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12 ingredients for productivity

Better results & more free time.

Sunrise in Herastrau Park, Bucharest

Last year I published my book “12 ingredients for productivity. Better results and more free time”, in Romanian. Well, I published it, and now I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to translate it into English. So, I created this article to provide you some useful advice from my book. I would really appreciate your comments!

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Why Ingredients?

So, maybe your wondering what’s with the sunrise picture at the top of this article, and what does this have to do with productivity. Well, that’s a picture I took a couple of year ago, early in the morning, around 6 a.m. in Herastrau Park in Bucharest, when I was training for my first half-marathon. I had no experience with exercising and after training for less than 2 months I completed the half-marathon. So what, you might say. Well, for me this was a challenge that meant that I had to change a lot of my habits, create a different daily routine. I had to adapt all those “ingredients” that we know that help.

„Good food depends almost totally on good ingredients.” – Chef Alice Waters

In 1992, James Beard Foundation call Alice Water “The best Chef of America”. It was the first time when a woman won that prize. Author and supporter of organic food she is one of the pioneers of American gastronomy. Most of the books provide you a lot of promises on how you can become rich, have a great relationship or build a great business. But, many provide specific recipes that might or not adapt to your own style. If you check any food recipe you will find listed the needed ingredients, quantities and a way of cooking (or the steps). If you follow the steps you might get almost a similar results. Why “almost”? Because, the quality of ingredients and other variable ale crucial for the success. The quality of ingredients determine the final results, while the quantities and steps of cooking can be modified by a great Chef.

So, I want to share to you 12 ingredients that you could use to “cook” you own productivity recipe. You might take all of them or only some. You adapt the quantity and ways of using them. There isn’t a right way. There is only your way. Of course, you might think that if you follow steps of success from other you might get similar results. And you might. Or you might not. There a thousands of other variables which might help you or not.

The 12 ingredients are divided into 3 categories: Essential ingredients, Growth ingredients and Consistency ingredients. Each of them start from the foundation to growth. Below, you will find a short summary for each of them.

First part: Essential ingredients

1.Finding your “Why?”

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Some key ideas:

  • Finding your “Why” is the first step in growing your productivity.
  • Knowing your “Why” could unleash unlimited energy reserves, focus and motivation.
  • There is a direct link between knowing your life purpose and benefits for health and stress reduction. Knowing your “Why” you will focus on things that really matters to you and you will say “No” more often.

2.On expectations

“I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.” – Anthony Hopkins

Some key ideas:

  • Setting your expectation could be a source of stress or appreciation.
  • When your expectation are not synchronized with what you can really do, you might get frustrated.
  • There is a direct relation between expectation and productivity.
  • If you have an expectation related to your results, ask yourself if the self-impossed deadline is the one that block you. Maybe with a greater mental flexibility this deadline could be rescheduled.
  • Productivity is at the middle point between focusing your expectations on current reality and the probability of future reality.
  • Communicate your expectation in order to simplify tour activity and focusing on your responsibilities.

3.Goals and limiting procrastination

„Setting a goals is the first step from transforming the invisible into visible.” – Tony Robbins

Some key ideas:

  • Set goals for yourself, family and community, not only for your job.
  • Writing goals is the first step towards acomplishing them. Detailing them is the next step.
  • You can reduce procrastination but asking why your are delaying your actions steps.
  • The more a goal is more specific and difficult, the more the performance will be higher. Think on your current conditioning and limited resources that you might use more effectively.

4.From sleep and nutrition to exercising

„Energy and persistency can conquer any thing.” – Benjamin Franklin

Some key ideas:

  • How can you follow a sleep that might charge your batteries, by focusing on sleep cycles? First of all, analyze your usual sleep duration and the quality of your sleep. Find a day when you can sleep earlier and see how much sleep you’ve got. Based on a standard sleep cycle of 90 minutes you will understand how you function.
  • Proper nutrition can boost your energy and your productivity during the day.
  • Nutrition habits depend on how we were raised, geographical area, climate and budget. Improve your habits towards a healthier way. You might also find a good nutrition specialist that can tailor a nutrition plan for your custom needs.
  • Daily exercise contributes on productivity increase. But, again follow the ingredient and customize a plan according to your own needs. And don’t forget that it should be fund, otherwise you will quit soon.

Second part: Growth ingredients

5.Planning system

„A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Some key ideas:

  • What’s planned is accomplished. Plan those activities that link to your goals.
  • Plan your week in advance, and don’t forget to add into your calendar relaxation moments. Don’t forget that tasks will fill your entire day, so you must plan small breaks.
  • Reassess the planning at the beginning of the day and update it with new information: new tasks, meeting or urgencies.
  • Plan meeting focusing on goals, agenda and preparation.
  • Use a calendar or notebook where to write planned activities.
  • If you travel, prepare in advance to reduce stress and to have a good night sleep before leaving.

6. Habits

„We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, is thus, not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotel

Some key ideas:

  • If you want to be more productive, then each part of the planning system or the task system should become a habit.
  • Knowing the habits for your energy should lead to small changing steps into positive habits.
  • Experiment! In this way you will see the result from a scientist perspective, and you will learn valuable lessons.

7.Tasks system

„Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your live.”-Confucius

Some key ideas:

  • The task system should act when your motivation is low.
  • The task system includes not only planning but also assessing the stage of your projects.
  • When planning your tasks a first step should be to know your energy fluctuations, energy and attention during the day.
  • Know your tasks, a set a useful procedure to write them.
  • Set a plan for unfinished tasks.

8.Prioritization

„The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

Some key ideas:

  • Prioritization is the guardian of your working mechanism, by filtering the tasks on which you should focus.
  • When prioritizing use the “Important-Urgent” matrix. Choose activities in the second quadrant: Important and non-urgent, so on long-term you can target your goals without being stressed.
  • Assess your current tasks and drop those projects that are not linked with your long-term goals.
  • Start your day with priorities.

Third part: Consistency ingredients

9.Attention

„The most important gift that you can offer is the gift of your attention.” – Jim Rohn

Some key ideas:

  • Your attention is influenced by unsolved tasks.
  • When our attention is directed towards important things, we can find creative ways of solving problems.
  • Attention restoration theory supports the possibility that your attention can be recovered by walking in nature, where visual stimulation is low.
  • Limited attention can lead to decision fatigue, which affects our will, which is as well limited.
  • Focusing on a single task can have multiple benefits both for personal and professional life

10.Patience

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”-Napoleon Hill

Some key ideas:

  • When we have to many things to do, without breaks to rebalance our attention, we start becoming unpatient and even anxious related to what we have to do.
  • When you know that your patience is low, take a step back to see the overall picture.
  • We are always in a battle for patience with those around us or even with ourselves.
  • There are four meaning of patience: suffering with calm, tolerating others, desire to wait without resentments and consistency of effort.

11.Limiting frequent interruptions

„The best way to avoid interruptions is to stop them.” – Peter Bregman

  • Interruptions could have an external cause, from colleagues or from those that we work with, or an own cause, from our lack of focus.
  • Negative emotions can lead to more own interruptions that positive ones. If your own interruption are higher, then the accuracy of tasks is lower.
  • The cost of interruptions includes not only being faster, but also, stress, frustration, pressure on time and effort.
  • A longer period without interruption can offer you the break for concentration on your natural style.

12.Next level of concentration

„Concentration is the secret of power.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some key ideas:

  • Concentration implies the ability to focus in a conscious manner on one activity at a time.
  • The flow state arises when we use at the maximum level our abilities and we face high challenges.
  • When there is a challenge and we have the abilities needed, and concentration doesn’t take place, there is a blocage of stimulants for those abilities.
  • Another type of roadblock could be mental when our fears and doubts arise like a storyteller.
  • Those that have higher concentration capacity, know their “Why”, goals and priorities, thus limiting a concentration conflict, without wasting time on that thing.
  • When we direct our attention on a specific problem or finding a solution, the simple thinking on that idea can help us reach a solution.

Conclusions: Create your own recipe

You can use the RECIPE model for each of the ingredients in order to improve it and make a plan for each of them.

RECIPE stands for:

  • Resources – what are the needed resources?
  • Estimation – What is the deadline for the desired level?
  • Costs – What do you have to reduce? What are the “costs” in term of lifestyle and habits?
  • Intervals – What are the stages from this point to the desired result?
  • Period – How much time do you need?
  • Evolution – What are the activities that you should focus on?

In this way, you will use the ingredients, by applying a custom plan for the “quantities” and “actions” custom to your need.

So, what do you think? Would you like to read more on each ingredient? Should I translate my book from Romanian into English?

Do you find the ideas helpful? Would you apply the ideas?

Looking forward for your comments!

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