Try These Simple Life Hacks to Be More Productive

By Michael Kasian
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Technology has made it more complicated than ever to stay focused on your work. Apps, notifications, emails and social media pose constant threats to your productivity.

Instead of trying to multitask or doing a digital detox, there are much simpler ways to be productive. Take a look at some of these simple life hacks to increase your daily productivity.

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Kick Multitasking to the Curb

Everyone is constantly bombarded with texts, emails and other distractions during the workday. It's no wonder 20% of full-time employees feel burned out. A common technique to handle the influx of distractions is to multitask, but the human brain can only fully focus on one thing at a time.

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Sure, you can try to text on your phone while you watch the news, but you can't do both together as successfully as you would individually. This is precisely why doing anything else while driving is so frowned upon. So stop trying to do everything at once and allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time.

Listen to White Noise to Concentrate

Music can motivate you in a lot of ways, but it can also be a distraction from getting your work done. The constant influx of words and rhythms into your brain can actually limit your concentration. Not to worry, there are alternatives to your favorite hits.

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Try listening to white noise to help you concentrate. White noise can be a great tool to block outside noises while keeping you focused on your work. YouTube has plenty of clips like rain on a tin roof or ocean waves to help you stay focused.

Try Using the Pomodoro Technique

Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo developed The Pomodoro Technique to improve his time management. Named after his tomato-shaped timer, the technique breaks down tasks into 25-minute blocks of time. Between each block, Cirillo allowed himself a five-minute break.

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After four Pomodoro blocks, he took a longer break. This system works in theory because you completely focus on one task at a time with no interruptions. The Pomodoro Technique provides the opportunity to give your undivided attention to your tasks while getting time to cool off in between.

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Set Specific Times to Check Your Email

It's easy to fall down the email rabbit hole. Opening one email can be a slippery slope that leads to a huge time suck in the middle of your work day. It's great to see an empty inbox, but not if it's at the expense of your more important tasks.

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Try and devote two times a day to responding to emails. For example, checking email once in the morning and once in the afternoon will allow you more time to devote to bigger tasks. If someone requires your attention immediately, they'll find other ways of contacting you.

Get Comfortable Telling Others “No”

Saying no to others can be difficult, but you can't let them interrupt your productivity. Generally speaking, it's okay to let people know that you're busy for the moment. Let them know you will get back to them at a later time so you can stay focused on your work right now.

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Now, if it's your boss who is trying to take up your time, you should use a different tactic. Let your boss know you can handle the new task, but be sure to point out your current task list. Let your boss decide which task you should complete first.

Try the Two-Hour “Hermit Mode”

This doesn't require you to live alone on a mountain top. It's much easier than that. The two-hour hermit mode allows you to isolate yourself from distractions so you can focus. Find somewhere quiet and solitary where you can dive deep into your work.

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It helps if you're able to turn your phone off and avoid other distractions as well. Be sure to take some water and maybe a snack to keep your stomach happy. Of course, allow yourself to go to the restroom as needed.

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Take Cold Showers

Waking up in the morning can be difficult. That groggy feeling doesn't go away easily, but a cold shower can often do the trick. Besides popping your sleepy eyeballs wide open, cold showers provide other perks to help your productivity.

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As the cold water pours over you, your breathing deepens in response to the temperature. Your body tries to keep you warm, which increases your heart rate and activates your immune system. These body boosts can help you stay alert, focused and motivated to get your tasks done.

Detach Yourself from Your Phone

It's time to remove yourself from your phone. This can be super difficult, but it's incredibly beneficial for your productivity. When you're working on something and your phone starts buzzing, it's easy to feel tempted. Don't give in to your phone's temptations.

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Seriously, store it somewhere else. Walk away from your phone to drastically reduce the chance for interruptions. It's too easy to check the notifications and updates on your phone, so keep it at bay and stay focused on the task at hand.

Schedule Your Phone Use into Your Day

We're not suggesting you throw your phone away, of course. If you want to check it from time to time, schedule phone time into your work day. If your phone is something that never leaves your sight, it could be easier to start slow.

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See if you can pace yourself to check your phone once an hour. If that already feels like an impossible stretch, try once every half-hour. No matter where you start, what's more important is to eventually work your way up. The longer you go without checking your phone, the more time you can spend on your tasks.

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Turn Off All Notifications on Your Phone and Computer

We’ve already covered how important it is to limit your phone use and avoid distractions. Keeping yourself away from your phone is one thing, but there are other distractions on your computer. Those little notifications can be constant interruptions.

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Pop-ups, alerts and messages of any kind can be hassles that mess with your concentration. Take the time to silence all unnecessary notifications on your devices. One little banner message is all it takes to steer you away from your work.

Restrict Your Visits to Your Favorite Websites

If you're working on your computer, there are ways to block yourself from losing focus. It's too easy to head to your favorite websites, so get ahead of temptation by blocking access to these sites. There are several different web apps you can use to block the sites that cause you to lose precious time.

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Some apps like SelfControl allow you to set timed blockers on your favorite websites. Once the time passes, you are able to visit the sites again. If you're always tempted to check the news or the weather, it's a small adjustment with a major payoff.

Try to Wake Up Early — Very Early

Okay, this one sounds awful, but it could be the best way to be more productive. No one likes to wake up before they have to, but that early morning time is totally yours. You can get your most challenging tasks taken care of before anyone contacts you for other reasons.

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If a 5:00 a.m. wake up call is too much, start slow and work your way back. Not everyone is a morning person, so pace yourself by setting your alarm back ten minutes at a time.

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Limit Your Social Media Use to 15 Minutes a Day

Social media can be the biggest time suck that costs you productivity. On top of that, social media sometimes has a negative effect on your emotional well-being. Luckily for us, there are several apps that specifically track and block social media sites.

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Apps like Moment track how long you use social media apps throughout the day. Once you know your average use time, try to slowly reduce your time. If that doesn’t work, apps like Flipd and AppBlock block social media apps from working entirely.

Smiling Helps with Productivity

A smile can be a lot more helpful than it looks. The act of smiling, whether you're happy or not, can trick your brain into thinking you're happy. That smile causes a chemical reaction in your brain that releases hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

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Serotonin helps reduce stress, and dopamine increases your feelings of happiness. Having a lot of work to do can be stressful, but simply smiling through it can give you a more positive outlook on your workload.

Organize Your Work Space

Distractions can come from anywhere, including your work space. Chefs know this more than anyone else. Their fast-paced jobs call for concentration and precision in a fast-paced work environment. To help them accomplish their work, chefs use a system called "mise en place."

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It's a process that involves arranging their utensils and ingredients before cooking. If you adopt a similar method and organize your workspace to reduce lost time, you can improve your overall workflow.

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Write Down Important Things to Remember Immediately

When you let your creative juices flow, it's natural to think of new tasks or remember outstanding tasks you need to complete. But as the mind wanders, some previous thoughts get moved to the back burner.

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Carry a tiny notepad with you so you can write down your thoughts as you have them. This keeps you from forgetting your idea and helps you begin to address the task subconsciously. You can continue working on your current task and eventually go back and address your idea.

Organize Your Day with a K.I.S.S.

Not that kind of kiss. In fact, this old acronym stands for "keep it simple, stupid," which isn’t loving at all, but it can help you get things done fast. Sometimes tasks can feel overwhelming, and you're not sure where to start. Give it a k.i.s.s. and approach it differently.

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In many cases, this means breaking down your intimidating projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. Streamline your process to take care of one issue at a time, and it’s much easier to finish a big project.

Volunteer Your Time to Help Others

Remember how smiling can help with productivity? The same goes for volunteering your time to help others. Research shows that volunteering reduces stress and helps you stay mentally active. Plus, devoting time to helping others also invests in your own personal productivity.

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It's a win/win situation! You're blocking time out of your own schedule to help others, which will ultimately help you feel better. Then, when you go back to work, you return in a better mood and with a better outlook.

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Motivate Yourself with Rewards

Do you like going for an afternoon walk? A bite of chocolate? Shopping for another leopard-print article of clothing? No judgment here — go for it! But earn your reward, first. If you need to block out time to focus on a pressing task at hand, then incentivize yourself with a reward afterward.

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Delayed gratification is an easy trick to play on yourself to get your work done. A small reward at the end of a difficult work session is a healthy version of working hard and playing hard.

Mid-Day Meditations

Yes, doing "nothing" for 10 minutes a day can improve your productivity. Meditation doesn’t require a yoga mat, and you don't have to change your clothes. First, simply go somewhere quiet. Then close your eyes, breath and concentrate on your breath.

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Remove yourself from the challenges in your day and float above your tasks, if only for a moment. It can refresh your brain and keep you focused when you get back to work. Plus, it gives you clarity on what's important and what isn't.

Unfollow and Unsubscribe

The more distractions you can remove from your life, the better. So, if a newsletter or a Twitter profile you follow isn't providing any value, just get rid of them. There is nothing more satisfying than bidding farewell to unimportant distractions.

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A digital detox includes unfollowing distracting emails and social media accounts that take up time and space. Doing this once a month will reduce the time you dedicate to your inbox. It will also feel better to follow fewer unimportant social media accounts.

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Take on Tasks in Two Minutes

It's inevitable that small tasks will pop up throughout your day. When you have bigger projects to tackle, smaller tasks can be bothersome. Instead of putting off a bunch of smaller tasks, ask yourself if one of them can be accomplished in less than two minutes.

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If the answer is yes, stop what you're doing and just get it done. It's only two minutes out of your day. If it will take longer, add it to your list of things to take care of later.

Make Sleep a Priority

If you want to be more productive, focus on your sleep. When you're sleep deprived, you have more trouble concentrating on the task at hand. It's also easier to get distracted, and you have less energy to commit to important tasks.

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Sleeping can help prevent you from burnout and helps your memory stay strong. At the same time, a good night's rest curbs your chances of making any mistakes. The fewer mistakes you make, the faster your work will get done — and the happier your boss will be!

Give Yourself Some Sunlight

If you're still clinging to the concept of multitasking, do your work near natural light. Studies suggest exposure to sunlight in the morning helps you fall asleep easier at night. That means you can work on your project AND absorb sunlight at the same time. How's that for multitasking?

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Sunlight exposure is also associated with increased production of serotonin, which reduces stress, and it also helps the body produce vitamin D, which contributes to a stronger immune system. So, grab your laptop and draw back those curtains!

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Start Your Day with Something You Hate

When you have something boring or unpleasant to do, it's natural to brush it off until later. Unfortunately, the more you ignore it, the more it sits in the back of your head, distracting you from finishing your other work.

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If you know you have to get it done that day, try to make it the first thing you do after waking up. Getting it over with at the start of your day makes it much easier to do other, more enjoyable tasks for the rest of the day.

Slack Makes It Easy to Slack Off

If you communicate with coworkers using chat apps like Slack, you may be slowing down your productivity. The app claims it can "make people's working lives simpler and more productive," but beware. Being available on Slack all day makes it easy for others to distract you with comments that aren’t important.

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Being "always available" on apps like Slack could also be a main contributor to burnout. If your office requires you to use Slack, switch to its "compact" theme to silence notifications and mute unimportant group chats.

Sing to Yourself — Seriously

Believe it or not, singing provides benefits to your physical and emotional health. A University of Frankfurt study revealed singing boosts the immune system and lowers stress. Reduced stress and a stronger body are both super helpful when it comes to staying productive.

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This doesn't mean you have to start singing in the middle of your office. Serenade yourself in the shower, or sing in your car on the way to work. The effects are long-lasting for your mental alertness, concentration and memory.

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Be a Productive Procrastinator

Procrastination is inevitable for most people. The mind wanders from time to time, and that's totally understandable. The key is to learn to benefit from your procrastination. This doesn't include checking Facebook and Twitter every half-hour.

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Instead of procrastinating with something that doesn't benefit you, try something else. Set a goal to learn something beneficial so your brain can feel energized. Scrolling through tweets isn't as stimulating to your brain as reading an article in The New York Times. When you go back to work, your brain will feel refreshed and energized.

Devote a Part of Your Day to Learn Something New

Staying productive at your job means your brain needs to stay alert and energized. If you aren't doing anything outside of your work to keep it engaged, your productivity can lag. Try and learn something new in your downtime to keep your brain energized at work.

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This doesn't mean you should reach for Candy Crush or other distracting apps. Try learning a new language with an app like DuoLingo or read new recipes to try at home. Stimulating the brain in creative ways could help you think differently about other tasks.

Stop Making “Perfect” Your Goal

Everyone wants to do well at their job, but don't take it to extremes by always striving for perfection. Being perfect means you can't make any mistakes along the way, and that's way too stressful on your emotional and physical health. People are always going to make mistakes, so doing a perfect job all the time is nearly impossible.

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Any mistakes you make along the way are chances to learn how to do better, and this also applies to productivity. If you try any of these life hacks to be more productive and they don't work for you, try something else! There are many ways to boost your productivity (and your mood!) at the same time, and something is sure to work for you.

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