When I left my full-time job several years ago, I told myself that if I worked as hard on my own projects as I did at that job, then I would surely be successful. But the problem is, as I became my own boss I found myself wasting a lot of time during the day. I was enjoying the freedom and flexibility so much that I gave myself a lot of leeway. As a result, I wasn’t getting as much done as I had hoped. I’ve spent some time thinking about how to be more productive. Here are some tips I found that have helped me.

1. Stop Wasting Time on Social Media and Games

Every Sunday my phone sends me a message with statistics on how much time I spent using my phone and which apps I used the most. It’s a real eye-opener. I don’t mind when it tells me I spend a lot of time on my Kindle app because that means I was engrossed in reading a good book. But when it says how many hours I spent playing June’s Journey or how much time I spent on Instagram, it’s embarrassing.

These are hours we can’t get back. These are hours that could have been spent building our dreams instead of avoiding whatever it is we are avoiding doing. This is not how to be more productive.

Social media sites like Facebook can be wonderful for staying in touch with old friends and family members, especially during lockdown. But Facebook can also be incredibly draining. There is so much negativity on Facebook. It is designed to keep pushing at you what it thinks you want. So if you read a stressful article about politics, it will push more in front of you. Facebook can be a great tool for businesses by helping you build groups. But it can also be a big drain on your energy and time.

Be mindful of how much time you are wasting on social media or playing games. Schedule those activities on your calendar like you would anything else. Give yourself a half hour to play a game, or 15 minutes to check your news feed. But don’t default to reaching for your phone every time you have a free moment.

If you have some spare time, pick up a notebook and jot down ideas for your future. It is a much better way to spend your time. Time is our most precious commodity. That’s why we say we “spend” time. It’s our more valuable resource.

2. Stop Second-Guessing Yourself

We all have that little nagging voice in the back of our brains that tells us we’re probably wrong, or who do we think we are. Am I right?

This starts when we are children. We hear our parents, or teachers, or friends, or society in general telling us we shouldn’t do something. Now, I know that our parents’ job is to steer us into being good adults. But your vision of your future may not be the same as theirs. And their generation probably has a completely different view of the world than ours. We have to be obedient when we’re children. But as adults, we need to learn to make up our own minds about things. At some point you have to stop following your parents vision for your life and start building your own.

The same goes for our friends. They may have a very different idea of what makes a happy life. Some people want to get married and raise a family. Some people want to have a career. Some people want to build a business. Some people want to be free spirits. You can’t let other people’s visions of happiness interfere with your own plans.

Create your own vision and stop worrying about what other people think. Do some deep thinking to find your core values, and then act in alignment with those values. Your vision for your life is the only one that matters. You can’t live life doing what your parents expect you to do, or what society says you should so, or listening to your friends who want you to make the same choices they did. They are speaking from their own perspective. Why do we listen to everyone else instead of ourselves? Stop doing that.

When your vision is clear, you won’t waste time. You will see clearly how to be more productive.

3. Schedule Everything

This has helped me be more productive than anything. Once you know what you want to work on, break it down into tasks, and put these tasks on your calendar.

Don’t just think of them as things that you will eventually do. I used to make to-do lists. I love making lists, and I enjoy checking items off my list as I complete them. But I realized that I need to put a time table to that list. Otherwise, they stay on the list for whenever I get around to them.

Another tip is to not schedule too much time for your tasks. Figure out how long you think they will take and then subtract some time from that. If you give yourself a week, it will take you a week. If I give myself two hours to write a blog post, it will take me two hours. Now, I cut a half hour off of that, and challenge myself to finish in 90 minutes. And you know what, it gets done. And it usually ends up better than if I had given myself more time, because I didn’t waste time tweaking it over and over.

Now I make a list of tasks, and I put them on my calendar the way I would if I were an employee at someone else’s company. Even if you are someone’s employee, treat your personal goals in the same way. Put your personals tasks on your calendar, and then show up for them.

Be a woman who shows up for herself. Stick to your calendar. Don’t let Netflix or friends or social media or your own thoughts distract you.

4. Get Organized

It’s much easier to get things done when you know where everything is, and you know your schedule. I’m not just referring to decluttering your surroundings. It’s also important to clear your mind of distractions, negative thinking, judging, and questioning yourself.

If you know where your pen is, if you know where your notebook is, if you know what is on your schedule, you will get things done quicker, and have more time for other things.

Likewise, if you know your own mind, if you take time to meditate or journal your thoughts, you will get to your productive thoughts much quicker.

Just like a cluttered desk or room can feel oppressive and keep you from performing at your best. A cluttered mind full of confusion and self-doubt and a million racing thoughts will keep you from focusing on your goals.

Keep an orderly environment. And learn practices that can help your mind focus as well. Whether that means that you pray, or meditate, or listen to affirmations, or some calming music. Find whatever works for you to free your mind for optimal performance.

5. Take Care of Yourself by Eating Healthy Foods

You know I am an advocate for the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. When I eat in this healthy way, I have more energy, my thoughts are clearer, and I feel more positive. As a result, my creativity flows. Eating leafy greens, whole grains, lots of colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins will do wonders for your productivity.

Conversely, if I eat a lot of sugar, salty snacks like chips, or quick processed foods, my energy wanes, and I want to take a nap. Or I feel less positive about life in general. Food can really affect your mood.

And remember, the Mediterranean lifestyle isn’t just about food. It’s also about slowing down and making time for what is important in life. When I live my life in ease instead of rushing around, I accomplish more in a calmer way. This way of life helped me learn how to be more productive.

If you’re feeling confused or muddled in your mind, eat a piece of fruit, or take a walk, or make yourself a salad or a cup of tea. Keep your body in tiptop shape. It will directly affect how your mind works and how much you can accomplish in a day. Your productivity will improve in a natural way.

I hope you enjoyed these tips for how to be more productive. Let me know if you have any tips to add to this conversation. I love to learn from you too.