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How Boring Music, Burner Email Addresses, and a Smartphone Timer Increased My Work Productivity

How Boring Music, Burner Email Addresses, and a Smartphone Timer Increased My Work Productivity

As a freelance consultant, I live and die by the clock.

The more focused time I can spend doing client work, the better results I can drive, the happier my clients are, and the greater my ability to feed my children.

For this reason, work productivity is very important to me. I can’t afford to waste time. When I’m in “work mode,” I need to stay in flow as much as possible. Distractions like phone calls, text notifications, and email alerts are the bane of my existence.

What makes this more challenging is that I’m a control freak with attention deficit issues. So every time my phone buzzes or a new email comes in, I feel an overwhelming pull to deal with it immediately. Texts need to be answered, emails must be responded to, and friends need to be acknowledged. Welcome to 2016!

I know how important it is to stay productive, but I still struggle with it. So I’m always on the lookout for new tips and tricks to help me manage distraction and stay in flow. The good news is that over the last couple of months I’ve picked up three new habits that have made me happier and more productive at work. Here they are, along with step-by-step instructions for how I pulled them off.

1. Remove Non-Critical Emails From Your Inbox

I unsubscribe from emails I don’t want. I want those emails out of my life completely. The real issue is email that is not critical but still necessary — or at least desirable. Here are a few examples:

  • Emails from my bank (“Your deposit has been accepted”)
  • Notifications from social media platforms (“Dave just posted a picture of you”)
  • Email newsletters (“New post about Instagram’s newsfeed changes”)
  • Online service (“Here’s your monthly invoice”)

I need to receive these emails. The problem is that when they come in, I feel a pull to read them and deal with them right away. I just don’t need to. They become a massive distraction. If you have the same problem, then I’d recommend signing up for Throttle, a service that allows you to sign up for anything online without using your email address. It gets the less important stuff out of your inbox.

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Step 1 – Sign up for Throttle. It’s free.

Throttle_— Stop_Giving_Out_Your_Email_Address

    Step 2 – Go back and “throttle” non-critical but necessary emails. This can take a little time, but you only have to do it once. Throttle has also set up a tips section with links that help you do this with common accounts like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Groupon.

    Throttle_Update Common Accounts

      Step 3 – Start “throttling” new stuff that you sign up for. If you’ve completed step 1, then you should have installed a browser extension during onboarding (I use Chrome). Whenever you sign up for a new account, service, or newsletter, just click the Throttle icon in the email field, or right-click and select “Authorize with Throttle”.

      Authorize_With_Throttle

        Voila! You’ve now removed unnecessary emails from your inbox and put them into a daily digest that you can read at your leisure for free. You’re also more safe and secure — but more on that in another post.

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        2. Use Instrumental Music to Get in Flow

        I work in an open office with no walls or cubicles. I love the open feel, but noise distraction is a big problem. I’m not alone either. According to Fast Company, noise is the number one complaint about open workspaces.

        However, wearing a pair of headphones can eliminate that noise, and listening to background music while you work has the added benefit of increasing your attention rate.

        I heard this advice enough that I finally went looking for some good “work music.” I discovered “Focus” playlists on Spotify and my life will never be the same. Here’s a short guide on how to set them up.

        Step 1 – Sign up for Spotify. Don’t worry. They have a free version.

        Spotify_Web_Player

          Step 2 – Once you’re in, select “Genres & Moods”.

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          Genres and Moods

            Step 3 – Scroll down until you see the category called “Focus.” Its icon is a Pixar-like lamp. Select it.

            Focus Playlists

              Step 4 – Pick a channel that is to your liking — just make sure it’s instrumental (you can tell that from the channel notes). My personal favorites are Peaceful Piano, Intense Studying, and Instrumental Study.

              PRO TIP: Most hardcore productivity-ists say that you will be most productive if you listen to the same instrumental song on a loop. Try it!

              3. Take Frequent 5-minute Breaks on a Clock

              As productive as you can be with the two hacks above, your body and (especially) your brain must have some time to rest. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of science to back this up.

              Even though mental breaks are important throughout the day, there will always be times that you are in flow and want to stay there.

              Here’s what I do to both add breaks to my schedule and stay productive.

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              Step 1 – Set a 2-hour timer on your phone

              2-hour Timer-01

                Step 2 – When the timer goes off, reset it, then get up and take a break. Get a drink of water, stare out the window, or walk around the block. Do anything but think about work. Give your brain 5-10 minutes of rest.

                Mental Break

                  If you’re feeling engaged and energized when the timer sounds, then cancel it and keep working.

                  The goal is to have a system that gets you moving around and taking breaks occasionally so that you can stay in a flow state as much as possible. If you’re already there, then keep at it for a while. Just don’t forget to check back in 30 minutes or so.

                  These three hacks have made my life as a freelance consultant much more productive and enjoyable. If you decide to try one of these (or have other ideas), then drop me a comment below and let me know!

                  Featured photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/ via pexels.com

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                  How Boring Music, Burner Email Addresses, and a Smartphone Timer Increased My Work Productivity

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                  Last Updated on May 24, 2019

                  How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

                  How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

                  If you’ve ever wondered how to be productive at home or how you could possibly have a more productive day, look no further.

                  Below you’ll find six easy tips that will help you make the most out of your time:

                  1. Create a Good Morning Routine

                  One of the best ways to start your day is to get up early and eat a healthy breakfast.

                  CEOs and other successful people have similar morning routines, which include exercising and quickly scanning their inboxes to find the most urgent tasks.[1]

                  You can also try writing first thing in the morning to warm up your brain[2] (750 words will help with that). But no matter what you choose to do, remember to create good morning habits so that you can have a more productive day.

                  If you aren’t sure how to make morning routine work for you, this guide will help you:

                  The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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                  2. Prioritize

                  Sometimes we can’t have a productive day because we just don’t know where to start. When that’s the case, the most simple solution is to list everything you need to get accomplished, then prioritize these tasks based on importance and urgency.

                  Week Plan is a simple web app that will help you prioritize your week using the Covey time management grid. Here’s an example of it:[3]

                    If you get the most pressing and important items done first, you will be able to be more productive while keeping stress levels down.

                    Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, also has great advice on how to prioritize. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

                    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

                    3. Focus on One Thing at a Time

                    One of the biggest killers of productivity is distractions. Whether it be noise or thoughts or games, distractions are a barrier to any productive day. That’s why it’s important to know where and when you work best.

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                    Need a little background noise to keep you on track? Try working in a coffee shop.

                    Can’t stand to hear even the ticking of a clock while writing? Go to a library and put in your headphones.

                    Don’t be afraid to utilize technology to make the best of your time. Sites like [email protected] and Simply Noise can help keep you focused and productive all day long.

                    And here’s some great apps to help you focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

                    4. Take Breaks

                    Focusing, however, can drain a lot of energy and too much of it at once can quickly turn your productive day unproductive.

                    To reduce mental fatigue while staying on task, try using the Pomodoro Technique. It requires working on a task for 25 minutes, then taking a short break before another 25 minute session.

                    After four “pomodoro sessions,” be sure to take a longer break to rest and reflect.

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                    I like to work in 25 and 5 minute increments, but you should find out what works best for you.

                    5. Manage Your Time Effectively

                    A learning strategies consultant once told me that there is no such thing as free time, only unstructured time.

                    How do you know when exactly you have free time?

                    By using the RescueTime app, you can see when you have free time, when you are productive, and when you actually waste time.

                    With this data, you can better plan out your day and keep yourself on track.

                    Moreover, you can increase the quality of low-intensity time. For example, reading the news while exercising or listening to meeting notes while cooking. Many of the mundane tasks we routinely accomplish can be paired with other tasks that lead to an overall more productive day.

                    A bonus tip, even your real free time can be used productively, find out how:

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                    20 Productive Ways to Use Your Free Time

                    6. Celebrate and Reflect

                    No matter how you execute a productive day, make sure to take time and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It’s important to reward yourself so that you can continue doing great work. Plus, a reward system is an incredible motivator.

                    Additionally, you should reflect on your day in order to find out what worked and what didn’t. Reflection not only increases future productivity, but also gives your brain time to decompress and de-stress.

                    Try these 10 questions for daily self reflection.

                    More Articles About Daily Productivity

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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