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Top 20 Habits to Boost Productivity

December 17, 2015

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer


And our biggest bottleneck? Our H-A-B-I-T-S. The premise is that if you want to be productive, you need to possess productive habits. It’s either you develop the right habits, or you lose your job eventually. But the question is – how will you know which of your habits are productive and which are not? You’re in for a treat; below is a list of productivity-boosting habits that you must start developing the soonest.

Habits to boost productivity

1) Create a morning ritual

How you structure your morning will determine how your entire day will play out. For instance, wake up at the same time in the morning, drink a glass of water, do a 15-minute exercise, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work. No phone calls, no email checks, no social profile checks, nothing while doing all these. All the things that you should do every morning must be about you and nothing else. Setting a morning routine will give you more flexibility to make more productive works throughout the day.

2) Set weekly and daily goals

Goal-setting is the utmost productivity habit that must become second nature to you. It’s not only about the long-term ones. Instead, the short-term ones are equally important. Thus, set weekly goals, review them daily and set daily goals based on these weekly goals. The most important part of this process is tracking the accomplishments with precision so you’d know how far you are from reaching a particular goal. Put your daily and weekly goals where you can see them so you won’t be swayed by distractions when they are slowly creeping in.

3) Create to-do and anti-to-do lists

A to-do list is the structure of your working day with the most important at the topmost part of the list. Some people don’t stop working until all the items on their to-do list are already crossed-out. You can do that or allow some flexibility in your daily planning to do minor jobs as they come up. An anti-to-do list, which was coined by Joel Gascoigne, founder, and CEO at Buffer, is the list of accomplished tasks that are not on your original to-do list. In this way, even if you’re not able to accomplish everything on your to-do list, you won’t feel any less productive because you are.

4) Set three important things to do

Why only three? Our brain remembers three things very well, and it is capable of scanning the environment to look for associations, resources or opportunities that are useful to any or all of these most important things. Anything beyond that number is considered an overload. So, before you go or leave work, think of the three most important tasks that must be completed. Write it down if you want or save it on your phone. And, don’t forget to devote a solid 90 minutes of your 8 hours per day to do these most important tasks. That’s just around 20% of your working hours.

5) Do the most difficult thing first

As humans, our energy and creativity are limited and so is our willpower. We are at our most creative after waking up in the morning. That’s because our brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex is at its most active upon waking up. Knowing this, organize your schedule to do the hardest tasks from sunrise to noon so you can maximize your brain capabilities. Delegate the harder tasks after the lunch break and the hard tasks after 4 pm.

6) Do that “one thing”

Gary Keller, the author of The ONE Thing, suggests doing that “one thing.” It’s a prioritization tactic wherein you have to choose one major task to do, which when completed will render other items on your list of to-dos as easier to do or completely unnecessary. As such, that one thing must create a domino effect to make your day more productive and less stressful. List down everything that you need to do and determine which one will have an impact to the rest of the items on your list, then do it.

7) Focus on a single task

Multi-tasking is just like procrastination, only less intrusive. Multi-tasking actually makes a person less capable of finishing a task. And, it is not about the quantity but the quality of the completed tasks. When you multi-task, you might finish all your to-dos, but it’d take you longer to finish each of them. Rare are those times that all these finished tasks are of high-quality when done through multi-tasking. Just focus on finishing one task before starting a new one. If the task on hand is a major one, consider injecting some breaks so you may respond to things that matter like urgent calls. When you do, make sure you set a time limit to attend to each then, go back to the task you’re doing immediately.

8) Do the brain dump

When doing a particular job, there will be little tasks that’ll be floating on your mind. Put it on paper. Experts say that the most intelligent people carry a pen and paper in the pocket where he or she can write ideas and insights whenever he or she encounters it. Not to mention, the benefits of handwriting including prevention from being distracted and better learning. After jotting it down, you can forget about it. Your mind will relax because it knows that you wrote it somewhere, freeing up some mental energy to devote to the task on hand.

9) Manage energy, not necessarily time

Time management is essential. However, managing energy is more crucial because it directly affects one’s performance. Lower energy level means lower productivity level. Did you know that your energy level drops after eating lunch? That’s because 50% of energy in your body is now being used to digest the food that you’ve just eaten. If possible, eat smaller meals and healthy, energy-boosting snacks throughout the day. In this way, you may manage your energy better and thus, manage your time much better.

10) Allocate breaks strategically

Any person’s productivity declines if he or she will not take a break from time to time. A productivity habit, and a rule of thumb as well, is taking a 5 to 10 minutes of break every 2 hours of continuous working. This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your workstation every chance you get. Instead, closing your eyes, reading a non-work related article, taking a nap, etc. These can re-energize the mind towards a more productive work afterward.

11) Use an app or apps

Apps are computer programs specifically designed to operate on mobile devices. One of the main advantages of using an app is organization; an app may act as a depository where you can log everything from a to-do list to business card directory to mind maps. Using an app empowers a person having control over his or her own productivity. The feeling of being empowered alone can make anyone feel more accomplished than having little to no control over your own performance. What more if he or she accomplished the tasks for real?

12) Minimize context switches

A context switch is anything that takes your focus away from what you are currently doing. Apparently, context switching is another productivity killer that you might not be aware of. Did you know that it takes 30 minutes for a person to get back to the level of concentration he had before the onset of the distraction? Refocusing is difficult. So, if you have to let the people around you know that you cannot be disrupted between 9 am and 12 noon, then do so.

13) Declutter the workspace

In some instances, creative thinking arises from chaos. While you may pretend that you don’t notice the disorganization, it definitely hurts your capability to focus on the task you are doing. You might find comfort in your own mess, but it can be a real obstacle. That’s based on a study published in Harvard Business Review. According to it authors, a person who works on a messy desk tends to be less efficient and more frustrated than a person working on a neat desk.

14) Minimize the noise

Our mental energy depletes with each time we entertain a trivial task. Simplify your life. For instance, turn off the app notifications while working. Better yet, turn off your phone. A 2015 study entitled The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification reveals that a notification can distract and impair a person’s ability to focus on the task on hand. Even if our phones are on vibrate mode, the buzzing sound alone is enough to make our minds wander and away from the task. Simplify your life by decreasing the noise so you’d be able to free up your mind from the unnecessary distractions.

15) Take a power nap

Dozing off while at work is another productive habit. In fact, some of the tech giants such as Google and HubSpot have built their own napping facilities for the benefit of their employees. Naps reverse all the negative consequences of sleepiness, drawing the napper to perform and focus better at work.

16) Meditate, not medicate

No matter how you approach it, meditation has immense benefits that mustn’t be underestimated. A 15 to 20-minute meditation declutters the brain, leading to becoming less distracted so you can focus more. While increasing our productivity, it also reduces the stress and anxiety levels. Thus, when feeling overwhelmed by having too many things to accomplish for a day, don’t take paracetamol; meditate instead more so when you are feeling dips in focus and energy.

17) Learn to say no

Not easy, definitely, but if you are working on an important task, the last thing that you want is a distraction that keeps you from finishing it. Fight the impulse to accommodate all requests. Some workplaces impose a rule that when a staff is wearing an earphone or headset, it means “keep off.” Nonetheless, if you are going to say no, do it in the most polite manner possible and offer an alternative briefly if applicable.

18) Do not procrastinate

While it is easier said than done, there is really no good to procrastination. It is the absolute productivity killer. We all have the tendencies to procrastinate; it’s inherent to all of us. However, we should learn how to combat such natural tendencies. Create goals and milestones. Commit to the 15-minute rule or the only time to do whatever you want to do. Change the environment to change the behavior. Anything to break this bad habit will do.

19) Reject negative energy

Negative energy refers to anything or anyone that brings you down – people who complain, people who gossip, and things that distract you. These are just some of the vindicators of negative energy around that you should reject at all costs. Distance yourself from all these because they’ll only suck your energy until you have very little to devote to your tasks.

20) Get enough sleep

Being productive throughout the day, most often than not, starts with a good night’s sleep. The sweet spot is between 7 and 8 of hours of sleep every night as identified by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. That’s true for both men and women. According to Dr. Lallukka Tea, the main researcher, undersleeping or oversleeping impacts one’s productivity negatively. Hence, stay on the sweet spot.

People who manage to complete several tasks each day possess no superhuman powers. They’ve just mastered a few of the core habits above that enable them to be as productive as they can be. Two things. First, let go of your bad habits. Second, start developing good ones. There remains the fact that our minds work very differently. However, it only takes 21 days to form a new habit. Make each day count.


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