In a world rife with endless distractions, the question and challenge remain how to be more productive at work and in life. The simple answer would be “yes you can” but the real challenge is “how can you do that with optimum human effort.” This article would give you some practical insights and wisdom that you can incorporate into your daily life to boost your productivity. These are not quick-fixes or shortcuts, rather these are well researched and well documented practical psychological hacks that would definitely help you with the “productivity problem” you have been struggling with in one or more areas of your life. Mind you, I am not offering “one fit for all solution” here as everyone has different psychology and mental makeup. These general productivity hacks would work best for you if you apply them with some personal modifications tailored to your current work priorities. Let’s take a deep dive into this productivity matrix.
9 Incredible Ways to boost your Productivity
1. Sleep Therapy
Believe it or not but getting adequate sleep is the no. 1 productivity hack that you have at your disposal. Research shows that well rested mind has greater cognitive capacity to accomplish more. James Clear, the author of the bestselling book, Atomic Habits says:
“The best productivity hack is getting 6-9 hours of sleep every night. Second best is exercising 30-60 minutes each day. Both are obvious and overlooked, and yet make a more meaningful and immediate impact on the quality of your thinking than 99 percent of productivity tips.”
2. Bedtime Routine
Just getting sound sleep is not enough, to be more productive you must create a purposeful ‘before sleep ritual’ to plan all the important and trivial things for the next day.
The very last thing you do before bed tends to have a significant impact on your overall mood and energy level the following day since it often determines how well and how much you sleep. To build a better bedtime routine you can do the following things;
- # Disconnect from work and digital devices
- # Reflect on the activities of the day
- # Plan out your next day
- # Meditate for a few minutes
- # Read a proper book (not an eBook)
- # Drink banana tea (if feasible)
On a scientific note, reading is a great way to relax and unwind, says Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” It both expands your mind and relaxes you at the same time.
3. Morning Routine
Once you have got adequate sleep, the next thing you can do is conquer the morning to stay more productive. Morning routines are crucial for setting the right tone of the day. In his book, Think like a Monk, author Jay Shetty explains that having a powerful morning routine is super critical to having an incredibly productive day. Morning routine may vary from person to person based on the priorities but here are certain things you can do to start your day proactively;
- # Don’t look at your smartphone
- # Hydrate yourself amply
- # Practice stillness and silence for 15-30 minutes
- # Exercise for 30-60 minutes
- # Enjoy sounds of nature
- # Get supercharged with a balanced breakfast
4. To-do lists & Not-to-do lists
After conquering your morning with a disciplined routine, you can start with creating and revising your To-do list to master the productivity game. It may sound cliched but writing and maintaining a to-do list is one of the simplest productivity tools you can use.
David Allen, the productivity expert and author of the best-seller, “Getting Things Done,” says that it is crucial to have a convenient place to record thoughts and ideas, whether it is a memo pad and pen or a mobile app. “Never keep anything in your head. Your head is not designed for holding ideas. It is designed for having ideas,” says Allen.
While it is important to create a to-do list but having a “not-to-do list” and “to-do-later list” can also prove to be a productivity game-changer. The idea is to create a list of all of those activities you can avoid or do later in order to become more productive.
5. The Power of Single-tasking
While it may seem farfetched in this super busy modern life but the human brain isn’t wired to multitask. In fact, according to research, multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 40%. This is because juggling between multiple tasks limits your focus, undermines your working memory, and increases stress and mental fatigue. So, you can boost your productivity by focusing on only one task at a time. And then scratch that task off your to-do list.
6. Productive Procrastination
Well, you might never have seen the words ‘productivity’ and ‘procrastination’ being used in the same sentence but the truth is purposeful procrastination can yield good results if you use it positively. While working you often get that weird feeling when you realize that you have just wasted 20 minutes aimlessly browsing through your Facebook feed or YouTube. We all have been there. So if you are going to procrastinate, do it in a productive way. Look for something interesting or specific that doesn’t have to do with your work, so your mind can relax and rejuvenate. Reading something interesting that is outside of your work domain helps you productively utilize intervals between work blocks. Keep a list and set a small goal for what you want to do with your procrastination time and you will feel a lot more energized and focused afterward, instead of feeling frustrated that you wasted your time.
Austin Kleon, the bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist, explains this productivity hack in his unique way;
“Practice productive procrastination — have two or three projects going at one time, so if you get sick of one, you can jump over to the other.”
7. Eat the Frog Technique
Author Mark Twain once said, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” It simply means completing your most challenging task first, and this technique has been elaborated by Brian Tracy in his book Eat The Frog and embraced by many high achievers around the world.
Brain Tracy says it is imperative to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. Meaning if you have more than one important task before you, start with the most challenging one. “Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persevere until the task is complete.” He elaborates on 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time.
8. The Pomodoro Technique
Surprisingly, when it comes to the best productivity hacks, you can do wonders with the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management tool developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. Essentially the Pomodoro Technique involves breaking down work into several manageable segments followed by small break intervals. This keeps your productivity level up and you will not feel exhausted as much. You can also certain Pomodoro apps like Engross and Brain Focus to customize your focused work time blocks and work breaks to optimize your productivity. The good news is you can apply this technique to your study schedule, work, or business.
A lot of research papers have been written about this technique over the last couple of decades. Some research studies have proved that the human brain works best when there are work intervals of 20 to 45 minutes, followed by a brief break.
9. Puttering Technique
During a recent interview, Jeff Bezos emphasized the importance of carving out time to just ‘putter’. “My puttering time is very important to me,” he told. Puttering is really a time to do less important tasks in a relaxed way, to be alone, to dream, to get in touch with yourself. The puttering Technique is a vital part of Bezos’ “work-life” harmony concept. Through his puttering routine, he frees up mental energy to make important decisions in 10 AM business meetings.
Several independent studies have found that a slower start to the day can actually boost your productivity and your energy. By having ‘puttering time’ in the morning, you find you have more time to connect with your loved ones, cook a healthier breakfast, boost your spirits, and set atone for a more productive day. A University of California study also found that doing mindless tasks allowed the brain to wander and engage in creative problem-solving.
“When you learn a little, you feel you know a lot. But when you learn a lot, you realize you know very little.” Now you have adequate knowledge about the productivity hacks, and you can implement these techniques to see massive productivity gains without getting overwhelmed.