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How to be a productive person | Acumen Connections

14 productivity hacks you need to know

How to be a productive person: 14 tricks to significantly boost your productivity

man sitting in chair in middle of giant clock

There aren’t enough hours in the day. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

We all wish we could squeeze more out of 24 hours. Unluckily, neither you nor I can change the Earth’s rotation around the sun. But we can change our productivity level.

There are only two ways to increase your output, and that’s to either put in more hours or work smarter. I don’t know about you, but I value my free time. Instead of finding more time or working harder, I’ve set out to learn how to be more productive.

You see, growing up, I was envious of the kid who finished an hour-long homework assignment in 20 minutes. Now an adult, that much hasn’t changed. My kid-at-heart psyche still wants to race through my assignments and get outside and play.

I would love to claim the status of a highly productive person. Truth is, I’m not. But I’m working on it. Fortunately, I have downgraded from professional crastinator to amateur status. Joking aside, I decided to dial in on productivity and understand what it is productive people have in common. I’ve compiled traits that productive people use to overcome procrastination and boring work. These are the secrets to stay energized and motivated the entire day.

What follows are some of the most significant habits of highly productive people. From ways to stay focused, to methods of clearing distractions. These tips can help you max out your potential and get more done. Here’s the insight you need to be a productive person.

Productivity Hacks: Learn these tips for how to be a productive person

Plan the night before — Without clarity about what is you’re trying to get done, you will be busy, but not productive. Planning out your days helps fight decision fatigue and keep you focused on the tasks at hand.

Build an outline. One as basic and simple as you like. Finish every day by writing down three to five things you want to get done tomorrow. Then start the day by working on those things. Take the guesswork out of what you’re doing tomorrow. You might be surprised at how much your productivity skyrockets with a simple plan.

Catch some Zzz’s — Forgive me if I sound like your mother. You need to get some rest. Take it from me, a cup of coffee (or five) can only do so much after a late night. Missing out on quality sleep affects my productivity — sometimes for days. Seven to eight hours is the baseline for what is considered a good night’s rest. People who sleep less tend to see their productivity level drop by as much as 30% — and that’s backed by science.

Get dressedIt’s hard to feel productive in your pajamas. In fact, you may feel sluggish if you wear your PJs all day. You may feel like your work day never got started if you never got dressed. You don’t need over-the-top fancy attire or your best work clothes, but what you wear shouldn’t be what you wore to bed. Getting dressed can help you take yourself seriously, which in turn can make you feel more productive. It’s typical that people who feel good tend to stay on task better during the day.

Stay hydratedYou emptied the carafe with four cups of coffee all before breakfast. But that’s not proper hydration. You know it’s important to stay hydrated. But did you know that proper hydration is tied to enhanced cognition? It’s true. When we’re thirsty, our bodies go into survival mode and our focus is taken off of our work. Satisfying that thirst frees the brain and improves one’s ability to think better. Dehydration is also known to sap energy and make you tired. Drink more water. I find it best to start my day with a glass, that way I make it hard to forget. Try it. It may work for you, too.

Do what you’re dreadingWe all have that one thing (or two) we don’t want to do. There’s no denying that the dreadful task you keep pushing lower on your list will need to get done eventually. But if we put it off, we will just keep dreading it. It’s hard to build up the courage to start that often gets in our way.

Often, it’s the time we spent dreading that bogs down our productivity. Instead of shying away from what you may be dreading, approach it first. Sometimes you just need to get started. Even a slow start is still progress. And that’s often enough to keep moving forward.

Keep a distraction list — Don’t you hate it when you’re finally in a productive rhythm and … Bam! You’re hit with an idea — one that in no way relates to what you’re working on. So inspired by the idea, you take a break from what you were working on and start on this new idea. If this feels like productivity, it’s not. Your ideas are distractions. That’s not to say they are bad ideas. These ideas deserve your attention — just not right now.

With emails and social media, plus the many to-dos on your list, it’s easy to get distracted. Distractions are the bane of productivity. How can you keep distractions at bay? Keep a distraction list closely by your side. When hit with an idea, write it on the list. Then, refocus on the task at hand. Get back to it later. Then, when you have free time, revisit the ideas on your distraction list.

Schedule a deep work time — We all have daily to-dos that can be knocked out without much attention. Then we have tasks that are just plain difficult. You can’t multitask your way through them because they require your full attention. You need to devote serious time and mental effort to get these tasks done. What you need is called deep work. This is to focus deeply on a singular task. It requires you to be more intentional than you are used to.

To establish a deep work state, you need to make a few considerations. First is your location. You want to choose a space that’s free from distraction and conducive for hours of long focus. Second is structure. The less distractions, the better. I move my phone to a different part of the house making it out of sight and out of mind. I also recommend you notify others that you are unavailable and cannot be interrupted. Be sure to let them know when you’re available to connect. Having a deep work routine is only half the equation. Schedule a deep work time daily or weekly, depending on your needs.

Use your peak hours effectively — Time management is crucial. But beyond time management is energy management. If you are exhausted and can’t think straight, you won’t be productive. Each task requires different physical and mental demands. You should use your peak focus to do your most important and demanding work. Different people work best at different times of the day.

I’m an early riser and my best work happens in the three hours after I wake up. My last two hours of the work day aren’t nearly as productive. It’s not always about the amount of time you have before you tire, it’s the attention you have. You’ll always have less attention than time. Using your peak hours efficiently, you can tackle difficult tasks while you still have your full attention.

Walk around  — Pace isn’t only a good salsa. Every hour, I get up and walk around for 5-10 minutes. I find pacing around the room helps me process ideas better and free up my mind. Scientists add that getting your blood pumping could help clear your head and get your focus back. Even more, studies suggest that walking breaks can lift moods and boost energy levels, as well.

Listen to music — It’s nice to find a low-effort option to boost productivity like listening to music. Taking in some tunes is shown to improve your mood and sharpen your focus, but music doesn’t always boost productivity. It takes a little attention and focus to utilize music as a tool. Unfamiliar music tends to cause you to lose focus, as you try to take in new sounds. Sorry, but save your Discover Weekly until after hours. Music with lyrics also is shown to kill your focus, which makes sense. It’s not as easy to knock out tasks when you’re singing along to Taylor Swift’s folklore.

On the other hand, upbeat music is shown to increase alertness and responsiveness. I like to match my music to the pace I’m working at. Uptempo classics help to keep me encouraged and moving along at a steady pace.

Learn to monotask — Mono. No, not mononucleosis. Monotasking. In today’s always-on world, with phones buzzing, Slack working overtime, multitasking is second nature. But the human brain isn’t wired to do two things at once. You lose concentration from your primary task when you split your attention to two (or more) tasks.

We tend to think the ability to multitask is essential for maximizing efficiency. But the opposite may be true. Some claim that attempting to do several things at once may decrease productivity. It makes sense that your ability to focus decreases when divided among multiple objectives. Instead, make a habit of monotasking. Or simply commit to a single task before moving on to the next.

Eliminate distractionsDistractions are the bane of productivity. To best stay focused, control the distractions that compete for your attention. Every night, I intentionally leave my phone off the charger. In the morning, I have anywhere between 15-20% battery. So when I first login for work, I turn my phone off and put it on the charger. I don’t touch my phone for the next two hours. It’s a simple routine that can cut down on one of the strongest distractions there is.

One distraction that usually gets a pass is email. Nothing interrupts deep work better than an email. No one can resist the allure of a new notification. But you should. Usually, I’ll turn off email notifications or mark myself as unavailable when I need to focus and get work done. I’ll notify anyone who might need something from me, and alert them to when I’ll be available again. Email can wait. Consider this: Email is great for putting out fires. But that may be all you do if you’re glued to your email.

Pick an end timeLife won’t create a work-life balance on its own. You have to do that yourself. You can start by establishing a definitive end time to your work day. Not all are working a traditional 9-5 with the work from home set up. Work from home is like a casino. It’s easy to get caught up in the activity and lose track of time. The lines are blurred over the concept of time.

Don’t allow yourself to lose track of time. Be proactive and establish a time when you will call it quits. It doesn’t have to be a hard stop. But know when you need to call it quits and start the process of shutting down. Your leisure time is valuable, and you shouldn’t waste a second.

Disconnect and unplug — After a modest day’s work, put away your electronic devices. Just as a carpenter would put away his work tools, you should, too. Keeping your work reminders out of sight and out of mind helps you to recharge and refocus. Those with an always on mentality tend to burn out.

So when you leave work, leave work. Schedule your leisure time and honor it as a commitment, just as you would any other appointment. You won’t find time to relax. You have to create it. And don’t feel selfish for taking time for yourself. Taking time to unplug from work is proven to restore happiness, energy, and productivity levels. It also allows you to feel more fulfilled with life at and away from work. Keep in time the value in unplugging. It will help.

Be less busy

You’ve heard of Isaac Newton. He had this law of inertia: An object in motion at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion. Busy people react the same way. The busier you are, the more you’ll actually do.

But busy isn’t always good. Strive for productive and not busy. To be productive is to feel a good tire. It’s that satisfying moment when you slide back from your desk and know that you gave it your all. It’s that kid-friendly feeling of finishing your homework and racing outside to join your friends and play.

Break free and have fun. You deserve it.

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