It’s so easy to get distracted nowadays. There are so many things going on, constantly. It’s hard to stay focused and attend to the key matters at hand without our minds wandering off to another realm. But all is not lost, there are a number of key techniques that you can use to become more productive, and they are all just simple little life hacks. So, do you want superhuman productivity?
I bet you do! So, here are 25 productivity hacks:
1) Learn how to say “No”
‘No’ is one of the most important words in the world. Everyone is under the delusion that to be productive or successful they need to take on all the work they can. This, of course, is rubbish, because what actually ends up happening is that you become so stressed that you inevitably have to decline work which you’d actually like to do. Avoid being a people pleaser or a work martyr; only take on what you can manage without it distracting you away from your goals.
2) Start the day with the hardest task
This might sound strange, but I personally find this technique incredibly useful. At the start of the day we have loads of willpower. I have always found that this time of the day is the best time to take on the most challenging tasks in a schedule. When you complete them, you will feel fired up for the rest of the day too, and by lunchtime you will have a huge sense of accomplishment. That’s a good outcome, right? From there, the rest of the day will seem easy.
3) Hide your phone away
This leads on from point 2. If you hide your phone away or put it on airplane mode at the start of the day, you will significantly reduce your distractions as you try to complete your most challenging tasks of the day. You won’t be burdened by any new errands from your calling colleagues, and you will have the chance to focus more intently on the priorities at hand. If anything is really all that important, someone would come knocking on your door, so put the phone away for a bit. It can be a real breath of fresh air too.
4) Wake up and workout
“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit.” Richard Branson.
Waking up at a reasonably early time and exercising is really good for your productivity. It boosts your mental sharpness, reduces your stress levels, and promotes creativity. Richard Branson gets up at around 5:00am every day to exercise. He’s an avid runner and cyclist and claims that this habit has significantly boosted his productivity to help him to get where he is today.
Studies demonstrate that physical activity, like a brisk walk, jog, game of basketball, or time spent at the gym, will help you better manage stress by releasing endorphins. Even a short walk is proven to get you going. Research done at Stanford University found that walking increased a person’s creativity by an average of 60 percent.
5) Be goal oriented instead of keeping a to-do list
To be as productive as possible, it’s really important that you align your tasks to important outcomes. We can spend a lot of time being burdened by pointless problems and chores which don’t benefit us at all. Try not to take on work that doesn’t serve any greater purpose, or that helps you reach an important goal. Spend your day being goal oriented and only prioritise tasks which further your personal development.
6) Avoid eating big meals during the day
Consuming a big meal during the day can significantly reduce your productivity. Rather than eating 3 big meals per day, it’s much most effective to each 5 or 6 smaller meals. By doing this, you will be much more productive at work as your digestive system won’t waste the energy that you have digesting larger meals. Big meals also have a tendency to make you feel lethargic, so cut down the size of your meals during the day.
7) 2 minute rule
If a task takes very little time to complete, then it’s worth doing now. I use the 2 minute benchmark. If I receive an important email or notification that I need to reply too, I just do it there and then. Tasks such as these can be really important but might only take a couple of minutes. Rather than putting them off and potentially forgetting to do them, just do them then and there.
8) Tell them
If someone is distracting you, tell them. There is no benefit to be had in keeping it to yourself. If a colleague is bugging you or your partner keeps messaging you about pointless nonsense, tell them that they’re distracting you, and that you’ll get back to them later when you’ve finished doing what you need to do.
9) Plan your day the night before
“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.” Jim Rohn.
Planning your day the night before is perhaps the most underrated tip ever. The advantages to planning your day are countless. For a start, you’ll sleep better. Planning your day makes you feel a much greater sense of ease about what you need to accomplish, and will therefore help you sleep better.
Additionally, you’ll have more clarity. I always find that, by the time the evening rolls round, I have a greater sense of clarity in my mind. I am usually fully aware of what I need to do the next day and often feel a great sense of accomplishment from the current day. Planning your day the night before will also help you wake up with a much greater sense of purpose. You don’t need to spend as much time thinking and strategizing, you’ve already got it planned out, and can therefore just get on with your day.
10) Quick decisions
Get better at making snappy decisions. Messing around and pondering over simple things doesn’t help anyone, and often makes me incredibly frustrated! Make quick decisions, implement them instantly, and don’t prevaricate.
11) Don’t start with distraction
A survey done found that 80% of smart phone users check their phones within the first 15 minutes of their day. This is an unhealthy way to start your day. Start it as your mean to go. Get into a productive mind-set from the offset, don’t allow yourself to be distracted. The way you spend your fist hour will set the precedent for the rest of your day, so start it off right.
12) Stick to a routine
A routine is a really effective way of being productive. Find and develop a routine that suits you, then stick to it and reap the rewards in the long run. Getting into good routines will also free up your day. You will find the time to have a reflecting period, an exercising period, the chance to spend time with your family, and more time to enjoy an evening meal.
13) Reward yourself
By the time that you’ve completed your most important tasks of the day, it’s probably time to have a little break to reward yourself. Pick times to cool off and relax. It’s mostly important because it’ll stop you from going nuts, but it will also boost your motivation for the next segment of the day.
14) Wake up early
“The thing about it is, when you love what you do, you don’t really think of it as work. It’s what you do. And that’s the good fortune of where I find myself.” Tim Cooke.
We’ve all heard it before, and it cuts to our core life a knife, but the simple truth is that it seems to work. Getting up early helps you to be more productive. I don’t need to rabbit on about it so I’ll list the average wake up times of some people you will be familiar with:
- Apple CEO Tim Cooke: Wakes up at 3:45am.
- Gwyneth Paltrow: Up at 4:30am to practice yoga.
- Michelle Obama: Working out by 4:30am
- Twitter & Square CEO Jack Dorsey: Up before dawn for a 6-mile run.
- Victoria Beckham: Up at 6am for a 4-mile run.
- Richard Branson: Rises with the sun at 5:45am.
- Mark Wahlberg: Up at 2:30am to work out and play basketball before filming.
- Xerox CEO Ursula Burns: Awake at 5:15am to check her emails and workout.
- Disney CEO Bob Iger: Up at 4:30am to think without any interruption.
15) Don’t multi-task
Studies show that multi-tasking reduces your IQ by up to 10 points! Don’t juggle numerous tasks, just stick to the task at hand.
16) Drink more water
A recent study showed that drinking water regularly can actually increase your productivity by up to 14 percent. Water is the best drink for easing dehydration, and expands the brains grey matter which is an important part of the central nervous system. Researcher found therefore that a person is better able to focus on tasks when they have had enough water to drink.
17) Scrawl your thoughts once per week
Life can get damn tough sometimes, and a really useful tool to fight through the crap bits of life is to dump it all down on paper. Write out a list and put your worries into 2 categories: Things I can control, and things I can’t control. Then, draft out a schedule for the week with the former, and work out how you can work through the things you can control. Then, take the list of things you can’t control and rip them up, chuck the pieces into the bin and move on.
“I’m big into visualisation. I have visualised every part of my career thus far and all of it has come true. I don’t worry about my opponent or their game. I worry about my game.” Conor McGregor.
Visualisation is a really fun and useful tool to get you to where you want to be. I’ve spoken about it at length in a previous blog but in short, visualisation rocks. It primarily involves you envisioning yourself achieving your goal. To do it, you create a detailed mental image of your desired outcome using all of your senses. I try to visualise every day after working out, I would highly recommend it. It increases your productivity by focusing your mind onto your end goal, it increases your drive and motivation, and it helps to get you to where you need to be.
Not sleeping doesn’t make you hard-working it makes you an idiot. Make sure you get at least 6 hours per night. I truly believe that an hour of work after a good sleep is twice as effective as an hour of work after a deprived sleep. It varies from person to person, and I would highly recommend that you take the time to experiment with your sleeping pattern. By and large you are going to need a minimum of 6 hours. Plan your day well to ensure you can accomplish this.
20) Sleep (continued)
Another important aspect of sleep to bear in mind is that the human circadian rhythm is in 90 minute blocks, and it takes us an average of 10 minutes to get to sleep. So for instance, if you go to sleep at 10:50pm you ideally want to wake up at 6am, for example.
21) Don’t waste too much time watching TV or playing video games
I don’t want to sound like a miserable old crone, but these things are effectively wastes of your time.
22) Cold showers (I don’t yet have the courage)
OK so I don’t have the courage yet, and I try my hardest not to be hypocritical when I write this blogs, but I am currently wondering whether I might take the plunge and try having cold showers. There are supposedly lots of benefits to having them; the first is that they increase male testosterone levels, which therefore increases competitiveness and energy. They also boost your immune system and increase muscle recovery rates. Moreover, they reduce stress by increasing your mental toughness.
Also, a study done by Virginia University’s School of Medicine found that cold showers actually increase your mood by sending an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses to the peripheral nerve endings in the brain, which can result in an anti-depressing effect. Cold showers are also supposedly better for your skin, and stop it from drying out.
23) Decisions, decisions, decisions
Try to reduce unnecessary decisions in your life. Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg always wears the same clothes and eats the same foods. He does this to reduce the amount of unnecessary decisions that he has to make.
24) Avoid the snooze button
The snooze button will set your mind-set for the day. It will get you into procrastination mode. It also makes you wake up feeling even more tired. To avoid it, put your alarm away from your bed.
25) Don’t beat yourself up
“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.” Walt Disney.
Don’t get too pent-up on doing everything perfectly. Every day will present new challenges, and often things won’t go as planned, but that’s just life, right? Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace, just make sure you question what you can do better next time. Regret is a massive waste of time and energy.
I hope this advice has been useful to you. Please let me know if you develop the courage to take a cold shower, and let me know if it helps you. When I finally manage to do it, and keep it up for a bit, I’ll write a blog about it!