When I was to Japan as an exchange student, I acted really differently from how I behaved at home. This was due to different circumstances surrounding me as well as my own changed mindset. As I found, this behaviour lead me to be extremely productive, positively busy and happy. Today, I want to share this principle with you.
1.) FOCUS (-->)
When I went to Japan, I had 2 goals in mind; first to study Japanese and second to have fun. Paying attention to the order, the first goal was superior to the second, meaning that I would first focus on any action concerning my first goal and then go on. The goals were no defined goals (e.g. to pass test X, be on level Y) but they were clear to myself, what is the important point.
So, to realize this first step, you needs to define your goals. I would recommend at most 5 goals to focus on, not more. Think about the most important activities, you want to put energy into. If you feel like it are too much goals, write a list of all of them and define the first 5 as your focusses. Without this focussing, further steps cannot work. (see also)
2.) DO IT PERFECTLY
When studying Japanese, I had the approach to become perfect. I would really do my best and put tons of effort in what I was doing. Since I had not a lot of other things, I wanted to perform and become good at, it was actually possible to really do my very best at this one thing.
Here, it becomes clear that the steps are building on one another. If you have cleared your focus and cut out everything else, you will be able to put all of your efforts into this thing.
3.) DO IT DIRECTLY
So, apart from the goals, I worked towards, I also had a routine life to live with events coming up sometimes unpredictable. I made it a rule for myself to do every incoming to do directly, just as it comes in. When I got homework, I did it right after I came home from school. When I received a letter, I answered it straight away.
This way, I never really was in need of a to do list because I did everything right away, so that activities could not even accumulate to a list. When I was done with the activities, I knew I was done working.
To prevent that you are only reacting to events in your life so that you are not able to do something else, you have to check if the thing, you want to do is worth your time, meaning that it is either a focus or an important event.
For the activities, that were neither events (that I would do directly) nor the few items, I focussed on, I build simple routines. Routine does not only mean a order in which things are done, but also a fixed way of doing something in general. I wore a school uniform, Thursdays was my laundry day and my host mother made my food. Because of all of this routines, I did not have to get my mind occupied by these things.
I also build routines for my focusses, so that I made sure that I spend at least a certain time a day pursuing this goals. It is important, that the routines are quickly and consistent.
5.) SIMPLIFY (-->)
I went to Japan with one suitcase of stuff. My stuff (at the beginning) consisted of a wardrobe worth of clothes, a small box of bathroom items and one storage shelf of other stuff. My bedroom was not bigger that a few square metres, what was mostly consumed by the bed. I had 11 songs on my smartphone.
The key is to eliminate everything that is not necessary for one's life or helps to reach your goals. It does not apply to physical objects only (even though this is the way to start), but likewise to relationships and activities. But rather than focussing on what do discard, focus on what you need for the goals you want to focus on and everyday life and keep that. Also this point is extremely important for the following steps.
As you could see, my time was split up in my routines, my focusses and events, I reacted to. The rest of my time was freetime. Having this free time not only prevented tiring and feelings of exhaustion but also let me do the things I needed to do more deliberately and not rushing them.
So, after you have finished your events and focusses for the day and have no routine come up, you have free time to do whatever you want, regardless whether it is productive or not.
I do acknowledge that my explanations are rather vague and do not explicitly plan what one has to do. I believe, however, that if pursuing them, you will really be able to reach a state of high productivity and happiness; also called flow. I may also deliver some extra posts to clarify parts of this principle further.