It’s a fresh new year! 2024 already! Happy New Year everyone. I always like to make a fresh start in the new year, by reviewing what’s been working for me and what hasn’t. I like to set myself goals that build on the previous year’s, and set up systems help to make the new year more successful than the last.
This time last year, I worked out a new set of productivity ‘rules’ for myself, to help me manage my time better and avoid procrastination. I said I would write a review post after a year to let you know how I got on, so here it is! I will also be sharing my newly updated productivity system for 2024.
What was my productivity system for 2023?
I wrote a full post about my productivity system for 2023, so feel free to read that if you want more detail, but here is a summary of the productivity rules I made for myself at the beginning of 2023.
- Get up at/by 7am
- Check/process emails after meals only, except when it’s essential or part of another task
- No checking weather unless it’s necessary to know
- No random internet browsing
- No phone on the loo
- No playing games on my phone
- Check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube analytics only once a day unless part of another task
- No clicking through to articles from Facebook
- YouTube and Board Game Arena are banned after 10 pm unless playing with someone I know
- No phone in bed
- Bed only for sleeping – use chair for reading, chatting and other activities
- Lights out by 11 pm
These rules were not designed to restrict myself and make my life less fun. They were designed to help me be more time-efficient, and therefore give me more time and freedom to do valuable and worthwhile things. I had the following hopes from my 2023 productivity system:
- Be more time efficient and therefore get more done.
- Improve my self-discipline.
- Finally establish habits that I’ve been trying to establish for years with limited success (including getting up early).
- Become less addicted to my phone, social media and gaming apps.
- Get a decent and consistent amount of sleep every night, which will hopefully benefit my physical and mental health.
- Have more quality time with friends and family, as a result of getting the things I need to do done more efficiently.
- Feel more relaxed and in control, and less stressed, because I’ll have more time to get things done.
- Feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that I’ve used my time well and not wasted time.
- Have less screen time.
- Have a more varied and interesting life.
- Get back into projects and hobbies that have been on the back burner due to a ‘lack of time’.
Later in this post I’ll share whether these hopes came true for me.
How did I get on with following my productivity rules?
I did my best to follow these rules throughout the year, with varying success. I’ll go through each rule now and let you know how I did!
Get up at/by 7am
I am proud to say that I managed to get up at or by 7am every single day in 2023! This is a real achievement for me because it’s the longest time I’ve ever been able to sustain getting up by a particular time, without slipping back into the habit of staying in bed later and later.
I’m not entirely sure why I was successful this time around, but at a guess, I think during January and February I was feeling motivated as the rules were new. Then, it got easier to get up early as the mornings got lighter. Then by the time I was 4 or 5 months in, I simply did not want to break my streak – I was determined to complete the whole year. This desire pushed me to get out of bed at 7 even when I really didn’t feel like it! Also, by then the habit had stuck pretty well.
Check/process emails after meals only, except when it’s essential or part of another task
I was very successful in this rule too, only breaking it on rare occasions. The times when I would sometimes break the rule were if I checked my emails as part of another task (such as when I needed to find out information from an email that I had received earlier), and I’d sometimes see a new email that had come in and couldn’t resist the temptation to read it. But in general, the only times I opened my inbox to check my emails were after meals as planned.
No checking weather unless it’s necessary to know
I used to have a habit of checking the weather all the time, just out of curiosity, but as a result of this rule I rarely do that any more. I wouldn’t say I’ve been 100% successful in this rule as I did still occasionally check the weather needlessly, but overall I do it significantly less than I used to so the effect on my productivity has been good!
No random internet browsing
This is one of the rules I wasn’t so successful on, and I put that down to it being so vague. I would sometimes look something up, justifying that it was a good or important thing to know, so it didn’t count as random internet browsing. The problem came when I would then click onto another interesting looking site or article from the first one, and get drawn into browsing for longer than I first intended. I’ll be sharing further down this post how I plan to adjust this rule for 2024 so that I’ll hopefully have more success with it.
No phone on the loo
I’ve been very successful on this rule, only taking my phone to the loo on a handful of occasions. These occasions were mostly when I was in a rush and decided to save time by replying to a message or looking up some vital information whilst using the loo. I managed to avoid spending ages sitting on the loo playing games or scrolling social media, which is what I used to do, so overall this rule has been a great success for my productivity (and hygiene too!)
No playing games on my phone
I was 100% successful on this rule, managing not to play any games on my phone for the whole year. I’m very pleased with this as I used to waste a lot of time doing that. Avoiding playing games on my phone has definitely boosted my productivity.
Check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube analytics only once a day unless part of another task
Overall, I was successful in only checking these sites once a day, which was usually straight after my evening meal. The problem was that I would sometimes spend half an hour or more on some of those sites, particularly Facebook and Instagram, just scrolling mindlessly. Despite the fact I was only doing this once a day, it still wasn’t great for my productivity as I could have been using that time in much better ways.
Halfway through the year, I decided to introduce an adjustment to this rule. I decided I would only allow myself to spend up to 5 minutes on each of these sites, and I used a timer on my phone to measure this. This sometimes worked, but other times I would ignore the timer because I was in the middle of reading something interesting. I’d then end up continuing to scroll without even realising it.
I decided to allow myself to finish reading whatever I was reading after the timer went off, but then I had to stop. Again, I had mixed results with this as I would still sometimes forget to stop scrolling after I finished reading, or other times I would spend ages reading the comments on whatever that post was.
I’ve taken some new steps to help make this rule more successful in 2024, so read on to find out what those are, further down.
No clicking through to articles from Facebook
I used to click through to a lot of rubbishy, often clickbait, articles from Facebook, which were addictive but a waste of time to read. That’s why I set this rule to stop me from doing that. It was a partial success as I definitely did this less.
After I introduced the ‘5 minute rule’ for my social media checking, I somewhat slacked on this rule because I reasoned that as long as I kept my browsing within the 5 minutes, it didn’t really matter if I was reading Facebook or an outside article.
YouTube and Board Game Arena are banned after 10 pm unless playing with someone I know
I introduced this rule to stop me from staying up too late binge watching YouTube videos or playing addictive games. Overall I was successful on it, with only the rare occasion where I had been watching YouTube videos before 10pm and didn’t realise or remember this rule when the time crept past 10. I have hardly played on Board Game Arena at all this year so I was very successful on that side of this rule.
No phone in bed
For the majority of the year, I was very successful on not using my phone in bed. Occasionally, I would reach for my phone if I couldn’t sleep, or to write down something I remembered while lying in bed, but otherwise, I avoid the habit. I had a phase in November and December when I started slacking on this rule, for a variety of reasons, and used my phone in bed several times for no good reason. By the end of December, though, I had squashed the habit again.
Bed only for sleeping – use chair for reading, chatting and other activities
I’ve been pretty good at saving my bed for sleeping only. I sit at my desk or on my armchair to do other activities. The only thing I occasionally do is sit on my bed while using my phone, but it hasn’t been a big deal or affected my productivity or sleep.
Lights out by 11 pm
This is one of the rules I have been the least consistent at achieving. Despite still managing to get up at 7am every morning, I quite often went to bed later than 11pm. That said, overall having this rule has encouraged me to wind down earlier in the evening, and made me go to bed earlier than I otherwise might have. I didn’t have many crazy late nights, and when I did it was because I was out at a social event. When I got home I would generally get ready for bed quite quickly rather than staying up longer.
I would like to get better at going to bed by 11pm because I know sleep is very important for both physical and mental health. Therefore I will be putting some more measures in place to help me achieve this goal more consistently – I’ll share those below.
My productivity chart
I recorded whether I stuck to my productivity rules in an spreadsheet on my laptop. You can read more about my productivity chart in my 2023 productivity system post. Every day I would fill in the chart, to show whether or not I succeeded in each rule. If I broke a rule I would make a note of why, and how I could improve that in future.
Having this chart really helped me to stick to my productivity system because filling it in was a daily reminder of my rules, and it kept me motivated. Also, it helped me to figure out as I went along if things weren’t working, so I could adjust my rules or work out ways to help me to follow them more closely.
Did I achieve what I wanted from my productivity rules?
Earlier in this post, I listed my hopes and goals for what I would achieve as a result of my 2023 productivity system. Some of these were to be more time-efficient, improve my self-discipline and establish good habits. I have definitely improved in all those areas. I also wanted to become less addicted to my phone and have less screen time. Overall I have achieved this too, although I think I am still a bit addicted to social media as I sometimes found it difficult to stop scrolling even when I knew I’d gone over my allotted time.
Another goal was to get a decent and consistent amount of sleep each night. I was consistent in getting up at 7am every day, but I didn’t always get to bed by 11pm which meant I sometimes had less sleep than I would have liked. I didn’t find that this had a negative impact on me, but I still think that if I got a little more sleep, it might have a positive impact! Therefore I would like to improve on getting to sleep earlier each night.
My other hopes involved feeling less stressed and having more time to spend with family and friends, and on other projects and hobbies. I didn’t notice a big difference here, in fact it was quite a busy and sometimes stressful year! I didn’t have that much extra time to spend on hobbies and socialising. That said, I’m sure my productivity rules must have helped to some extent, and perhaps without them I would have been even busier. I think it might be a case of life inevitably coming in and filling up my free time, however much or little of it I had.
How I’m updating my productivity system for 2024
I originally expected to be making a whole new set of productivity rules for 2024, but actually the 2023 rules were working so well I didn’t feel a need to change them. I have kept the same rules for 2024 but the only difference is that I have adjusted a few of them that I had been struggling to keep to. Mostly it was because they were too vague so I made some of them more specific, and also put some new measures in place to help me stick to them. Here are the changes I am making to my productivity system in 2024:
Make a note of things I want to look up
To help me avoid ‘random internet browsing’, my aim for 2024 is to write down things I want to look up, in a phone note, rather than immediately looking them up when I think of them. Then, I allocate myself an optional 10 minutes, after I have checked my socials in the evening, to browse those topics on the internet. Anything I don’t get round to looking up within the 10 minutes will roll over to the next day. I’m hoping this will help me to avoid getting drawn into random internet browsing.
Put time limits on certain apps and websites
To help me stick to my ‘5 minute rule’ on social media, I have set time limits on certain apps (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) so that they will cut me out after 5 minutes. I have also installed an extension on my browser and set a time limit on those websites on my laptop too. This extension might also help me to curb ‘random browsing’ because I can set a time limit on other websites such as news sites that I find myself getting drawn into.
These time limits can be easily overridden if I need to use any of these websites for a particular task, such as promoting my blog on social media! This means this system won’t be foolproof as sometimes my allocated time will be used up for other reasons and I’ll need to override it and then use a timer, but overall I think it will help me not to spend too long on social media.
Wind down earlier in the evening
To help me get into bed by 11pm more regularly, I’ve decided to start winding down earlier in the evening. Once it gets to 9pm I will only finish off the tasks that are absolutely essential for that day, that I haven’t done yet. When those are done I will get ready for bed, and even if there is still a while until 11pm, I’ll aim to just read or do relaxing activities rather than trying to squeeze more tasks in before bed.
I can be a bit of a workaholic and try to do as much as I can each day, but I am going to try to resist this and make sure I wind down earlier. Overall I will be more productive if I am well rested!
Those are really the only 3 changes that I will be making to my 2023 productivity system. Noting down things I want to look up, putting time limits on social media and winding down earlier in the evening. These are only small changes but hopefully they will help me to be more successful in the rules that I frequently broke last year. They might also swing the balance and help me to feel more in control and less stressed, and to notice myself having more free time to spend with loved ones or on hobbies and projects.
Here’s to a productive 2024!
One of the main reasons I write posts like this is as a record for myself. It helps me clarify my thoughts and goals and I can look back at this post to see how I did. That said, I hope this has been useful for you too, and maybe even inspired you to work on your own productivity.
Do you have any productivity goals for 2024? Do you set yourself any rules to help you be more productive? Let me know in the comments!