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How To Be Productive: 30 Comprehensive Tips

How To Be Productive: 30 Comprehensive Tips

  • Wish I could get more done
  • If only I could live my dreams
  • I’m not sure why I waste most of my time
  • I wish I procrastinated lesser
  • How the heck can I be more productive?

Such thoughts pop into your head every now and then, don’t they? You’re aware of your problems, but you can’t find a solution.

And what makes things worse is knowing a person who’s your opposite – a productivity machine. The way he finishes one thing after another makes you wonder, “Is this guy for real? What does he eat for breakfast? What kind of blood is running through his veins?”

But, here’s the kicker – you can become that person too. Sure, it isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. If you’re willing to make little changes and small sacrifices, you’ll knock things out of the park yourself. What won’t work is sticking to your current behavior with the hope that things will magically change one day. Newsflash – it won’t. Nothing will change unless you do.

how to be productive

So if you want to learn how to be productive, be prepared to make some changes in your daily life. If not, the time spent on reading this article will go in vain. The super-productive person you know has gone through the discomfort of practicing productive habits. Today, those are ingrained in his daily routine and appear natural. If you manage to fight through the initial hardship, productive habits will become second nature for you too.

How to be productive:

Before we start, I’d like to tell you that each person is different. So, any list of productivity tips can’t suit every last person on this planet. Your circumstances, personality, and obstacles significantly differ from another person who’s also reading the same article with the same intention.

Therefore, all the tips provided in the article won’t work for you. You’ll have to pick and choose the ones that suit your situation the best. If you’re not sure if a tip will help you, give it a shot first, check the outcome and take a call on whether you should continue practicing it.

The 5 sections of productivity tips

The tips below are divided into 5 sections:

Section 1: Minor tweaks

These are little changes that you can incorporate right away without a lot of effort. Don’t underestimate them for their simplicity because simple changes can make the biggest difference.

Section 2: Self awareness

These are tips that help you gain a better understanding of yourself and your usage of time. With the newly acquired awareness, you can make better decisions that boost your productivity. Such tips will require an upfront effort, but once done, you’ll reap the benefits for the years to come.

Section 3: Famous techniques

These are tips suggested by other productivity experts and have been tried and tested by people around the globe. Most of them are a part of best-selling books. But again, a well-known technique doesn’t guarantee results. So, experiment and improvise.

Section 4: Bad habits to avoid

These are behaviors that cause poor productivity. But, since they’re already a habit, you perform them without conscious thought. The tips in this section help you fight those habits and overcome them.

Section 5: Routine changes:

These are tips that will require changes in your routine and are therefore the hardest to incorporate. But, as with any other effort, the reward will make the effort worth it.

So, let’s begin

Minor Tweaks:

Below are 6 tips that require minor changes to implement. They’ll help you learn how to be productive with the least effort

1. Don’t wait for the exact mark

waiting timer

Target area: procrastination, lack of momentum to start

Back in the day, I had the habit of waiting for the clock to hit a specific time before starting a task.

If I reached work by 9:20 AM, I would decide to start at 9:30 AM. To spend those 10 minutes, I would check random group messages. One of the messages would lead me to a Youtube video. After watching that video, I would continue watching other recommended videos.

At 9:30, I would be halfway through some video. But because the video was funny, I would not stop midway. I would proceed to watch until the video came to an end at 9:36. But, since I had crossed my time to start, I would postpone my work to begin at 10.

You know the rest of the story. The vicious cycle never ends.

Do not wait for the clock to strike the exact 30 minutes or the hour like 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11.

The first best time to begin was in the past, the next best time is right now.

So, no matter what the clock shows, get started on the task.

2. Don’t make your to-do list a dumping ground

Target area: Too many things to do, poor prioritization, long working hours

I had the habit of putting every task that I had to complete on my to-do list. The end result – my list of things to do was longer than an elephant’s trunk.

If you’re following the same, you already know how a lengthy list is now your productivity nightmare. The app which is supposed to help you get things done becomes a reason for procrastination. The sheer thought of the number of incomplete tasks makes you push work even further. Besides, because the list is too long, you miss a few tasks which genuinely need your attention.

To fix the problem, divide your lists. As a start, you can split your to-do list into tasks that can be quickly completed and those which need significant effort.

Detailed guide: How to make your to do lists more effective

3. Don’t accept every meeting invite you receive

Target area: Long working hours, lack of time to get the real work done

If you’re a working professional I can bet that a large chunk of your time goes into meetings. Research has shown that every employee attends at least 8 meetings a week and the number only increases with seniority.

But how many of those meetings serve a purpose? Today, meetings have turned into a platform for participants to showcase themselves and gain visibility.

Every meeting has to serve one of these three purposes:

  • Provide useful information that can drive change
  • Discuss and finalize action items
  • Help you brainstorm ideas

If a meeting does none of these, you’re only wasting time. Those recurring status meetings or catchups are among the biggest culprits. The more you stay out of useless meetings, the more productive you’ll be. Make it a habit to decline meetings unless it adds value.

4. Don’t switch from one task to another

Multitasking man

Target area: Low efficiency

When you’re midway through a task, switching to a different one provides an illusion of getting more done. But in reality, it kills your focus and output. Every time you multitask, you carry on attention residue from your previous task which lingers in your mind for a few minutes. The more you switch, the more time you waste.

For example, you’re working on creating a report, while your phone beeps. “Let me quickly check my messages. It’ll only take a few seconds,” you assume. You read the text, reply, and get back to your task.

But, you lose time due to two factors. First, some portion of the text and the reply is still in your memory. So, your attention isn’t entirely on the task even after you return. Second, once you switch back to the original task, you’ve to remind yourself where you stopped.

These little forms of multitasking seem small by themselves, but one after another, they add up like a snowball rolling down the mountain and destroy your productivity.

Detailed article: How to multitask the right way

5. Use your waiting time

Target area: Too many things to do, poor prioritization, long working hours

You have different times throughout the day where you’re performing a routine task that doesn’t require a whole lot of brain activity.

For example:

  • Waiting to pick up your takeaway
  • Cooking lunch
  • Eating breakfast
  • Commuting to work
  • Running on a treadmill

Throughout the day, you will have multiple time windows where you can get work done. You can use your breakfast time to finish some pending calls. You can listen to an audiobook during your workout. You can think of ideas while taking your pet for a walk.

Spot such windows that you can use for little activities. Even if you find two such 15 min opportunities every workday, you will save 2.5 hours each week or 10 hours a month.

6. Have clear goals for each day

Target area: Too many things to do, poor prioritization, long working hours

Having a to-do list is not the same as having a list of goals for the day. A few years ago, I would work for 14+ hours without clear direction. Since I had no clue about my priorities, I would pick up various tasks on my plate irrespective of how important they were. One task after another consumed hours of my time leaving me no room to make progress on my long-term goals.

Today, I’m clear about the top few tasks I must complete for the day. I make sure I finish them by the end of the day, come what may.

You must be clear about a small set of tasks that you need to target for the day. The list can only have 3 tasks if you like. I would caution you from targeting anything more than 6 tasks. If you consider too many things important, it implies nothing is.

Target a few tasks for the day and finish them instead of targeting a long list and leaving most incomplete. If you want to master the art of how to be productive, make each day count.

Self-awareness:

Below are 6 tips that help you build a better awareness about your usage of time.

7. Question the value of each task

girl asking question

Target area: Poor prioritization, long working hours

If you’re reading this article, it’s clear that you’re keen on getting things done. I come from a similar mindset, but I had the urge to keep myself engaged without considering the value of each task. As a result, I was more restless and engaged than productive.

If you let yourself run on autopilot, you’ll pick any task thrown at you without a thought. All it takes to change that equation is a pinch of mindfulness.

Before you begin each task, ask yourself, “Is this worth doing?” You’ll eliminate many of your time wasters which eat up hours of your day without yielding any results.

Please note, you’ll also have chores and responsibilities to attend to even if you believe they aren’t worth spending time on. You can ignore such exceptions, as far as you don’t label every unnecessary task as an exception.

8. Understand Parkinson’s Law

Target area: Long working hours, low efficiency

Working long hours is celebrated and rewarded in many organizations. But, in reality, it leads to poor productivity. When you have ample time at your disposal, you approach each task with complacency knowing you can cover up with extra effort.

The time we mentally assign to a specific task directly impacts our productivity. Parkinson’s law serves as an eye-opener in this regard. It states that the more time you have, the longer you will take to complete any task.

Have you noticed how your effort slows down to fill the time available to complete the task? That’s Parkinson’s law at play.

If you put a deliberate effort into working faster, you will reduce the impact of Parkinson’s Law to a great extent. Only when you push yourself to tighter self-imposed deadlines will you operate at your highest productivity.

As an example, if you spend an hour of your morning cooking, challenge yourself to finish 10 minutes early. You’ll notice how you will automatically re-align your speed to meet the timeline. You can apply the same logic to any task to increase your operational efficiency.

Detailed guide: Parkinson’s Law – How you waste time

9. Track your time

Target area: Long working hours, procrastination, lack of time to get the real work done

If your kitchen stinks, how do you fix it? You have to find the source of the stench and get rid of it or clean it, correct? You cannot get rid of the smell before knowing what’s causing it.

Likewise, you cannot fix your time management skills unless you know what the problems are first. Unfortunately, people hunt for tips without knowing the source of their poor productivity.

So, let’s do a quick test. Can you answer the questions below:

  • How many hours of your day do you spend on fruitful work?
  • What are your top time-wasters?
  • How often do you check your phone while working?

If you do not have clear answers to the above questions, you need to start with tracking your day to save time. Here is an activity that will help you get started.

10. Identify your distraction triggers

Distracted man

Target area: Procrastination, lack of focus, low attention span

Everyone has their own reasons for distractions. Some like to scroll through social media, some like to watch Youtube, some like to check what’s in the fridge.

No matter what distracts you frequently, your behavior is initiated by a trigger. For example, you feel like checking your phone when you hear a notification. You feel like eating a couple of cookies as soon as you step into the kitchen.

Charles Duhigg explains how habits operate as a system of cues, triggers, and rewards. If you identify your triggers, you’ll have an easier time getting rid of your distractions.

11. Set balanced goals

Target area: Long working hours, Low efficiency

“Aim for massive goals which scare you and you’ll achieve success.” You’ve heard that advice in various shapes and forms. So, you flare your chest and tell yourself, “I am going to make 10 million dollars in a year.” A few weeks later, you don’t see yourself any closer to your target, so you simply give up.

Chasing audacious goals is great advice when you allow yourself enough time to get there. But, setting gigantic goals for the short term is a recipe for failure. You can transform yourself from 350 pounds of flab to shredded abs if you give it a few years, not 6 months. You can make hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade or two, not in a couple of years.

Set balanced goals by understanding the difference between short-term and long-term. Your long terms goals should be unrealistic, but your plan to get there should be realistic.

12. Find an accountability partner

Target area: Procrastination

An accountability partner is a person you share your goals and deadlines with. You can pick your friend, coworker, relative, or any other person you deem appropriate.

An accountability partner works best when both of you discuss your goals with each other and hold each other accountable. As human beings, we do not like to fail at a commitment we’ve made because our ego doesn’t like it.

If you’re keen to chase challenging goals, having an accountability partner can make you more responsible and serious. He/she will provide an unbiased opinion on your approach and thought process.

Make sure you connect and discuss often enough(at least once a month).

Famous techniques:

Below are 6 tips from other productivity experts. These methods have good reviews from people who have tried and tested it.

13. Use the Pomodoro technique

Pomodoro timer

Target area: Lack of focus, poor prioritization

The Pomodoro technique is a time management methodology where you work for 25 minutes followed by a short 3-5 minute break. After repeating the same cycle 4 times, you take a longer break. Working in such short cycles prevents you from spending excessive time on one task.

Pomodoro technique strikes the right balance between getting things done and taking breaks. The technique involves working interrupted for a span of time followed by a short time-out. The traditional method uses a 25-minute work window followed by a 5-minute break. After repeating the cycle 4 times, you allow yourself a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

The Pomodoro technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the last 1980s. Back then, as a university student, he used a kitchen timer that was tomato-shaped to track time. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, which Cirillo used to name the technique. You can find a similar timer even today on Amazon. You can use the online tomato timer too.

Detailed guide: How to use the Pomodoro Technique

14. The marginal gains technique

Target area: Achieve long term goals

Dave Brailsford is among the most successful cycling coaches of all time. He transformed a struggling British cycling team that had hardly won any medals and led them to total domination of the sport within 10 years of taking up the job of the head coach.

You might assume Mr. Brailsford used sophisticated strategies to achieve such success. But the coach had a simple technique which in his own words was, “If you break down every little aspect of cycling and improve each by 1%, the final result would be significantly different.” As simple as the technique sounds, the difference was in how Brailsford introduced improvements.

The procedure looks straightforward on paper. You just have to do a little better with time. The 1% does not state a precise number measured as a figure. All it means is, you must focus on doing one aspect better than what you did before. You must keep improving even if you do not notice immediate results. Over time, the improvement produces a compound effect and places you in a different league altogether.

People hunt for huge gains in one go and ignore the minor tweaks which produce results over time. The marginal gains technique approaches improvement like a marathon, not a sprint.

Detailed guide: Marginal Gains – How to improve 1% at a time

15. Use the two-minute rule:

Target area: Procrastination

The rule states “If a task takes less than 2 minutes to complete, you do it right now.” You are heading for a break and you notice an email that requires a reply, you do it then and there. You see your to-do list and notice a task needs a quick call, you pick up the phone and call.

This technique was invented by David Allen and is a part of his book “Getting things done”.

16. Use the 5-second rule

stopwatch

Target area: Procrastination

The hardest part of completing a difficult task is taking the first step.

  • Want to wake up early? The most challenging part is sitting up.
  • Want to work out? The most challenging part is getting ready.
  • Want to start your own business? The most challenging part is performing the first action after planning.

Mel Robbins wrote a book called the 5-second rule to overcome simple forms of procrastination. The rule is all about making a mental countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and immediately doing what you plan to postpone.

When the alarm sounds, count 5-4-3-2-1 and sit up. When the episode on Netflix ends, count 5-4-3-2-1, and get to work.

As simple as the technique sounds, it is highly effective in beating procrastination. In the book, Mel Robbins explains various scenarios where she applied the rule and you can draw inspiration from those ideas.

17. Introduce friction or eliminate the trigger

Target area: Lack of focus, low attention span

James Clear suggested the method of introducing friction for bad habits in his book Atomic Habits. No matter what your bad habits are, they follow a typical pattern. Each of your habits starts with a source, which triggers an urge that leads to a response.

One of the most effective ways to break that pattern is by eliminating the source/trigger. If you can’t do that, you can introduce friction between the source and the trigger instead.

Let’s take a few examples.

  • Checking your phone repeatedly:
    • Source: The smartphone itself
    • Trigger: The sound of the notification
    • Bad habit: The action of checking your phone
  • Possible solutions to introduce friction:
    • Introducing friction: Keep your phone away from reach. To check your notifications, you’ll have to get off your seat.
    • Eliminating the trigger: Put your phone on mute. Every time you receive a text message, the beep won’t prompt you to pick up the phone.
  • Watching TV:
    • Source: The TV
    • Trigger: Sitting on the couch and finding the remote nearby
    • Bad habit: The action of watching TV
  • Possible solutions:
    • Introduce friction between the source and the trigger: Leave the remote in another room. The extra effort to walk all the way and fetch the stupid little device might help you resist the urge.
    • Unplug the TV after you watch it. To turn it on the next time, you’ll have to fix the plug again.

18. Eat the biggest frog first

Brain Tracy wrote a best-selling book called ‘Eat That Frog.’ Among all the productivity suggestions in the book, the one that received the most fame was to tackle the hardest tag first. As a metaphor, Brian mentioned that if you had multiple frogs to swallow, you must start with the biggest one first as a technique to get the toughest challenge finished first.

The author recommends applying the same approach to your tasks too. Every day, you have a mixture of tasks to complete, of which some are easy and some are hard. If you get the biggest task out of your way, you pave the path for a productive day.

A word of caution while applying this method. People have mixed reviews on its effectiveness. Trying to finish the most difficult task first has caused people to procrastinate the start of work itself due to the anxiety of the task at hand. Personally, I find it challenging to work on a tough task at the start of the day. I prefer working on tasks that are easy and dear to me first to build momentum before switching to the harder jobs.

Try the approach and evaluate if it helps your productivity.

Bad habits to avoid:

Below are X tips for productivity that require conquering your bad habits. Are they relatively harder to implement? Yes. Do they yield better benefits in the long run? Again, yes.

19. Don’t check every email immediately

Target area: Lack of focus, distractions

checking emails

How often do you check email? Today, looking through one’s inbox has turned into a habit. Throughout the day, you check for emails even if you don’t need to.

Keeping your email notifications on kills your productivity. Every time a new email shows up, your eyes cannot resist reading the preview on the corner of your screen. Your brain starts to wonder, “Should I work on that email now?” After a couple of minutes of thought, you decide to take it up later. When you get back to the task you were on, you exclaim, “Wait, where was I?”

Do not keep your mailbox open throughout. If you have notifications on your phone or computer for every new email, turn them off.

Check emails a few times a day:

If you have an addiction to emails, you must try this approach first. Check your emails 3 times – before work, after lunch, and towards the end of the day. At any other time, both your mail application and the notifications should remain closed. For most people, that’s the right balance.

Use 10-minute slots scattered through the day:

If your role requires quicker action towards emails, assign multiple 10 min slots scattered through your day to check your inbox. You can strategically place them every hour or two based on your need. But, once you’ve read your emails, close your mailbox and notifications until your next slot.

The less time you spend on email, the more productive you’ll be.

20. Don’t say yes to every task or favor asked

Target area: Long working hours, Low efficiency, Lack of time to get real work done

The world is filled with people looking to offload their work to others. If you are a dedicated employee, people will seek your help now and then.

I’m not against helping others, but you must focus on your priorities first. If a task which your coworker needs help burdens you, cultivate a habit of saying no.

You will find it awkward to decline a task coming from a known person, but, to gain effective control over your time, you have to master that art.

When it comes to time and priorities, put yourself first because the time you spend never comes back. This tip holds even more prominence for managers and those in leadership positions.

Detailed guide: How to say no politely

21. Separate focused work from shallow work

Target area: Lack of focus, distractions

When I had the habit of working long hours, I went about my day on an ad-hoc basis. I approached a task that required my utmost attention just like I attended a useless meeting. All in all, my productivity was broken.

No matter what your role is, you will have different tasks to complete each day. Not all of them will require your complete focus. For example, if you’re a developer, you require less attention while checking emails compared to writing code. Besides, each person has different focus levels at different times of the day. Some do well in the morning while some others can give their best after the sun sets.

Therefore, separate your focused hours from your shallow hours. Dedicate separate time blocks for each of them. When you’re working on tasks that need your full attention, your focus should only be in one place. And you can manage to do so, only if you set aside time for other activities which are less important, for example keeping an hour aside to read emails. If not, your shallow work will interfere with your deep work and throw your productivity out the window.

Detailed guide: How to use time blocking to separate deep and shallow work

22. Sleep enough

Target area: Long working hours, Low efficiency

Girl sleeping

The most common way of compensating for the lack of time is by sleeping fewer hours. I have done that plenty. I used to go through my day groggy-eyed and fatigued.

When you’ve not rested enough, your brain can’t function at its best. Your creativity, focus, and attention span suffer. Therefore, if you work long hours at your sub-optimal efficiency, you hardly get enough things done. The illusion of working day and night might provide you with consolation but it will hardly yield results.

To make that worse, the habit turns into a neverending loop. To compensate for low efficiency, you’ll put in more hours and the more you work, the less you’ll sleep.

Instead, sleep for at least 7 hours. A well-rested body needs lesser time to get things done. At first, you will feel uncomfortable starting your day late or ending the day early, but your efficiency will skyrocket.

Related article: Why your body needs sleep

23. Avoid overeating and undereating

Target area: Lack of focus, procrastination

Have you had a delightful lunch and felt like your mind and body were operating like a sluggish vehicle? I’m sure we’ve all had those days.

Your diet has a direct impact on your productivity. Consuming a large amount of carbohydrates leads to the secretion of insulin which increases sleep hormones. The same goes for junk food too. But that said, having a low amount of blood sugar can impair your decision-making and self-control.

Eating the right food in the right amount serves as a catalyst for good productivity. If you can throw in a few workout sessions every week, you’ll do even better.

Related article: Food that helps your productivity

24. Reduce working hours

Target area: Long working hours, Low efficiency

Yes, you read that right. Every 2 weeks, allow yourself lesser time to complete your daily tasks. We already went through Parkinson’s Law which stated that the more time you have, the longer you take to finish the job. Therefore, when you have prepared yourself for a long working day, you believe you’re working at your maximum potential. As a result, you don’t try to speed up any further.

But, almost always, you’re nowhere close to the efficiency you’re capable of. Only when you stretch your limits, you will improve your speed and accuracy of the job you’re doing. Until then, your brain and body take the path of least effort to get the job done.

When you reduce your working hours, you force your brain to find ways to optimize performance. It brings you closer to your maximum speed and accuracy.

During my first few months of writing, I could manage to put together 500 words in an hour. By cutting short my available time repeatedly, I now write 1500 words per hour on average. I have days when I struggle with words and occasions where I go on a spree and write over 2000 words. But overall, my current benchmark is 1500 words per hour. I managed to achieve that after I reduced my work hours and forced myself to write faster.

No matter what your field of expertise is, you can increase your speed without losing accuracy until a certain point. It is your brain that acts as a barrier from inching closer to that limit. Force your mind to improve, and you will surprise yourself with your results.

Detailed guide: How to work faster and turbocharge your speed

Routine Changes:

Below are X tips for productivity that require changing some aspects of your routine. Among all the tips in this article, these are the most difficult to implement because your mind and body will have to accommodate change. As human beings, we like to stick to the way things are. Therefore, these tips will make you uncomfortable first, but if you force yourself to practice them, over time they’ll become a part of your lifestyle.

25. Set aside time for learning

Target area: Developing expertise, stagnated growth

Girl learning

Let us rewind time and go back a year. Compare the old you vs the current you. Do you see any difference in your skills and abilities or do you see the same person in the mirror?

Most people stagnate after a few years because they fail to learn anything new. They assume their current knowledge suffices to get the work done.

Imagine you are a salesperson. If you do not improve your sales skills year on year, why should any organization pay you more than a lesser experienced employee? If you and the junior employee deliver the same results, you both deserve the same pay too.

Learning always gets sidelined due to our priorities. Only when you set aside time for learning will you manage to polish your skills. Try to target 5 hours a week. If you find that hard to accommodate right now, aim for 2 hours a week to begin with.

Don’t postpone this tip for later because you’ll end up pushing it forever. Learning does not stop in college. Those who believe it does are the ones who stagnate the fastest.

You have to set aside time for learning no matter what point of your career you’re at. Sure, you’d argue saying, “I want to but I don’t have the time.” But, is that the whole truth? If Barack Obama could spare an hour a day for learning, I’m sure you can too. Several other successful people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have re-iterated the importance of continuous learning.

Spending 5 hours a week learning new skills or honing your current expertise is a good benchmark to target.

Detailed guide: How to be successful at work

26. Break larger goals into smaller tasks

Target area: Lack of focus, procrastination

When you look at a bigger goal, the effort will seem overwhelming. Besides, the goal might require action in so many different areas that you give up before you even start.

Let us take an example to illustrate the point. You want to make a billion dollars within the next 10 years. When you look at the massive goal, you dream about it, feel good about yourself, and do nothing after. You remind yourself about working towards making a billion dollars but you’re not sure where to begin. In no time, a few years pass by, and then a few more. Sooner or later you realize you have not made any progress towards your goal.

To make bigger goals easier to achieve, break them down into manageable tasks.

To make a billion dollars, what should you accomplish in 5 years? Should you have a business of your own? Do you have to reach an executive position in a massive firm?

Whatever you believe is necessary, break it down further. What should you do within the next 2 years? Keep going until you find one or more tasks to do today.

The task can be something as simple as thinking of possible business ideas for 1 hour. Unless you break a huge goal down into smaller daily tasks, you will have a hard time accomplishing what you set out to.

A smaller task helps you overcome laziness because you know you can finish things off with a little effort compared to a massive goal that you don’t know how to achieve.

Detailed guide: How to break your long term goals into smaller tasks

27. Reduce your distractions

Target area: Lack of focus

People who lack focus fall into two brackets.

The complainers: These are people who have various reasons for distractions such as:

  • My roommate plays the TV too loud
  • Our open working space causes too many distractions
  • I receive too many emails and phone calls to concentrate

The deniers: These are people who are in denial about their distractions.

  • Yes, I text between work but it hardly distracts me
  • I can work well even if there is a lot of commotion around me
  • I can multitask effectively and get things done

No matter which among the two are you, reducing distractions and improving productivity takes work. Your environment won’t change by itself unless you make an effort. Even simple changes can produce powerful results.

If you suffer from a lack of focus, you can stir things up with little improvements like:

  • Keep your phone on silent or DND(turn off all notifications)
  • Put on noise cancellation earphones
  • Close doors
  • Inform others about specific hours in the day when you shouldn’t be disturbed unless urgent

If you let distractions interfere with your productivity, they will. If you make little changes to shoo them away, you will manage to focus far better than you imagine.

Detailed guide: How to reduce distractions and improve focus

28. Have a thinking time slot every day

Target area: Generate ideas, achieve long term goals, prioritization

Man with idea

You have a superpower and that is your ability to think. No other living species can think like a human. Yet, most people fail to utilize thinking to their full potential.

It’s time you changed that. Spend 15 minutes a day, doing nothing but thinking. You can use the time to think of ideas to take one step towards your goals, improve yourself as a person, delight your spouse, or anything under the sun. During these 15 minutes, think about what could you do better. The ideas generated from those 15 minutes will pay a thousandfold return.

Don’t approach your thinking time with a mindset of, “I will think of 15 minutes if my schedule permits.” If you do, you’ll find yourself occupied with a bazillion other tasks. Set aside time explicitly for thinking and force yourself to spend that time thinking even on a busy day.

Also, you must respect those 15 minutes for their purpose of thinking. Do not spend them on the problems you have, stressing yourself out, or getting menial jobs done.

Detailed guide: How to use your thinking to your best ability

29. Reward yourself

As a kid, what did your parents do to motivate you to complete a task or earn good grades? They promised you a reward. You got an ice-cream for cleaning the yard or a bicycle for doing well in the exams.

Did the method work? Of course, it did. You have done things as a kid to bag that reward. Sometimes, the joy was not the reward itself but the pleasure of earning it.

Even as an adult, rewards help motivate people. Organizations pay bonuses to the person who did the best and promote outstanding performers to a higher role. All these are nothing but rewards.

Unfortunately, you may not always have an external person handing out prizes to complete your personal goals. To bridge the gap, reward yourself when you complete a task.

If the goal is more significant, treat yourself when you make progress and reach a milestone. Do not wait until the whole project is complete.

For moderate to difficult tasks, assign a reward for yourself for completing it. Make sure the reward is proportionate to the effort you put in.

Detailed guide: How to build a reward system for yourself

30. Use DND on your phone

This tip comes last because every productivity article contains this. Yet, most people fail to incorporate it and fail to be productive.

When you hear your phone beep at a distance, you feel the urge to check your phone. Maybe you decide not to check your phone right now. Yet, you still hold the thought in your head that you have a pending notification to check.

Resisting the urge to check a notification is no easy feat. Your best defense to wasting time on your smartphone is to cut as many notifications as possible. Using DND yields great results.

My phone is set to be on DND for the whole day except for three hours, 8 PM – 11 PM. You can learn how to use DND by the time of the day on both Android and iPhone the same way.

If you do not use DND, the phone controls your behavior by asking you to pick it up every time it beeps. By using DND, your phone never beeps and you can check your phone every few hours as per your choice.

Putting your phone on DND seems like a breakup at first. You miss your phone but you get over it with time.

Detailed guide: How to overcome your phone addiction

Conclusion

Learning how to be productive starts with the right intent and ends with simple discipline. If you’ve gone through all the tips in this article, you don’t need any more ideas to overcome your laziness or increase your productivity. You already know plenty. If you apply what you know, check for results, and make the necessary course corrections, you’ll operate like an accurate machine.

Unfortunately, some people read such tips, feel good about learning new techniques and go back to their usual ways. Some assume these are easy, and therefore shrug them off or plan to implement them in the “near future.” But that day never arrives.

When it comes to productivity, simplicity and common sense yield the best results. So, every time you find your productivity below par, don’t hunt for new techniques. Experiment with what you know, retain what works, and scrap what doesn’t. If you do, over the years, others will look at you and think, “Wish I was as productive as him/her.”

Do you want people to look at you with that impression? If yes, you better start now.




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