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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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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 July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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