5 Habits to Refocus for a More Productive Lifestyle

Achieve your dreams.

5 Habits to Refocus for a More Productive Lifestyle
Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

Achieve your dreams.

Do you have a passion you believe is your true calling, but are unable to work on it because you never find the time?

Do you believe you have huge potential, but your current job or circumstances don’t allow you the time and space to be who you are meant to be?

If you feel this is you I am talking about, let me tell you this: it is possible to achieve phenomenal success at your passion or side hustle without necessarily quitting your job (at least, not yet).

I can tell you about it because I have a full-time day job as a civil engineer. I am also pursuing my PhD in geotechnical engineering part-time from one of the best universities in India. Apart from that, I am working on my fourth novel and publish almost daily on Medium, YouTube, and Instagram.

To many of my friends, my lifestyle feels exhausting, but let me tell you, with the right efforts directed at the right places, it is possible to get exactly what you want without compromising on your peace of mind.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether the goals you have set are equal to your potential.

“Most people will admit that their goals are well below their potential — because most of the world has been convinced, persuaded, and even educated to set small, attainable, and realistic goals.” — Grant Cardone, The 10x Rule

Based on all the lessons I have learned in the past few years, I have come up with five habits that I have given up to achieve a more productive lifestyle. You can apply these and see the results for yourself.

1. Hanging Out With Friends

I don’t hang out with friends anymore. Instead, I meet people and have meaningful, life-changing conversations.

Back in my college days, hanging out with friends meant partying, bingeing on unhealthy food, going on shopping sprees and endless gossip about other people that did not even concern me.

Since then, I have replaced this unproductive activity with meaningfully connecting with people.

Don’t get me wrong. Meeting with friends will always important. After all, humans are social animals and it is the interactions that keep us grounded.

Even then, it is not necessary to spend hours meeting with a bunch of people and engaging in tasks that ultimately provide no value.

What you can do instead

When you meet your friends, don’t indulge in activities that leave no scope for conversations. Instead of noisy clubs and dance bars, choose a quiet cafe or park where you can connect with them and share your stories. Don’t engage in activities like shopping or playing games where you are too preoccupied to talk.

“In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections we make.” — BoJack Horseman

Make the most of these connections. Learn from them and spread your light and positivity in their lives. Don’t waste opportunities in doing mindless tasks you are going to gain nothing from. Use every opportunity as a chance to enrich your mind and soul.

2. Watching Movies Just For the Sake of it

There was a time I used to binge-watch movies because I knew of no other way I could utilise my time better. They were just ways to “kill time,” not utilise it.

Since then, I have stopped watching movies just for the sake of it.

Instead, I have learned to observe the stories in the movies and web series I watch through the eyes of a writer and use them as avenues to teach myself the intricacies of storytelling.

As someone who has had no formal training in creative writing, you might say it’s audacious of me to dream of becoming a full-time writer someday. However, I try to compensate for this by learning from all the content (books and movies) I consume.

As I had written about in a previous article,

When you watch a movie like a writer, you pay attention to the plot devices and twists the author used so you can deploy similar techniques whenever such situations arise in your stories. The idea is to carefully examine each storyline, each scene, and keep a note of the methods so you can use them in your writing.

What you can do instead

Watching movies was my escape, my way of procrastinating on my goals. I turned it into an opportunity to help myself grow. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, with careful thought, you can convert it into an avenue for you to hone your craft and improve your skills. That way, you can kill two birds with one stone: relax, as well as learn something new.

3. Scrolling Through Social Media

In today’s digital age, it is very difficult to save oneself from the addiction of constantly refreshing our social media pages. The urge to check our notifications becomes a nervous twitch that breaks down uninterrupted time into segments too small to support the concentration necessary for a mindful and productive life.

I used to be a social media addict. There were times when I picked up my phone to check for a particular item on Instagram, but the moment I opened the app, I got distracted by a new post. This led to another, then another, and before I knew it, I was sucked into the internet rabbit hole of too much information.

It has been a few months now, but I have stopped the excessive use of social media. I only open these apps to upload new content, engage with my audience, and reply to comments or emails.

What you can do instead

Use your social media profiles as tools to engage with the content that impacts you, and not as sources of validation for yourself. When you do this, you should also be comfortable missing out on the items that don’t concern you. In his book, Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport discusses this brilliant concept:

“Focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support the things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.” — Cal Newport

4. Watching News

Being aware of what is going on in the world is a necessity in today’s times, as it helps us connect better with people and know the condition the planet is in.

However, if we only expose ourselves to the bad news going on, it might be counter-productive. Looking at so much sadness and suffering experienced by fellow human beings from different parts of the world can take a toll on our mental health.

There is actually a phenomenon associated with this, known as secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue. According to a report by GoodTherapy,

Compassion fatigue, also known as second-hand shock and secondary stress reaction, describes a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatized or under significant emotional duress.

It not only takes a huge toll on your time but also, as some reports suggest, compassion fatigue can lead to very serious problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

What you can do instead

Watch news if you have to, but detach yourself. Don’t let it consume you and affect your peace of mind. This might sound selfish, but if you don’t care about your mental health, who will? Treat bad news as information, not as something to obsess over.

5. Internet Debates

In my social media addiction days, I used to spend hours arguing with strangers on the internet, believing that the time and effort I spent looking up relevant information would change their mind.

What I didn’t realise was that no matter how legitimate my source of information was, if a person is convinced about something, there is nothing that can change their belief.

Behind the anonymity provided by the internet, several people become unrecognisable from their usual selves. They get so caught up in debates over random strangers on the internet, that it can take a serious toll on their mental health. Researchers call it the online disinhibition effect.

While online, some people self-disclose or act out more frequently or intensely than they would in person.

What you can do instead

Mute all WhatsApp groups where people tend to debate. Exit groups on Facebook or Reddit where the opinions of users often clash with your own.

Understand that other people are entitled to their opinion as much as you are entitled to yours. The moment you are convinced that you are right, you have already stepped into a power struggle. Don’t let this fool you into spending hours of your valuable time trying to convince someone who is unwilling to see a different perspective.

“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”― Mark Twain

Give more priority to your sanity and peace of mind than the possibility of being able to change the mind of a stranger on the internet.

Closing Notes

Your goals might feel lofty and unattainable, but with proper planning, it is possible to achieve all you have ever desired. Summing up, here are the five habits you need to give up to improve your productivity and bring your closer to your dreams:

  1. Don’t hang out with friends and engage in unproductive activities. Spend time connecting with them and learning from their life lessons.
  2. Turn your guilty pleasure into a way of honing your skills and improving your craft.
  3. Use social media only in ways that that help you to promote your business or directly add value to your life. Don’t keep scrolling through content for hours with no tangible gain.
  4. Don’t watch the news if you are unable to detach yourself from all the sad things happening to people all over the world.
  5. Avoid getting sucked into the power struggle of internet debates.

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