It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.Earl of Chesterfield.

Although the redoubtable Earl may have written this quote sometime in the 18th century, at a time when there were neither smartphones or laptops to distract us from productivity , we can all identify with the sentiment today. We are all still struggling to get down and dirty, and be productive. It seems that being productive does not come naturally: we have to look to external tools and measures to help us. Here are a few tools and strategies that I find really work:

1. Pick a time management system – and stick to itThere are some brilliant time management systems that help you manage your time. My personal favorite is the 1:3:5 list. I love it because it’s so simple. You just choose 1 big task to finish on any given day, 3 medium things and 5 little things. So, the total is 9 in one day. This may seem a little daunting, but it’s a matter of prioritization, focusing on the main TO DO. That’s often the one we hate the most – renew your license, for example – but boy, will you feel good after getting that one thing done that you’ve been putting off

Another system that people swear by is the GTD (Getting things done) system. The idea here is to move your must-dos out of your mind and onto paper or something else external to your mind. Basically, by writing them down, you release your mind from having to remember them. Leaving it all up to memory is stressful, the theory goes, and the more stressed we are, the less you get done. You need an inbox, a trash can, a filing system for reference material, or lists.

2. Figure out how you use your time
Toggl is an amazing online tool which tracks your hours at the click of the keyboard. It tells you where you really spend your time. Jaon Corvell part-time editor from BestEssays says:" It’s great to follow your hours doing a project, and create reports for your own interest or to share with your employer."
3. Don’t get "stuck" surfing the Internet
Gosh. Is the Internet ever a time waster! We have to wonder what people in the 18th century did without it which was our equivalent of browsing the internet.

Luckily, the internet has its own cure for its own distractions. I like the browser extension StayFocusd. It works by limiting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting sites like Facebook, Listverse and Twitter. You simply allot the time you devote on these sites, and once that time is up, those websites are off-limits for the rest of the day.

4. List your goalsHaving goals in life gives meaning. No one says this better than one of the wisest Holocaust survivor and physician Viktor E. Frankel when he said:

"The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.” 

Most of us just get through the day, without really finding out what meaning we can give to our lives. To do so requires a conscious effort. If you don’t know what gives you meaning, and you would like a starting point, we suggest browsing through Pinterest for inspiration . You may find something that really resonates with you.

Once you understand what gives you meaning (and it can be a number of things), set goals to achieve it. Write them down. Review them regularly. Use them to motivate yourself to become more productive. By productive, I don’t mean work more necessarily. I mean drive your life in the direction you want.

Your goals can be small and personal, or lifetime goals that are long-term. They can relate to any areas of your life: work, money, education, addiction , love, family , spirituality, body, health, philanthropy. You decide.

5. Keep a journal“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

Another quote from another bygone era, this time the famous British author, Jack London. But the quote says it all. Put down your thoughts, ideas, discussions, phone numbers, tasks, planning and reminders.

Buy a beautiful Moleskin journal, if you think writing on quality paper will motivate you. You can also use a blogging platform like Medium. If you do, remember to keep your post Unlisted, or it will be viewable by others.

But I recommend a paper-based journal, the old-fashioned way. Because the act of writing is slow, and there is no instant delete button, it tends to slow down and clarify your thoughts.

6.Rethink and renewTake stock of where you are and where you want to be periodically. This may be on an annual retreat, by yourself or with a group. Doing a mindfulness course can also help you focus on what’s important and let go of those resentments and bugbears that are bringing you down.

7.Take personal responsibility
We are responsible for our own lives which means our attitudes and our actions. While we do also have to integrate the contributions of our family history, our gender, race, economic status and perhaps other life altering events, we also have to acknowledge that this is it: It’s uniquely up to us personally to take responsibility for our lives.

Author's Bio: 

Joan Selby is a former ESL teacher and a content marketer. She also runs her own blog about social media and writing tips. Joan is a Creative Writing graduate and fancy shoelover. A writer by day and reader by night, giving creative touch to everything. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.