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

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

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

    What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It) Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks? 9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book How to Create a To-Do List that Makes You Smile Agreeing on Deadlines With Yourself Just Doesn’t Work: Here’s What Does

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    Last Updated on August 19, 2019

    How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

    How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

    There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

    Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

    This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

    These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

    1. Know Thyself

    One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

    An unexamined life is not worth living.

    I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

    Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

    You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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    None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

    For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

    It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

    2. Figure out What Matters to You

    What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

    When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

    In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

    Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

    A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

    3. Play to Your Strengths

    Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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    If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

    Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

    Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

    4. Listen to Yourself

    It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

    The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

    Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

    To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

    Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

    Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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    5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

    Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

    Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

    When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

    However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

    It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

    “If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

    6. Make Time for Reflection

    It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

    Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

    • What went well today
    • Something you’re grateful for
    • What would make tomorrow even better

    Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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    It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

    Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

    7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

    Arguably the most important step of all:

    Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

    The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

    “I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

    Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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    Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

    Reference

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