6 Sneaky Ways To Achieve More In A Day Than Most Do In A Week

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Yesterday was one of my most productive days ever.

I wrote 3 articles, segregated my important documents, meditated for 30 minutes, made my monthly investments, caught up with an old friend, banged out an amazing workout, and got to bed early.

My past self wouldn’t have achieved that much in an entire week. In fact, even my present “normal” days put my erstwhile most productive days to shame.

I work a full-time job, write, work out, eat healthily, invest, read, sleep enough, play my guitar, spend time with loved ones, and constantly explore new things.

I neither have a timetable nor insane willpower. What I do have are honed systems, consistent habits, and optimized frameworks — and these are what have revolutionized my productivity.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer

Drawing on both my experience and the relevant research, I want to share a comprehensive productivity guide with you. And I hope this improves your productivity by leaps and bounds.

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Here are 6 sneaky ways to actually achieve more in a day than most normally do in a week: 

1. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep

With the rise of the toxic hustle culture, being sleep-deprived has appallingly become something to brag about. Even I used to take sleep for granted.

But two nightmarish bouts of insomnia were enough to propel sleep to the top of my priorities totem pole — forget being productive. It took my all to barely scrape past my days.

As this paper aptly titled "The Extraordinary Importance Of Sleep" explains, the effects of sleep deprivation are debilitating — affected cognition, hypertension, memory loss, disrupted hormones, cardiac risk, and obesity to name a few.

Sleep can make or break the next day. While 8 hours of deep sleep makes me feel like an inexhaustible machine, 6 groggy hours leave me barely functional.

Without good sleep, you just cannot be productive. So sleep enough and well. Here are 5 tips to do the same:

  • Choose a sleep time based on your preference and convenience. It could be as late as 12 AM or as early as 7 PM. The time doesn’t matter as much as the duration does. The key is to consistently stick to the same timings.
  • Get rid of all electronic screens at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by electronic screens disrupts sleep by reducing the sleep hormone Melatonin production.
  • Find a calming activity to do just before bed. Anything that puts you in a serene state of mind will work. Reading a book while lying on my stomach is my go-to.
  • Use your bedroom for only these two things. Our brains associate activities with places. And you want your bedroom associated with only sleep and sex. So if you eat, work, chill, and live on your bed, there won’t be any helpful association — this is primarily what caused my insomnia.
  • Consider supplementing with Melatonin. This is sort of a last resort and having used Melatonin myself, I can attest to the fact that it works. ZMA is another supplement that might help. But, I’d say consult a doctor or a sleep specialist before trying these.

2. Ruthlessly prioritize and create these two task-buckets

24 hours isn’t enough to do everything we want to. And that’s exactly what makes ruthless prioritization not only powerful but necessary.

“If there are nine rabbits on the ground, if you want to catch one, just focus on one.” — Jack Ma

On normal days, just before going to sleep, I will decide 3 tasks to accomplish at any cost the next day. And before my “go the extra mile days”, I mentally commit to another 3 tasks.

I like to call these the primary and secondary buckets — the former 3 are to be achieved at any cost while the latter ones only if the primary ones are done.

3 is a sweet number — while with 7 or 20 item To-do lists, you’d be over-committing and scattering your focus, with 2 tasks or lesser, you’d be cutting yourself short.

This 2-bucket system also works better than just having a 6-task To-do list because of the additional layer of prioritization and the escape clause — you have to worry about your secondary bucket only once you’re done with the primary one.

So before you go to bed, choose your 6 tasks and segregate them into your two buckets.

3. Chisel your tasks down to the finest level of detail

Vague tasks are sneaky fellows — they can mean nothing and everything at the same time.

You can interpret them in a zillion ways. A 10-minute brisk walking session is as much of a “Workout” as a 2-hour strength training session is. And “Writing”? A 2-minute tweet or a 2-hour long-form batch writing session?

Steer away from all and any generality. Chisel down the tasks in your bucket until they’re specific enough to make it impossible to interpret them in more than one way.

A simple technique is to satisfy the “5W1H,” or the “Why-What-Where-When-Who-How,”—the output will be specific tasks such as “Write an 800–1000 word productivity article first thing after waking up,” or “Complete a low-rep and lat focused pull-workout before lunch”

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4. Cultivate task-specific rituals

It takes using rituals to understand just how powerful they can be.

A ritual, in simple terms, is a unique series of actions that precede, signify, and prepare you for a certain task. The unique part is crucial — you cannot use the same ritual for two different tasks.

This is because rituals work by forming mental associations. And this is a lock and key mechanism — the same key won’t work for different locks. So forge different keys.

You can make them as quirky as you fancy — Squeezing and tugging a hanky while listening to thrash metal and visualizing gore is my ritual before I try to set new personal records during strength training.

Also, the benefits of rituals won’t kick in immediately — as a form of classical conditioning, your brain needs time and repetition to fully associate the task with its ritual.

So form and stick to rituals. Unleash your creative brain, think about the activities that already “prime” you for certain tasks, and play around.

“The key to forming good habits is to make them part of your ‘rituals.’ I have a morning ritual, an afternoon ritual, and a Sunday ritual. It’s one way to bundle good habits into regular times that you set aside to prepare yourself for the life you want. Rituals help you form habits.” — Lewis Howes

5. Render it impossible to be distracted

Focus is the center stone of productivity, and nothing kills focus as much as distractions do.

Be it an Instagram notification flashing on your phone or your mother loudly bellowing at your sibling, it’s hard to consciously avoid giving in to distractions.

So, choose the easier way — eliminate all sources of distractions beforehand. Here are 4 ways to do just that and create a focus-rich environment:

  • Turn off all notifications. The effect of this is honestly miraculous. Unless the task at hand relies on them, turn off all notifications — PC, phone, Instagram, email, everything. I would say do this for life, but if you don’t want to, at least do it before working.
  • Find a calm and isolated environment. And let your friends, coworkers, or family know that you don’t want to be disturbed unless there’s an actual emergency. Next to the window in my room is my go-to place. I latch my door as well.
  • Put on a pair of headphones and play the same song on repeat. While music can help drown out other noises, the songs themselves can become distractions. Therefore — loop the same song. This will take your focus off the music. The one I use is Loving You by Eric Prydz.
  • Use blocking software and apps. Finding ColdTurkey writer has been a boon for me — until you meet the set word or time goal, your computer’s turned into a typewriter. For general use cases, there’s a ColdTurkey blocker. The best part is that you don’t have to use blocking software forever. After a while, you become “trained” enough to work without them.

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6 Alternate short bursts of deep work with pockets of leisure

With refreshing sleep, tasks decided and chiseled down to the sharpest detail, powerful rituals set up, and distractions eliminated, all that’s left is firing the gun.

With laser-sharp focus and a peak-state mind, you’ll now be able to tap into flow and perform deep work — which studies have reported to be up to 5 times as productive as normal work is!

But given the nature of deep work — mind pushed to its cognitive limits and your focus straightened into the thinnest strand, long stretches can burn you out and prove counterproductive.

A 5-hour writing session after which I scrapped everything I wrote after the 2-hour mark taught me this the hard way. This is where leisure comes in.

If sleep is the first thing toxic productivists hate, leisure is the second one. And funnily, both are instrumental to productivity. Leisure replenishes everything deep work consumes — focus, mood, motivation, and mental energy.

And when you marry deep work with leisure, the child you beget is the epitome of productivity. A rule of thumb I have is — for every hour of deep work, have at least 10 minutes of leisure. Naval Ravikant summarized this best when he said,

“Forty-hour workweeks are a relic of the Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes — train, and sprint, then rest and reassess.”

Here’s how I typically weave them together. During a batch writing session, once I’m done with my first article, I leisurely eat my pre-workout meal while reading a novel. Then, I jump right back in, and once the second’s also done, I sit back and sip my black coffee while watching workout compilations.

Then, I dive right into working out. The subsequent break is a lazy steamy shower. Then, some editing. A phone call to a friend would be the break. And so on.

With this, it’s the best of both worlds — neither does work feel like work nor does leisure feel like a waste of time.

Well, there you go — no stringent timetables, no insane to-do lists, and no stoic willpower required. Just pure productivity.

Implement this correctly and you will definitely be able to achieve more in a day than most do in a week. Also, think of this as just a starting point — as you discover tricks, tweaks, and optimizations, evolve and strengthen this.

People, after all, are as different as they come. And just like there isn’t a one-size-fits-all attire, there is no universal plug-and-play productivity guide.

Try this out, enjoy the insane productivity boost, stick to it, then tweak and optimize as you see fit. As one of my favorite quotes goes,

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.” — Bruce Lee

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Neeramitra Reddy is a writer and editor of In Fitness And In Health, Wholistique, and MANXIMIZE.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.