“Productivity is never an accident. It is always a result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
~ Paul J. Meyer.
In this section, I have summarized some technical tips and the best practices for boosting your productivity. Hope you will find them useful.
Top 3 best practices.
I distinguish three main practices that, in my opinion, bring in 80% of productivity improvement.
1. Early rising.
Everyone has 24 hours a day. No exceptions. The question is: how do you use your time? This habit alone can give you up to 5 hours of precious time which you can dedicate to working on your dreams.
2. Learn Deep Work.
If early rising tells you when to do your work, then deep work tells you how. Reserve a block of time for your deep work sessions every morning. Your results are in direct proportion to the depth of your work.
3. Create rituals.
It’s so easy for us to think of ourselves as beings that harness the power of the conscious choice. The truth is we are all just creatures of habit. Will Durant wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” A single good action by itself has little positive value, it is the consistency that leads to success.
13 extra practices.
This is the list of practices you can implement to further boost your productivity.
1. Choose the right setting.
Working at home only suits veterans of self-discipline. For people who are prone to slackness, home is a dangerous place with too many distractions. Use the energy of the environment — place yourself in the library or office, find the place that reinforces your work mode.
2. Write a plan.
Credit to David Allen and his “Get Things Done” method. Never keep anything in your head. Create a pool of ideas and to-do action items. Take your time, turn your mind inside out, pour it all on the paper. By writing your thoughts down you are “cleaning the RAM” of your brain freeing up the space that can alternatively be used for creative processes. The feeling of lightness will follow once you dump the burden of information stored in your head. The never-ending buzz of thoughts circulating chaotically will be finally silenced. You will see how easy it is to put your ideas in order once they attain a physical form.
In the evening, list and prioritize things you want to achieve the next day/week/month/year. Neuroscience of today still can’t explain how exactly your brain processes the input during sleep, but somehow it does revealing the optimal solution of the problem upon awakening. In Russian people say: “The morning is wiser than the evening” and indeed, it is. Formulate the tasks before going to bed and leave the problem-solving and decision-making for the clarity of the early hours.
3. Use productivity apps.
If the old-school paper journaling is too obsolete for you, experiment with the software (Notion, Trello, Dropbox Paper, X-Mind, etc.) Make your tasks more visual. Again, keep in mind that you can’t tackle your to-do list effectively as long as it is not captured on the physical medium.
4. Don’t work alone.
Find a friend or a collaborator who will work by your side. Sharing a common goal of focused work and unwillingness to let your partner down will keep you diligent. If possible, pick someone more disciplined than you. In case you can’t find anyone, work with one of those “study-with-me” videos on YouTube.
5. Find a mentor.
Some people can only work under external pressure. If you know that your personality type requires someone standing next to you with whiplash, find that someone. You have no choice but to silence your ego, surrender to your mentor, and let him do the job of setting you on track of consistent work. Seek mentors who built the discipline you wish to acquire.
6. Write a declaration.
A friend of mine once wrote a declaration for a financial goal. In this declaration, he stated that in case he fails to close his goal by the deadline his friends must shoot him in the leg with a gun. Now, that’s what I call motivation. Do you think he achieved his goal? He overachieved it.
You don’t have to go this hardcore but the penalty must be daunting. For example, it can be a hefty sum you’ll have to pay your friend. Normally, this would be enough to make you work on your goals, but don’t limit yourself, be creative and come up with your own declaration ideas.
7. Use the Pomodoro technique.
Pomodoro technique is a method of working in time intervals: 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of rest.
According to a study from the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus after you get distracted so Pomodoro won’t work for tasks that require long periods of concentration. However, this method can be used to productively tackle routine work of disheartening volume by breaking it down into small, doable chunks.
8. Loop the music.
Listening to a looped song or playlist is a popular tool for improving concentration among many productivity junkies. Music helps the brain to get in the state of flow by cutting off what meditation practitioners call a “monkey mind” — an uncontrollable internal monologue, the mental chatter. A music set of a known duration can also be used as a timer to measure your deep work sessions.
The choice of music is individual and depends on your “inner speed”, personality type, the nature of your work, and, of course, your taste in music. Try these YouTube channels: “Meditative mind”, “Psychedelic Muse”, “Brainwave Power Music”, and “Blume”. Kudos to the creators, this book won’t be finished without your hard work.
9. Use earplugs.
Certain types of work require complete silence so for that purpose nothing works better than a pair of good old earplugs. By silencing the input channel of audial information to your brain and removing the necessity to process sounds you sharpen other senses, which is, of course, a big help in entering the state of higher focus.
Interestingly, earplugs also condition the brain for focused work. I use earplugs for meditations, work, and even walking on the street (it helps me to concentrate on my breath). My brain learned that a focused activity always follows the physical sensation of earplugs in my ears, so every time I use them, I automatically feel more concentrated. This effect is similar to how our clothes condition our behavior. See if this trick will work for you.
In the section about fasting, we talked about how fasting can be used as a productivity tool. If regular fasting sounds a bit too extreme you can implement intermittent fasting and win long stretches of uninterrupted work from the early morning until lunchtime.
Your brain on fasting functions as a power machine. It basically says: “Uh oh. What happened? I didn’t see food lately. That’s not good. Hunting mode on!” To your great benefit, this hunter focus can be channeled into work, study, or any cognitively demanding task.
A strong ability to direct your attention will always remain a cornerstone of your productivity. A sharp focus is one of the many benefits of meditation that we will discuss later in a dedicated section.
People who regularly exercise are more productive thanks to the endurance of the body they develop. Their resilience simply allows them to work for longer periods of time without getting tired.
From a psychological standpoint, exercise develops a quality that is inherent to all top-performers — it develops grit. Think of the physical pain of exercise as a certain amount of discomfort in a very condensed form. If you can take it, you will most definitely be able to take the same amount of discomfort in a more ‘diluted’ form such as, for example, a long stretch of deep work. Thus, the capacity to withstand pain is, ultimately, the capacity of perseverance.
Best productivity hacks are already exposed. All you need to do is find a combination that works specifically for you. Here are some books to start with:
- “Eat that frog” by Brian Tracy.
- “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
- “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.