30 Day Productivity Challenge Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/453706448146556/
Last year in November, was the first time that I did a “30 Day Challenge” and during those 30 days I wrote an eBook.
One of the reasons why I managed to achieve this goal was that I was completely clear about what I wanted to do.
If you are starting with a challenge the first thing to do is to understand what you really want to get out of it.
What do you want to achieve within the next 30 days?
Do you want to finish some ongoing project? Is there something that you’ve been putting off for a while or have procrastinated about?
Do you want to create a new habit that will help you to increase your productivity?
Challenging yourself means that you need to choose a goal which will be out of your comfort zone but still achievable.
It’s not a challenge if you decide to do something that you are doing each day anyway.
On the other hand, if your goal is unrealistic you will end up being disappointed when you don’t achieve it.
For example if you want to start your own business maybe you want to focus for a month on creating your website or Social Media site rather than trying to build everything at once.
Maybe you already know what you want to do. If not, think, think, think and think a little bit more and you will come up with an idea!
Let me tell you about my challenge: This month my goal is to answer all my emails within 24 hours.
The reason why I chose this particular challenge is because the “cost” of NOT doing this action has become too high.
Some of the consequences of not answering emails on time are:
There are some other things that I want to do this month, like:
However, my commitment is to focus on emails because this is a priority for me.
If I accomplish the other 3 goals it’s a bonus, but focusing on too many things at once is counter-productive when it comes to goal achievement. I’ve failed many times when I have tried to implement too many things at once. That’s why I’m more careful now when choosing new commitments.
If you are up for a challenge, choose one thing you can commit to doing for the next 30 days. (You can also choose some other things that you want to accomplish, but be clear what your priority is)..
To help with this, I have created a commitment form. You can print it out and keep it somewhere where you can see it every day. Visual reminders are best reminders!
Commitment is a strong word, and once when you make a commitment you are in, no more excuses, you are going to achieve your goal no matter what!
Mess = Stress. Simple as that!
No matter if it’s physical clutter in your house, work-desk overloaded with piles of papers, desktop full of icons or Inbox full of emails, if you want to achieve stress-free productivity, your environment needs to be clutter-free.
Studies show that physical clutter negatively affects the ability to focus and process information.
Clutter around us is “calling” for our attention.
When I look at my Inbox full of emails it’s like every email is screaming: “Pick me!! Pick me!!” and I don’t want to touch any of them.
Clutter is a result of procrastination; we fail to organize things on time.
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
When clutter is there, your bill has arrived and you need to pay it off.
That’s why today I’m on a mission to declutter my Inbox and opt-out of some mailing lists (there is actually a very useful free tool that gives you a list of all the email lists you are subscribed to and allows you to unsubscribe from the ones you don’t need anymore).
I also made an effort in the morning to tidy up my work space in our home-based office and I’m attaching a photo here:
If your environment is clutter-free, you are more likely to feel relaxed and more motivated to work and get things done, so challenge for Day #2: Declutter and organize!
When you have an important task/project to get done, you need to build a habit of working on it daily.
One of the main reasons why people don’t do what they said they will do is because something else comes up and gets in their way.
The best way to avoid this problem is to work on your most important tasks first thing in the morning.
In fact, if you are using Google Calendar, schedule right now 20-30 minutes of each day to work on your monthly challenge goal. It’s easier to commit to 20 minutes of work than to 2 hours of work, and once when you start maybe it won’t seem so difficult to continue working even longer.
You can easily create a new repeating event: for example, this is my setup – I also added a notification-email 10 minutes before:
“Meetings with yourself” (when you are working on what truly matters), are equally important as meeting with others, so why not put them in the calendar and take them seriously?
When you schedule something it’s more likely that it WILL happen.
Sometimes it’s better to schedule less time for important things, because when we are aware that our time is limited, we tend to focus better.
For me, one of the best strategies to ensure a productive day is – planning the evening before!
Have you ever gone to bed thinking of a problem and woken up with a solution?
That’s because you give your mind material to play with while you are sleeping.
When you make plan in the evening, next morning you will be more than ready to do whatever it is on your list.
Our subconscious mind is active even when we are sleeping so why not use that power for our own benefit?
Tonight, instead of watching horror movie and waking up in a sweat, try to do something different. Take 5-10 minutes before you go to bed to plan your day tomorrow.
The more detailed plan you write, the better; however creating even a short to-do list is better than nothing.
You can add “P1”, “P2” or “P3” (Priority 1, Priority 2 or Priority 3) next to the each item on the list and start working tomorrow morning on P1 tasks!
My most productive days in life have been those when I have planned my day in advance.
When you start with something new (like a productivity challenge) the first few days can be very exciting.
However, no matter how exciting some project is, after a short time it will seem routine.
And we don’t want to get bored; we want to have fun!
Let’s think about some fun things today – rewards!
How will you reward yourself after working so hard for a month?
I already have some nice plans for next month: snowboarding in France and Christmas holidays in Croatia with my family.
I know that I will enjoy my free time much more if I feel that have I earned it.
Another good idea is to define short-term rewards (weekly rewards) to treat yourself after getting work done during the week.
A “reward system” is like a dessert after dinner; you need to eat your dinner before you get the dessert, and you need to get work done before you can enjoy your free time. Having something nice waiting for you helps with keeping you motivated to accomplish the daily tasks and challenges.
To see the big picture, you need to take a step back.
To be productive, it’s important to review what you’ve accomplished from time to time.
When you are doing your weekly review, the best questions to ask yourself are:
My review of the first 6 days of the month:
What about you? What did you do well this week and is there something you would like to do differently next week?
You are what you eat. You get out what you put in.
You daily productivity and level of energy will depend a lot on what you eat and whether or not you are doing physical exercise.
Studies shows that exercise detoxes harmful chemicals from the body, reduces stress, boosts self-esteem and triggers a positive feeling in the body.
The weekend is a great time to re-energize, prepare a healthy meal and move your body!
It’s no time for excuses, and even if it’s rainy outside, you can still go for a short walk or visit your local gym!
Healthy food can also be very tasty. It took me less than 30 minutes to prepare this healthy meal (for 2 people):
A quickly prepared vitamin drink (a natural lemonade or freshly squeezed orange juice) and short physical activity (even a 10 min walk) can instantly boost your energy levels.
Challenge for today: Eat healthy (brain foods!) and do some physical activity!
The best way to prepare for the week ahead is to create a weekly plan.
If you do this every Sunday (or Monday morning) you are sure to have a productive week.
Today is a Sunday, so I’m going to create my weekly plan.
Planning is not an easy task.
If you are really committed to improving your personal efficiency you will need to set aside time (at least 30 minutes) to think and to focus on defining your weekly goals.
To make most of your week, there are some important questions to answer when planning your time:
These question can help you to prioritize your tasks and focus on what’s truly important. Choose 1-3 things as the main focus of the week.
In my case, there is a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for a while: submitting my tax return, so my most important goal this week is to get this done.
One of the key things to happiness in life is having fulfilling relationships with other people (both personal and business). Therefore, we need to nurture those relationships regularly. Giving a call to your old friend, doing something nice for your spouse, or helping a work colleague are just some ideas. Random acts of kindness are proven to help in creating lasting happiness. And when you are happy, it’s easier to be productive and get your work done.
My “Relationships” goal this week is to send a positive email to my new potential business partner who helped me a lot with his advice.
My “Health” goal this week is to go to the gym at least 3 times.
If we focus only on work and forget about other important areas in our life, we me might end up feeling empty inside. That’s why the key to productivity and happiness is a well-balanced life!
What are your most important goals for the next week?
One of the best strategies that leads to a productive and successful life is developing the habit of doing as much as possible today and leaving as little as possible for tomorrow.
When you procrastinate, you lose your enthusiasm and motivation.
When you take responsibility and start working on your tasks immediately, you create energy and build momentum.
Motivation usually comes after (not before) you start performing the action. That’s why it is that the sooner you start, the better!
Challenge for today:
Don’t let anyone (including yourself) stop you from taking action today!
Yesterday I had a really productive day. I managed to get done the most important things from my weekly list. And I finally submitted my tax return! It was a relief to cross this off my to-do list.
It’s important to take some time to acknowledge and celebrate successes and feel good about your achievements, but today is a new day and time to move on!
Success loves speed. Once you are in the “flow” it’s important to continue in that manner. Just keep moving forward.
Only the repetition of small successes leads to a big success.
If you had a great day yesterday how you can make today even better? How high can you raise your performance?
Let’s keep the high sense of urgency because there are many important things to get done.
When you exceed expectations, both from yourself and others, your confidence and reputation grow. People who are rewarded and paid more are those who overdeliver!
So the question is: What’s the next action?
At the beginning of this productivity challenge, I made a commitment that I will answer emails within 24 hours. There were days when this task was easy, but there were also days when this was quite challenging.
However, I’ve committed to doing it and I’ve managed to keep my promise even when this wasn’t easy.
And so can you. Self-discipline is the key to success. Even though you would rather be watching your favorite TV show on Netflix, work won’t get done by itself.
Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not. ― Elbert Hubbard
Sometimes, just a little bit more effort is enough to complete the task. Procrastination only makes it appear worse than it is.
What task you will discipline yourself to do today?
Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else. – Les Brown
Accepting responsibility for your life means to focus on what you can influence and stop worrying about things you can’t control.
Your results comes from choices you make and action you take. You are the only one who can get you where you want to be.
Accepting responsibility also means acting like an adult, stop blaming others and stop making excuses. It’s much easier to get work done when you shut up those little voices in your mind which are telling you all the reasons why it’s not possible to do it – (they don’t serve you at all!)
When you make promises to yourself or others, accept responsibility and do what you said you will do – (remember your commitments from the beginning of the challenge?)
Even If you make a mistake or fail to achieve some of your goals, don’t beat yourself up because of it; accept the responsibility, learn from the experience and see how you can do things differently next time.
My background is in IT, and when I worked as an engineer I was paid to solve technical problems each day. Some problems were bigger than others but one thing was common to all of them – they all had solutions! It’s the same with all problems in our life and the good news is that you don’t have to be an engineer to develop a problem-solving mindset.
Many people get scared or angry when a new problem appears and they waste a lot of time and energy by complaining about the problem.
Successful people are efficient problem-solvers and they understand that problems are an inevitable part of life. They take responsibility and deal with the problems quickly.
You can become a great problem-solver instantly when you switch focus from the problem to a solution and when you start asking solution-oriented questions.
In my book I shared many tips on how to be an efficient problem-solver and which questions to ask to solve problems quickly.
The more you practice providing solutions, the better problem-solving skills will you have. It will be worth your effort, not only because you will increase productivity but also because people who are paid the most are those who are solution providers and who solve big problems for other people or companies!
How many problems can you solve today?
Taking breaks is an important part of staying productive. We need time to recharge and refresh our mind.
However, too-long breaks can lead to laziness.
Newton’s first law says:
A body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion.
I figured out that the best use of my “recharge time” is doing one of the following things:
If you work from an office, meditation or taking a power nap is probably not the best idea (unless you work at Google’s office), however you can still go for a short walk, read something on your computer or listen to relaxing music.
Be creative in finding ways to recharge from work but have in mind that if you take a pause that is too long you might not want to come back to work at all.
We’re half-way through!
Usually the beginning of a project is exciting, as well as the end. But the middle of the project is trickier.
The whole process goes something like this:
The beginning of a project is the honeymoon phase, then we hit the mid-project crisis, after which comes the recovery stage where things start getting better.
Unfortunately some people give up when they hit this mid-project crisis.
To overcome this mid-project slump, we need to reassess our goals and remember the reasons why we started at all.
This is also a good time to think about our strengths and which of them can help us to stay focused.
Are you the person who get things done or leave them unfinished?
A 30 day challenge can seem like a long time, however now we have only 15 days left. It’s time to review where we are, and see what is left to do and what the next important step is.
Maybe your circumstances or priorities have changed since you started, so now is also a good time to adjust or modify your goals if needed.
Question to ask yourself today: How will you make the best use of your time for the next 15 days?
One of the best way to start a day is by creating enthusiasm and setting positive expectations.
The two important questions to ask yourself:
When you are happy and enjoy what you do, it’s much easier to get things done and be productive.
Life becomes what you create it to be. It’s up to us to take initiative and make things happen.
If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it! – Jonathan Winters
How many ships will you swim to today? 🙂
When you simplify your schedule you simplify your life.
And by simplifying I mean saying NO to the things of low value and saying YES to what’s important.
When you know what’s important, it’s a lot easier to ignore what’s not. – Marie Forleo
It’s impossible to do everything. Rather than trying to fit everything into your schedule and leaving things undone, decrease the number of commitments.
NO – one of the most powerful words to add to your vocabulary if you want to maximize your results and stay productive.
If you say yes to everything, you’re living by the agenda of others and not by your own.
Say NO to all the things that are not aligned with your true priorities. Say NO to the distractions. Say NO to negative people.
Challenge for today: Make a list of the things that you will say NO to: list the activities that can slow you down or prevent you from making progress. Which Social Media sites will you not visit? Which TV shows will you not watch? Which meeting will you not attend today? What foods will you not eat? Which disempowering thoughts you will eliminate?
If you don’t fill your day with high priority tasks it will get filled with low priority tasks.
Once when you create your schedule, your duty is to eliminate all distractions, protect your time and fully focus on the task at hand.
Some of the most common distractions are emails, calls, interruptions from other people… Even your own thoughts can distract you from work if you are thinking about something else when you’re supposed to be working (if you plan things in advance and write them down you won’t need to think about them anymore). Always have pen and paper when you are working and if something comes to mind or you suddenly get a new idea, write it down and free up your mind.
When you are working on your important tasks, turn off email notifications, mute your phone and find a quiet place to work from.
Eliminating distractions is a crucial thing to do if you want to have a productive day.
Can technology help us to increase productivity?
I’ve tested many apps and project management tools, and yes, I would say that they can help with organization of our time, especially when we work on a big project. However when it comes to daily productivity, what works best for me is planning a day the night before, even if the plan is written down on a piece of paper.
There is something in handwriting that seems to be more effective than typing. Some studies show that handwriting can help us to think clearer and generate more ideas.
Paul Bloom, Yale psychologist said:
With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.
Although you can very easily search through digital data, organize, archive or delete it, you should still consider writing things down by hand when making big plans or brainstorming new ideas.
Some of my favorite apps and tools based on categories:
Motivation and Inspiration: Subliminal Messages
Time-management: Google Calendar
One of the reasons why we procrastinate is because we have a task in front of us that is just too big. A huge project can seem very scary until you break it down into smaller ones.
Brian Tracy suggests the “Salami Slice” approach to the tasks: do just one slice of the job at a time (the same way you would eat a salami – one slice at a time!)
Psychologically, it’s much harder to start working if you are thinking about the whole job at once. However once when you slice it down, not only will you be more motivated to start, but you’ll also benefit from a feeling of satisfaction once when you accomplish the first task and move on to the next one!
For example, this is the 20th day that I’m writing for this post and so far it has more than 4000 words! It’s much easier to write 100-300 words a day than writing all at once. If I decided to write 5000 words at once I would probably have felt frustrated and overwhelmed by this project.
Challenge for today: Select one important tasks and “salami slice” it into smaller parts and then start working on the first part immediately!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu
When you focus on the things you are good at, you become more enthusiastic, your confidence increases and you are able to produce more value for yourself and others.
Sometimes identifying your own strengths can be a challenging task because we often take for granted things that we are good at (this usually comes naturally to us).
Some questions that can help to identify your strengths:
You can also ask your partner or friend to tell you one thing that he/she thinks you’re best at. You can even do an online character test. I took this free online Character Strengths Test and “love of learning” came up at the first place.
What about you?
What is your biggest strength?
Today’s challenge is to list your strengths, your skills, your accomplishments and things you are grateful for.
Save this list, as this can be a great motivator for the days when you’ll need it!
We’re here on a mission to get things done and one of the things that could stop us is trying to be perfect.
If you remember, at the beginning of the month you committed to doing things, not to being perfect!
Being attentive to details is an incredible skill, but sometimes it can do more harm than good.
Today I tried to make homemade peanut butter. I roasted peanuts and later blended them. There are 2 steps in the process of making peanut butter and I managed to screw up one of them. I think I overloaded the blender with peanuts so one part of this mixture ended up smooth while the other was overly crunchy and the whole mixture didn’t look right. Anyway, I did it and it wasn’t a disaster but it wasn’t perfect either (next time it will be better)!
There is a saying, “Practice make perfect” and we can apply this principle everywhere.
What can you get done in the next 8 days (even it’s not perfect)? Remember: Version one is better than version none!
Challenge for today: Allow yourself imperfection. Try to do something new and even if you fail or do it in a mediocre way, celebrate anyway. Make friends with imperfection because you can’t always be perfect!
Although I like my home office with a nice garden view (which lovely little squirrels visit almost every morning!), I’ve discovered that an occasional change of my work environment positively affects my productivity.
From time to time I go to the library, cozy cafes, lounges or some other nice places where I like to work from (especially when I’m doing creative work). Today I’ve decided to work from the Virgin Money Lounge in Manchester. For me, this is one of the best environments; it’s quiet, cozy, colorful and I’m surrounded by other people who are also working. This positive atmosphere instantly makes me feel creative and inspired!
It’s located in the Manchester city center and I just took a quick photo of the place with my phone:
Challenge for today:
Find an ideal place to work from, where you can relax, focus and get a big chunk of work done!
One of the biggest challenges for success in life is knowing how to keep motivation going daily.
So, what can you do if you feel stuck or uninspired?
Some things that can help you to get motivated:
The challenge for today is not to wait for motivation but to create motivation! That’s what winners do.
Many people try to manage their time but sometimes it’s a better idea to manage your energy.
Our level of energy is changing throughout the day and we don’t have to push ourselves to work hard when we feel low energy level.
If you feel low in energy you can choose to either take a break or work on low-level activities, like checking emails or doing routine tasks.
For example, if I feel tired I find it difficult to do creative tasks like planning or writing and I can spend a lot of time on them without making any progress. To avoid this inefficient use of my time, I rather choose to take a break and continue with the work later when my mind is refreshed.
Challenge for today:
Monitor your level of energy and adjust your work activities around it.
Today I want to share 3 easy things that you can implement immediately. These simple productivity hacks can help you to increase your productivity instantly:
Practice these 3 things today and see how your productivity increases!
I have already shared many tips about how to increase productivity, eliminate distractions and get more done. One of the worst enemies of productivity is procrastination. Procrastination is the thief of time. It’s important to understand why you procrastinate and what’s preventing you from taking action. Some of the reasons for procrastination could be physical lack of energy, being overwhelmed with the task, not knowing where to start, not having enough information, etc.
However sometimes we know what we need to do and we just need a little bit more discipline and motivation to start working. To help you beat procrastination, I’m sharing my favorite procrastination quotes:
If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it. – Olin Miller
Don’t wait. The time will never be just right. – Napoleon Hill
If you put off everything till you’re sure of it, you’ll never get anything done. – Norman Vincent Peale
Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing! – Donald Gardner
Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill. – Christopher Parker
Today’s challenge is to beat procrastination! One of the ways to do it is to put a barrier between you and behavior you don’t want. For example, if you are constantly checking Facebook – logout from it and remove all shortcuts from your desktop and your browser. You want to make non productive behavior as difficult to do as possible! On the other hand you want to make productive behavior as easy to do as possible. If you need to study, prepare all your materials, get them in front of you and then open the first page! If you need to write an article, open a word editor and start typing the first word!
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. – Jim Rohn
At the beginning of the month I chose answering emails within 24 hours as my 30 day challenge because I wanted to make sure that I was able to do it. Now that I know I am, I want this to become my habit for good.
Creating lasting habits or positive changes is not an easy task. However it’s a bit easier if you choose a short-term period to test new behavior and prove to yourself that you are capable of doing it. Success is a great motivator, and after you experience results and the benefits of a new behavior it’s much easier to stick with it.
That’s why it is essential to set your goals in a measurable way so you can track your progress daily. Saying “I want to be more organized” doesn’t say much, but saying, “I will create a to-do list every morning at 8am (or in the evening at 8pm)”, is a much better approach.
Also “I want to eat healthy food” is unclear, but if you say, “Every Tuesday at 6pm I’m going to buy fruit and vegetables at the local supermarket (e.g. Morrisons)”, it’s more likely that it will happen!
Remember, you must be able to track your progress! If you don’t know the answer to the question, “How will I know if I succeeded?”, your goal is not clear enough.
Once when you set yourself up for success there is nothing you can’t do!
Although Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the US, we just had a little thanksgiving-themed meeting here in the UK.
This reminded me of the importance of being grateful. So instead of thinking about what is yet to be done and what goals need to be achieved, a “challenge” for today is to think about things you already have.
Looking back to the last month, list down 3 things you’ve been grateful for.
Acknowledging our successes is an important thing to do regularly. This creates positive energy and attracts more success.
I’ve been grateful for having a productive month, for writing every day and for meeting some amazing new people this month!
Today is the last day of November and also the last day of the 30 Day Productivity Challenge.
What’s done it’s done, now it’s time to review.
Although my focus was on creating 1 new habit, I’ve managed to create 3 new habits:
I also prepared and delivered a speech and read 1 book. My plan was to read 2 books, but I underestimated how much time the 2nd book would take (I still didn’t finish reading it).
It’s important to review your performance so you can create realistic plans for the future based on previous results and facts.
For me, the 30 Day Challenge was a great learning experience and self-discipline exercise. This is the 2nd time I’ve done a 30 Day Challenge and both times it was successful.
When we challenge ourselves we raise our standards, and we are capable of doing more than we would usually do.
You can use the process described in last 30 days anytime to help you achieve a new goal or create a new habit.
If you want more tips and advice about productivity, time-management and the mindset for success you can check my “Get More Done” 9-step system for success.
Eva Lu is an ex engineer who decided to give up her successful career and dedicate her life to inspire and motivate others to find the best in themselves.
She founded the “Mind of a Winner” website because she strongly believes that success is a skill developed by persistent people and her passion is to motivate others to become persistent enough.
Her inspiration and her mentors are self-made millionaires who helped thousands of people to change their lives and who managed to build careers with their passion and vision towards doing something what they love.
She also helps young entrepreneurs with business advices and encourages them not to give up on their dreams. She teaches them how to turn dreams into clear visions and ideas, and ideas into actions and results.
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