If only I could focus, I’d achieve everything I want.
Most of us think this often. We want to be productive and have control over our work and schedule. No procrastination, burnout, or packed calendars — only efficient work and thinking. It is possible to design a life with days like this. You need a clear prioritization of what’s important and a readiness to try new routines to find what helps you work best.
This article shares a list of 11 research-backed productivity tips. It’s made up of seven do’s (positive productivity tips) and four don’ts (reverse productivity tips). Our goal is to make it easier for you to cross off important tasks without procrastinating each day.
7 Do’s: Positive Productivity Tips
After years of trial and error with many productivity tips and tools, we’ve put together this list to increase focus and boost productivity.
1. Understand Your Distraction Type
Being able to focus on difficult tasks for extended periods is a skill anyone can practice and improve. It’s also a skill that is becoming increasingly rare because of the distractions around us — in the real and virtual world.
Understanding your distraction type helps you know yourself and prepare better to overcome these distractions and boost productivity. Productivity is often more about what you don’t do than what you do. Take note of where your attention goes when you aren’t focused. There are three main distraction types:
- Emotional distractions, e.g., taking care of older parents, sick kids, or a recent heartbreak
- Physical distractions, e.g., feeling unwell or receiving unexpected visitors
- Environmental distractions, e.g., loud noises or being too cold or too hot to concentrate
They all take up mental space, preoccupying us from producing our best work. Observe and jot down your distraction type, and create workflows and systems for overcoming them. Practice mindfulness techniques like breathwork and meditation to stay present and improve your clarity and productivity.
2. Reframe How You Think About Work
Some of us hate our jobs, bosses, team members. We hate showing up to work, being stuck on long phone calls, and having less time to do “life” things at the end of the day. Negative feelings about work can increase stress levels and impact our personal lives. They may cause us to shut down emotionally or overreact to minor problems.
Reframe the way you think about work. Consider the good aspects of your job, whatever they may be — continued professional development, steady income, or a sense of purpose and outlet for creativity. Appreciating your work and the benefits can motivate you to love your job again, work harder, and improve productivity.
No one job is perfect. Each comes with ups and downs. It’s up to us to change how we see things so we can manage them proactively. Reflect on what’s going great and what’s missing in your work life. Then, make a conscious effort to reframe your perspective in a positive and actionable light.
3. Incorporate Laughter and Movement Into Your Day
Incorporate laughter and movement into your workday as much as possible. This is an especially useful tip for those adapting to working from home for the first time. Controlling your schedule requires you to manage yourself and your energy levels. Laughter and movement are two excellent ways to change the tempo and temperature of your day.
Insert breaks that make you laugh or move — catch up on a funny podcast or series, play with kids, stretch, or go for a walk. Research shows that laughter activates neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These are mood-boosting hormones that fast-track brain networks to help you focus better. Movement also improves focus. Simply walking, even for 10 – 15 minutes, can improve your mood, physical and mental health, and productivity.
4. Reward Yourself Often
The expectancy theory of motivation states that people are likely to complete a task when they believe their effort will result in a positive, desired outcome. This means you’re more likely to be productive when you believe that you can improve your work performance and reap more rewards by working harder.
Maximize your productivity by attaching rewards to each significant milestone you achieve. For this to work, the rewards you choose must mean something to you. Enough to motivate you to push through the resistance of creativity and productivity to get things done.
For example, you can motivate yourself to put in your best with your first product launch by encouraging yourself with a three-day weekend retreat when you hit your goal of making your first thousand dollars.
5. Play LoFi Music to Increase Concentration
Low-fidelity music, aka LoFi music, is created with deliberate imperfections, such as misplayed notes, low hums, or phonographic audio imperfections. Many studies and personal stories of this music genre reveal that it helps us concentrate for longer periods and even enjoy the process of working.
Silence is not always an option when working in an office, in public, or even your home workspace. LoFi music helps to block out unwanted distractions without pulling your attention. It can lull your brain into a productive trance, providing your brain with just enough stimulation to tune out your external environment and focus.
6. Create Fake Deadlines
Regardless of the amount of time given to do something, most people only stop procrastinating at the literal last minute. Set fake deadlines to boost productivity and to create urgency, especially with tasks with no external accountability. Use your calendar to set reminders for your deadlines and push the dates a few days (or weeks) earlier than the actual deadline.
7. Use Tools and Delegate
In today’s technologically charged economy, we can compound our efforts in many ways. Two of those ways: using tools and delegating.
Project management, automation, and productivity tools are widely available. Finding and using the right tools for your workflow can vastly improve your productivity and output levels.
Start by using a focus and productivity apps to note areas of operational weakness and sunk time costs. Then, use technology and other assets at your disposal to strengthen these weaknesses or make them go away. For example, create and reuse templates to avoid starting from scratch with each new project or find ways to automate repetitive work.
Also, decide which tasks are imperative for you to handle personally and which ones aren’t the best use of your time. Delegate those tasks that need to be done but not by you. You can even bring on freelance support in an alternate time zone so you’re getting things done even while you sleep.
4 Don’ts: Reverse Productivity Tips
In addition to our seven positive productivity tips, we’ve made a list of four don’ts to avoid to improve productivity.
1. Avoid Multitasking
Science says that when we try to do two or more things simultaneously, our brains are distracted and may feel overwhelmed more easily. This is because the brain has to switch from one task to the other quickly and continuously, taking a serious toll on productivity whether or not we realize it at the time.
Instead of multitasking, be intentional with your time and attention. When working on important tasks, block out time to stay focused and give your best. Insert small breaks where you tackle the things that would have distracted you while working, e.g., checking your email or brainstorming solutions to issues.
If you must multitask, do activities that do not require the same mental or physical resources to complete at the same time. An example would be walking and listening to a career-related podcast. You are technically doing two things, but the two tasks do not compete with each other. Alternatively, taking phone calls and writing emails at the same time isn’t a great multitasking example because your brain would be stretched thin across these two tasks.
2. Avoid Starting the Day With Social Media
Avoid starting your day by checking social media notifications and scrolling before going through your morning routine. Instead, give yourself time to awaken fully. It could be an hour when you meditate, go for a morning walk, or have breakfast with your family before you bring up the screens for the rest of the day.
Save time on social media by using it on a strict schedule — where you read your feed, reply to messages, and engage with your communities for a fixed amount of time. Stick to this routine to normalize it over time. This significantly buys back your time and improves productivity and focus throughout the workday.
3. Avoid Mental Clutter
Mental clutter takes up space in our brains and minds, making it hard to concentrate. It’s like overloading your laptop with too many open tabs. It gets slower and takes longer to complete any one task.
To avoid mental clutter, here are some tips you can try:
- Track your thoughts and reflect often.
- Take notes of ideas and tasks that come up while you’re working.
- Close tabs once you’re done with them or use a web extension that allows you to save open tabs and links so you can retrieve them easily when you need to.
4. Avoid Wasting Mistakes
Imagining things and experiencing them are vastly different experiences. Taking action opens us up to outcomes beyond our control. Yet, we must continue to pursue and execute on goals.
It’s not the mistakes we make but how we react to them that matters. Nothing is a loss if you learn from your experiences, even the biggest mistakes. Learning from failure eventually adds to your wisdom, which helps you make better, more productive decisions in the future.
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