Knock Out Your To-Do List With These 5 Productivity Hacks

Photo: Jesse Morrow

Ever have one of those days when you are nonstop busy all day long, yet at the end of the day it seems that important items are still outstanding? Or that feeling of waking up with your mind racing about what is on your agenda for the day yet feeling lost as to where you even begin? I know that it is not an unfamiliar feeling to get to the end of a day, a month, or even a year and feel like everything was a blur. "Where did the time go?" "What am I doing?" "I need a vacation from it all!"

Life is too short to just go through the motions, day in and day out. It is time to take control of your days, months, and years by living your best life possible. And that means aligning your actions with your highest priorities. Use these tips to design the life you want to live:

1. Link new habits with rewards.

As human beings, we are creatures of habit. When we find a reward or value a specific experience, we will continue to do it. This can hurt us in the long run if the habit involves alcohol, watching television, eating doughnuts, partying too much, etc. This can also drastically transform our lives if we are able to create a healthy reward for a routine action. It's a very mindful practice. Find something that you enjoy during your days. Maybe it is your morning smoothie or your 30 minutes of reality television after the kids have gone to sleep. Now think of a habit that you want to create for yourself: waking up at 6 a.m., working out every day, reading every day, whatever it might be.

Here comes the tricky part: attaching the reward to the action. If you work out, you get to have your morning smoothie…no workout, no smoothie. If you read for 30 minutes, you reward yourself with 30 minutes of reality television. You get the picture. Yes, this takes discipline and integrity on your part, and yes, it will be worth it!

2. Ask for help.

Have you ever compared yourself to someone who seems to have it all? And you ask yourself where these people find the time to get everything done? More often than not is not a matter of finding "extra time" but rather using your time wisely. Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. But how people use those 24 hours is what sets productive people apart from busy people.

Schedule your time like you budget your money. Then keep a time diary. Write down what you actually do in a day and see how it compares to your intentions. Chances are you'll find something important that didn't get done. Identify the most important things and ask for help (or outsource) everything else. We all know that time is valuable, but have you aligned your actions with that thought process?

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3. Find time for your passion.

There is a reason you are where you are in life. Early on we tend to make decisions based on our authentic wants and needs. It is as we get older and life gets a little more complicated that we then begin following paths for reasons that may be external to our own passions (financial needs, ego-driven, fear of failure, for example). That is OK and often necessary with a family to feed or rent to pay.

However, it is important to not lose sight of what you are passionate about. Find time for projects that make your heart happy. Not everyone can—or wants to—combine their passion and their full-time job, but everyone can prioritize their passions. Even if it's just once a month, doing this can boost your happiness big time.

4. Revisit your vision.

When was the last time you took a moment to ask yourself, what do I want? Whether it be in your career, in your relationships, in your family, in your life…what do you want? Although the question is simple, the answer usually isn't. Our everyday actions, as well as our priorities in life directly reflect a much larger vision. When you take the time to mold that larger vision to what you ultimately want in life, your day-to-day activities will find greater purpose.

Figuring out that vision for yourself, outside of the pressure of societal expectations, is what provides the freedom to create the life you’ve been waiting for. So grab some magazines, a poster board, some scissors, and glue to make a vision board. Or maybe all you need is a pen and paper, a simple manifestation altar. Whatever you choose, create the vision of what you truly want in life, hold it close to your heart, and stay true to it along the way.

5. Grow the right relationships.

There are few things in life that can bring us more joy than relationships or connections with other people. There are also few things in life that can drain our energy faster than relationships. Picture the relationships you have in your life as plants in a garden. You'll find some plants take small amounts of what they need and begin to grow and flourish beautifully. You would also find some plants that need copious amounts of water and sunlight, require a special type of soil, need to be pruned…and still just don’t seem to grow.

Relationships take energy, but figuring out where or how your energy is best spent is the key to surrounding yourself with the people who truly add value to your life. Allow yourself to step back and become aware and mindful of the energy you are putting into people and relationships. Water those relationships that continue to flourish, spend less time watering those that just don’t seem to grow, and watch your garden come to life.

Keeping a bullet journal is another helpful way to manage priorities. If your system just isn't working, check out our guide to prioritization by personality type.

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