Three simple rules for productivity

You'll thank yourself for reading this

You know those days where you don’t feel very productive and it’s hard to get going? When you run out of steam or can’t be bothered and keep putting things off which then makes you feel even more rubbish?

We all have those days. Sometimes they last longer than a day. I read a blog recently that gave me a mindset shift that has helped me on those days – and also more generally to be productive and make progress when things feel tough. Here’s my key learnings and summary.

Rule 1 – No more zero days

A zero day is when you don’t do a single thing towards whatever it is that you want to achieve, whether that’s work related, relationship related, home related, losing weight, doing exercise, or being your best you. It’s different for everyone, and we all have things that we’re aspiring towards.

No more zero days isn’t about doing loads every day but its more about adopting a ‘No Zero’ system and mindset. For example, you were planning to get loads done on a project today and its already 9pm and you’ve faffed about kidding yourself that the things you’re procrastinating about are important. Do one thing that gets you towards the project goal. Write one sentence or read one page. It applies to all goals, for example you have a health and wellbeing goal to stay hydrated, manage your stress and move more; Drink one glass of water. Do one minute of meditation. Walk 10 steps.

Doing one thing might just change the inner dialogue of ‘I’ve wasted my day, or I’ve not done anything’ which tends to make us feel worse. The inner voice doesn’t serve you. What does serve you is a streak of no zero days. You might also find that when you start something you end up doing more than writing one sentence, reading one page or doing 10 steps.

With small actions it’s easy to be no zero. Acknowledge your no zero day. I often talk about the importance of reflecting on your achievements. No zero days are achievements.

Rule 2 – Be grateful to the 3 you’s

The 3 you’s are the past you, the present you, and the future you.

Be grateful to the past you for the positive things you’ve done. And do favours for the future you.

For example, if you’re feeling rubbish today, just stop. Take a moment. Think of a good decision you made yesterday. Drank water instead of that last glass of wine? Thank you past me.  Was yesterday a non-zero day because you read a page?  Thank you past me. Did you walk the dog even though you didn’t want to and got your steps in and felt better afterwards? Thank you past me.

The second part of the 3 me’s is that you have to do your future self a favour. Like you would to your best friend. For example, if you’re mindlessly scrolling social media and it’s making you feel bad, do your future you a favour and do something else. Your alarm clock goes off and you feel like you can’t move. Say ‘No present self, I’m getting up and getting some steps in today for my best friend, future me’.

Make sure you thank your old self for setting you up at the end of every single thing that makes your life better.

The cycle of doing something for someone else (future you) and thanking someone for the good in your life (past you) is key to building momentum and productivity. Gratitude is not just for others that help you – it’s for your past self too.

  • Past me went to the supermarket so I have healthy food in my fridge and less likely to snack on junk food from the local shop. Thank you.
  • Past me left my trainers by the front door so it’s easier for me to get up and go out for a walk in the morning. Thank you.
  • Past me wrote a really good list to help me structure my working day today. Thank you.

Present me can only take the time to do things for future me because past me took the time to do things for present me.

If present me were always busy making up for what past me didn’t do, future me will always be busy making up for present me.

You can create a positive, past me – present me – future me – cycle.

Stop today and do something for your best friend, future you. When you are future you, feeling better or with less to do because past you did it – remember to thank them.

Rule 3 – Forgive yourself

Things don’t always go to plan. If you did your best to have a no zero day yesterday and it failed,  forgive your past self and start again. Today, you’re going to do a favour to your future self and have a no zero day.

If you feel bad then it’s harder to be productive and it’s easier to procrastinate. If you want to achieve your goals, the first step is to forgive past you for your mistakes so you can move forward with a clean slate.

Your mindset affects your outcome. You can choose to make small steps towards what you want. Doing something small is still progress.

Remember the 3 rules

  • No zero days – Every day, do at least one little thing that will help move you in the direction of your goals.
  • Remember your two best friends: Your past self is your best friend because they did stuff to help you out, and your future you is your best friend, which is why you’re doing to do things to help future you out.
  • Forgive yourself – Guilt and disappointment hold you back and create only more guilt and disappointment. Forgive yourself and move on with a clean slate, every day.

What do you think? Comments welcome.

Credit and link to the original blog inspiration. 

2 thoughts on “Three simple rules for productivity

  1. I found these very helpful, particularly the ‘no zero days’ this concept will also help when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I can break things down and simplify what needs to be done.

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