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Productivity Tips From President Obama

Happy Presidents Day! There’s always a lot of buzz about how to get more things done in your day, so today we’re looking at the productivity methods of one of the busiest guys in the world: President Obama. He’s spoken to Vanity Fair and several other publications about how he stays sane and on top of his tasks. These are some of his best tips:

Strategize to avoid decision fatigue. Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to choose between catching up on GIRLS or Scandal at the end of a long day? It’s because the more decisions you make, the more your ability to make later decisions erodes. That means it’s crucial that you prioritize your decisions and try to minimize the unimportant ones. Obama explained this to Vanity Fair, saying, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Start your day the night before. You’re the most productive when you can work without any distractions. For President Obama, this is at night after his family has gone to bed. He’ll often stay up until 1:00 am working on a big task that will carry into the next day. If you’re not a night owl, you can still adopt this method; simply figure out at what point in the day you feel most productive and use that time to get a jump start on tomorrow’s tasks.

Shut out critics. For President Obama, that means sticking to watching ESPN and avoiding news channels when at all possible. He said, “One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you.” So if you’re obsessing over that one negative comment that someone left on your blog, take a step back and try to let it go. You’ll be more productive if you worry less about other people’s perceptions.

Exercise. The leader of the United States carves out 45 minutes or more each day to do cardio or weight training. Obama said, “You have to exercise or at some point you’ll just break down.” It might seem like a good idea to skip your yoga class to work on that big project, but you’ll actually get more done if you make time to workout. Exercise reduces stress, boosts your mood and gives you the chance to clear your head.

Remember that your personal time is sacred. For the President, this means setting aside three separate times in the day: his morning workout, dinner with his daughters and the nighttime after his family falls asleep. As his schedule shows, it’s important to diversify personal time. If you use all of it to accomplish the same goals, your life won’t feel very balanced. Set aside times to do something for your health, have some social interaction and catch up on whatever major things you didn’t get to during the day.