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10 Unexpected Things You Should Do to Become Super Productive

10 Unexpected Things You Should Do to Become Super Productive
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There are many things you can do throughout your day that are directly beneficial toward your productivity and workflow. Some of these things might not stand out or may seem like a waste of time, but you need to refresh yourself in order to improve your workflow. I love finding little hacks that allow you to grow your productivity by avoiding work. It’s not procrastination—it is growth. Let’s get super productive!

Take Breaks from Work

A study from the University of Illinois has shown that taking brief mental breaks from work or a task that demands attention can improve your focus in the short term as well as long term. Within the study, Professor Alejandro Lleras quoted, “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.” These brief mental breaks will help strengthen the brain’s awareness.

What you should do:

1. Go for a 30 minute walk every day.

Take a walk around the block at your workplace. Get some fresh air and enjoy the weather and scenery around you (even if it is all buildings).

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2. Go on a run for over 20 minutes.

Sweat out some of the stressful day, come back re-charged, and work like you’ve never worked before thanks to a boost of focus and adrenaline.

3. Daydream for 10 minutes.

Try looking out the window or sitting on a bench, thinking about life, or even pop in some music and stare at the ceiling—be aimless!

Music, Audio-Reading, and Fresh Air

Fresh air and audio is all you need! “In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma,” says Dr Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic. Gardening and getting out in the fresh air has proven to improve your mental capacity and complexity. Listening to audiobooks has also shown more effective in creating interactions with a reader than physical reading itself; it works in a similar way to how YouTube videos engage with viewers.

What you should do:

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4. Work in the garden for 20 minutes every week.

No virtual gardening! Even if you don’t have a garden, you should at least go outside and get some fresh air.

5. Listen to Audiobooks.

This will help retain info and let you relax while still reading.

6. Listen to music for 2 hours a day.

Show this article to your boss and make an arrangement for this to happen.

Your Clutter and Smartphones

Researchers at Yale identified that the two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feeling a connection toward them. This might sound weird, but it basically means you have a strong emotional connection with the items around you. This is the same reason that people have a stronger attachment to Apple products in Apple stores. Studies by Author Carmine Gallo show this connection.

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What you should do:

7. De-clutter your workspace.

Make it as minimalist as possible and keep it clean—in the same way the Apple Store is so attractive, make your workspace clean and clutter-free.

8. Leave your smartphone at the office.

And go on that walk; this is another great tip for a work-life detox and will improve your mental strength.

9. Separate from social media.

Check your social media accounts every 2–3 hours instead of every five minutes.

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10. Remove your shoes in the office

This will help you relax while at the office, and you will feel stronger and more comfortable with your surroundings.

Featured photo credit: Aleksi Tappura via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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