One of the most common habits of successful people is that they know how to manage their time and consistently produce their best stuff on a daily basis.
Over the previous two decades, our society has made rapid technological advancements which have made our daily lives easier.
However, progress always comes with a cost. Smartphones. Streaming websites. Social networking sites. The creation of these channels means that we’re more prone to lose focus and procrastinate than ever before.
Our attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been in human history, with each person boasting an average attention span of eight seconds.
However, there is an upside to living in a world full of distractions. If you can master the skill of performing focused work without falling victim to distractions, you’ll have a giant leg up on 98% of your peers who want the things you want.
In this article, we’ll discuss seven productivity tips that will help you take back control of your time and turn you into a productivity machine.
What Are The Three Ways to Increase Productivity?
Before getting into some of the productivity tips that will be covered in this article, let’s talk about the four ways to increase your productivity.
Every productivity habit that you can think of falls into these four categories. And before you read the next section of this article, I’d recommend determining which of these areas if your biggest sticking point.
That will give you direction as to which productivity tips you want to take advantage of here.
Focal Point #1: Environment Design
Environment is often the invisible hand that shapes our behavior. If you want to be productive, but you’re battling with cues that are triggering unproductive habits, that’s a battle you’re gonna lose nine times out of ten.
You may want to sit down and work for a couple hours, but what if your smartphone is right next to you? Or what if you’re constantly tempted to browse Facebook, Youtube, or any other distracting website that pulls your attention away from what matters.
Environment design is simply about removing potential roadblocks and distractions that get in the way of what you need to get done.
Focal Point #2: Improve Your Prioritization
The way you structure your work time is incredibly important. Spending time checking things off your to-do list is great, but not everything on your to-do list has equal weight.
Prioritization is a skill that successful people understand, and unsuccessful people overlook. It’s not about how much time you spend working, it’s about what you spend that time working on.
When your tasks are structured the right way, you can accomplish more with three hours of focused work than you can with eight.
A few of these productivity tips will help show you how to make progress on high-impact activities that move your life forward instead of those that just waste your attention.
Focal Point #3: Mastering The Non-Work Hours
The things that you do when you’re not working have a significant impact on how you spend your time when you are.
If your sleep schedule is completely erratic, then you’ll be less focused and less motivated to work. If your diet sucks, then your brain and body won’t be primed to focus for hours on challenging work.
Building good habits that are not directly related to productivity can you give you the boost you need to be ready when the time comes to work.
7 Productivity Tips To Start Using Right Now
Now that we’ve covered the three different focal points you can improve when it comes to your productivity, let’s talk about the seven productivity tips that you can start using immediately.
Aside from just listing a bunch of habits that you can develop, we’ll also be talking about the strategy for implementing these tips into your life.
#1: Lose the Phone
Think about the last time you tried to sit down and work on something. How many times did you stop working to check your phone?
Checking social media sites and getting caught up in notifications is probably the common obstacle that causes people to lose focus on the task at hand.
Pulling out your phone in the middle of work does two things. First off, it interrupts your flow state and unnecessarily lengthens the amount of time it takes to complete taks.
But second, it forces your brain to go through a redirecting process where it has to refocus its energy back to the task at hand. Frequent interruption means that it’s impossible to be fully engaged in whatever you are working on because it’s attention is constantly being pulled to different stimuli.
In other words, checking your phone constantly doesn’t just waste time, it sabotages the quality of your work as well.
Action Step – Whenever you sit down to work, turn off your phone. If you want to take things a step further, then you can even put it in another room.
#2: Create a To-Do List The Right Way
Productive people don’t just wing it, they go into each day with a plan of action. If you roll out of bed and have no clear plan for what to work on, your day will end up going one of two ways.
You’ll either spend a bunch of time on insignificant work, or you’ll constantly jump from task to task without making much progress on any of them. Obviously, neither scenario is ideal for achieving peak productivity.
Furthermore, it’s going to be impossible to know if you had a productive day if you didn’t specify any particular criteria for what that would entail.
By making a to-do list, you are giving your brain a clear directive for the day and establishing criteria for success.
Think of it this way: If you were a Navy SEAL Commander, would you tell your team to jump out of an airplane without giving them a mission plan? Of course not. You’d give them a clear set of tasks to perform that, if completed, would ultimately result in a successful mission.
Apply the same principle to your daily life by waking up with a mission – a clear directive for where to direct your attention.
When it comes to forming an effective to-do list, don’t make the classic mistake of writing down 12 tasks and expecting to get all of them done.
If your to-do list begins to resemble a grocery list, you’ll feel anxiety bubbling up simply by glancing at it. Crossing all of those tasks off in one day will seem so insurmountable that you won’t make meaningful progress on any of them.
For the last six months, I’ve been structuring a to-do list using a simple but effective prioritization technique called the Ivy Lee Method.
Every morning, I write down six tasks I want to accomplish during the day. Then, those tasks are ranked in order of importance. Once they’re ranked from 1-6, I separate the top three tasks from the rest and only work on completing those three tasks during the day.
The key is to focus on these three tasks one-by-one. I don’t move onto the second most important task until the most important task for the day is completed.
Any unfinished tasks, whether from your top three or bottom three, roll over to the next day.
Action Step – Perform the Ivy Lee method at the start of each day or before you go to bed.
#3: Block Distracting Websites
It’s true that technology can hamper your ability to be productive, but there are also ways to make it your friend.
There are dozens of browser plug-ins nowadays that block distracting websites like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Reddit, etc.
On most of these plug-ins, you have the option to block these sites permanently, or block them during a specific time frame. You can also create
Your brain is always looking for the path of least resistance. It’s why you hit the snooze button instead of rolling out of bed. It’s why you choose to eat a sugary bowl of cereal instead of taking 10 minutes to whip up some eggs.
Using a site blocker makes mindless web-surfing much harder to do because it puts resistance between you and your desire to escape.
Watching a Youtube video becomes far less appealing when you need to spend two minutes changing settings around instead of taking five seconds to type it in the search bar.
Therefore, you’ll likely decide that it’s not worth your time and simply continue working. Not because you have ridiculous self-control, but because you’re using laziness to your advantage.
Here are a few of the best website blockers out there right now:
Tip #4: Eat That Frog
This phrase was coined by Brian Tracy, the legendary self-improvement coach who has published over 70 books on personal development.
In his best-selling book titled, Eat That Frog, Tracy recommends that you complete your most difficult task first thing in the morning.
The philosophy is based around a quote from Mark Twain, who once said:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Most people have an incredible knack for being busy. High-achievers have an incredible knack for being productive.
What’s the difference?
Being busy is about being occupied with mundane work that doesn’t require much mental energy. Things like checking and responding to emails, editing presentation fonts, or touching up your business website all fall into this category.
It’s not that they don’t need to get done, it’s just that this kind of work doesn’t challenge you.
Being productive is about being occupied with challenging work. It’s about doing the things that you’re most likely to put off. Tasks like building out a pitch deck, writing a blog post, or making sales calls all fall into this category.
The thought of actually powering through these tasks induces a stress response in your body, which naturally pulls your attention to mundane tasks that keep you busy. After all, you’re still checking things off your to-do list so you’re being productive right? Wrong.
Prioritizing your life effectively requires you to attack those challenging, stress-inducing tasks at the start of the day. Studies have shown that our levels of motivation and willpower are at their peak levels in the hours after we wake up, which means that this is the perfect time to exert some self-discipline and do the things we don’t feel like doing.
If you want to achieve your goals, y ou need to accept the fact that you are going to have to repeatedly do things you don’t feel like doing – day after day, month after month, year after year.
By finishing the tasks you are most likely to put off first thing in the morning, you will feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction that will compound into the rest of your day.
Action Step – Every morning, commit to just 5 minutes of work on your most important task from your to-do list. Once you start, there’s an 80% chance you will keep working after the 5 minutes are up. This is by far one of the best productivity tips that I’ve ever received.
Tip #5: Master The Art of Single-Tasking
One of the most common mistakes people make while working is continually jumping from one task to another.
First off, it’s important to clarify that only two percent of the population can successfully multitask without significantly impairing the quality of work done on either task.
For the lucky few reading this who are in that two percent, you can completely ignore everything I’m about to say. However, if you’re in the 98 percent of people who struggle to multitask effectively, then stay with me.
It’s been shown that our brain receives 11 million bits of new information every second.
Yet, our brain can only process 40 of these bits. This filtering process happens on auto-pilot because your brain has a limited amount of mental energy it can expend at any given moment.
Focusing the brain’s limited energy on completing the task at hand is one of the easiest ways to be more efficient while also improving the quality of your work.
For us normal people who can’t multitask, when we think that we’re doing two things at once all we’re really doing is rapidly switching between them. So when we multitask, we do a mediocre job of pretty much everything.
Another benefit of single-tasking is that it builds our attention muscle, which is our ability to control where we focus our attention.
Building up your attention muscle has huge long-term ramifications for your productivity.
Someone who is fully attentive 38% of the time will produce far less than someone who is fully attentive 65% of the time.
If you notice that you always seem to be thinking about the future or the past as opposed to what you’re doing in the present moment, that’s a good indicator you need to practice single-tasking more often.
And the cool part about this skill is that you don’t need to be doing something related to productivity in order to build your attention muscle. Any task that requires your attention can be used as an opportunity to improve your focus.
Action Step – Every day, choose one activity that you are going to focus all of your attention on for 10-20 minutes. It could be anything: putting away laundry, writing an email, making breakfast. Just make sure you direct all of your attention to that specific activity and catch yourself when your thoughts start to wander.
Tip #6: Take Strategic Breaks
Have you ever been stumped by a problem and had the answer come to you after you remove yourself from the task for a little bit? If so, you know the power of strategic breaks to refresh your mind and help you see things in a new way.
When we’re engaged in a difficult task, our prefrontal cortex is running the show. Our prefrontal cortex is the “thinking” part of our brain. It’s responsible for helping us execute on ideas and tasks that move us towards our goals.
Here’s what productivity expert Nir Eyal has to say about the relationships between short breaks and our goals:
“When we work, our prefrontal cortex makes every effort to help us execute on our goals. But for a challenging task that requires our attention, research shows that briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.”
When mental fatigue sets in, the last thing that you want to do is keep working. Just like your body is trying to tell you something when it gets closer to bedtime, your brain is trying to tell you that it’s time to stop.
Taking short breaks refreshes the mind and replenishes your mental energy, allowing you to come back to whatever you’re working with clarity and focus.
Action Step – When it comes to your work, operate on a 90/10 principle. For every 90 minutes of focused work that you perform, give yourself a ten minute break. To make these breaks even more effective, implement movement into them. Go for a walk outside, do some squats/pushups, or maybe even some yoga.
Tip #7: Improve Your Diet
We’ve all heard the phrase “You are what you eat!” It’s true that what we eat can have lasting impacts on our mood, energy levels, and sleep habits.
However, it’s also true that we work how we eat. Diet has more of an impact on productivity levels than most of us realize.
If you want to operate in your peak state when it comes time to work, then you need to pay close attention to what you eat and when you eat it. Here are two actionable productivity tips to optimize your diet for peak energy and performance.
Diet Tip #1: Eat Small Meals Early & Big Meals Later.
Remember, the first few hours of the day are the best time for you to get quality work done because your willpower and motivation levels are at their peak.
The digestion of food is one of the most energy-consuming processes in the body. If you start your day with a giant meal, your productivity will take a hit because your body now has to exert a bunch of energy to digest that meal properly.
That’s why it’s best to keep your breakfast light and healthy so that you save some of that precious energy and put it towards your high-priority tasks.
Save the bigger meals for the late-afternoon and evening hours, as most of your important work should be accomplished by then.
Diet Tip #2: Eat Complex Carbs, Avoid Simple Ones.
Whenever we eat unhealthy carbohydrates, our body tends to produce a lot of insulin. This causes the brain to release sleep hormones like serotonin and tryptophan, which are responsible for the “sleepy” feeling that we get hit with before bed.
The last thing you want is for that feeling to hit you in the late-morning or early afternoon, when you still have work to do.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the human diet. You can’t avoid eating carbs all together, you just need to pick the right ones.
Foods like white bread, cookies, and crackers are simple carbohydrates. These foods provide short bursts of energy followed by a steep crash shortly after.
Foods like fruit, brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal, and whole wheat bread are complex carbohydrates. These foods provide sustained energy over the course of hours. These are the foods that you need to start eating if you want to operate at peak capacity when you’re working.
Final Thoughts On These Productivity Tips
I hope that you got some value from this list of seven productivity tips that will help you operate at your full potential as you go about your workday.
These tips cover all of the bases that shape your workday – environment design, prioritization, and the non-work hours.
Start thinking about your life and analyze which area of focus needs the most work.
If you tend to spend time on mundane tasks just to check them off your to-do list, then try to start eating the frog every morning and complementing that habit with the Ivy Lee Method.
If you do a good job of trying to focus on the important stuff, but find that your energy levels are hampering your ability to make progress, then try eating smaller meals and replacing simple carbs with complex carbs that give you sustained energy.
You’re never going to know which of these productivity tips are the most beneficial for you if you don’t take action.