more productive in 2021

Deep down, I think we all want to be more productive at work and with life in general. It feels good to get things done and it feels even better when we enjoy the spoils of our efforts. We are well into the first quarter of 2021. It’s time to check our goal progress and see how far we’ve come. Here are three strategies to be more productive in 2021.

Continue in your progression in 2021 and beyond.

Start Going to Bed and Waking Up at the Same Time Every Day

Doing this was a game-changer for my professional life. It could arguably be the most valuable action you can take to be more productive in the next year.

When I was in college (back in my day!) my summer internship routines went like this:

  • Stay up until somewhere between 1 to 3 am with friends every Friday and Saturday night.
  • Take a while to fall asleep Sunday night.
  • Look, feel, and act like a zombie at work between Monday and Wednesday every week.
  • Finally, I would start to be more productive and feel well Thursday and Friday, then repeat the cycle.

I even kept doing it a few months into my first job out of college — big mistake. When too many of my hairs were turning grey too fast, I finally decided to build consistency into my wake and sleep routines a few years ago. I’ve never looked back, except maybe on New Year’s Eve or Halloween when I make an exception.

The Science Behind Having Consistent Sleep & Wake Times to Be More Productive

All of us have something called Circadian Rhythms. These are 24-hour processes that happen in our bodies to perform essential functions for our well-being.

According to sleepfoundation.org and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, our circadian rhythms are connected to a range of mental health conditions. These include things like depression, bipolar disorder, and dementia.

I can personally attest that my ability to focus is directly related to this. It may be difficult for you to hit the mattress at 10 pm sharp on Fridays and Saturdays, but try this:

Set a New Year’s resolution to do it for the first four weeks of 2021. If you don’t stumble on this article until a few months from now, give it a try anyway for the next three to four weeks.

There’s a good chance you might just keep things going a little longer than that and find out that it’s a great way to be more productive.

Develop an Exercise Routine That COVID-19 Cannot Affect

During most of 2020, I was doing pretty well keeping up with exercising. When the gyms all closed down in the springtime (around Minnesota at least) I took a week or two off since I needed to do that anyway.

Then, I put together a respectable at-home routine to stay active until September when I started going back. It definitely helped me to be more productive all of last spring and summer by following the plan. This last month, though, I messed up.

Don’t Get Sluggish

Right before Thanksgiving, all our gyms in Minnesota shut down again. This time, I pretty much took the last four weeks off. At the time of this writing, I almost feel sick from how inactive and sluggish I’ve been. Fortunately, we can go back there starting tomorrow. The bottom line, though, is that I should have made another workout plan two or three weeks ago.

Building A Plan to Be More Productive

You don’t even need to wait until after work to plan on exercising. According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s even “evidence suggesting that exercise during regular work hours may boost performance.”

You might be more productive doing something as simple as planning 10 push-ups every hour for upper-body work. I’ve found that a 1-minute wall-sit or ten lunges across the room and back feels great for your legs. There are also plenty of motivational speeches out there online to get you through the first set in case you’re having trouble getting up.

If those seem like too much, even a 20-minute walk is great for you. Should you decide to get your exercise in by walking, take the Mayo Clinic’s advice and “get the right gear, choose your course carefully, warm-up, cool down, and stretch.” In addition to those, set realistic goals.

Set Long-Term, Short-Term, and Daily Goals

It took me a while to learn the importance of setting goals. This is another thing that I really didn’t start taking seriously until I was out of school, too.

We did do a few goal-related exercises throughout the different levels of my education. However, I never saw the value in them until actually needing to be more productive in sink-or-swim situations, like hitting a quota. Plus, life, in general, can get pretty stagnant without setting goals and progressively working toward them.

The Kind of Goals to Set to Be More Productive

Legendary business speaker Jim Rohn gave an old seminar that’s up on YouTube where he goes, “dreams and goals can become magnets.” He proceeds to explain that having powerful and clear goals can pull us through hard times.

There’s also science-backed evidence that the more ambitious our goals are, the more our brains are motivated to find ways to meet them.

The American Psychological Association has published a few studies that show how much more you might achieve if you set very difficult goals and firmly commit to them. It’s crucial to set the right ones if you want to be more productive.

A Self-Negotiation

Think of it this way: when you are negotiating with someone on price, you need to anchor at a higher number than what you intend to actually get. Then, through a series of counteroffers, you will ideally land on an amount that makes you happy. In this case, the negotiation (self-negotiation) is just you versus you.

You need to anchor high with your long-term goals in order to (hopefully) set the correct short-term and daily ones. I really wish that I had started doing this when I was younger because two years of goal-setting has already gotten me further than the previous five non-goal-setting years did.

Trust me, you do not want to do five years of aimless side-projects, sporadic gym visits, or being unproductive at your day-job!

An Example of Goal Setting

If you want an idea of what long, short, and daily goals look like, these are mine right now:

Long-Term Goals (1-2 years to complete)

-Earn the CPA license

-Earn a certain amount of money (I do have a specific amount for this)

-Launch a physical product with a Kickstarter campaign

Short-Term Goals (Quarterly)

-Pass the FAR Section on the CPA exam (section 1 of 4)

-Get 6-8 guest blog articles published

-Write 2-3 articles per week on my blog for college students

-Finish the next version of the prototype

Daily Goals to Be More Productive

-Study from 6:30 am to 9:00 am for the CPA exam, FAR section

-Write & send a guest article pitch

-Work on outline and draft of an article for This College Life

-Exercise at 5 pm

They Could Still Change

Those long-term goals might be current now, however, they could also change depending on the success of the short-term goals. My time in sales has exposed me to a lot of people making forecasts that change a lot. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

One More Good Goal Analogy to Be More Productive

I am a big fan of the old personal development record “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale (it’s about 65 years old at this point). In it, he has a great analogy to describe the importance of setting clear and concise goals for yourself.

Imagine a ship leaving a harbor with its entire journey mapped out and planned (a full crew, too). Most of the time, that ship will make it exactly where it needs to go.

Now, imagine one without a map, crew, or clear direction planned. Chances are that the second ship will either sink, crash into something in the harbor, or end up on a beach somewhere.

Be like the first ship!

Tying It All Together

The year 2020 will go down in history as one that’s created unprecedented challenges for many people and things in our lives. As you really take charge in 2021 — take as many opportunities as you can to work on yourself and keep preparing for the future.

Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time every day to stabilize your circadian rhythm. Develop an exercise plan that can’t be affected by gym closures and maybe most importantly — take a few minutes to set and write down those goals.

Image Credit: anna shvets; pexels

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