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The Science Behind These Productivity Hacks You Can Use Anywhere

July 12, 2019

Ever had the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done? There is a solution, and it doesn’t require knowledge of quantum physics or time travel. The secret is in hacking your productivity to maximize your efficiency. It’s about using technology to take back time and fine-tuning your habits to streamline your performance. Motivation gurus have been championing these techniques for years. You can get started tomorrow.


Take Back Control of Your Time

The average person spends over three hours a day on their mobile or tablet. Some of that time may be productive, but it’s more likely to be time spent chasing notifications. If, like almost half of Americans, the first thing you do each morning is check your phone, you’re missing out on one of the most creative periods of brain activity. Boost your productivity by keeping your phone out of the bedroom and turning off notifications during the day. Try downloading an app to monitor the effectiveness of your time spent online—and prepare to be shocked. Apps such as Selfcontrol or Moment will encourage you to reclaim valuable hours in the day.

Start Strong, Sleep Smart

The idea that you can boost your productivity simply by sleeping might not convince your boss, but it’s based on scientific fact. For a start, studies show that lack of sleep severely impacts productivity and that napping at work might be the trademark of a genius in action. If you find yourself facing a particularly challenging conundrum, stop trying to find a solution and sleep on it instead. One Harvard Medical School study found that sleeping on a problem often results in dreaming the solution. Perfect the art of productive sleeping by eliminating screen use before bed and using the waking hours to run through the challenges for the day and how you plan to tackle them.

Unclutter Your Environment

A 2011 Princeton Study found that clutter decreases productivity by competing with what’s important for the brain’s attention. We accumulate clutter effortlessly, but it’s worth making the effort to clear it out. Give yourself more room in your living space by clearing out all clothes, furniture, and objects you no longer use. Liberate your mind by taking any unnecessary items away from your desk, and speed up your work by unsubscribing from or unfollowing any email or social media accounts you no longer engage with. At first, you might find that spending time in a bare, minimalist living space is uninspiring, but you’ll soon discover that the fertility of your imagination springs into action instead.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

We’re often tempted to interpret frantic periods of manic activity as productive. However, studies show that multitasking doesn’t produce better results. Productivity is greatest when you can plan your activity in detail. The Ivy Lee Method, for example, replaces the never-ending “To Do” list with a clear system for prioritizing tasks according to importance and urgency. Similarly, there’s a tendency to show off how long or how hard we are working on a task. If you want to be effective, however, try the Pomodoro technique, which favors brief bursts of activity followed by breaks and diversions to enhance focus. Procrastination is another issue. If you can accomplish a task in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This helps you break down bigger challenges into smaller, manageable tasks.

Don’t Skip Exercise

There’s much more to exercise than simple recreation. All those hours on the treadmill—or even standing rather than sitting—stimulate creative thinking, according to a Stanford University study. Withdrawing yourself temporarily from a problem and immersing yourself in some light or intense exercise allows you to subconsciously work while you take care of your body. You don’t even have to work up a sweat. Spending just two hours a week walking or sitting in nature yields significant health and well-being benefits that boost overall productivity. You might think you’re switching off, but in fact you’re rebooting the vast, powerful computer whirring away inside your head.

One of the telltale signs of high achievers is that they take a strategic approach to filling their time each day. The aim is not to be busy, but be productive. If you can take a moment to audit how you spend your time now and spot where savings can be made in the future, you’ll unleash two benefits: Not only will you enjoy what you’re already doing more, but you’ll also free up more time to try the things you’ve been putting off.

Written by Nick Marshall for Knockaround.


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