You know the feeling.
You have a ton on your plate. You’re juggling family, friends, work, and chores.
You just got a new puppy you have to let out every hour or you’ll have a bigger mess to clean up. There’s a problem with your electric bill, which is going to be at least five phone calls stuck ‘on hold’. And you’ve got to run to the grocery store because you’re out of milk and you need sesame oil or you can’t make the dinner you’ve been planning for all week.
And a thousand other things to fill your day.
But first things, first — you have to find the time to work.
And that’s where productivity comes in.
Focus, get productive, knock out the work you have to do, then you can focus on all that other stuff.
No problem, right?
Only when you finally sit down to get some work done, you’ve got a million things on your mind, and — “strangely” — you can’t seem to focus. You find yourself getting distracted, you feel you’re not achieving anything, and you’re suddenly overwhelmed and just want to fall face-first on your couch for the day so it’ll all go away.
Only that’ll just prolong the inevitable — in fact, it’ll make it that much worse tomorrow.
So what do you do?
It’s time for you to master the art of productivity, and more — it’s time to focus on productivity growth.
What is Productivity to You?
According to dictionary.com the definition of productivity is:
“The quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.”
While the classic, and simpler definition is: “a way to measure efficiency.”
Economically, productivity is how you measure the output that comes from the input. Take a garden, for example. Say your garden produces 3 purple sweet potatoes. That’s not very productive. However, if that same garden the next year produces 100 purple sweet potatoes, what does that tell you?
Besides that I have an unhealthy obsession with purple sweet potatoes, it should tell you that your garden is very productive in year two.
But what about personal productivity? How do you calculate it in your daily life?
That’s where productivity growth comes into play.
So…What is Productivity Growth?
I’m sure productivity growth isn’t a new term, so I won’t pretend I coined it.
But it did sort of come to my mind when I thought about how to incorporate productivity into Life Next Level. Because it’s a little of an outlier from the other topics of focus, which are personal growth, happiness, motivation, growth mindset — to name a few.
Two things come to mind when viewing that list:
1. I use the word growth a lot.
2. Productivity deserves a place on that list, it’s just as important, and goes hand-in-hand with many items we discuss.
And the two words go together like two peas in a pod, or my personal favorite — grilled peanut butter & jelly.
So what is productivity growth?
It’s getting the results you want by continually putting in less time and effort.
Continually learning, growing, putting into practice alternative methods to enhance your productivity, so you can better manage your life and have more time to do what you want.
And I bet you’d agree that’s something you want.
Hell, given how crazy life’s getting — it’s probably something you need.
And if so, then read on, my friends, we’re going to dive into productivity hacks, tips, and tools to increase your productivity, decrease your stress, and increase your success and happiness.
Here we go!
Productivity Hacks So You Can Rule Your Day
These hacks may take a little time to get used to and implement in your day, but the potential output you can get from the little bit of input is energy well worth investing.
I’m not suggesting you jump in the deep end and take up all of these right now, because that would just add to your stress level.
Go through this list and pick out some that sound interesting.
If something doesn’t work for you, no worries. If it does, great! Make it a habit and increase your productivity a little more every day.
Keep what you love, discard what you don’t, and pick a few more to try when you’re ready.
Wake Up Prepared to Conquer Your Day
It took me years to realize that the best time to start your day is actually the night before.
It’s no coincidence that many of the most successful people take this strategy to heart.
I used to start every day distracted from the most critical tasks while figuring out what I should do with my day.
And the next thing I know it’s 11 a.m. and I’m still trying to get my priorities in order.
That’s why often, the best strategy is to get it planned the night before.
Don’t sweat it, just start with a list of three things you want to accomplish first tomorrow.
Then you’ll wake up motivated and ready to take on the day because you already have a plan to get started.
The Best Ten Minutes of Your Day
Just ten minutes of meditation each day will relax your mind and body, relieve stress, and, yes — even strengthen your health.
And one of the most surprising benefits I found when doing it consistently? My focus increased 10x. Distractions were minimized and productivity was maximized.
It has an uncanny ability to help you keep focus even while the world around you is doing everything it can to distract you.
It could be your best ten minutes of the day.
A Method to Your Productivity Madness
Getting back into your groove after an interruption can take serious time — we’re talkin’ 25 minutes.
And if you let them, interruptions and distractions will plague you all day long.
Choose time-frames of 20 to 30 minutes to focus and avoid interruptions — I picked up a cheap timer from Amazon and use the Pomodoro method (more on this below).
No matter how you choose to do it, avoid all distractions (phone, emails, etc.) during your set period of time until your timer goes off. When you take a break from your productivity time-frame, you can catch up on your missed notification.
It may surprise you, but in doing this, I’ve found that rarely is anything so important it can’t wait until I’m ready.
And once you begin to gain that control, you won’t want to relinquish it. You answer others on your time, not theirs.
And it’s oh-so refreshing.
The Pomodoro Method goes a little like this:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes while you do nothing but focus on a single task — that is a Pomodoro.
- After your 25 minutes is up, take a 5-minute break (go to the bathroom, check your email, etc.)
- Then do another 25 minutes of focus.
- After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes).
- After you get used to this method, feel free to increase your minutes.
Boost Your Productivity with…Food?
Yes, that’s right. The right foods can impact your productivity immensely.
I’m not advocating you upend your life and change your diet by going full vegetarian or paleo, because changing your diet is a huge change and will just add to your anxiety.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that hard— just start by opting for healthier options whenever you can.
Skip the fries with your burger, eat a salad instead. Don’t opt for the wings, get a flatbread instead.
Try to opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats such as eggs and fish when you can.
Have healthier options around your house, and you’ll eat better — and feel better — in no time.
Making better choices can both short-term and long-term mental health benefits.
Just like a poor choice for lunch (wings, fries) can cause you to crash — leaving you feeling exhausted and grouchy, an excellent choice can up your energy — helping you feel upbeat and positive.
Pre-Game Your Day
What gets you happy in the morning?
What wakes you up and prepares you to tackle your day?
Maybe it’s a cold shower, meditation, a quick workout, or a healthy breakfast while listening to Metallica.
Or maybe it’s all the above.
No judgment here. Whatever gets you going, create a daily routine around it, and make it a habit. It’ll help you hop out of bed and put your best foot forward every morning.
And take on the day with a smile on your face.
Lose the Chair
Do you want to get more done while being healthier? Find a way to stand up while you’re working.
Maybe your work can get you a stand-up desk, or you can MacGyver one together on your own.
Standing up burns more calories, prevents fatigue, and helps stop back-pain from sitting in unnatural positions to stare at your computer.
All wins in my book!
Lose Multi-Tasking from Your Vocabulary
Multi-tasking is a myth.
Further, it impedes your productivity and by decreasing your focus and learning.
Not only do you do worse at individual tasks because your mind is on all of your tasks and usually stressed out, but you waste so much time jumping from one to the other.
So what do you do?
Add Mono-tasking to your vocabulary.
Your ability to get things done depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.
So the next time you look at your to-do list, pick one thing and go all in. Once you’re done with that, you can choose the next thing, but don’t allow yourself to continue jumping around.
It’s chaotic, adds stress, and causes your work to be lackluster.
Start to focus on mono-tasking.
Seize Your Growth with These Productivity Tools
Here are a few tools you can invest in to help your focus throughout the day.
These go hand-in-hand with many of the hacks we just discussed and productivity tips (below), but cost money and may not be absolutely necessary.
I have most of these and find them very worth the cost, but you may not need them.
Drown Out That Noise All Around You
Even living alone, I’ve found a noise-canceling headset to be one of the best investments I’ve made.
You can drown out the distracting world around you, while listening to music or binaural beats that kick your productivity into overdrive.
It pairs perfectly with the Pomodoro Method.
Time Those Pomorodo’s Right
I mention the Pomodoro method and investing in a timer, above.
You can get a perfectly good one for $15 on Amazon. Or break out your stopwatch or egg-timer.
You can use your phone, but since that’s a distraction in itself, I urge you to avoid it.
Take a Walk While Working
I’ve already discussed the stand-up desk, but you could also try the treadmill desk.
This productivity tool can get expensive depending what you want.
But if you have a little extra money to spend, you could certainly do worse than spending it on a combination of your health and productivity.
And if it’s just a stand-up desk you’re looking for, you may be able to throw one together for $30, or purchase a nice height-adjustable stand-up desk to put on top of your current desk for around $150 on Amazon.
Always Support Your Feet
If you do decide to stand up, get an ergonomic anti-fatigue mat to stand on. You can purchase many styles on Amazon from $30 to $150.
Your feet will thank you.
Find Your To-Do List to Rule Them All
Don’t have a to-do list?
It’s high time you invest in one.
There are thousands of alternatives out there, and I’m not joking when I say I’ve gone through at least thirty.
From plain Jane notepads to full-blown project management software — that’s right, just for me — and I normally always discard them as quickly as I give them a whirl.
What works for me is a simple notepad where I write my list on (the night before, remember?) and a quick transfer to a cool little online app called Focuster.
But everyone is different. Just find a way to track your to-do’s, write them down, and cross them off when you’re done.
Increase Your Productivity with an App
Look up popular productivity apps in your preferred app store.
There’s everything from apps to make your phone a distraction-free zone to helping you grow trees and then a forest the more productive you are.
Some cost a little money, some don’t, but they can all be helpful and some people swear by them.
Try These Easy Productivity Tips or You’ll Be Sorry
No, not from the guy pointing the banana at you.
You’ll be sorry because these are so easy they can help you, like, right now.
The productivity hacks above take a little time to try out and get used to, and not everyone is looking for something that drastic right off the bat.
Sometimes we just want something easy to make our day tolerable and get our stuff done so we can enjoy just one peaceful night.
I get it, I’ve been there too.
So below I’ve put together a good list of productivity tips you can try right now, with no cost, and minimal time associated with each one.
Take a Deep Breath
Breathing doesn’t seem like much, does it? But the effects of breathing have been shown to do so much for you physically and mentally.
You can counteract the effects of stress by breathing more efficiently — in just a few minutes. And stress is a disruptive force when it comes to productivity.
When you find yourself overly stressed, overwhelmed, or even downright angry, find a peaceful spot where you can shut a door, and do the following:
- Breathe deep for an 8 count.
- Hold the breath for a 5 count.
- Release the breath for an 8 count.
- Rince and repeat 6 to 9 times, or until you begin to feel the stress melt away.
And then you can get back to your day with a sense of calm focus and motivation.
Get Productive with Sound
Classical music is ideal for writing, I’ve always found heavier music works well when I’m swamped, and binaural beats can do everything from de-stressing and improving mood, to relaxing, to increasing productivity.
You can find a lot of these on YouTube, and I also have a few work playlists depending on my daily work, and I have the brain.fm app for honed in productivity music.
One of the Best Ways to Be Productive that Everyone Forgets
Your sleep is often an afterthought when it comes to productivity.
Don’t make the same mistake so many others make.
How well you slept last night makes a tremendous difference in how effective you are today. It affects your stress level, your ability to focus, and your ability to maintain your calm and cool demeanor. And we can’t have your cool demeanor falter, now can we?
Do your best to get your 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
Here are some tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Ditch the blue light at least an hour before bed — That means no more TV, computer, limited cell phone, and dimming the house lights if you can. You can also use a handy red bulb or red plug-in LED light for any reading you want to do.
- Speaking of reading — Read a book before bed. It helps to relax your mind and push those stressful thoughts away while allowing you to wind-down and get tired.
- Music — Productivity isn’t all music can help. Certain music frequencies can make you tired and put you in a deeper sleep as well. Check out an app like brain.fm, and there are plenty of others.
- Cool your room — People usually sleep better around 65-degrees than 70 or above.
- White noise — Get a white noise machine or even wear headphones to drown out that annoying street traffic or owl that sits outside your window at night.
Repeat After Me — Breaks Aren’t Bad
At what point in our lives did taking a break become synonymous with bad?
At my last job, some would look down on you for even taking lunches if your work wasn’t all done.
It’s an unhealthy mindset and a bad habit to get into.
But here’s the truth — when you power through the day without taking breaks (or even lunch) you do more harm than good. Studies have shown that breaks have a positive relationship with productivity and your well-being.
To take full advantage, get outside. Take a walk, get a little exercise, and breathe in that fresh air.
However you want to go about it, just make sure to take breaks throughout the day — unapologetically.
Stretching Out for the Mind
Sitting (or even standing) in the same position all day is no good for your physical or mental health, so even if you can’t get away for one of those mind cleansing 15-minute breaks we just discussed, take 3–5 minutes to stretch.
It’ll wake you up and get your blood flowing – yes, even to your brain.
Get Physical for Productivity
Get physical 20–30 minutes each day if possible.
Pro Tip: Do it over lunch — it’ll wake you up and power you through the rest of the day.
Okay, so you can’t find that much time in your day, just do a few core exercises and jumping jacks, or run a few steps in your stairwell a few times a day.
Working out is incredibly healthy not just for your physical health, but your mental health as well. It can increase your metabolism, wake you up, and increase your focus to help you get through the next few hours.
Work in Silence all Day
Turn your phone on silent or turn it upside down to avoid those pesky and distracting notifications. They’ll take over your entire day if you let them.
Ditch Your Lifeline to the World
If you have to get serious about blocking distractions, you may have to get a little crazy. Can you get a little crazy?
I have. And it feels so damn good.
If you really need to focus silent your phone and put it in another room. Lock it and throw away the key if you must. Because it’s hard to do…at first. It becomes easier and I’ve even looked forward to it at times.
Don’t worry, you can check in on your 5-minute Pomodoro breaks :).
Don’t You Open that Email
Speaking of distractions, opening every email right when you get it has become a negative distraction too. How many email do you get a day? At my corporate job I probably got one hundred+ every day.
And the truth is — rarely were they critical. In fact, if something was critical I usually got a phone call or an instant message (two other distractions you should work to avoid on a Pomodoro).
Depending your job, maybe you can even stay away from your email until noon.
That’s what I’m working towards anyway.
Whatever your plan for limiting email interruptions, shut it down so the notifications don’t get to you.
And Never, Ever Do This
I tried linking my phone to my computer. Huge mistake. Every text message, phone call, or notification of any type popped up on my computer screen and you can’t help but acknowledge it.
Even if you just minimize it, it’s still a distraction and you have to take the time to re-focus.
Who ever thought this was a good idea!?
Focus on Your Productivity Growth to Be More Successful
We live in an amazing time when there are so many ways to keep in touch with friends, co-workers, and communicate with people you met across the globe at lightning speed, at any given times.
You’ve got your phone, the plethora of social media platforms, other communication apps, Slack, email — just to name a few.
But this new world has also brought chaos, stress, and distractions like no other time in history.
It used to just be in the workplace, but now more than ever, we need to focus on our productivity from our home, whether for work or personal goals.
We have to get aggressive in dealing with productivity, because otherwise we live our days in a constant state of distraction, and then wonder why, at the end of every day, we’re overwhelmed, stressed, and have accomplished far less than we wanted to.
Go through the productivity hacks and tips above to start your journey towards productivity growth. You’ll start getting more done, feeling less stressed, and being happier at the end of every day when you see your to-do list whittled down like never before.