Old School Productivity Tips That Still Work
By Mike Raia Posted February 25, 2020
Ready to get productive the old school way? We've got some non-digital, non-automated ways to help you get more done better.
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Productivity is a universal concept that transcends time, born of practiced habits that can take decades to get just right. But successful historical figures didn't need an app on their smartphone to keep track of their work or tell them to get more done, and neither do you. So before you dismiss a productivity solution that doesn't come in the form of technology, we'll look at how to include old-school tips into your daily routine.
Before ever getting to work, you have to consider where that work is ultimately leading. This kind of meditation can help you see the barriers before they arise so that you can use every second more effectively.
Assigning Tasks to blocks of time can give you a way to keep track of each day, but overscheduling can immediately overwhelm you. Set aside blocks of time to work, clean, reflect, and better yourself, but don't get caught up in accounting for every 15-minute packet.
Walking, cleaning, or exercising alters your perspective, which can be precisely what you need to lead to a breakthrough moment. Make sure you're moving around during breaks, and don't censor your thoughts. When you free your mind entirely, it opens the door to new ideas.
Expand your Skills
Even the most challenging careers can stagnate our thought patterns. If you're hoping to be more productive on any level, you need to challenge yourself to do more. This kind of self-imposed challenge can mean anything from reading a book in your industry to learning a new language for fun.
Get Into a Flow
Taking lunch, brushing your teeth, hitting the hay: these are not creative tasks in need of originality, so there shouldn't be a lot of dithering from one task to the next. "Rigidity" can have a negative connotation in our ever-changing society, but the constant repetition is excellent for stimulating flow.
For example, Ernest Hemingway only wrote at certain times of the day, which eventually trained his brain to be ready when those hours rolled around. He was essentially itching a scratch every day, something that had to feel pretty good both during and after performing the task.
It may sound odd to get to a point where you crave work, but consider how that feeling will translate to how much you get done. Consider a morning workflow to instill a consistent routine.
Reflecting on Your Day
This productivity hack is relatively similar to intention setting in that it's meditative rather than active. The idea is to think about what you want to do as opposed to what you did do. As you consider it, you're objectively considering how you measured up and whether it was a good thing if you chose to veer off course.
Reflection can be a challenging exercise for many people because it means contemplating failures as much as it does celebrating accomplishments. Still, this habit was consistently practiced by some of the most influential people in the past. Franklin structured his reflection time by simply asking how much good he had done that day.
Not everyone can schedule a lot of solitude time, but it's crucial to carve out at least a little time on your own. Intention setting can be done before anyone else in the house wakes up, giving you a higher chance of developing your creative juices without the constant distractions.
Use this time to recharge and connect with yourself, so you can maintain your focus even when you're tackling a particularly hectic week. When you slow down with yourself, it leaves you in a better position to take care of other people's needs. And whether that's your boss in the morning or your infant at night, the mechanisms for getting it all done remain the same.
Never Expect Perfection
Those who have done a lot of good for our world understood that perfection is never the goal. The real productivity is in the art of trying, again and again, for the things that you really want. Intention setting will help you figure out exactly that is, but expectations will be what actually gets you there.
There is no perfect formula when it comes to determining your productivity limits because it's different for everyone. Pushing yourself past the brink will result in burnout, but never pushing yourself will result in complacency. If you're not sticking with your schedule, consider either tweaking it to fit your needs or just getting back up on the horse as many times as you need to. Coco Chanel observed that "Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable."
Shake It Up
Once you've gotten the hang of these productivity tips, there are things you can do to avoid becoming bored. Setting small, reasonable goals will always serve as the best way to measure and manage your sense of productivity.
So maybe you decide you need a little more downtime to be with your family, and you set to cutting down on extraneous tasks to make that possible. Or perhaps you need to set aside more time to organize your home and workspace so you can stay refreshed even during the most boring tasks.
As with all productivity tips, there are counterpoints to each one. As good as planning ahead is, there's a time when action is the only thing that will do. Or, as Bruce Lee famously said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” It's all about striking a chord that will leave you feeling proud when you close your eyes at night.