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8 Ways to Boost Your Productivity

August 12, 2020

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We’ll explore 8 ways to boost your productivity. Productivity can be a tricky topic since it is connected to many other components – from excellent organizational skills to being in the right mood or creating a working space that feels as motivating as possible. If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you planned to do day after day, you probably have to improve your time management skills—to be honest, who doesn’t?
 
If you have your tasks written all over – on sticky notes, laptops, in some project management tools, and some even just stored in your head, maybe you should look into improving your organizational skills? Getting Things Done by David Allen is an excellent book to look at on that topic. I know we all can use a bit of improvement here and there. So, below is a shortlist of ideas on how to increase your productivity.
 
But first, let’s dispel a significant misconception about productivity. For profit to be profitable, one needs to have time to enjoy the profit. That’s why I see productivity on a per hour invested basis. Productivity is not about working all day, every day. That’s just an annoying addiction.
 
All too often, we conceive of yearly salaries – as a proxy for productivity – without taking into account the hours worked to produce that salary. For example, in the early 2000s, France decided to cap the national workweek at 35 hours. The world was quick to mock the French and their legendary laziness, yet France had the highest productivity per work hour at that time – measured in gross domestic product (GDP) divided by national work hours.
 
Another more relatable example would be if someone, say, Peter, earns yearly $250,000 for a 70-hour workweek while Rashid earns $ 50’000 annually but works only 40 hours a month. Peter returns roughly $62 per workhour – if we account for two weeks holiday – while Rashid generates almost twice that at $104 per hour. Notice that I’m not even talking about worked yet non-productive hours.
 
Not only is Rashid more productive, but he also has time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. This is something that, in theory, we all strive for. Execution and sorting the stupid and repetitive from the critical are where most of us fail, however. Without getting into too much detail, it’s one thing to get things done. It’s another thing to find out what things need to get done. More on that later; for now, we’ll focus on how to get things done and on obvious and not so obvious ways to boost your productivity
“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”
―Pablo Picasso

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Have a to-do list and a pending list

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
―Pele

You probably heard good things about having a to-do list. It helps in maintaining focus and remembering what else is planned.
 
One good way to use a to-do list is to write down tasks in the morning or the evening before. Then write assignments down as they pile up throughout the day. However, sometimes a to-do list gets longer even though you cross off some of the tasks. In most cases, it’s because some tasks on the list are not in your control. This means that you may have to wait for your boss’s comments or for a coworker to send you some files you need. With tasks like this on your list, it can become less motivating.
 
That is why I’d suggest that you split your list into two columns a way to boost your productivity—one for tasks you have to do and are in your full control and one for tasks that need someone else’s input.
Next to the tasks in your pending column, write down what you need to finish the task and who you’ll get it from. This way, you’ll own even more of your work.

 

Disrupt the To-do list

“Even people who aren’t geniuses can outthink the rest of mankind if they develop certain thinking habits.”
―Charles Darwin

An aside on getting the right things done: one thing I like to do when looking at my daily to-do list or even my weekly to-dos is asking myself this simple question: “Is there one item in it, that if done, will make all others obsolete?”
If there isn’t such an item on my to-do list, I need to rethink what I’m doing. To give you a real-world example, not so long ago, I could have spent my day talking back and forth to customers or hire a Customer Happiness Manager while I focus on getting my product in pharmacies across Europe. Even if I were to become the most efficient and diligent customer representative on the planet, burning through piles of emails in three hours instead of eight, it doesn’t mean that I should be the one doing it. There are other things that I should be doing.
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5-minute rule

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
―John Wooden

A good way to boost your productivity is the 5-minute rule. A 5-minute rule applies to how to deal with new tasks coming in during the day. New tasks can be quite irritating as they often derail your plans since they usually pop up unexpectedly.
 
To minimize disruption and manage time as best as possible, I’d recommend following a 5-minute rule. By that, I mean: if an appearing task takes 5 minutes or less of your time to be completed, then do it right away. If it takes more, schedule it for later and finish your current task as planned.
The 5-minute rule mostly applies to people working with bosses, supervisors, and the likes. If you don’t have a boss, it’s advisable to create an environment around yourself where you don’t get interrupted, as interruptions just increase working time for no good reason.
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Listen to Productivity-Boosting Music

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”
―Stephen King

A good way to boost your productivity is to listen to background music. But background music can be a distraction while working. If you choose the right music to accompany your work, you can do the opposite, however. Go for more instrumental music because lyrics can certainly be a distraction. Also, keep the volume down; let the music be in the backseat, not driving the car.
 
The right music for focus could be some natural sounds complemented with light piano or guitar. If you need to boost your energy, choose a theme with bass. You’ll probably soon discover that there are tasks that need to be accompanied by some music, while there are some tasks that you’re better off. Do as you feel is best for your productivity.
 
Another type of music to explore is video game soundtracks. Those soundtracks were made to complement the game, enticing enough and not so much as to distract. They are crafted to be interesting for prologued periods—game developers want you to keep playing their games.
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Work for 50 Minutes then take a 10-minute break

“It’s very refreshing to go away and take a break, to clear your head, and just get into something else.”
―Francois Nars

Productivity is most times about organizational skills. It’s rarely about pure horsepower. A good way to boost your productivity involves taking scheduled breaks.
 
This doesn’t just imply you have to organize your workplace and prepare your work environment, but it also means that you have to arrange your working hours.
 
One of the most effective strategies to get the most out of your working time is to organize it in 50-minute sequences where you focus only on one important task.
 
Multitasking is the enemy. An example I often use is from manufacturing pills. How long do you think it takes to manufacture 100,000 pills of MAXIMUM MIND? It takes around one day. How long do you think it takes to manufacture 2 million pills of MAXIMUM MIND. It roughly takes the same time—one day. This is because it takes around 15 minutes to produce 100,000 pills, but it takes seven hours to properly set up one manufacturing line.
 
Switching back and forth takes a lot of production time away. The same applies to shifting between tasks. A lot of time is lost in the process of switching, picking up where you left off, refocusing, and so on.
 
After 50 minutes, take a 10-minute break. You can use this time to stretch, do light exercise, meditate, or go for a short walk. Afterward, repeat the cycle. If your task is done, start a new one.
 
Take a longer – 45 to 60 minutes – break after four cycles of the previous. This way, you’ll sharpen your focus and complete more tasks.
 
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Use a Pencil and Paper

“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.”
―Joyce Meyers

It’s a digital age; what do I even mean by pencil and paper? Often electronic devices are not ways to boost your productivity and cannot compare to the power of a pencil and paper. I even suggest writing a to-do list on a piece of paper. Paper brings limitations. An online list can be almost infinite. Ideally, you should be able to write your to-do list on a paper the size of a business card. If that’s not possible, write only your most essential points on the business card-sized paper and then forget about the others.
 
If you keep your pencil and paper with you, you can quickly write down thoughts or ideas and never forget anything. Also, it’s better to have one small notebook at hand than to take notes electronically. First, it’s faster. Second, it fosters more creative thoughts as electronic constraints, such as typing or highlighting, do not limit you. Buy a notebook and let it be your canvas that you use for whatever comes to mind. As time goes by, its content becomes invaluable.
 
Also, it is priceless to take pictures of your notebook and to upload it onto your Evernote. Evernote pictures are searchable and taggable, making for quick referencing and, most importantly, quick finding. It’s much better than making screenshots you’ll never find again with your iPhone.
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Hire people to do the low-impact high-labor tasks

“I choose lazy person to do the hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
―Bill Gates

This one is a bit counterintuitive at first. The principle is to hire people to do low-impact, high-labor tasks. For instance, every time I need research on the internet, data crunching, etc., I use virtual assistants’ help. Everything that’s time-consuming, relatively simple to do, and doesn’t significantly impact my life I forward to someone else.
 
For instance, an example is from a friend who worked in a big consultancy firm. He made a decent living back then already, yet he spent evenings and nights making PowerPoint slides. To be honest, he was more formatting than creating the decks. His boss was telling him what to write. I just suggested he could find an assistant to do that job for him. He was flabbergasted by how easy it was. The theory is simple here. Hire a virtual assistant in the Eastern World to do the menial heavy lifting for you (as long as the information is not confidential, you should be fine) while you sleep. Sending easy, time-consuming tasks to the Philippines, for example, in the evening (Europe) or afternoon (United States), lets you enjoy your night while the assistant works during their daytime. Thus, enabling you to receive their work in the morning.
 
The benefits of doing so are tremendous and go over and beyond time management. Not only do you free your time to focus on the real things you should be doing, i.e., challenging and complex tasks. But you also learn to instruct people in producing the work that you need. This is huge and this why this is a great way to boost your productivity.
 
People don’t come ready to perform out-of-the-box (unless you hire extremely good and experienced staff). Learning to train people has a massive impact on your life; even if you’re an employee and have a boss, learning to train, delegate, and automatize tasks will significantly improve your life, fast.
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Use Nootropics to Your Advantage

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
―William Shakespheare

Nootropics (or cognitive enhancers or smart drugs) are great ways to boost your productivity. Nootropics, e.g., caffeine, creatine, etc., come in different grades of effectiveness, addictive potential, and safety. For instance, caffeine is quite effective at boosting energy short-term, quite addictive — although addiction to caffeine doesn’t display life-destroying characteristics — and relatively safe.
 
Creatine is very safe at recommended doses, non-addictive and effective at boosting brain performance, especially in older and sleep-deprived people. Some promising research published in Nutrients suggests that creatine monohydrate – the simplest form of creatine – could slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease [1].
 
I’m not recommending you to take any creatine or even to drink coffee. Please don’t read this between the lines. I’m not a doctor. However, those are things to consider while implementing an overall life strategy. Also, there are stimulant-free ways to boost focus, memory, energy, and balance mood that can even slow down cognitive decline.
 
There are nootropics for focus, nootropics for anxiety, nootropics for brain fog, nootropics for creativity, nootropics for energy, nootropics for motivation, nootropics for sleep, nootropics for studying, nootropics for ADHD, nootropics for memory, etc.—to each their own.
 
There also are universal natural nootropics that cover every single aspect above: MAXIMUM MIND enables one of the highest known naturally achievable increases in long-term brain function, translated into focus, memory, clarity, and balanced mood while being safe, health-preserving, and non-addictive.
For some, cognitive enhancers might look like a waste of money. I would argue that even if people are not interested in the brain-boosting properties (which frankly I don’t understand), the properties of slowing down cognitive decline over time might be more appealing to most people.

Finishing Thoughts

“I know the mind, like the parachute, is most valuable open.”
― Dan S. Kennedy

That’s it for now. I hope you found one or the other trips useful and can apply these ways to boost your productivity in your life. 

There’s only so much you can achieve with pure discipline and increasing your productivity. But applying a bit of lateral thinking to buy time at low cost (also called hiring people) so that you can focus on the things that only you can do (increasing leverage) goes a long way.

Further, all productivity techniques and considerations become increasingly more valuable when you can share them with your team.

If you’d like to expend on ways to boost your productivity, have a look at this post on ways to increase flow and this other one on ways to increase mental speed.

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Literature

  1. Snow, W. M., Cadonic, C., Cortes-Perez, C., Adlimoghaddam, A., Roy Chowdhury, S. K., Thomson, E., … & Suh, M. (2020). Sex-Specific Effects of Chronic Creatine Supplementation on Hippocampal-Mediated Spatial Cognition in the 3xTg Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Nutrients, 12(11), 3589.

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