Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Go airplane mode. If someone totaled up all the time you spend in a given day responding to emails, answering calls, and responding to text messages, you’d probably be surprised—if not incredulous—at the results. If you want to actually get things done, shut down everything and focus on the tasks at hand interruption-free. Inbox Pause for Gmail lets you literally pause your inbox, which does the trick perfectly.
Clutter on your desk leads to clutter in the mind. A messy workspace can make you feel disorganized, unfocused, or even downright panicked as you look at all the papers and junk around you. It doesn’t take long to clear things off—especially if you have a lot of trash lying around—and the benefits of working on a cleaner desk are immediate.
It’s true that focusing on the present helps you get tasks done faster, but working on your next day’s to-do lists will help in two ways: First, you’ll help your future self by setting aprioritized list of items in advance, and second, you’ll be clearing your mind of tasks you don’t need to worry about today.
Forming a long-term habit, like a morning meditation routine, takes time. Forming a short-term habit yields similar benefits, but can be implemented immediately. Instead of introducing some new activity to keep track of, sort your current requirements into digestible circuits. For example, you could break each hour down into a repeatable process: 15 minutes of communication catch-up, 15 minutes of simple tasks, and 30 minutes of a difficult, larger task.
Breaks are important. Taking 10 minutes to clear your mind can give you enough of a mental boost to save 15 minutes of eventual effort. Even though it might be tempting to take a break when you finish a task, since you’ve reached a natural milestone, it’s actually more beneficial to break in the middle of a complex task—that way, it’s easy to jump back into things.
Large, complex tasks are the usual culprits in slowing us down. The idea of a large task can distract you or weigh on your motivation. Instead of trying to plow your way through it,break it up into sections of effort. You’ll trade one large task for several smaller ones, and it will be easier to motivate yourself and measure your progress.
Mindless tasks are annoying when they’re on a task list, but when you’re actually doing them, they can be quite relaxing. If you don’t have time for a real break, take time away from your current sprint to work on something mindless. It will keep you productive while giving your mind a chance to decompress.
No matter how focused or busy you are, the Internet is always a temptation. Even if your motivations are purely professional, such as checking in on your LinkedIn contacts or tweeting on behalf of your company, there are heavy distractions on every corner of the Web. To stop yourself immediately, choose a handful of tasks to work on offline, and disconnect your Internet for a set amount of time.
Some meetings are genuinely productive. Most meetings are not. Find an unnecessary meeting to skip—possibly an internal one—and replace it with a bulleted email that contains a list of objectives, a list of deliverables, and a list of questions (if applicable). It will keep everyone organized and on track without wasting time in circular or redundant discussion.
You need to take time to relax on the weekends in order to keep your sanity, but working Sunday night can be a great way to catch up and prepare for the week ahead. On Sunday night, you won’t be bothered with phone calls or emails. Instead, you can look at the week to come with a refreshed mind and tackle a few tasks while you’re at it.
The low-priority tasks on your list will only serve to distract you or make you feel more pressure throughout the day. Find a way to get rid of them. If they take less than two minutes to complete, do them. If they take longer, then either delegate them to someone else or schedule them for completion on a future date.
We all have tasks on our lists that we dread, but we can’t postpone them forever. Getting the worst tasks out of the way first can clear your path for the rest of the day, so commit to at least starting those tasks as early as possible. You might find that once you get started, you’ll be more motivated to finish quickly. If you need to break in the middle, you’ll have still accomplished the start of the task.
Your list is long and it grows longer by the day. Sometimes the easiest way to get something off your plate is to avoid accepting it in the first place. Don’t be afraid to say no to a task or a meeting that you feel would be unproductive.
Depending on how close you live, you could have half an hour or more time to catch up on voicemails, listen to an audiobook, make voice memos for the day ahead, or just relax with some calming music. Make the most of your trip.
The mind craves stimulation, and staying behind the same desk day in and day out can get stale and stressful. At least one day a week, make an effort to work in a new location. It can be a home office, a coffee shop down the street, or even a picnic table in the park. It’s a great opportunity to get a fresh perspective and a calmer environment in which to focus.
Most of these productivity hacks are short-term duct-tape fixes. They don’t significantly reduce your workload or magically create a system to get things done. But they do eliminate some of the micro-annoyances keeping you from staying on schedule and set you up to get more things done in less time. Your life may never fully calm down, but taking small steps to make your life easier will improve your performance and give you more of that irreplaceable resource—time.