Productivity is slowly becoming a dirty word. It’s something we see everywhere, multiple times a day. For most of us, we look at productivity as this nebulous idea that’s completely separate from the rest of your life – an area of your unconscious that can be “hacked” with the snap of your fingers.
The truth is, being productive is something you must consciously decide on, and continue to decide on throughout each day of your life. “Hacking” productivity isn’t something you do once; rather, it’s a commitment that can help you improve every area of your life.
These days, we’re productivity-obsessed. As more and more screens and devices are integrated into our lives, it’s easier than ever to lose your focus and end up procrastinating and wasting time on things that are distracting and unnecessary. So, how can we be more productive?
The first step is to dispel the misconception that many of us subscribe to; that productivity is the act of being busy. If we’re busy all the time, we must be getting important stuff done. But is that true? In most cases, when we think like this, we end up running around in circles where we’re occupied all day, but we aren’t necessarily making progress towards our most important goals.
Meanwhile, real productivity isn’t about doing more; it’s about making more of an impact with the things you are doing. In fact, most productive people find that they’re able to be their most productive when they’re focusing on a few high-level tasks each day, instead of getting bogged down by tons of menial tasks that aren’t going to move the needle forward.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some actionable tips that you can implement into your life without much effort. By implementing these tips, you’ll be able to reduce the distractions and noise that compete for your time so you can instead focus on what’s truly important.
#1 Start Your Day by Focusing on Yourself
What’s your routine like when you roll out of bed in the morning? For most of us, we wake up, we get our bearings, and immediately start checking our screens. We check our email, we check our calendars, and from there, we get started on the day.
But, when you do this, you’re immediately shifting the focus off of yourself and what you need to do. Instead, you’re letting others dictate what you’re going to accomplish for the day. Behaving in this way, is a surefire way to rob yourself of productivity.
Instead, restructure your mornings so that they include the time you need for yourself. Before you ever check an email or browse social media, do things that will fuel you for a productive day. Have a nutritious breakfast. Take a jog, or get in a morning workout. Read the paper. Meditate. What you choose to do is less important than the fact you’ll be taking time for yourself.
Once you’ve finished your new morning routine, you’re ready to face the day with renewed focus and a desire to get things done. You may be surprised by how much more productive you can be if you get the day started off on the right foot.
#2 Get the Heavy Lifting Done Early in the Day
For most of us, there are usually a few tasks to complete each day that represents the most essential stuff you need to get done. These tasks are typically time-consuming and require a high level of concentration. So, why procrastinate and put them off for later in the day?
In the morning, our brains are fresh, we’re energized, and we’re ready to tackle what needs to get done. The further we get into the course of the day, the more likely you are to be operating at a reduced level, physically and mentally.
Perhaps you had a big lunch, and you’re working your way out of a food coma, or maybe you’re just bored and ready for the day to be over. Whatever the case, you’re robbing yourself of an opportunity to be productive.
To avoid this, try to start your workday by focusing on all of your “heavy lifting.” Take care of those critical tasks while your brain is fresh, and your energy levels are high.
Later in the day, when you’re starting to fade both mentally and physically is a great time to tackle your less pressing and less critical work. Schedule busywork like meetings, follow-ups, and emails for the afternoon, when you’re less likely to be at your sharpest and most focused.
This tip will help ensure that even if you lose focus later in the day, you’ll still be in good shape since you spent the morning tackling your most important tasks.
#3 Turn Off Your Notifications
If you only incorporate one of these productivity tips into your daily routine, let it be this one. Our phones and other connected devices allow us to work from anywhere and stay connected around the globe. But, they’re also productivity robbers that have the power to drain our focus and interrupt our workflow.
Instead of making yourself a slave to every notification that comes through your phone, tablet, or watch, take back control of your day, and shut your notifications off. The average person receives 46 push notifications per day from the various apps on their phone, and that’s before you consider the constant bombardment of emails and texts from friends, family, and colleagues.
Even if you don’t obsessively check every notification you receive, you’re no doubt checking some of them. It may seem like no big deal to check an occasional notification, but each time you do, it gets harder to get back on track.
These notifications are continually pulling for your attention, and as soon as you notice a notification, it pulls at your consciousness until you finally give in and check it. The best way to avoid this is to simply shut your notifications off during the workday, or at least during critical times of the day where you need to be at your most productive.
Plus, you may be surprised by how free you feel when you aren’t constantly glancing at your phone, anxious about what each new notification holds. The pull you once felt to check your phone the second the screen lights up will disappear within a few days, and a more productive you will be left in its place!
#4 Rethink the Way You Approach a To-Do List
Most of us keep a to-do list of important tasks (or tasks we think are essential) that we need to get done. Shoot, many of us keep multiple lists.
If you keep a to-do list, you’ve probably noticed that there are several static items on that list that have been there living in limbo since the day you added them to the list. This means that you’re probably treating every item that you add to your list as a priority and procrastinating on the other things on your to-do list.
The remaining items that have been hanging around your list and collecting dust can probably be separated into one of these categories:
- Stuff that’s actually important, but difficult or scary to do, so you keep putting it off
- “Nice to do” items that aren’t adding value or importance in other areas
- “Filler” items that you added for the simple satisfaction of crossing them off later
Anything that falls into the second or third category, you can just eliminate from your list altogether. These items aren’t improving your life or anyone else’s, and all they are is distracting static.
When you’re crafting a to-do list, don’t bother including things that will have little to no impact on your life or your work. Instead, keep your to-do list short, and focus on the tasks that are going to be moving the needle for you in your personal and professional life.
The longer the to-do list, the easier it is to get overwhelmed and fall off track. Sure, it’s tempting to draft up a massive to-do list and marvel at it once it’s completed as if to say, “look how much I have to do!” Keep your list concise and focus on only what’s most important in your professional and personal life.
#5 Stop Multitasking
On the surface, multitasking seems productive. After all, we’re addressing a bunch of different tasks at once, absolutely killing it in the process, right? Maybe not. New research suggests that when we multitask, we’re more likely to make mistakes, and we don’t retain as much information as part of our working memories.
Instead of dividing your attention between a bunch of things at once, try set-shifting. Set-shifting is the conscious act of completely shifting your attention from one task to the next for a period of time. For example, instead of trying to juggle four things at once for ten minutes, focus on them one at a time for around two and a half minutes each.
#6 Give Your Brain a Boost
For years, people have relied on substances like caffeine to give them the boost they need to get stuff done throughout the day. We love coffee just as much as everyone else, but it’s far from the only gig in town anymore if you’re looking for a boost to your focus and productivity.
Nootropics or brain drugs, like NeuroTRAIN, have become the go-to secret weapon for savvy entrepreneurs, executives, and anyone else who is looking to boost their productivity while improving their focus and attention span.
These supplements provide your brain with the fuel it needs to focus and get things done, and they’re something you should look into right away if you’re looking to maximize your potential and get the most out of each day.
#7 Break Yourself of Bad Habits by Creating a Schedule
We all have bad habits that we’ve fallen into over time. Maybe you can’t manage to put your phone down, or you find yourself checking emails multiple times every hour. Whatever your bad habit may be, you can break yourself of it with the help of scheduling.
Instead of succumbing to your bad habits any time the urge strikes, build time into your day to address them. If you’re a habitual texter, instead of stopping and checking your phone every minute, set aside five minutes at the end of every hour to address all your messages.
#8 Take Better Care of Yourself
One of the things we often underestimate when we’re trying to be more productive is our health and the role in plays on our productivity. But, how can you expect to be productive when you aren’t taking care of yourself and providing your body with the fuel it needs so you can be more productive?
Start by making sure that you’re getting quality sleep every night. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you aren’t going to have the energy you need to tackle everything you need to get done.
Take a look at your diet, and consider different things you may be able to change that can help you feel better and more energized each day.
You don’t need to make changes all at once, either. You’ll have more success when it comes to implementing positive changes if you approach them little by little. So, instead of trying to cut sugar out of your diet all at once immediately, maybe start by having one less sugary drink a day.
Throughout the day, take any opportunities you have to get up and active. Consider adopting a standing desk, or make it a point to take a lap or two every half hour, because staying stationary for too many hours of the day can sap you of your energy and productivity.
If you don’t already have a fitness and exercise routine in place, consider adopting one. Even small steps in the right direction with regard to working out and getting active can have significant positive impacts on your life.
#9 Embrace the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is an uber-helpful productivity hack that may revolutionize the way you think about getting work done. Francesco Cirillo invented the technique in the early 90s, and he drew inspiration from a popular line of kitchen timers that were shaped like tomatoes. Hence, the name Pomodoro Technique (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.)
Cirillo developed the technique as a college student. He was looking into ways he could improve his productivity and maximize the time he spent studying or working on more significant tasks. The methodology is simple: you work in controlled bursts, followed by a short break, which helps to keep you focused and working towards a reward. Here’s how it works:
- Select a task to work on
- Set your Pomodoro timer (or a timer on your phone for 25 minutes)
- Work on the task with no interruptions for the full 25 minutes, stopping when the timer goes off
- Take a five-minute break
- Repeat steps 1-4 three more times, then take a half-hour break
Keep in mind that the Pomodoro technique only works when you can fully dedicate yourself to the task at hand. If you’re interrupted in the middle of a Pomodoro, and you dedicate your focus to whatever it was that interrupted you, the purpose is defeated.
Sometimes, something important will interrupt you, and you’ll need to redirect your attention to deal with it immediately. More often, the interruption isn’t so important. Don’t let these insignificant interruptions disrupt your flow. Instead, let the person interrupting you know that you’re in the middle of something, and arrange a time to get back to them once you’re finished.
#10 Stop Sleeping In
For the entrepreneurs among us or anyone who works a flexible schedule, don’t let the allure of getting an extra hour of sleep suck you in. Sleeping late can sap you of your productivity, and set you up to be less productive when you’re awake.
Of course, you want to make sure you’re getting a solid 6-8 hours of sleep every night. But, sleeping more than that can actually do more harm than good. Sleeping more than ten hours a day can make you 2.2 times less productive. Employees who get more than ten hours of sleep a night are also 1.6 times more likely to call out of work than those who get less sleep.
Plus, if you’re getting too much sleep, you’re immediately putting yourself behind the eight ball. If everyone else is up and getting after it, why are you still in bed?
Sleep is a delicate balance. It’s critical to make sure you’re getting the sleep you need, which is generally 6-8 hours per night. But, too much sleep can be just as big of a productivity robber as getting too little sleep can be.
Most of us can benefit immensely from being more productive. But, it’s essential that you approach productivity in the right way. There isn’t just some magic switch you can flip on to become more productive. Being more productive will require you to make some tangible changes to your lifestyle and the choices you make.
But, with the right mindset and a little bit of determination, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more productive person.