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Last Updated on February 10, 2020

35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity

35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity

When people first begin exploring the world of personal productivity and task management, they either don’t know where to start or can’t seem to find their footing when they do. If you’re one of these people, I’ve assembled 35 quick and simple tips for better productivity – ones you can use right away and start to see results in your work and in your life. You don’t need to take on all 35 (in fact, I’d recommend taking on far less and returning to this piece as you feel comfortable taking on more), but each of them can be used to provide you with a sample of what improved productivity feels like.

Let’s get started…

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  1. Don’t use email as a task manager. Email is meant as a form of communication, not as a task manager. The reason we got lost in our email inboxes is because we use them for more than what they were intended to be used for. You don’t spend hours listening to your voicemail or waiting for the postman to drop off a letter, nor do you slap sticky notes on your phone to represent every task associated with every phone call you receive. Use you email app for email; use a task management app for managing your tasks.
  2. Capture some things, but not everything. It’s a great idea to capture your thoughts, ideas and potential tasks as they come up, but if you can do something in the moment then don’t bother writing it down. Sure, it always feels good to check off a box, but if you don’t need to create the box to check off because you can do it right now – then why waste your time? It’s a false sense of accomplishment when you do that.
  3. Ritualize regularly. By building rituals for your morning, evening, your commute to work, and other regular times, you create a habit that is easier to stick with. You also end up freeing upi your mind to do heavier lifting, because it already knows what it needs to do as part of a ritual. Ritualize what you can reasonably ritualize. It’s a great time-saver.
  4. Keep a pen and paper with you at all times. It might be a pain, but when you need to capture something an your electronic device fails you, you’ll be glad you’ve got ’em.
  5. Don’t multitask. Work on one task at a time. Multitasking is a myth, and trying to do it only splits your focus.
  6. Close the door. If you need to eliminate both diruptions and distractions, close the door to your work area. If you don’t have a door, then put on some headphones and create that quietude instead.
  7. Open the window. This may seem counter-intuitive considering the last tip, but fresh air is never a bad thing. As long as you can stay focused and productive, give yourself some outdoor air to breathe in as you work.
  8. Go for a walk. Going for a walk (without earbuds clamped to your ears) is a great way to clear your head and regain focus so you can get back at it. Use a treadmill if the weather isn’t cooperating – but getting outdoors is always preferable.
  9. Take breaks. While i’m not a fan of The Pomodoro Technique, I am a fan of taking breaks. Your brain and body need to rest and recharge so you can get the most out of them on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter how you choose to spend your breaks, but make sure to take them every few hours. It will show in your work if you do – and if you don’t.
  10. Eat lunch away from your work area. Never eat at your workstation. Not only does it keep you from that time off I just mentioned, but it also invites coworkers the opportuntiy to distract you and possibly even heap more work your way. Go to the lunchroom area or get out of the office.
  11. Drink plenty of water. Your mind and body need water more than it needs the breaks. Just as water is refreshing to drink, it refreshes the mind and body so it can continue to perform at a high level. Drink the recommended amount per day – which can vary depending on the person, according to this article at The Mayo Clinic.
  12. Focus on tasks, not on time. There is a big difference between task management and time management. When you focus on time, the number of hours you have in the day seem small by comparison to what you have to accomplish. But if you focus on tasks, then you look at the stuff you need to do and prioritize it accordingly, and time becomes less of a factor – esppecially if you avoid getting caught in “deadline debt”. You’ll also end up doing the most important stuff more often when you focus on the tasks at hand instead of the time on hand.
  13. Use a meaningful object to keep you on track. I have a metal plaque that I received in my limited edition “Do The Work” book by Steven Pressfield in plain view as I write this. I also have my Vision bobblehead next to it and wear my Green Lantern ring on my finger – which I only wear when I write – all because they have meaning to me and add meaning to the tasks and projects I work on as a writer and “productivityist”. Sure, my choices of objects may be incredibly geeky, but they are mine and they work for me. Find one(s) that work for you and they may very well play a role in boosting your productivity.
  14. Be nimble. Rigidity is the enemy of productivity. You have to be able to go with the flow. Otherwise, you’ll end up miserable – because not everything will go according to plan.
  15. Don’t fight your body clock. Don’t try to become and early riser if you have a history of being a night owl. And don’t stay up late to get stuff done if you know your mind and body shuts down early so that you can get up as the sun rises. Just like you need to be nimble with what life throws at you, you need to be able to work with the way you are. I’m a night owl. I tried to become an early riser (especially now that I have kids) and it didn’t work out so well. Play to your strengths and listen to your body clock. It knows you pretty well.
  16. Get plenty of rest. This goes hand in hand with the above tip. If you are hitting the sack at 1 a.m., don’t get up at 5 or 6 a.m. the next day. Get your sleep, however you can and whenver you can. Your mind and body needs it to thrive.
  17. Be social. Get out and be around people regularly. They’ll offer you some great ideas and insights, you’ll have a great time, and it can be a form of relaxation.
  18. Exercise and eat right. If you want your mind and body to work hard, you have to prepare it as such. Exercise regularly and eat right and your mind and body will reward you for it.
  19. Laugh. Laughter relieves stress and can actually boost productivity, according to this article from AOL Jobs. Funny, isn’t it?
  20. Explore. Learn new things and explore them and yourself. Look around, Pay attention. IT not only will give you a break from that task list, but it may provide you with some insight into your work that you hadn’t come up with yourself.
  21. Read often. Not just blogs like Lifehack, but books. (Maybe even ones made of paper.) Fiction and non-fiction, read a variety of material. It expands the mind and you’ll grow as a person. And it also is a great thing to do while taking one of those breaks I mentioned.
  22. Write often. Capture your thoughts at the end of the day or week. Keep a journal. Just as reading promotes growth, so does writing.
  23. Use a system. You need to have a system or structure in place to be at your most productive. It gives you a touchstone – something you can go back to when you go off track. There are numerous methods out there, but pick one (or a hybrid of several) that works for you and stick with it. Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo talked about productivity systems on a recent episode of their podcast Home Work – give it a listen for ideas that may help you build a system and structure of your own.
  24. Spend time alone. There’s going to be no better opportunity for focus, clarity and quiet for you then when you go it alone. Spend time with yourself and your thoughts. It’ll help you get in touch with what you really want – and how to get there in a way that works best for you.
  25. Get away. This would be a big break – a vacation. Get out of your city or town and go somewhere that you’ll enjoy to recharge your batteries. Then you’ll be fired up and ready to go when you return.
  26. Visualize where you want to be. You won’t get to where you want to be without knowing what that is. Working at being more productive just for productivity’s sake isn’t the point; you need to have an overarching vision in mind. Put that in your mind first and work from there and you’ll put yourself in a far better position to get to where you really want to be.
  27. Plan ahead. In order to avoid managing time and managing tasks instead, every date must be a “do date”. The only way that can happen is through planning ahead. Take the time to do this (ideally after nailing down the vision you’re looking to aspire toward) and you’ll not only be able to produce with less stress in your life, but you’ll be able to be far more nimble than if you don’t.
  28. Curate your notifications. Take a good look at what notifications you’re getting and figure out what ones are really important. Then look at them again and evaluate once more. Then turn off those that don’t need your immediate attention in order to minimize disruption and maximize productivity.
  29. Check email less often. The postman only shows up once per day to deliver your mail, right? I’m not saying you should check email only once per day, but 3 times is what you should shoot for. Remind those that are using email as an instant messenger or (gasp!) ap hone that they should use those platforms instead since you’re not checking email as often. A service like AwayFind is perfect to make sure you don’t miss out on important emails while not allowing your email inbox to rule you in the process.
  30. Set things up rather than setting things aside.When you’ve installed a new app that is supposed to make things more efficient and effective or have read about a new strategy that would do the same, don’t start using it without setting it up properly first. By setting aside the setup process, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. Spend the time on the initial setup process now so that you can save even more time later.
  31. Digest some podcasts. Much like reading books, there are some really informative podcasts out there. Listen to them during your commute or while you’re doing some mundane task like mowing the lawn or washing dishes 9like i do). You’ll likely learn something and be entertained at the same time.
  32. Embrace downtime. Doing nothing can often make the next time you’re doing something that much better. When you have downtime, embrace it. Don’t try to fill it.
  33. Develop a budget. Do this for your money and your mind. Be honest with what your mind can take on over a month (or even a year) and budget the mental space accordingly. This is a great way to stave off overwhelm and get the best results out of what you actually end up doing.
  34. Stick with it, despite all other thinking to the contrary. There are times when you’re going to think that using a task manager is a waste of time, that doing a regular review isn’t worhtwhile and you’ll even foll yourself into thinking that you’re not getting any more done than you were before. That’s nonsense. Others will try to convince you of this as well from time to time. Keep those thoughts at bay. Stick with it and you will reap the rewards of better productivity over the short and long term.
  35. Keep track. Use lists and review them. You need to keep track of where you’ve been and where you are so that you can have a bette sense of how to get where you want to go.

Featured photo credit: ian dooley via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Mike Vardy

A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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