You want to be productive. You don’t want same old stuff that doesn’t work. You are also certainly not looking for quick-get-productive hacks. The productivity hacks I’m going to share with you today are action-packed and have greatest chance of improving rate of work you get done.
So without further ado..
#1 Pomodoro Technique
In plain terms, a Pomodoro means a work session of 25 minute. Technique, as a whole, means a Pomodoro followed by a 5 minute break. The reason this technique can be very productive is because of the fact breaks are productive. How it works? Well.. you download and install a Pomodoro timer, start it when you begin your work and it rings well after 25 minutes. It’s ringing notifies you of break time. When you take break, inform the timer about that as well.
Takeaway: Install Strict Workflow extension to Google Chrome. Unlike plain terms, it also blocks distracting websites (which you define!). Then hit it!
#2 Taking Breaks
Right now, you don’t want to take break. Why? Because you’re busy or like to think so! But regardless of what you believe, Science says that breaks get more done. And since I am a firm believer of Science, I implement what it says it. That’s why I’m currently testing with different break methods. There are various break methods like Pomodoro technique, 90-minute work blocks, etc. Try taking breaks once and believe me, you’ll not regret!
Takeaway: Take a 10 minute right now. You will come back as if you just took a shower! But how will you measure success? Well, that typically requires testing and analyzing.
#3 Freedom May Be Deceiving
Well.. freedom can often mean too much to think about, wander about and waste time around. I had thought that freedom is indispensable for being productive, but that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes disconnecting or limiting oneself of Internet can mean hours of “real” work. Speaking from personal experience, I tend to get more writing done when electricity shortage is up or when bills are to be paid.
Takeaway: So what now? Now is the time to test. Perform a test and compare the results between with Internet VS without Internet. By the way, Freedom app can help.
#4 An App to Block Sites & Apps
An similar alternative to Freedom app, which is for Mac users unfortunately, is ColdTurkey. It blocks websites and desktop application you tell it to for a particular period of time. Best part? Well it doesn’t leave a way to unblock blocked websites. Though it’s fremium version’s blocking duration is limited to 3 days, but it’s Pro and Pro Bundle version are very useful.
Takeaway: Download Cold Turkey. Install and run it. Once running, give it a try by blocking your most distracting site for a day and compare results.
#3 Three Most Important Tasks (MITs)
This is a method I learned from Leo Babauto of Zen Habits, one of the most popular blogs on personal development subject. Basic idea is to assign a particular day 3 most important tasks or MITs. Then.. block everything else and pour all energy and time into accomplishing those 3 MITs. Beware though, you might be tempted to assign more than 3 tasks, but don’t succumb. The more tasks you list, the more willpower you’re likely to lose.
Takeaway: Next morning, take a pen and paper. List down 3 most important tasks for the day. Now work!
Huge part of someone’s progress/day depends upon mindset. And mindset is easy to get confused due to thousands of thoughts that hit one’s brain. Meditation may be the answer. Next morning or right now, meditate for at least 2 minutes. For the uninitiated, meditation means deliberately focusing on one’s break; inhaling and exhaling air. When you meditate, you’re actually learning to or calming your brain down and telling to let go of mental tensions. Which results in better productivity.
Takeaway: To know if this is worth doing for yourself, meditate using One-Moment Meditation method. And compare results thereafter.
#5 Listening to Music
Note I wrote “music”, not “songs”. There’s difference. Music has been observed to calm one’s brain down and relieve any tension. I’m not merely taking from experience, but also from Scientific studies done on the subject. This is a arguable hack, some will agree others will disagree. After all we’re all unique and that’s the beauty.
Takeaway: Stop. When you work next time, do so listening to this music.
#6 Taking a Walk
Just like meditation and listening to music relieves tension and kill mental distractions, walking is also a relaxing activity. It calms one down. It’s also physically healthy. Just taking a walk of 20 minutes has huge rewards such as reducing risk of early death. I know what most of you’re probably thinking that, “I don’t have time!” but let me tell you what ‘I don’t have time’ is equivalent to ‘It’s not important’. A brisk 20 minute is not as hard as most perceive it as.
Takeaway: You know if something is worth doing by comparing results. So take a 20-minute walk, but also measure.
#7 De-Cluttering Your Desk
Okay.. by far, we’ve discussed a couple of ways to eliminate mental distractions and relax. It’s time we did something physical. Being mentally sound is a great start, but this relaxation has to be maintained. Which comes with maintaining your outer environment with less-clutter. It all starts with your desk. For us, computer geeks desk is probably the place we see the second most to laptop screen. Which is why it is important to de-clutter it.
Takeaway: De-clutter your desk, right away. No excuse. It’s worth it.
#8 Killing Mental Distractions
Earlier I discussed listening to music, meditation and taking a walk as mental-distractions-killer. You must understand that this aspect of productivity is highly critical and maybe indispensable, too. That’s why multiple hacks are devoted to making sure you deal with one. So another way to kill mental distractions is to open a Notepad and pour every other thought into it.
Takeaway: Open a Notepad. Whenever you’re confused about something or aren’t sure about something, go ahead and give your thoughts a shape.
#9 Say “no” Often
“The trouble is, you think you have time,” said Buddha. Yes we have time, but it is not always the case. Significant part of being productive doesn’t come from getting more done, but preserving energy from doing “non-productive” work. I’m talking about Facebook, Twitter and even Quora. All these sites do have their advantages, but they can also be distracting and time-consuming. Why don’t you just say “no” to these?
Takeaway: Next time you’re tempted to open a distracting site, say “no”. Make it a habit to do so.
#10 Learn Shortcut Keys
Though it doesn’t look much, but a lot of our important time goes into spreading our hand towards mouse and navigating computer. If only we knew keyboard shortcut keys, we could save a lot hours. It doesn’t take much time to learn, but is a worth technique. Knowing shortcut keys like Ctrl + S for saving, Ctrl + C for copying and Ctrl + P for pasting can be invaluable.
Takeaway: Here are basic shortcut keys. Take an hour and learn them.
#11 Embrace “Inspiration Sucks”
Work more or less means work. Instead of doing the work, why wait for some miracle to happen, which is very very unlikely to happen, to inspire you and get you in action? This is ridiculous! There have been times when even I relied on inspiration for getting my stuff done and it’s the best way to get the least done, if you ask me. But when I embraced the hard-boiled truth about the reality of work, I began to get more than enough done.
Takeaway: If you rely on inspiration, you’ll know. Next time you’ve got something to do, but lack the inspiration or motivation to do it, don’t wait for it to come. Instead shift gears and forget if there anything called inspiration.
#12 A Perfect Digital Environment
Maintaining a mentally-sound mindset is very important. Earlier we discussed hacks to kill mental distractions, now it’s almost time we took precautions and prevent any event that may trigger them again. By “digital” environment, I mean your computer’s ecosystem; the # of apps, extensions visible, desktop wallpaper, # of desktop icons, etc. are all part of this ecosystem. It’s important you minimize all this crap and only put the essential stuff.
Takeaway: Make a folder called “Desktop Crap”, move all desktop icons to this folder. Change desktop wallpaper to something like these. Hide extensions if you’ve any. Then read and implement this.
#13 Turn Off the Light
This hack is particularly useful despite having everything physical a total mess. How? Well.. when you turn the light off, all this mess will be invisible to you. Focus will be maximized on screen. And you’re more likely to develop focus skill, faster.
Takeaway: Do you see any light in your room, right now? No matter how cluttered your desk, etc. is, just turn it off. It will mean better focus on screen.
#14 Inbox Zero
To manage an inbox with thousands of emails can be daunting, but it all started with one email at a time, right? Well, Inbox Zero is a methodology to empty inbox by 43 Folders’ Merlin Mann. Inbox Zero depends identifies five possible actions to take for each email: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do.
Takeaway: Most important step of all when dealing with inbox is to take action. Make sure you know what to do next time you’re dealing with inbox.
#15 Eat the Frog!
On an average day, we have multiple tasks to do, right? Some are more important than others, others less, right? Big tasks of todos list are preconceived in brain as time-consuming and effort-requiring tasks, so you’re less likely to start day with these. And be tempted to do small less effort requiring tasks, etc. At the end of the day, you either succeed getting lots done or little tasks to none. Guess what you can get most if not everything on your todos’ list done if you began day with hardest tasks or if you ate the frog first!
Takeaway: Next morning you’re going to prioritize work and do the hardest task first. Once you’re done with this, you can’t lag behind with other tasks, I’m sure.
#16 Employ a Personal Mantra
There are difficult, not-so-cool, unexcited times when we’re unmotivated and likely to get stuck in a downward spiral. Guess there’s a way to deal with those times. That’s where personal mantra or mission statement steps in. Such an statement or mantra means to reflect your values, goals and aspirations. It can be like “you can’t give up, buddy!” to anything you find motivational.
Takeaway: Read this post by Saddington. After reading, develop a mantra for yourself. Remember it when you need.
#18 Wake Up Early
Kick-starting work early means either finishing work early or getting more done than otherwise. This is self-evident. If you wake up early, start the work early you’re going to get stuff done early, right? No-brainer, of course. But question, more often than not, is not whether getting up early is the answer but how to do so? Most of us are not as disciplined as waking up early requires. So what do you do? You do one thing: you repeat to yourself to wake up at 6 AM or so.
Takeaway: Before to go to sleep, repeat to yourself over and over this: I’m going to wake up at 6 AM or whatever you want.
#19 Take Proper Sleep
No idea how 8-hour sleep tradition came into this, but the proper sleep duration is 7.5-6 hours. This is also the time which has been found to make one live longer. Science backs this up. Most of us are sleep-deprived, because of having too much to do and they can’t take appropriate amount of sleep for having lots to do. But human psychology suggests that sleeping is counterproductive.
Takeaway: Take a sleep of at least 7 hours. You will be more productive than otherwise.
#20 Know Your Why
Watch this great TED talk by Simon Sinek, in which he introduces “WHY”. He insists that organizations that are succeeding, succeeded or individuals who’re successful are because of one particular trait that they have. Which is that they know WHY are they doing whatever they’re doing. If you don’t know your answer, you must. Next time, you’re unmotivated to work or lazy for action, just remember your WHY.
Takeaway: Watch this TED talk. Then open a Notepad and answer “why am I doing what I am?”
#21 Build Habits
Apparently there are two major parts of brain known as basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex. Prefrontal cortex is the part that makes logical and sensical decisions. But it requires too much willpower (which is finite), unlike it’s partner basal ganglia. Which requires no willpower and this is the mode you’re into when you’re out of your willpower. This is the part where habits are stored. Since this part requires no willpower, it can be leveraged for optimal results by formation of healthy habits.
Takeaway: Start with Mini Habits. These are smallest versions of your desired normal habit. “Stupid small” as they’re called. These can be anywhere from writing 20 words per day to reading 1 page a day.
Studies prove that working out has tremendous benefits for productivity. Sure, you’re too busy for it, I know. But guess what the “out of the box” method you’ve probably been looking for can be this. If you think you’re too busy to work out for 30 minutes a day, just go with 7-Minute workout.
Takeaway: Start tomorrow with 7-Minute workout, then note down work status as the day progresses.
#23 Willpower is Limited
If there is one thing you wanna take really out of reading this aritcle, take this: willpower is a finite resource. Something that you can be short of. Willpower is the ability to push oneself to do tasks, which you don’t 100% want to do. It can be useful in case of doing hard things that you’re not really passionate about. It can also be useful for making huge changes to your lifestyle or work. Smart people know this and so they rely on habits for their work.
Takeaway: Read this. Know which habits to build then build them.
#24 Make a Not-To-Do List
Just like a to do list enumerates day’s tasks. A not-to-do list is about listing tasks or activities not to do. It’s name is self-explanatory. To avoid wasting time means saving time. Such a list helps you not indulge into time-wasting activities. This list can include things like: don’t open Facebook, don’t read news, et cetera.
Takeaway: Make a not-to-do list right now. Then make efforts not to do tasks from that list.
#25 Take a Power Nap
Human brains are constantly thinking. Thousands of ideas go across it and it has to deal with all of it. Working all day long makes fatigue real and you might get distracted too. A power nap can rejuvenate brain and kind of restarts the day. A power nap is typically 20 minute long.
Takeaway: Regardless of energy level, take a nap of 20 minute.
So what’s your favorite hack? If you consider yourself productive, please tell us how do you manage to stay productive.