With the execution of global vaccination drives, everyone is gearing up to go back to their normal office routines. But after a year of conscious pause and reflection, the time has come for us to develop a healthier relationship with our work. Our activities should offer us momentum rather than get us exhausted. We need to focus on achieving results and not just being busy. After meeting with the world’s renowned public figures, diplomats and white-collar executives, I realised that proverbial hard work doesn’t guarantee the productivity we are all seeking. Productivity is not about doing overtime or working on Sundays. It is a deliberately developed skill that is born out of a combination of disciplined habits and smart strategies. Here are fifteen self-improvement tricks we can use to become optimal performers in our respective fields of professions without sacrificing a life of fulfilment and cheerful relationships.

Start early in the morning

Rising in the early morning is an energy booster. You feel fresh, rejuvenated and in control for the rest of the day. You become efficient. By starting early and starting on time, you can prepare yourself mentally to approach your responsibilities with determination.

Before doing it, you need to think that you can do it

Positive self-talk is the compass that saves you from drowning in the endless spiral of action paralysis. The messages you tell yourself when working can favour or disfavour the outcome. Instead of saying, “I am not able to do it, it is taking up a lot of time” substitute “I may not be able to complete my task today, but I can do the first two steps within the next half an hour.”

Practise gratitude

In today's fast-paced world, gratitude allows you to slow down and choose wise decisions over quick impulses. Identify what you're grateful for before you begin working. Maintain a gratitude journal and elevate your energy. Even after long hours of doing work, you are grateful, you can sustain your stamina with lower anxieties and sick days. As Abraham Hicks famously said, “sitting and contemplating pleasurable thoughts is the most productive thing you can do.”

Ask yourself again and again: what is the quick and easy way to do it?

We are traditionally trained into believing that our tasks should inherently be difficult. We are scared of the idea of our work coming off as simple or doable. But millennial success stories have championed productivity and efficiency over traditional hard work. When you ask yourself to find out an efficient way to solve your challenges, you are triggered to execute accurate action steps and not get occupied doing unnecessary tasks or getting depressed.

Clear the clutter

Remove the mess in your physical space so the mess in your internal environment is cleared. Our brain eats up extra energy to distract us away from the clutter around us and we get tired quickly. Decluttering is a rare act of harmony in an otherwise chaotic world. A clean environment reduces frustrations and gives you a clear vision of exactly what your goals are. In a neat and clean setting, you can focus on processing the information quickly.

Focus on the journey, don’t worry about the destination

An outcome-oriented mindset asks “when am I going to finish it?” but an action-oriented mindset asks “What can I do now to achieve it?” The outcome binds you, but the process offers you freedom. When you focus on enjoying the process, you don't see problems or setbacks but instead see opportunities, learnings and comebacks. So liberate yourself from the influence of capitalism and value your work beyond salary and awards.

Quit procrastination

Successful people are never busy, procrastinators are always busy. Procrastination evolves from the tendency to run from challenges and delve into how difficult your task is. Instead, procrastinate procrastination. Don't let the idea of a task being difficult rule over you. You can make it easy. Productivity is directly proportional to your ability to resist procrastination. No reason is good enough to put your urgent tasks for later.

Create a plan and stick to the hours

If the outline is ready, you have no problem preparing the digest. Always plan and start well in advance. Don't let spontaneity misguide you into wasting your valuable time. A daily schedule assures that you are always ready with effective strategies and are not working at the last minute. Start planning and write a love letter to your bright future.

Divide your project into small tasks

Even the impossible says “I am possible” when you are armed with a to-do list. The itchy feeling of not understanding where to start or what to do next fades away because you have complete clarity about your process. With a to-do list by your side, you open yourself to the adrenaline rush of achievement daily and even the less enjoyable tasks feel fun.

Set up a timer, activate your work spurt

According to Elon Musk: “if you give yourself 30 days to clean your room, it will take 30 days. But if you give yourself 3 hours, it will take 3 hours. The same applies to your goals.” Tasks expand to fit the time you offer. A timer of 30 to 45 minutes is ideal for one task. Initially, you overtake the time limit but with practice, you learn to fit into the schedule. Timer insulates you from actions that demand a lot of time to achieve the same goal. You act on a challenge over a single period without losing your attention. At the end of the day, you are never left with zero output.

Value quality over quantity (We have only 24 hours and unlimited decisions)

Prioritisation is the defining curve between an average human being and a super achiever. We often postpone actions that are most important to us and instead keep doing stuff that doesn’t advance our results. According to the 80-20 rule, eighty per cent of your success comes from twenty per cent of action. In other words, only a few specific tasks steer you toward your end goal. The trick is that the tasks drawing more results always come first, the rest can be delayed or even eliminated.

Stop being a perfectionist

Not being a perfectionist or overthinker can minimize most of your daily fear, guilt and procrastination. Instead of stressing over achieving peak performance try becoming better than before. It is alright to accept your mistakes and revise them. Don't hate yourself for not having an ideal journey. Start where you are, with what you know and have. You will eventually reach the required resources and insights to finish your tasks.

Don't panic!

Panic is a by-product of perfectionism. Panic prevents you from taking action. Visible signs of panic are seeking distractions, regularly blaming yourself or avoiding your priorities. However, panic is not grounded in reality but is mostly imagination. To channel your energy from anxiety to productivity; start by clearly stating your intention in affirmative language. The intention is the work you have decided to do despite your anxiety. Breathe mindfully. Deep breathing filters away your worries. Act on what is in your control. Finally, be easy on yourself. You are always better than your worst performances.

Activate your flow

Flow is a heightened state of awareness when you are so absorbed in your task that you lose the sense of time. You enjoy working and don’t have to wait for your outcomes to feel good about yourself. According to a ten-year study by McKinsey, the top executives felt five times more productive when working in a state of flow. The good news is; flow is not a supernatural force and can be cultivated by adopting new habits and mindsets. For instance, internalise a positive monologue through prayers and meditation. Aim at ‘heart-work, not hard work. Be convinced that the work you’re doing is beneficial for you.

Read a book before sleeping

Reading is like good yoga, humour or exercise. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading reduced stress by sixty-eight per cent which is better and faster than listening to music, having a cup of tea or coffee, taking a walk, and playing video games. Reading sharpens our ability to retain focus for a longer time and reduces the secretion of stress hormones. When you’re tired at the end of the day, a book can absorb you and act as a capsule against negativity that can steal your healthy sleep.