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How to improve your productivity

I’m always looking for ways to improve productivity.  Rather than just working more, I want to work smarter and get more done in less time.  That gives me more time for the things I really want to do in life, like spending time with my family or just plain relaxing.  I found this video today and it packs a TON of incredibly useful information in 3 short minutes.  This is a no-brainer video to watch, there are enough ideas that there’s no way your productivity won’t improve if you put even one idea to immediate use.

Following are links to the sources used in the video if you want to delve deeper.

Willpower is a finite resource

Most parents know this – it’s a lot harder to be a good parent at 8pm than 8am.  Scientifically this is called ego depletion; I call it too tired.

Getting started really is the hardest part

And it has a name too – the Zeigarnik Effect.  When it comes to big projects, we tend to visualize the hardest parts and that prevents us from starting.  I can’t think of a better way to improve productivity than to actually do the work.

We use busy work to procrastinate

When we have big work to do, our brains simulate real work by doing small, mindless tasks that feel like work.  That certainly puts checking the email obsessively in perspective for me.  The research on this can be found here.

Focus on the hard stuff

Deliberate practice is a method used by elites in all fields.  It means focussing on harder, specific tasks for a period time.  If we were basketball players, that would mean doing specific drills for a couple of hours instead of just playing.

Improve productivity 90 minutes at a time

It’s impossible to maintain our energy through the whole day.  It’s much easier for our brains to work when it knows there will be a break coming up.  I use the 90 minute work/break cycle myself and it has done wonders for me.  You can learn more about ultradian rhythms and the research behind it here (if you want, there’s a whole book about it too).  I’ve also put the 10-15 minute breaks to use too by taking a walk or doing kettlebell exercises.  I come out of my breaks feeling energized and ready to get back to work.

We need deadlines and accountability

Deadlines work – and research backs it up.  Ask any student how productive they are in the 24 hours before an assignment is due vs the week before.  Accountability – aka tracking progress – is important too as it improves self-control.  I’ve started using the Accountability Chart shown at 1:56 in the video with great results.  It’s like checking off a to-do list but even better because it helps me avoid mindless busy work too.

And finally – stop multitasking

I used to think multitasking was good – and that I was good at it.  Now I know that focused, sustained work is MUCH more productive.  Science backs this up – multitaskers are less productive even though multitasking makes us feel good.  Time to pare back & FOCUS!

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I write about life as a creative, life as an adult with ADHD, good reads, and bad jokes. Plus: comics.

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I write about life as a creative, life as an adult with ADHD, good reads, and bad jokes. Plus: comics.

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