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9 Rituals of Personal Productivity to Help Your Day Go Brilliantly

Personal productivity is the process of completing tasks in a way that:

  • moves you more quickly toward your goals;
  • helps you feel satisfied and highly capable.

Among life’s best sensations is that feeling of joyful accomplishment at the end of a successful day of personal productivity. See the motivational video lower within this article to help you get started.

We Are All Self-Medicating

Low-level anxiety has become a part of everyday, modern life.

Consciously or unconsciously, most of us have already found simple solutions for self-medicating that anxiety.

Sugar is probably the most popular anxiety solution that has ever existed.

Sugar helps you feel warm, fuzzy, and safe – and it quiets that part of your brain that gets too thinky-thinky.

Other popular anxiety-releasers include alcohol and television.

It’s helpful to think about anxiety solutions on a spectrum. Imagine that every solution is valid and effective in the short term.

The spectrum simply reveals which solutions are also helpful in the long term.

For example, sugar and alcohol would probably be on one side of the spectrum:

  • effective in the short-term, less helpful in the long-term.

Breathing exercises or long walks outdoors could be placed on the other side of the spectrum:

  • effective in the short-term and helpful in the long-term.
personal productivity hacks

One important aspect of personal improvement is to continually experiment with replacing older self-medication methods with newer methods that are more helpful in the long term.

For those of us with a growth mindset, it’s a lifelong experiment.

If I were a different person with different priorities, I would start a company that makes canned, sweet, fizzy alcoholic beverages.

There will always be a strong demand for such products, and I’m certain I could make an enormous amount of money creating and selling them.

But that’s not my path.

What I enjoy doing is helping people become even healthier than they are now, so that they can see, feel and experience all the benefits that a new level of health brings.

Action Step: improved health begins with awareness. This week, I encourage you to identify one habit or behavior that has helped you feel less anxious in the short term.

I have found a healthier way to metabolize my personal anxiety: organizing!

I’m 56 years old, and during my life, I’ve been able to eventually realize that when my personal productivity is high, my anxiety is low.

The more organized I am, the better I feel.

“Fine-tuning our daily habits is the key to better health and prosperity. The trick to creating new good habits – and making them stick – is to do what experts call ‘Stage 3.’”

Becoming a Get-It-Done Person

The person who succeeds at productivity these days is probably the one who can apply some well-chosen strategies – mitigating distractions to stay focused and in the flow.

Productivity rituals are those habits you build – intentionally, or not – for getting through your day happily.

It doesn’t matter if you’re retired – or if you work from a cubicle, a car, a plane or your home office.

We all have tasks we would like to complete before the end of the week, and every location is rife with potential distractions that can implode your personal productivity and turn your day into a scattered mess.

Of course, everybody falls off the productivity horse every now and then, but these nine hacks listed below will help you climb back on the productivity horse – and in all likelihood will help you get more done than ever before.

Remember, a day spent in the productivity zone can leave you feeling accomplished and deeply satisfied.

Becoming better organized is particularly helpful for individuals over the age of 50, as improved time management opens up more opportunities for exercise and self-care.


1. Reconnect with Your List

To get the most out of your personal productivity process, it’s important to refer to your to-do list.

Stay properly engaged with your to-do list and it will help you manage your time and energy even better.

You’re allowed to take a day off when you feel like it – that’s healthy and encouraged. You can even take two days off; however, try to re-engage with your list within 48 hours.

Mastering your personal productivity system requires some degree of consistency. If you go more than two days without your to-do list, you’ll find it harder to get back into your productivity system.

You want to keep yourself in the game.

You’ve done so well to keep your list this long, so why jeopardize it?

You don’t want to develop any unhelpful productivity habits that you’ll just have to struggle to break.

2. Understand that Building a Habit Takes Time

Forming a good habit (like keeping a to-do list) is a lot like building muscle. It takes practice and exercise. If you stop for too long the muscle shrinks or disappears.

Research has established that building a good habit takes up to 66 days.

If you have long since stopped using a to-do list, then when starting up again I suggest that you look at (and revise) your list each day for the first two months.

By the end of those two months you’ll be so used to referring to your list – it will become ingrained – that you might not even want a break anymore.

Stacking Good Habits Can Transform Your Life

Have you ever desired to make an improvement in your weekly habits, but then fizzled out?

Sometimes, acquiring new little good habits seem almost as difficult as learning new big ones.


Too busy to read the rest of this article now? Pin it for later.

organized, tidy home office

What was the last thing about yourself that you tried to change? Maybe you want to wake 20 minutes earlier each morning, or go for a daily outdoor walk, or say something kind to your spouse each evening.

What has been well-researched (yet little-known) is that when people acquire new good habits, it’s most often because they move through five stages of permanent change.

How people change has been relentlessly studied (see sources below this article), and by being careful to move through each of five distinct stages – without skipping any – you can succeed in developing new good habits and become a master of personal productivity.

The 5 Stages of Permanent Habit Change

  1. pre-contemplation
  2. contemplation
  3. preparation
  4. action
  5. maintenance

When people are not able to make changes stick, it has been proven that it’s most often because they skip over stage 3, preparation.

5 stages permanent change

What Happens During the Third Stage of Change

Stage 3 is preparation. Preparation means spending some time processing:

  • how will I adopt this new habit?
  • when will I do it, specifically?
  • where will I do it?
  • with whom will I hold myself accountable?
  • for what real reason am I doing this?
  • if I were to get in my own way, how would I do it?

Have you ever “skipped” stage 3 and excitedly moved right into action? Were you able to sustain the habit?

Each of us needs to periodically correct our course as we pursue our goals and increase our success – this is an essential aspect of personal productivity.

Each positive new habit we permanently acquire increases our leverage in the world and moves us closer to our big goals.

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If you can consistently course-correct, choose new lifestyle and professional habits, and make those habits “stick” – then you will feel fantastic more often.

There are few sensations more empowering and energizing than the feeling of true accomplishment.

“Those old habits don’t have to be erased, they just become replaced by a new habit that is more in vibrational harmony with who you are and what you want.” – Abraham–Hicks

Here is a trick of “stacking good habits,” that can help you to get the most out of your days: instead of making some huge change in your life, stack together several small improvements, and watch the cumulative effect of those small improvements surpass what the huge change would have achieved.

Stacking Good Habits Has Cumulative Impact

The Japanese have a word for stacking, “kaizen,” which means, essentially, “small steps.”

If you’re hoping to add more health and self-care protocols into your life, “stacking” can help you implement a new habit regularly into your weekly schedule by making progress to your productivity in bite-sized pieces.

What Productivity Improvements Should I Make in My Life?

What good habits is your life in need of?

Simply take a few moments to jot down what about your life isn’t working – in any area, including your health and your body.

Having identified your challenges, now write down a few possible solutions for each problem.

For each solution, you should be able to come up with at least one (maybe more) daily or weekly habit that would be helpful to you.

“watch the cumulative effect of those small improvements surpass what the huge change would have achieved.”

Here are some examples of some small changes that could reap huge improvements in your life:

  • limit eating conventionally farmed red meat to 3 times a month could add 4 years to your lifespan
  • eating 300-400 calories less than the average American could at least 4 healthier years to your life
  • consistent strength training could add over 5 high-energy years to your lifespan

These are just a few examples. You can see how implementing small changes, routinely, can cause enormous overall improvements in your personal productivity.

You Build Your Productivity Upon Each Daily Habit

Everyone has a daily ritual, whether they realize it or not. For most of us, our daily rituals contain a mixture of good habits and bad habits.

If we want to improve our lives, we must find ways to gradually replace more of those bad habits with healthier ones.

How Long Does It Take to Form a New Habit?

As I mentioned above, recent research has revealed that it takes about 66 days to set a new habit. Setting new, good habits is easier said than done, because once we have a bad habit “set,” it can be very difficult to break that momentum and go in a different direction.

But as hard as it may be to change our habits, we feel so much better when we do.

Eating a pint of ice cream in front of the television each night might be fun and relaxing at the moment, but over time it will absolutely erode our bodies and our self-esteem.

And so we strive to improve our productivity rituals because we want our lives to be joy-filled and meaningful.

Each of us wants to realize our fullest potential as human beings – to have healthy bodies that hum with energy and clarity – and somewhere deep inside we know we have to take an honest look at our daily habits in order to become our best.

replacing bad habits

Daily Good Habits Lead to Realized Goals

The formula seems simple: more good habits, less bad ones.

What makes a daily habit “good” is that it aligns us with the life we most want to live.

But we know it isn’t always so simple. We know a new, positive habit won’t “set itself.” We know these things don’t just “happen” on their own. We know we need a plan.

“…how often does a new habit need to be performed before it no longer requires herculean self-control? When we want to develop a relatively simple habit like eating a piece of fruit each day or taking a 10-minute walk, it could take us over two months of daily repetitions before the behavior becomes a habit” – PsyBlog

Most people find it helpful to set goals. The reason that they find goal-setting helpful is that… {drumroll, please}… goals work.

It’s a self-perpetuating loop: When we improve our daily habits, we achieve our goals. When we achieve our goals, we receive the immeasurable benefit of having improved our daily habits.

How to Set Brilliant Goals

A different – and outrageously effective – way to set goals is to determine what you want, then work backward until you drill it down to a daily habit.

Let’s craft an example of what I mean by this process:

Hypothetically, if your goal is, say, to “have a tight waist” then you work backward to identify habits that, when stacked, will lead cumulatively to a tight waist – such as “go for a walk around the block each night after dinner” and “turn the television off at 8:30 pm each night (to reduce the temptation for late-night desserts).”

When you look back on an old list of goals you wrote, the chances are that you will see that many of your goals have since been realized – even though you forgot to think about your goal list every day and, in fact, forgot that you even made the list in the first place.

This is because whatever you spend your energy, time, and focus on: you get more of.

This is a natural law at play in the universe.

When you identify a solution with your conscious mind, your unconscious mind will set to work on solving the problem.

The more clarity and conviction you have about your goal – the more feeling you have behind it – the harder your unconscious will work on your behalf.

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The more ambivalent you are about the solution, the less hard your unconscious will work. When you’re ambivalent, so is the universe.

When you carefully and passionately create a list of new goals, you are engaging your unconscious. And, let’s face it, daily habits mostly come from a very unconscious place.

When we do something almost as if on autopilot – as if our muscles have memorized the particular activity – then we can say that activity has been habituated.

The very process of crafting a goal list causes you to visualize the goals as having been attained already – and this places positive images into your psyche. And your unconscious loves images even more than words.

The annual phenomenon of New Years Resolutions means that, sometime between December 26th (the day after Christmas) and January 1st (New Years Day), millions of human beings over the planet take the opportunity to reflect on their lives – to celebrate their successes, to feel grateful for abundance, and to focus on what else it is that they want from their lives, and from themselves.

But you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to set a new goal for yourself.

Now is the Perfect Time to Evaluate Your Habits

Of course, you don’t need a holiday in order to update your list of new goals. You can do it any time that you want to, and needn’t be constrained by dates.

It turns out that I have a slightly different view on setting goals. I believe a very wise place to start your goal-setting process, is by looking at your daily rituals and determining what specific habits need changing.

Each good daily habit is a helping hand that steadies your bow so that you can stay on target with your goals.

Do you have a ritual? Of course, you do. Everyone does. You eat every day. You brush your teeth every day. You do all kinds of things every day.

Everyone who is reading this will benefit greatly by updating their life strategy.

And for those of you who have never before crafted a life strategy (gasp!), it’s even more essential.

For those of you who read this who also happen to be over the age of 50, it’s outrageously important to create a strategy for the next 50 years of your life. So that you can become increasingly healthy and energized, and enjoy a higher quality of life with each passing year.

How Productivity Experts Think

There are two ways to get successful.

The external way is a bombastic, take-no-prisoners approach that appears to work pretty well, except that I’ve noticed that it takes a toll on a person’s physical health and, although these people are respected, they’re respected in a there’s-a-snake-loose-in-the-barn kind of way.

The internal way to success is to improve your thoughts so that they are more compassionate, empathic, and positive, heal your relationship with money, and improve your beliefs about prosperity.

These tend to be people who are strong yet kind, and invariably they end up feeling authentically known and calmly loved by the people they care most about.

People who become successful by changing their insides first come to realize that it’s the ordinary tasks and activities we do every day – our quotidian – that make us exactly who we are.

I suggest focusing your awareness on how you actually, typically, spend your time. Really look at it closely.

Whatever we habituate on the daily level: that’s our life.

I love that word: habituate. Within that word, is hidden the key to significant self-improvement, I believe.

Fred Rogers – television’s Mister Rogers – knew this simple but powerful concept, that habituating daily good choices are a key to thriving, and through his educational programming, he helped children to integrate this valuable life-skill. His wisdom was genius.

I invite your questions and comments below. It took me many years to figure out, what I’m sharing with you now – that success, happiness, and health are really built on the foundation of our daily habits. Now that I know that, I give my quotidian the care and thoughtfulness it deserves, and I’m nearly always fine-tuning my routine.

3. Remember Why You Arrived Here

It’s extremely helpful to remember the reasons you chose to get organized in the first place.

organizing brilliantly

If you don’t feel like picking up your list, ask yourself why you started a list, to begin with. You don’t want to end up wasting time and energy worrying about tasks or looking unprofessional because you forgot a task. Few things are more discouraging than falling too far behind.

4. Avoid Your Own Obstacles

If there is a stumbling block that discourages you from getting on with your to-do list system then use that clever brain of yours to find a way to overcome it. For example, on Monday mornings I would sometimes find myself too busy to revise my list and print out a new copy. To overcome this I now print a new list for the following week on Friday late afternoon. This allows me to dive right in on Monday morning. Obstacle removed.

You know yourself and you know your own weaknesses so anticipate that and prevent it from happening. It will be much easier.

5. Take a Vacation from Your To-Do List

You must get back on the horse on the third day to ensure that you continue with your list – unless you are on vacation.

When on vacation, you are in another land and it’s best to fully enjoy that experience and be present with the people you love.

When you are intentionally out of your routine you can put your to-do list aside. It will help energize you and make it easier for you to dive right back into your healthy patterns and organizing techniques when you return home.

6. Create Your Own Productivity Mobile Office

The best gadgets help you to improve your personal productivity. If you happened to see George Clooney in the film Up In The Air, then you might already know that Clooney portrayed a character who professionally is a great success and über-organized. He has his workflow down to an exact science, and he knows a good gadget when he sees one.

personal productivity is getting things done happily

Like Bingham, I’ve learned that particular gadgets and tools can help create a better and faster workflow.

I’ve found it helpful to have something like a “portable office” that I can roll with me from home, to meetings, to the cafe, to the airport, to… wherever. I use a stackable system from Tumi.

The top half is a smaller daypack that slides right up and off, so that I can grab my wallet, sunglasses, keys, smartphone, etc. The bottom half is for my papers, clipboards, and laptop.

But you don’t need a fancy Tumi system. The point is to take a fresh look at your own portable office to see if it could be streamlined or augmented. My portable office also contains anti-bacterial towelettes to sterilize the armrests on my favorite chair at the cafe (you’d be shocked to know how dirty and germy those can be) and soundproof headphones to wash out background noise and music (I often listen to rainymood.com while I work to help me focus. It’s just the sound of a soft rain – I’m listening to it now, in fact.).

7. Get a Smartphone Cover that has a Built-in Stand

This little tip is the most affordable of all my gadgets.  Stop fumbling for your smartphone – it’s so unnecessary.

Just prop the little guy up right next to your workstation so that you can always see your screen easily at-a-glance. This little trick alone will save you time and angst. Frankly, I’m surprised more people don’t do this.

8. Surprising Productivity Tip: Try Standing for Work Instead of Sitting

If you have to stand while you work, you are less likely to waste time.

If you work on your computer all day like I do, it’s helpful to have an adjustable desk, so that you can periodically stand, and sit, throughout the day while you work. However, you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment – just have more than one place to work during your day. Even a kitchen counter can work.

Important: if you decide to recline with a laptop, use one of those lap desks they sell at office supply stores. Please don’t set the laptop directly on your lap where your vital organs can get zapped with EMFs. Maybe it’s not harmful, but the thought of it I find irksome. Don’t use a pillow, either, because it will cover the vents your laptop uses to breathe and it can then overheat.

Dane Findley age 54 helps others achieve stellar wellness and a healthier physique.
Dane earned a master’s degree in Counseling Depth Psychology from Pacific Graduate Institute. His past professional adventures include being a Therapist and Discharge Planner at a Dual-Diagnosis Hospital Inpatient Treatment Program, Digital Marketing Director for a real estate brokerage, and decades spent as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy-Lifestyle Advocate and he curates the popular Quality of Life Newsletter – a free weekly update for creative types who want to increase their daily joy. Currently, he’s facilitating the new online course “Silver and Strong: How to Get Fantastically Fit After Age 50,” which helps people learn to eat for lean strength. Click-through for details.

Back pain is terrible, so it’s worth the extra investment in your health to make sure your equipment is ergonomic and your spine is aligned properly (believe me, chiropractor visits and painkillers are more expensive than the equipment).

Personally, I’m a big fan of Rain products. They make lap desks and laptop stands that are über-kewl and have sleek designs.

9. Beware of Drift, Autopilot, and Firefighting

If you sometimes feel overwhelmed – or find yourself wishing that you could clone yourself or magically add more hours to each day – then there are three assassins that you must remain ever-vigilant to avoid.

productivity checklist – feel good ticking every box

If you can consistently avoid these three pesky demons, then you will be well on your way to living more efficiently, so that when you have free time, you can really enjoy it.

Drift is a Productivity Danger Zone

Drift is what occurs when each morning you don’t take a moment to re-focus on what your next main goal is in life.

Each day that you don’t reconnect with, and affirm, what your big intention is, then you silently move away from it, often without even realizing what’s happening.

Imagine yourself in a rowboat on the ocean, and you see an island of paradise in the distance.  Every now and then you have to steer the boat, using one of the oars as a rudder – because the current of everyday life takes you off course.

AutoPilot is a Productivity Danger Zone

Auto-pilot is what occurs when we act unconsciously, following the same mental and physical routine that we’ve been doing, essentially for years.

This is great if you don’t want to change anything. But what if you have ambitions?

It’s a sort of muscle memory.  Have you ever arrived home from work, and then realized that you don’t even remember driving there? What’s more, you were supposed to stop by the store on the way home.  

That’s auto-pilot.

If you have a new destination in life, then the way you’re going to arrive there is if you remember to periodically turn off the autopilot and pay attention to the drive.

elegant senior couple embracing on beach after improving productivity

Firefighting is a Productivity Danger Zone

Firefighting is what happens when you “react” to your day. Your day becomes a series of “responding to little fires,” instead of being proactive with your agenda.

When your daughter yells, “Mom, where’s my sneakers?” (and she will), then hopefully you have already modeled for her the self-soothing skills to pause, breathe, relax, concentrate… and find the sneakers herself.  Don’t get sucked into other people’s little fires and urgencies. Sometimes you just have to let something “burn” and get to it later, so that you can remain focused on the larger objective or project.

It can be very freeing to realize that you’ll never get it all done.

Sometimes it’s important to reconnect with the intention for your life, or set a new intention altogether:

  • which of these three assassins has been the biggest culprit in your own productivity recently?
  • how would you structure your ideal day?
  • what tricks for improving workflow have you found that help you to get stuff done better and faster?

Additional Sources about Improving Personal Productivity:

“rigorous and valid research study on habit formation”  https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/hbrc/2012/06/29/busting-the-21-days-habit-formation-myth/

“work more efficiently by raising laptop to ergonomic height” https://www.raindesigninc.com/mstand.html

“phone cases with built-in stand to protect your device and enjoy it in a versatile way http://www.igeeksblog.com/best-iphone-6-cases-with-stand/

“research of how people actually change” http://www.apa.org/research/action/understand.aspx

“what is kaizen?” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

“66 days to set a new habit” http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

“100 life goals list” http://www.belowzerotohero.com/index.php/100-life-goals-list

“what is habituation?” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habituation

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