This is really a tough one. I tend to imagine productivity in the 19th Century was a lot higher than it is today. That's especially because the 19th century worker didn't have much to do. They simply had farms where one would cultivate their crops or rare livestock. Less is more. So I imagine that they had more concentration or focus which led to more productivity than today's 21 century individual.
Why are we less productive than our earlier ancestors yet we seem to have more information and tools at our disposal? It's such a conundrum. We live in the information age, we have faster and more powerful computers and machines which do or should do most of the work for us compared to the 19th Century folks.
Am beginning to think that the very tools that should be making us more productive are the ones that are contributing to things like burnouts, stress. Our attention spans are terribly becoming low akin to that of 2-year olds! To prove my theory, try to email someone a 1000-worded document and see if they'll be able to consistently read through it without having to check their Whatsapp, Twitter or Facebook notifications. It's nearly impossible to grab people's full attention for just about 30 minutes only. Again, invite a fried over for dinner and observe if they will enjoy their meal without drifting away to their smartphone.
I don't want to solely blame it on Technology, being a hardcore technologist myself. I like to believe that what and how we use Tech is merely a reflection of who we are or have become. Tech is simply a tool which can be tamed to our liking. Therefore its wrong to blame our lack of attention or productivity to things like instant texting, Facebook, digital media, TV etc.
Since I have discovered the primary cause of my lack of productivity, am trying to find ways of taming my "tools" to work for me and not against me. Here's how I try to be productive through the day;
First things in the morning
I am a late riser. I find it incredibly difficult to get out of my sweet bed. God knows I try. I've tried to think about some of the reasons why I might struggle leaving my bed. One of the reasons that come to mind is the much treaded "morning preps" that we had at secondary school. I really hated morning preps. I didn't find much value in waking up at 5:00am in the freezing cold just to cram a few facts. It felt like torchure. So at University, I decided to "revenge" on my "lost" precious morning by sleeping as much as I could.
Anyway I wake up at about 6am thanks to a number of alarm clock apps. The usual routine of personal hygiene follows before I turn my phone data on at which am bombarded by a tsunami of notifications. I quickly peruse through what's important such as emails and probably Whatsapp messages. I do this to get my phone "out of the way". I then quickly dress up (5 minutes max) before am on my way to work.
While on my commute I try to listen to music or podcasts usually faith-based ones. I like to listen to Andrew Wommack or Joseph prince. When I don't have earphones, then I opt for reading articles either the ones I've saved for later reading using pocket or directly from blogs. I prefer to keep my data switch turned off during my commutes to preserve my phone battery as well as to listen or read.
On the PC
Because almost all my work happens on a PC, precisely on a black screen and since that same PC is hooked to the internet, I can only describe the first 5 minute as being on a roller coaster experience. There's a lot of temptation from everywhere. Everything can start begging for my scarce attention. Should I check and reply to email? Should I check the servers? Can I say "Hi" to my workmate? Should I respond to Telegram message? How about the Skype chats? It can really be overwhelming.
Anyway the first thing I do when I leave my phone and tend to my PC is check my work email. We use email a lot at work. So I quickly peruse through and instantly respond to those that need immediate action. For instance, if there was an on-going thread and someone has replied, that obviously warrants my immediate attention. I then check critical systems are up and running.I Am responsible for a number of system that MUST be online 24/7. If there's a problem depending on the severity, I attend to it. Some issues might be so critical that I literally have to shut away everything else till I've rectified the problem.
Once that's done, I sometimes try to catch-up on the web before embarking on some routing daily tasks or a running project.
I tend to take my lunch time very seriously. Not so much because it's food time -- although that's partly the reason -- but because it's time for my brain to catch a break. Taking breaks is a productivity hack. Lunch time is also the time I get to catch-up with workmates, engage in office gossip, have a laugh et cetera.
Evening and bed time
I tend to slow down in the evenings. My brain is exhausted from the day's intense work (or lack of sometimes). I do more watching and less reading or writing code or any other technical stuff. I want to relax my brain. I don't touch critical systems at this time of the day unless when it demands me to. This is also the time I get home where I might watch an inspiring talk or watch a block buster movie. I am less of a TV guy, so that's out of the way.
Before I retire my day, I try to take count of what I've done and see if it measures up to what I had hoped to accomplish for that particular day. Some days are so good I feel like Batman. Usually my wallet suffers the most on those accounts. The other days are so terrible, I feel empty and worthless. I sleep for 6-8 hours depending on the day before the another day kicks off.
Image source: sbs.ox.ac.uk