Even though you might try to increase your productivity by applying those crazy hacks that promise to change your life by just chewing a gum every time you work, they won’t be that big of a help… What I’ll be covering, are 5 Productivity Tips that can really make you increase your efficiency, workflow, and focus.
You’re going to learn how to put these 5 productivity tips into practice immediately and you will definitely see results right away. But remember that increasing your productivity shouldn’t mean doing more and more meaningless tasks, but, instead, to increase the output in important projects, plans, and goals. When you have the right tools and mindset to become more productive, you not only work more intensively in a shorter period of time, but you also accomplish your long-term goals by making progress each day.
Use these productivity tips to help you accomplish your goals!
After applying these productivity tips, one at a time, I found myself accomplish more things than I ever did before, while enjoying the process, and still having a lot of free time to do other things. Being more productive comes with a feeling of happiness because you’re making progress in the projects that will help you to achieve your most important goals.
Learning and applying productivity tips is a great way to increase the amount of time we have available during the day, while still having 24 hours to accomplish what we want to.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
— Franz Kafka
The ability to stay focused is so important that I challenge myself every day, to work with the maximum amount of focus I can.
When you focus on one thing at a time, you achieve much more than when you try to multi-task. In reality, multi-tasking is not even real. Your brain can’t focus on 2 things at once. It is constantly switching the context from one task to another, which wastes your energy and willpower and destroys your productivity.
When you consciously decide to focus on one single task at a time, your productivity sky-rockets, and you are able to finish tasks in a much shorter period of time.
Since I started paying more attention to my levels of focus, consciously creating the conditions to maximize my focus, my results in all areas of my life started improving. I had better grades while studying for less time, I wrote much more content and I finished other projects I was not expecting to finish so quickly.
But all of this requires you to shut your phone off, to choose a place where you can work alone, or at least, where no one is going to talk and interrupt you and it requires you to set priorities and intentions.
How I Focus:
Every night, I write the things I have to do the next day and I estimate the amount of time it will take me to finish those. And then, I schedule them to make sure I actually accomplish what I want. If I have to study, I dedicate 45 minutes for it. And when the focusing session starts, I stick with that one single task and I dedicate all my attention and energy to it. I never go beyond 45 minutes without giving myself a break, because after that period, my brain shuts off.
My good grades in college are highly correlated with my discipline to focus on one single thing at a time and to avoid checking my phone while studying. If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone who is struggling with achieving great results, it would be related to the importance of focusing on one thing at a time.
Multi-Tasking? Does that include the list of productivity tips?
It might be tempting to deal with 2 things at a time, but in reality, you’re just stealing from your productivity, focus, and greatness. Because the effort and energy your brain wastes in the process of switching tasks will make you less productive throughout the day.
It’s ok to wash the dishes while you talk to your family or to iron the clothes while you listen to a podcast. But it’s not ok to finish a project plan while you refresh your Instagram feed or answer to an email.
We want to hear those crazy hacks that promise will change our lives forever, but in reality, we already know which things increase our productivity. And it’s never too late to remind us that focusing on one thing at a time, is more important than all of those tricks. Focusing is common sense, but most of the time is not common practice. So, please, make it one of your daily habits, and you will see yourself accomplishing more in less time!
If you want to learn more about the importance of focusing, make sure you read my guide on how to focus intensively in a task.
#2 Planning the Day
Your day should be planned right before it starts. When you have your day planned and your schedule blocked, your productivity is incredibly high. If you’re not used to planning your day, do it tomorrow, and see the results by yourself. Are there any better productivity tips than this one? Probably not…
There are hundreds of apps that you can use to keep track of the things you want to achieve. But you can always use a piece of paper, a journal or a daily planner. Before buying the High-Performance Planner, that splits the day into blocks of time, I used my iPad. And before having my Ipad, I used a sheet of paper. I actually still switch from different tools. It doesn’t matter which thing you’re using. Don’t make it an excuse for not planning your day!
How I plan my day to be more productive:
- I start by writing the day of the week on the top of the page.
- I split my day into chunks of time. So, let’s say: from 7 to 8 a.m., from 9 to 10 a.m., etc.
- I decide which things I want to be accomplishing in each hour of my day.
You might need to check your calendar or task manager to see which things are coming and what they require from you.
Let’s say I need to deliver an essay next week. I’m going to block 2 slots of my day to make progress on that essay. Perhaps, the first block will be dedicated to researching. And the second one, to start my first draft.
When you spend time planning your day, by attributing activities and tasks to these slots of time, you suddenly see yourself making progress, every single day. But it’s always important to block your calendar with the things that will make you move forward. Namely, things that will help you to achieve your goals. Always make those activities, your priorities!
Also, make sure you schedule breaks too!
“If you’re leaving your time to randomness, you’re stealing from your greatness.”
— Brendon Burchard
Discipline = Freedom
Don’t think that planning your day, will take your freedom away. In reality, when you previously decide which things you should be focusing on, you avoid distractions and you avoid spending countless hours doing absolutely nothing.
If you plan
your days and follow through your plan, you will have lots of free time to do
other things. Those who don’t plan their days, don’t finish or don’t even the
start the things they should be doing, and still, they’re those who complain
the most about not having time to enjoy the free time.
You can always decide how your day is going to look like and plan it accordingly to your desire. We can control the way we experience our days, most of the times.
Block time to Rest! Well-being is an important component of all the productivity tips!
You should also block time to rest and have fun. The lesson in not to work 12 straight hours a day but to make each hour count, especially, making it count to the process of achieving your biggest goals. If you do have a goal, you have to block time, every day, to make progress towards it. Your daily planner should make clear which things you’re currently focusing on, or which goal you’re currently trying to achieve.
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”
— Peter Drucker
Learn new Skills in the Free Time you will get with these Productivity Tips
Don’t forget to schedule the new skills you want to be learning during the next month or year. It’s really easy to postpone the acquisition of new skills, but you have to remember that it’s important to grow and to learn new things, in order to reach the next level.
Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm which skills you need to acquire in order to achieve your biggest dreams. And then, block time each day or each week, to learn those new skills. Your daily planner or calendar will be your best friend when trying to achieve your ambitious goal! If you wish to learn a new skill in 20 hours, read my blog post on Josh Kaufman’s book!
If you combine this habit of planning with the habit of focusing, which you should, each block of time will have your full attention, energy, and focus, which will make you progress quicker!
This goes a little bit out the planning, but, I ask myself a set of questions every day, that help me to stay focused, productive and excited for the day!
Questions to get more clarity:
- “What am I really grateful for today? And how does that make me feel?”
- “What am I the happiest about today? How does that make me feel?”
- “What can I do to make people feel good today? How does that make me and others feel?
These questions will surely help you to envision your mission every day!
I’m sure you remember the last time you had to deliver something in the next 2 hours, and you were still in the middle of the thing. I’m also sure that, if that thing was important, you didn’t stop for a minute.
When deadlines are near, we have a bigger necessity to finish things on time, and we can’t give ourselves the luxury to procrastinate. If deadlines work so well, why aren’t we applying them more to increase our productivity? Deadlines are usually set by bosses at work. So, if you’re working for yourself in a personal project, you are your own boss. So, it is your duty to give yourself a deadline.
Next time you want to achieve a goal, perhaps to write that book or code that incredible game, give yourself a deadline, and stick to it! Setting deadlines is one of the most effective productivity tips I can give you. Make it a necessity to finish the project on time! See it as it was a project you had to deliver to a very important client.
Keep yourself commited!
Sticking to deadlines that are created by others, especially at work, is easier than sticking to your own deadlines. That is why some people, who work for themselves, never reach their full potential, because they spend a lot of time postponing creative projects. But, you’re now equipped with a tool to keep yourself accountable!
You can even put money on the game if it will make you follow through it. Make a deal with a friend and bet 100$ that you will finish the project on time. If you don’t, you have to give the 100$ to him/her.
I like to create deadlines for myself all the time: “I have till next Friday to publish an online class”. Or, I have to finish that essay until tomorrow”; “I have to clean my room today”. And all of these deadlines really help me to continue making progress every single day, even in the days I don’t really feel like it.
Creating deadlines for myself is also one of the biggest reasons why 99% of the times, I have everything ready on time. Sticking to these deadlines help me to stay productive every single day, and I’m sure they will help you too.
Every time you honor your deadlines, make sure you reward yourself! Take a break and allow yourself to feel the joy of accomplishing the things you wanted to, in the time you set for yourself because you’re the boss of your own life! You can decide how you’re going to spend your day and energy.
Are you surprised by this one? A few years ago, I wouldn’t associate my productivity with my exercise routine. But after reading the book Spark, which reveals the science behind exercise, I started noticing big differences in my workday when I exercised. I always knew that exercising was great to have better health, that’s obvious. But I had no idea of how it could actually increase my productivity, mood, and my levels of happiness.
It’s really easy to neglect exercise because it feels like we will have more time to achieve other tasks if we don’t do it. But in reality, exercising will give you a better brain. It is one of the most effective ways to increase productivity, put you in a better mood, increase your ability to focus, relieve stress and to make you happy!
The results are immediate!
All of these advantages contribute, in one way or another, to boost your productivity and motivation almost immediately. So, you don’t need to be exercising for a month to see those results. This morning, I woke up and I exercised for 30 minutes. I didn’t really feel like leaving the bed and sweating first thing in the morning. But I ignored my resistance and I did my workout anyway.
And every time I finish my workout, I’m always glad I did it. I feel so much better and ready to work. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m more focused. I feel sharp. I feel creative. And I feel like I can do anything I want during the day.
Not to say I’m perfectly used to working out every day. Really, I suck at maintaining the habit of exercising. But… at least I’m making a conscious effort to keep doing it!
“Not exercising is like taking a depressant.”
If you wake groggy and not excited to make progress in your goals, exercising is the most important thing you can do to change that. I’m not even talking about being fit and being healthier. Because those are the first things most people consider when starting to exercise. But exercise has other benefits rather those.
Create the Habit of Exercising!
In the beginning, it’s really difficult to motivate yourself to start exercising. You must force yourself to get up, put your gym clothes, go to the gym or work out at home. It’s very difficult to overcome resistance when you’re not used to exercising. But you should keep pushing yourself. Because after the workout, you will be thanking yourself for the rest of the day.
Why do you want to exercise?
A great way to become more consistent with the habit of exercising, is writing the reasons why you want to exercise. What will you gain by exercising every day? And what will you lose by not exercising? Make sure you learn more about developing new habits because it can be a great help!
For example, I will be more fit which will increase my confidence. If I don’t exercise, I will continue to be in a terrible mood all morning, which will damage my relationships with my family and co-workers.
For some people, exercising and going to the gym every day is really easy. It’s a part of who they are, and they love it. They have a bunch of fitness goals and they’re excited to achieve all of them. In my case, I don’t have all of those ambitions, and so my only goal is to work out every day. And it’s really difficult for me to keep it up, but I’m always trying to fight my resistance to not work out. Because I know it will make me more productive and happier.
Exercising is the most healthy out of the 5 productivity tips!
Basically, in his book, Spark, John Ratey explains how exercise helps to build learning blocks in your brain, how it affects your mood, reduces anxiety, increases attention and focus, reduces stress and many other benefits.
As I’m currently taking a management degree, I spend a big part of my day going to classes and studying. And so, learning is a big part of my daily life. I also read a lot of books every month.
Before reading the book Spark, I had a great excuse for not exercising, which was pretty much the fact I was focusing more on my mental abilities rather than my physical. And that my time was better-spend learning rather than exercising.
Well, after going through this book and reading a few more articles on the topic, I understood that exercise is extremely important to learn faster and to help me retain the information for longer periods of time, which is actually what I’m looking for.
Having to work is not an excuse for not exercising
They did a lot of studies that also showed dramatic increases in creativity and performance when workers tackled a creative task right after exercising when compared to another group.
“If you have an important afternoon brainstorming session schedules, going for a short, intense run during lunchtime is a smart idea.”
— John Ratey
I highly recommend you go through this book because it scientifically explains why we must exercise every day, if we wish to become better performers in any field. Your goals and priorities will benefit from a bit of exercising!
“To keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard.”
— John Ratey
Start a Challenge!
Start, today, a 30-day challenge, where you commit yourself to exercise every day. You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise, a walk around your neighborhood is always better than sitting all day long!
(I hope I can remember my own advice when I’m feeling particularly lazy!)
#5 Eliminate Distractions
Eliminating distractions is necessary to avoid wasting time! Unfortunately, avoiding them isn’t going to do the trick. It is necessary to eliminate them! You have to escape into a quiet place, to bury your phone and stop talking to your friends and family. Seriously, eliminating distractions can usually, alone, double your productivity. If it was not that valuable, it wouldn’t be a part of these 5 productivity tips.
A lot of great authors only turn on their phones after writing for 1 or 2 hours. Because they understand the importance of creating without any distractions.
No phone = more productivity
If I’ve got my phone near me while I’m studying, reading, working or writing, I know I’ll be going to check it sooner or later. So, I know I have to put my phone away in order to create some resistance that won’t make me check it constantly. If my phone is in another room, I know I won’t get up to grab it.
As a society, we are completely addicted to our phones, and it’s very difficult to be productive while we’re constantly checking in. If you’re really interested in increasing your productivity, make sure you place your phone in a very distant place.
Apps and Tools to get More Focus
You can also use some apps in your computer that allow you to block the access to the internet or social media, such as Freedom, Rescue Time or Forest. Rescue time also allows you to track the time you spend online and offline. If you wish to see how productive you are, give it a go and read my comprehensive guide on Rescue Time.
I use the app Forest on my phone and computer to help me to focus on one single task at a time, and to avoid checking my phone. The app doesn’t allow you to block the use of your phone or computer, but as it works as a game, it is really effective.
You set a timer for the number of minutes you want to focus on and you plant a seed in your virtual garden. If you don’t leave the app until the timer goes off, you will grow a tree in your garden.
But, if you do leave the app to check social media, your tree dies, and you’ll have a dead tree in your garden. As you focus more and more, your garden starts to become bigger and with a lot of trees, which is a great motivator to continue to focus.
You can do a lot of things. But just one thing at a time.
Focusing on one task at a time is crucial to achieving anything in a shorter amount of time. But, if you do manage to build your focus, which is great, you have to focus on the right thing.
Being distracted doesn’t only mean checking your phone every 10 minutes. It also means avoiding your real priorities, that will help you to achieve your goals. Distractions are everything that keeps you away from becoming greater and getting better results.
It might be the phone, but it might also be the countless hours we spend answering emails, instead of making progress in the most important projects.
So, make sure you eliminate all the distractions! It’s really easy to end the day without accomplishing nothing meaningful, even though we spent the whole day busy! Productivity tips won’t serve you if you keep focusing on useless tasks.
“It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?”
— Henry David
Productivity tips are not about doing more!
Being more productive is not about doing more and more and more, but to make the most out of the time we have. It’s funny because we all have the same 24 hours, but still, only a few percentages make something important during those hours. It’s really easy to complain about lack of time, but we all know we could be doing way more.
Especially, when we have things we really want to achieve that require our focus, energy and time! It doesn’t make any sense to set goals and waiting for them to happen while sitting on the sofa watching tv. Unless your goal is to create a research paper on tv programming, that would be a good exception.
24 hours are enough if your priorities are well-established
We don’t need more hours, we just need to use those 24 hours the best possible way. Which sometimes means saying no to a few projects that are not adding anything to our lives, or even when our schedules look chaotic, go for a 30-minute run (or walk… in my case).
In my journey to increase my productivity, I also started waking up early and using those early morning hours to accomplish tasks that would move me forward. In my last year of high school, I remember waking up at 6 a.m. to write blog posts, before going to school at 8.30. Having a morning ritual also helped…
Manage your time and energy!
Checking your inbox all day and answering emails might seem like one of the productivity tips. But in reality, it is stealing from your ability to accomplish something more meaningful and important to you! This is not to say that you should delete your email account. But, you have to manage better the use of your time, by scheduling ahead a period of the day where you’re going to tackle all of those emails.
In his book, The One thing, Gary Keller, suggests we take a look into our to-do-lists, and start by accomplishing the tasks that will make the other ones easier. Writing that book might be your main goal for this year, so you should focus intensively on that one thing first thing in the morning, which is probably the most challenging one.
I will finish with one of my favorite quotes that could make the number 6 of the list of productivity tips:
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” aka #6 Don’t do it
— Peter Drucker