sleep eight hours a day. They also watch tv, go to wine tastings and perform sun salutations in the morning.
Productive people don’t have more hours in the day. Nor do they live perfect lives. What they do well is use their time effectively.
Here’s what I learned from years of going to graduate school while holding a full time job as a journalist and still having a life:
I need my eight hours sleep everyday to write my reports and still have time to travel and have coffee with friends. I know that I will never accomplish all the things that I want to do in one day but with careful planning and prioritizing, I can achieve whatever my long term goals are.
My not-so-secret reason behind being productive? I spend my time and energy on things that matter to me and ignore the rest.
1. Set a value for your time
We put value on a lot of things – the house we live in, jewelry, our MBA from Harvard – but are cavalier on how we use our time. But what we don’t realize is that time is a scarce commodity – we only have 24 hours in a day. No matter how much money we have, we can’t buy more hours to include in a day. If we put a premium on time, we’ll be more careful in using it.
2. Determine your priorities
List down five of your life’s priorities – is it getting on top of the corporate ladder, earning a million dollars, watching reality tv? Stop worrying if your priorities seem odd – only you know what you want in life. After you made your list, ask yourself if what you’re doing is aligned with your priorities.
3. Do a time audit
Just for one day, bring one notebook and a pen and put down how many minutes you used for each activity that you did for that day. Include the time spent in the shower, travelling and responding to e-mails. By the day’s end, you will know how you spend your day and cut down on the “un-essentials.”
Un-essentials refer to any activity takes so much of your time but is not among your life’s priorities. For example, one of your priorities is to finish a big project that will get you the promotion that you’ve been aiming for years.
If after doing a time audit you discovered that you spend about three hours a day on your Facebook account, ask yourself this question: Is this worth it? Would this help me finish my project and finally be promoted? Think about it for a while. And if after some thinking you concluded that this is an “un-essential” then gradually cut down your Facebook hours and channel those “saved” hours to any of your life’s priorities.
4. Follow your rhythm
Do the most important task at a time which fits your body clock. I’m not a morning lark and prefer to write most of my analytical reports in the afternoon. I can’t force myself to write in the morning – it just
won’t happen as my mind is sharper after lunch. I instead spend my mornings on routine stuff: responding to e-mails, drinking coffee and running errands.
5. Learn to say “no”
This is perhaps the hardest thing to do because you try to please everyone. So you end up committed to a lot of things because you were guilt-tripped into doing them.
But doing something out of guilt is not only a waste of time but will also strain your relationship with others because you feel resentful doing what you don’t want to do.
This is why I learned to say “no” to toxic friends, the type who call me many times so that they can whine about their abusive partners or their boring jobs but refused to do anything about it (much less listen to my well-meaning advice). This is one “drama” that I don’t need so I decided to stop talking to them.
I didn’t end up sad and alone and when I said “no” to these people. I’m happier, more fulfilled and nurtured deeper relationship with friends and family who respect me and value my time.
6. Get help to stay productive
You don’t have to do everything. If you are neither competent nor thrilled to do a certain task, pay someone else to do it for you.
You don’t have time to clean your house or teach your son with their math lessons? Hire a housekeeper and a tutor. That’s what I did to have more time. I hired a part time research assistant to transcribe my interviews and do web research for me. Believe me, the extra time that you’ll gain is worth every cent that you pay for outsourcing.