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5 Simple, Yet Little-Known Ways to Improve Your Productivity

5 Simple, Yet Little-Known Ways to Improve Your Productivity
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You already know that you should wake up early to become more productive, and perhaps you have also heard that you shouldn’t check your email first thing in the morning. While this advice is good and well-documented, there is also another kind of productivity advice that is as effective as well. Even if the tips are less-known and somewhat counter-intuitive, you just have to give them a try and see how they work for you.

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    1. Work when there is a distraction around

    Your environment doesn’t have to be 100% quiet if you want to get work done. Let’s say that you are working from home and you have kids. Let’s also assume that you don’t have a dedicated workspace in your home to do your work. Naturally, you could decide to do work during the quiet hours (before the rest of the family wakes up), but not all of the tasks have to be done then.

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    The fact is that there are certain tasks which allow more distraction than others, and when you know this, you can plan your days more efficiently. In fact, you could dedicate those quiet hours to working on something valuable while the rest of the time (when your family is awake) you can finish less valuable tasks. For instance, I can check most of my social media accounts, do some simple blog-related maintenance tasks or check my e-mail (most of the time) even if my son is pulling my sleeve or if the TV is on in the background. When I know that certain tasks do not require my full concentration, it’s easier to plan my days with that knowledge in mind.

    2. Drink coffee before taking a nap

    Want to boost your afternoon productivity? Then take a caffeine nap! According to a study by Jim Maas, PhD, professor of psychology at Cornell University, combining coffee and napping time can have a big improvement in one’s personal productivity. Coffee enters your bloodstream approximately 20 minutes after you have consumed it. The minute figure is exactly the same as the length of your nap, so these two play well together. In order to implement this technique, do this:

    1. Drink a cup of coffee
    2. Take a 20-minute nap right afterward
    3. Wake-up refreshed

    If you are not a coffee drinker, that’s fine too: even with a 20-minute nap alone, you can feel super-fresh and productive as well.

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    3. Work in a train

    It’s so funny to think that the places that seem like the last ones in which to get anything done are the best for productivity. I’m talking about trains, and when I travel alone, I look forward to getting work done there. The effect is almost like working in a coffee shop, where people come and go and there is some distraction around all of the time. This kind of ambience is the same on trains, but the distraction doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I have done a lot of work during my trips when I’m moving from one place to another. To maximize your train working experience, prepare yourself in the following way:

    • Have your material ready (for e.g. I have outlined all my blog posts before I start writing them)
    • The material can be used offline if necessary (download the documents and other files to your local computer in advance)
    • Have a mobile Internet access with you
    • Headphones (for listening to podcasts and educational material, or even listening to music when working)
    • An e-book reader (if for some reason your laptop batteries die down, you can use your time productively)

    Finally, decide in advance what you want to do. For instance, I have been writing e-books, blog posts or going through some educational materials while I travel. When you plan your train time, you can get started with your tasks right away and no time is spent on figuring out what to do when you should be already working.

    4. Close the curtains

    It may sound funny that closing the curtains can improve your productivity but it’s actually true. For instance, I might do some work at the dining table where there is a window to the left of me. Since I can see the nearby parking space through the window (and the people and moving cars as well), the movement might catch my attention, so the simplest way to prevent the distraction is to close the curtains. That way I’m not able to sense the movement and I can put all of my attention to my work. If you have similar kinds of experiences, do this simple thing to fix the situation.

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    5. Multitasking

    Would you believe me if I said that multitasking can make you more productive? Well, that’s what I’m telling you and I’ll let you know how. In normal circumstances you should focus on one thing at a time: for instance, if you are creating something (like writing a blog post), you should focus on the writing part and nothing else. But what about those boring tasks that you have to do—no matter what? Let’s imagine that you have to do manual data input work and there is no way around that. To make things a little bit easier, you could do something that is referred as “mindful multitasking,” which is a term I have learned from a great book by Lucy Jo Palladino (“Find Your Focus Zone”) and the basic idea is to use multitasking to get the boring thing done.

    In our example, when you are doing a data entry task, you could check your Facebook page or your e-mail every once in a while to make you more alert. When you do this, you are more energized to take care of the boring tasks. The mindful part comes from understanding that you are indeed multitasking. You also realize that this is decreasing your performance, but at the same time, you are willing to accept the costs, since it helps you to get the tedious work done.

    Conclusion

    It’s interesting to learn more about the unconventional ways to improve personal productivity. I know that there are other tips like this, but now it’s your turn: list your own unconventional productivity tips on the comments area. We all would love to learn more!

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    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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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.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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