What do Mark Zuckerburg, Arianna Huffington, Jerry Seinfeld, and The Terminator have in common?
They’ve all been ridiculously successful by hacking their productivity, often in super simple ways. And they’ve all been generous enough to share their methods so that you can benefit, too. Inspired by CEOs, best-selling authors, and even comedians, we’ve collected a gigantic list of advice that can really make a difference.
It’s split into 7 sections. Motivation and Time Management need no explanation. The Productivity and Organisation tips are perfect for busy people. Focus and Success Attitude teach about mindset, and finally there’s a section we’ve dubbed ‘Uncommon Hacks’ – you might find them esoteric or odd, but they’ve been proven to work.
If you have employees, colleagues, or friends who need a boost in productivity and success, please share this post with them!
Table of Contents
Be clear where you are going
Identify three things: a daily mantra, your short-term goal, and your long-term goal.
Visualize your dream as done and achieved
Visualize what you want to achieve before you sleep and as soon as you wake up. Consider it done and in the flesh. As you close your eyes, your visualization should be the strongest and most intense you can make it. Say it is a target profit from your business of $50,000. You should be able to see the money, feel the bills in your hand, and smell the scent of this money.
Print and pin up or use as wallpaper on your desktop or mobile
Create intermittent visual reminders during the day. Use it as your screensaver on your gadgets. Pin up a printed sheet on your workstation, your bathroom mirror, and refrigerator door.
There is no perfect time; only now
Waiting for the perfect time to start doing something is the perfect procrastination ploy. There is no perfect time. You will always feel quite sleepy, tired, full from a meal, or uncomfortable. Sit down and take that first step in your task.
Take ONE step
Whenever you get stuck, lost, or procrastinate big time, take one step. After you finish this one task, move on to the next step. Keep moving forward until you get in the flow and you find yourself completing your big task.
Reward yourself with power boosts
Rewarding yourself whenever you hit your short-term goals is no rocket science. Take it one step further by making sure that your rewards do not undermine your goals, and instead, contribute to them. For example, a huge tub of ice cream will just send you to a sugar crash. (More on this below)
Reward yourself instead with a healthy sushi meal, a new pair of running shoes, or an affordable massage cushion. Studies of massage therapy, for example, show an overall reduction in stress, anxiety, and heart rate. Now that’s a power boost!
Have a mentor
A good mentor will help keep you on track and keep you from making newbie mistakes. This saves you considerable time and energy that would otherwise just be wasted.
Schedule according to energy – not importance
Identify your golden time and do your hardest tasks during this time period. What is the time of day where your energy and focus is at its peak? Identify and line-up your most brain-intensive tasks for optimal productivity. You’ll enjoy your day better once your hardest tasks are out of the way.
Eat the frog first
Sounds gross! But, this only means doing the ugly, unpleasant things that you need to do first over the tasks you actually like to do but aren’t that high up in priority. Here’s how you should be prioritizing:
- The things you don’t want to do, but need to do
- The things you want to do, and actually need to do
- The things you want to do, but don’t need to do
- The things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do
Ditch youtube and the cat videos
Don’t kid yourself. That 10-minute Youtube break to clear your head won’t end at 10 minutes. This is me speaking from painful experience. I gave Rescue Time a whirl and I was shocked to realize how much time I actually was on YouTube. I’ve since replaced it with stretching, Donothingfor2minutes, or memorizing Japanese kanji.
Being pressured to say yes to doing certain tasks derails you and keeps you from doing your own stuff. Have the confidence to say no when needed.
Do not snooze your alarm
When you wake up in the morning, don’t fall into the trap of snoozing your alarm repeatedly. It’s a bad start and will make you feel bad the rest of the day. Waking up early, on the other hand, has been proven to be a huge productivity and morale booster. Embrace the morning hours!
Seinfeld’s don’t-break-the-chain method
Use a calendar system to keep yourself going on a certain habit. Jerry Seinfeld utilized a big wall calendar and a big red magic marker. For every day he wrote on his blog, he put a big red X.
“After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Using a timer (whether physical or digital), break down your work into intervals of 25 minutes or however long works best for you. In between would be short breaks. A successful chain of pomodoros result in longer breaks.
David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule
If a task can be done in two minutes, do it. Get it out of the way. This will keep small things from snowballing and nagging your mind. Says who? Says the best-selling author of Getting Things Done, that’s who.
Kill the Perfectionist — Productivity VS Perfectionism
Perfectionism at work can be dangerous. It keeps you too long at one task. Instead of trying to do one task to perfection, do more. For example, if you’re writing an article, trying to perfect the first few paragraphs will keep you from finishing. Write now, right later. (Wasn’t that clever?!)
Guido’s Airplane Days
Bryan Guido Hassan noticed that he got some of his best work done in airplanes. Airplane Days is blocking 1-2 days as if you were on a long intercontinental flight. Turn off distractions, restrict internet access, and go through your high-priority items. (See eating the frog)
Ultradian Rhythms and taking breaks
Coined by psychophysiologist Peretz Lavie, ultradian rhythms refer to the natural rhythm that the body cycles through every 90-120 minutes daily. I’ll spare you the complex mumbo jumbo but the key takeaway is to concentrate when energy levels are high AND to rest when energy levels are depleted. Top-tier violinists, for example, practice for only 4.5 hours a day in 90-minute bursts.
Facebook’s No Meeting Wednesdays
Facebook has a loose rule wherein Wednesday is set aside so that their engineers could code. Similar to Airplane Days, set Wednesday (or whatever day makes sense) as a No Meeting Day so that employees can focus on their individual tasks all day.
A lot of entrepreneurs and CEO’s check in on work for a brief time on Sundays. The key point is to check in briefly. This allows Mondays to be more manageable.
Turn off notifications
Distractions cost you more lost time than you think. Turn off notifications for email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Check these only at designated times.
Check email twice a day only
Keeping notifications on on your email client is a constant distraction as it breaks your focus on your current task. Check email twice a day only — once before lunch and once more before going off work.
Avoid meetings or set to 30 minutes only
Dragging meetings are huge time-wasters. Set the timer. Include only the people who really need to be there (and not just for FYI or for form).
Ignore your mind playing tricks
When you are trying to focus, your mind will remind you of laundry, undone dishes, corners that need cleaning, or paperwork that needs organizing. Ignore these distractions. Know that it’s your mind playing naughty tricks on you.
Use site blockers
If you know that certain sites make you waste too many precious hours (in my case, it’s YouTube), set up a site blocker. It will help police your bad habits.
Use earbuds or earphones at work
If you share your workspace with other people, earbuds are a good “I’m busy” sign. People are more likely to leave you alone this way.
Do not make eye contact
In the same vein, if you want to concentrate on the task at hand, do not make any eye contact with passing co-workers. Eye contact invites communication.
Smell lemons to wake up
Keep a lemon on hand at work. When you start feeling sleepy or losing focus, squeeze the lemon and smell. It should energize you. Studies show that smelling lemons increases mental stimulation. Other energizing scents are peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus (but lemon is my favorite!).
Multi-tasking is a myth. The brain can only attend to one item at a time. And if you think you’re successfully multi-tasking two tasks — driving and talking on the phone for example — then you’re mistaken. The brain is actually switching its focus from one task to the other thus there is no temporal overlap.
Instead of trying to do several work tasks at once, focus on one thing, and do them well by turns.
Have a focus song
Different people use different types of sound or music to put them in the zone. These include classical music, ambient music, white noise, or even binaural beats. The excerpt below is from one of our old articles and it influenced me to start using focus songs from that point onward.
“You’ve listened to the same song on repeat for almost two decades?!” I asked in disbelief. He just shrugged and said, “Man, I don’t even hear it anymore. I just immediately get in the zone.”
The author’s friend’s focus song happened to be Derek Webb’s “Down Around You”. I scouted around the net and for others, it’s Explosions in the Sky.
Have a cut-off time at night for work and phone
Not checking out after work-hours only sets you up for decreased productivity the next day. At the same time, the blue light from your phone results in insomnia for many people. Keep your phone (and other digital devices) a foot or more away from your head and bed.
Get off social media
If you’re on different platforms, choose only 1 or two at the most and ditch everything else. Checking and keeping up with social media can lead to much wasted time. Instead, hire a social media manager if you need it for your brand.
Set the intention
Before you do one task, set your intention. It’s like a prayer or a meditative state. Close your eyes briefly, focus your energy, and state your intention. For example, “I will finish this business brief today.” Apply this to especially challenging tasks that you have difficulty doing.
Poor health is one of the top causes of poor focus. All-nighters and excessive overtimes are not sustainable for you and your business. Sleep well, eat well, and exercise for consistent high performance. Margaret Heffernan notes that losing one night’s sleep is cognitively equivalent to being over the alcohol limit.
Still don’t believe us? Just ask Arianna Huffington who, while doing emails, passed out, fell, and woke up in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone and a cut over her eye. It was the “wake-up call that changed my life,” she says.
Swap to-dos for scheduling
To-do lists can be depressing and set you up for failure instead especially if they are unrealistic for the time frame you set. Instead of daily to-do lists, schedule your tasks instead. I didn’t understand this until I started using the next tip on the list.
Let Google Calendar do all the reminding
If you’re an email rat, utilize Google Calendar. Set it up to remember everything you need to remember including your hourly tasks, if applicable.
Consolidate all your tools and apps
Running and managing too many productivity tools is ironically counter-productive. Pare it down to the core essentials that you need and stick to it. In my case, I currently have a Franz-Slack-Google calendar combo.
Get help and delegate
Don’t try to do everything. Don’t think you’re the only one who can do a certain task. Train the right people well. Let them do 1) shallow tasks or 2) jobs that fall under their specialization. For yourself, do the highest-level tasks that you are best at.
Keep your desk clear
A cluttered desk is a visual cue that brings on stress. Toss the old coffee cups and napkins, throw old paper into the recycle bin, and get your desk organized (but don’t make it an excuse not to work!).
Create process documents via Google Doc for teams
If you work with teams and there are too many working parts and procedures, create a process flow that everyone can access anytime. A Google Doc or spreadsheet is ideal for this. It can be shared, and a well-documented process flow sheet will keep questions, clarifications, and mistakes to the barest minimum.
Create YouTube videos for training
Training new personnel is very time-consuming. Create video tutorials using Snagit or other easy-to-use tools. Do a demo on your PC while explaining as you go. Snagit records your voice and screen as you go. Instant training material! Uploading to YouTube (and setting the privacy settings) helps make the material easily accessible too.
Batch similar tasks
To keep your brain from jumping from one type of task to another, do similar tasks in one go. It will make your day go smoother.
Jot down “forgettables”
Keep a paper and pen on your desk. There are times when we remember to do something but it’s not so urgent for us to break our focus on what we’re currently doing. For these cases, jot them down quickly on a piece of paper. This frees your memory for more important things but keeps you from dropping the ball on these tasks.
Use a password manager
Trying to remember a ton of passwords is too much work. Not only does it take up memory space in your brain, recovering a lost password is very time-consuming. Use Google’s New Smart Lock, 1Password, or LastPass.
Use Pocket to save videos and articles for later
We all come upon interesting stuff we want to read or watch. Rather than stop what you’re doing and breaking your flow, save these with a click using Pocket. Very handy!
We all have tasks we hate. For me, it’s rote work. If you have nobody to delegate these tasks to, then outsource them instead. Outsourcing to the amazing workers at great prices is very cost-effective in the long run.
Turn up the heat
The body expends too much energy in keeping itself warm when the temp is too cold. Too-low temperatures make you unproductive. Make sure you have the right temperature in your work or home office. (The recommended temp for your thermostat is 70-77 degrees.)
And vice versa. If it is too warm and hot, you’re likely to feel lethargic. Get a cold shower or turn up the AC.
Stay away from sugar and avoid a sugar hangover
Chocolates, sweets, and other sugary foods can bring on a rush of energy and alertness. However, this is only momentary. When your sugar level spikes, a sugar crash or hangover is sure to follow. You’ll be paying back with subsequent lethargy and fogginess which can bring your productivity down the drain for the entire day.
Working too long and staying focused for long periods can make you forget to drink water. Dehydration can make you sluggish and underproductive.
See Also: Top 5 Tips On How To Stay Hydrated
Do a power pose during breaks
A confident stance has been shown to influence your mental and emotional well-being. Strike a power pose and bring your swag on. Come on. Try one now!
Hug your dog
Studies show that pets boost productivity and improve one’s mood. If you need to relax, instead of checking your Twitter or FB feed, gossipping with your colleague, or watching funny Youtube videos, hug your pet instead (if your dog is not averse to it, that is).
If you’re too fired up about being optimal and productive, it will stress you out and have the opposite effect. Relax. Find your composure. Enjoy each task. You will get more done this way.
As the author Mark Lesser says, do more by doing less.
Albert Einstein is the poster child for curiosity. Research shows that curious people are happier. They also achieve more and succeed more.
Have a grateful heart for every small or big thing. Be grateful for your breath, for your work, for your clients, for your colleagues, for all your blessings, and for moments of happiness during the day. Watch this amazing video for the gift of gratefulness.
Be unrelenting; power through failure
Don’t let instances of failure faze you. All successful people powered through their huge and repeated failures. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”
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Author: Dumb Little Man
Life tips and life hacks for happiness and prosperity.