The Productivity Hacks Experts Swear By for Getting the Most Out of Every Day
by Tehrene Firman
In a culture that praises hustle and grind, it can be tough to sustain the energy and focus required to execute consistently day after day. Besides, nowadays there are more distractions than you can count, many capable of derailing your productivity and keeping you from staying on task.
Something you might not realize is the world’s top performers deal with all of these same issues. The difference? They have a couple of strategies up their sleeve that allow them to get the most out of every day.
If you could use a little extra muscle getting the better of your to-do list, here are the 10 most helpful tips that productivity pros swear by.
10 Productivity Hacks Experts Swear By
1. Start Your Day with Exercise
Before the productivity can begin, you’ve got to wake that brain up. A light workout first thing in the morning is both an effective and convenient way to shift your gray matter into gear. “I do a short exercise routine, like jumping rope or using my mini trampoline,” says Patrick Porter, Ph.D., a neuroscience expert and the founder of BrainTap. “Stimulating the brain with both physical activity and mindfulness keeps my mind sharp and ensures I have a productive day.”
2. Chunk Your Time
You might consider yourself a multi-tasker, but are you multi-achieving? “Multi-tasking is a joke—it doesn't really work,” says Pedram Shojai, O.M.D., the founder of Well.org and author of The Art of Stopping Time. “Learn to do one thing at a time and stay focused on the task at hand.” His prescription to help you stay productive: Chunk your time. “Block calls, close Skype, or do whatever it takes to hold the line and handle that single item,” he says. “When you’re done, take a break and then move on to the next. This is how I've written several books and made multiple films—one chapter at a time.”
3. Organize Your Workspace
Working in a cluttered, messy workspace with things scattered all around can make it a lot harder to stay productive. “That’s why one of my all-time favorite organization strategies is the 360 method. This is the idea that everything you need should be within a 360-degree circle of where you are physically at your desk,” says Adriana Girdler, C.E.T., P.M.P., H.T.I.-P., a productivity specialist and the founder and president of CornerStone Dynamics. “If you must constantly get up out of your desk to go get stuff, that’s disorganization. You want to have all your essentials at your fingertips.”
4. Take Regular Breaks
Taking breaks to get more done? It might seem counterproductive, but those mental time-outs make a big difference in helping you stay productive while you’re working. “Take a five-minute break every half an hour to do some deep breathwork, stretch out, and gather yourself. It can help drop your brain into an alpha-wave state and bring down the angst,” says Shojai. “This makes you more clear and focused when you sit back down to get to work. I've done this with thousands of students and it has proven to work.”
5. Organize Your Brain
Organizing your workspace is one thing. Organizing your thoughts is quite another, Girdler says. “A cluttered mind leads to stress and nothing less.” As for strategies, Girdler has a couple of recommendations. “Firstly, declutter your mind through meditation and mindfulness. There’s proof that this works,” she says. She also recommends getting enough sleep. More on that in 3, 2, 1...
6. Get Enough Sleep
Girdler says if you’re not getting enough sleep at night, there’s no way you’re going to stay productive during the day. “It’s important to get the right amount of sleep that works for you. And it’s also important to note that this is different for everyone,” she says. “One person might be fine on six hours of sleep, while another person needs nine. Figure out how much sleep you need to function at your best, then strive to get that amount of sleep every night.”
7. Unplug Over Lunch Time
How often are your lunches spent scrolling on your phone or answering emails on your laptop? From now on, devote your lunches to yourself and take that much-needed mental break. “Get out of the day's grind and enjoy a meal with some laughter and chatter. Get your mind off the day and decompress during lunch,” Shojai says. “Without this, you'll likely stay wound up and be less productive overall. Rest, digest, laugh, and integrate before going back to work.”
8. Practice DND
Sometimes in order to stay productive, you’ve got to practice some DND—a.k.a. do not disturb. “Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode, and literally hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door for one hour a day; you’ll be surprised by how much less distracted you’ll get,” Girdler says. “It’s easy for us to want to answer texts, calls, or emails immediately, but it’s not always necessary.”
9. Take a Midday Exercise Break
Exercise is a great way to start your day on a more productive note, and it’s also the perfect way to perk your brain back up when you’re hitting a major midday productivity slump. “It can help get the blood and lymph flowing, as well as reset your brain after all that work,” Shojai says. “It can amp up your energy production and get you thinking straight.”
10. Eat Your Frog
Have you ever heard the phrase “eat your frog”? If not, it could change the game for your productivity levels. (And, don’t worry—no frog-eating is actually necessary.) “Your frog is your biggest, most important task—the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it,” Girdler says. “Once that one task is done, your mind will be free from the anxiety it brings, and it’ll be easier to concentrate on other tasks.”