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To start this post, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I know we are already three weeks into 2023 now, but I’ve still got that fresh new year feeling. Have you?
This sounds like a total cliche, but I really feel like 2023 is going to be my year. The reason for this? I’ve created a new productivity system for myself that I’m hoping will help me get more done and reach my goals. As you will have guessed from the title, that is what this blog post is about. I’ll be explaining my new productivity system for 2023 and my hopes for the year. So to say another cliche: let’s jump right in!
My Productivity Rules for 2023
As part of my productivity system, I have formulated the following rules that I will do my best to stick to:
Get up at/by 7 am
If I don’t take control of what time I get up, I tend to get up later and later. The problem with this is that it cuts short my morning, which is generally the most productive time of my day. I am rarely very productive in the evenings even if I stay up later. That’s why I’m striving to get up at or by 7.00 am in 2023 so I can make the most of the mornings. I’ve been using a sunrise alarm clock to make this easier in the winter months.
Related post: How To Get Out Of Bed When It’s Cold and Dark
Check/process emails after meals only, except when it’s essential or part of another task
I habitually check my emails regularly throughout the day, but this is just not necessary. For 2023, I’m aiming to check my emails just 3 times a day, after meals. If I have time, I process (delete or reply to) all my new emails right away. If I don’t have time, I save them until after the next meal. This strategy is much more time efficient than repeatedly checking them all day.
There are exceptions to this rule: if I am expecting an urgent email then I will obviously check for it when needed. And sometimes I will need to read or send an email as part of another task or project.
So far, I’ve been finding it helpful to quit the mail app on my laptop after I’ve processed my emails. That way, I don’t get tempting notifications coming up telling me how many new emails I’ve got.
No checking weather unless it’s necessary to know
This is quite specific, but I am forever checking the weather forecast out of curiosity for what weather is coming up, even when I don’t need to know! That’s why one of my productivity goals for 2023 is not to check the weather unless I have a genuine reason to.
No random internet browsing
Sometimes I get an urge to look something up on the internet, just out of curiosity. There’s nothing wrong with this, but sometimes I end up down the internet rabbit hole, browsing for hours on random topics and wasting time. I’m trying to avoid this in 2023!
No phone on the loo
I’m sure I’m not the only one with the habit of taking my phone to the loo. It means I end up sitting there for far longer than necessary, just playing games on my phone or going on social media. This is a habit I’m trying to break in 2023.
No playing games on my phone
Related to the previous point, I sometimes play games on my phone (major culprits are Solitaire, Blockudoku and Zen Match) and it’s very addictive, but just not a good use of time. My time would be better spent reading a book or doing some other productive activity. That’s why I’m banning phone games for myself in 2023.
Check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube analytics only once a day unless part of another task
I already talked about how I’m only checking my emails 3 times a day, after meals. I have made a similar rule for social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also the analytics for a YouTube channel I run. If left uncontrolled I’d be constantly checking these at random moments throughout the day. I don’t want to cut out social media altogether, but in 2023 I’m aiming to only check these sites once a day, after my evening meal.
Like with emails, I’ll sometimes need to check these sites as part of another task, and that’s allowed.
No clicking through to articles from Facebook
When I do check Facebook, ideally I’d just be checking for any interesting news and updates from my friends. The reality is, it’s easy to get drawn into clicking on random news articles with clickbait titles. So many of these are a load of rubbish and a waste of time to read, although very addictive. My goal in 2023 is to just have a quick look at Facebook without clicking through to articles.
YouTube and Board Game Arena are banned after 10 pm unless playing with someone I know
Two relaxing activities I enjoy are watching YouTube videos and playing online board games on Board Game Arena. I’ve decided not to ban these entirely, but only after 10 pm. This is because if I start watching videos or playing games late in the evening, I usually end up staying up really late watching/playing them. This then means I get to bed late and get up later in the morning. Plus, it’s not great to have so much screen time close to bedtime as it can disrupt sleep. The exception to this rule is if I am playing online games with a real-life friend of mine.
No phone in bed
When I get into bed, I usually take my phone with me and go on social media or play games before falling asleep. This would be okay if I just had a quick scroll, but phones are addictive and I tend to spend hours on my phone even when I know I need to go to sleep. Therefore in 2023, I am banning myself from using my phone in bed. I either turn it off or put it in aeroplane mode before I get into bed.
Bed only for sleeping – use chair for reading, chatting and other activities
Related to the last point, I’ve decided not to do any activities such as reading, chatting with friends or journalling while I’m in bed. This is because, although these activities are not as addictive as going on my phone, I can still tend to spend a long time doing them when I need to sleep. Also, if I do mind-stimulating activities in bed, I won’t be able to sleep as well. By saving my bed for sleep only, I’ll hopefully associate being in bed with sleeping, and I’ll get to sleep more easily. That’s my theory anyway!
I am still allowing myself to do all the mentioned activities before bed, but I’ll sit in an armchair to do them instead. I hopefully won’t sit up too late doing them because when I get tired I’ll want to get into bed.
These last two rules will help a lot with the next one…
Lights out by 11 pm
In 2023, I’m aiming to be in bed with lights out by 11 pm at the latest. This works together with my goal of getting up at 7 am – if I go to bed earlier, it will be easier to get up earlier. It works both ways because if I get up earlier, I will be more tired by 11 pm so will be less tempted to stay up.
Related post: My Bedtime Routine For A Good Night’s Sleep
How I chose my productivity rules
Some of these rules are very specific to me, and they address the ways I know I waste time. If you were to make a similar productivity system or rules, yours would probably be quite different from mine. To come up with my set of rules, I first wrote down the ways in which I am unproductive or waste time. Then I came up with rules that would counteract those things.
My rules are all interlinked and they work together. Many of them support each other, for example, banning games on my phone makes me less likely to use it in bed; not using my phone in bed helps me to go to sleep earlier; going to sleep earlier helps me get up earlier; and so on. My rules should strengthen and reinforce each other.
My productivity chart
To help me keep track of how I’m doing with my new productivity rules, I have made a chart. This is nothing fancy – just an excel spreadsheet with a column for each rule and a row for each date of the year. If I am successful in keeping to a rule that day, I fill the relevant cell in green.
Having a chart keeps me motivated because I’ll want to get as many cells as possible filled in green, with no misses. It will also keep my productivity rules fresh in my mind as I will re-read and evaluate them every time I fill in the chart.
I was originally going to fill cells in red if I didn’t succeed in keeping a rule on a particular day. Then, I came up with a better idea. Instead of marking a rule breakage as a ‘fail’, I will make a lesson out of it. I write in the cell what went wrong, why, and how I could improve next time. I fill these cells in yellow rather than red because red has negative connotations whereas yellow is more neutral.
If I marked rule breakages in red as a ‘fail’ and left it at that, I would potentially feel discouraged and also be more likely to slack on my rules. I might pick up an attitude of, ‘If I’ve failed once then I might as well just fail again’. By marking in yellow and writing notes instead, I will see rule breakages as a lesson – something positive and constructive – instead of a failure. Also, my notes on how to improve will refine my habits and reduce my chances of breaking the rule again. It’s a ‘succeed or learn’ system rather than ‘succeed or fail’.
I’m so pleased I came up with this ‘succeed or learn’ idea because I think it will be applicable to any rules and systems I set for myself in the future, and it will help me get better at changing habits and meeting goals.
There are some situations in which I would be flexible in my productivity rules. For example, if I was out socialising with friends one evening, I wouldn’t come home early because ‘I need to be in bed by 11’. I’d make an exception there because I think it’s important to be flexible and judge things on a case-by-case basis. In this case, quality time with my friends is a priority over adhering to a rule, as long as I am sticking to the rule the rest of the time.
Another example of where I could have flexibility in my rules is if I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw an article that was genuinely relevant to me, maybe it is about somebody I know. I’d read it because in that individual case, clicking through to an article wouldn’t be a waste of time.
Despite this flexibility, I would still mark the above occasions in yellow on my chart because overall I want to encourage myself to stick to my rules. Marking reasonable allowances as a success could lead to a slippery slope of allowing further deviations beyond what could be accepted as flexibility.
My hopes for 2023 with my new productivity system
These are the things I am hoping to achieve in 2023 as a result of my new 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’.
Here’s to a productive and enjoyable year!
My new productivity system is not about working non-stop and being ‘super productive’ all the time. It’s about being more time efficient. This ultimately means I’ll have more time for leisure, socialising and other valuable non-work activities because I’ll stay on top of my ‘worky’ tasks, get them done sooner and therefore create more free time. I’m not trying to tie myself into ‘work work work’ but in fact, quite the opposite. These rules might sound restrictive but they will in fact create freedom.
I’d love to look back at the end of 2023 and see how I got on with this productivity system – whether I managed to stick consistently to my rules, and whether they helped me achieve the things I wanted to. I’m feeling optimistic that they will! I hope to write a blog post about it, so if you’re reading this later in the year, stay tuned.
Do you have a productivity system or any productivity rules that you follow? I’d love to hear about them and get inspired, so let me know in the comments below.