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How To Be More Productive - 35+ Practical Ways And Habits To Get Things Done Faster, Better and More Easily

To be more productive I searched for the best productivity boosting tips. Here are the 35+ best productivity tips to get you more organized, focused, and more productive.

How To Be More Productive - 35+ Practical Ways And Habits To Get Things Done Faster, Better and More Easily

from Kirstin Hartman
I love to learn how to do things and write about it. This is, why I am so proud to be part of HTD Central!

We all know how tough it can be to be productive at work. From jotting down notes to sending out those endless emails, there are a million and one things that can distract us from getting work done. Not to fear though, we’ve assembled the ultimate list of tips to boost your productivity at work. From improving your mindset to streamlining your workflow, these simple tips will help boost your productivity levels, and keep you focused!

1. Do your most unpleasant task first

Have you ever put off a task for another day because you were dreading it, only to realize that making that task your first of the day freed you to tackle other, more enjoyable, tasks?

Enter the 5-Minute Rule, a strategy made famous by Dr. Covey, who found that putting off unpleasant tasks to the beginning of the day can indirectly fuel productivity, and that when you postpone unpleasant tasks, those tasks actually become unpleasant.

The 5-Minute Rule states that if you tackle your most difficult task first, you can accomplish more than if you tackle it last. The 5-Minute Rule has been successful across industries, from business to medicine.

2. And then: Do most Important Tasks second

So, you have a lot of things to do and you want to get all of them done. Your first instinct might be to try and put them in order, but that could be a mistake. Studies have shown that making a list of all the things you have to do can actually make you less productive. Maybe it's because your brain can't focus on more than one thing at a time. So, instead of wasting time fretting over the order in which you do tasks, consider doing the most important tasks first. That way, when you're done, you'll feel like you've accomplished something and your brain will have maxed out.

3. Stop multitasking

'The biggest productivity hack I've ever found was to stop multitasking,' writes Tim Ferriss. 'When I focus on one task, I finish 60% faster than when I juggle several at once.' That way, our to-do lists start and end with the most important tasks. If you want to accomplish more, you need to break the routine. Don't do email during your breakfast, lunch, or coffee break. Don't surf the internet during two-thirds of your evening. Don't check Facebook during 20% of your workweek. Instead, take breaks and dedicate time to one task.

4. Never start your morning with checking emails

Looking at emails first thing in the morning is a habit that millions of people follow. But unless you plan on spending 30 minutes each morning answering your emails, this habit is not only unproductive, it will make you feel worse at the end of the day. By switching your morning focus to throwing out of bed, showering, taking a walk, and reading a few pages of a book, you can start your day feeling energized and happier.

We spoke to dozens of productivity experts and discovered that starting your day with email is counterproductive. For starters, it steals your precious time—you're spending it doing something you should be doing later in the day. It also creates stress, since you're focused on something that can't be completely ignored—something that constantly demands your attention. But best of all, starting your day with emails causes you to feel guilt and remorse, since you're allocating your time to email instead of something more meaningful.

5. The 25+5 Rule

The Pomodoro technique is a simple time management method that was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, but it's become popular in recent years. The method advocates breaking work tasks into 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks between intervals.

The Pomodoro Technique was initially developed as a time management tool to help people with "procrastination issues", but the above quote also shows that Cirillo was concerned with productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique is centered around a 25-minute timer, which is set by the user. At the start of a Pomodoro, the user starts the timer and works for 25 minutes. They must stop work when the timer goes off, and take a short break (5 minutes) before restarting the timer. The timer does not stop automatically, so the user must remember to turn it off and take the break, or else it will continue to run continuously.

6. Set SMART goals

Did you know that goal setting can be twice as effective when you make it SMART?

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They're simple, and they work. In fact, the chances are you've already used them. When you set out to buy a new car, you set a goal. Or when you lose weight, you set a goal. When you set out to achieve a new career goal, you give it the same treatment. And, if you're like most people, you've set goals for many things in your life—and achieved many of them.

7. Focus on the 20 Percent - 80 Percent of your time

The beauty of the 80/20 Rule is that it can be applied to everything. No matter where you are in life, you can apply this productivity formula. The 80/20 Rule for productivity has been shown to work it many different fields, including business, investing, sales, and operations. In fact, the 80/20 Rule for productivity is so influential that some companies, like Google and Facebook, even wrote their own versions of the 80/20 Rule for productivity.

The 80/20 Rule for productivity states that 20 percent of your efforts will yield 80 percent of your results. This concept is relevant to all areas of life, and as you'll discover, it can be applied in everything from your relationships with friends and family to your fitness routine.

One way to apply the 80/20 Rule to productivity is to review your habits and create an action plan for improving your 20 percent. You will want to focus first on the 20 percent of activities that are most important.

8. Plan in small steps

It's never easy to make decisions in big, hairy, stressful situations. To stay sane, you need to focus. Focusing on action steps helps you make clear, rational decisions. To do this, you need a clear plan. A plan creates a list of actions -- each one associated with the next -- that give you a clear path to your goal.

Using Consistency and Lists:

  1. Make sure everything is written down. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing something important, or forgetting something important.
  2. Write a list of each action step. Then, chunk each action step into substeps.
  3. Lastly, ask yourself: "What are the outcomes of each substep?"
  4. Finally, ask yourself: "What are the consequences if each outcome doesn't happen?"
  5. Then, take each action step and forget your higher goal: it will come while doing the small substeps.

9. Limit your working time per day

Productivity is the ratio of the total amount of work that you can achieve in a given amount of time. For example, if you work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, you're producing 1,000 hours of work per year. But productivity can also be the ratio of the total amount of work you can do in a given amount of time. For example, if you work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, you produce 1,000 hours of work. But suppose you can only do 2 hours of quality work in a 8 hour day. Your productivity is now 20% (2 hours/8 hours).

Time management is a discipline that can help you be more productive in all areas of your life. We tend to overestimate our abilities. After a time, we lose motivation. It's easy to become distracted. And we can fall into the trap of working longer hours simply because we're afraid to say "no" because it means we aren't a team player or the "go-to" person.

10. Combine similar tasks to one process

Batch Processing is the process of running a set of instructions in sequence, without suspending or interrupting the ability to work on the current task.

If you start a task by doing another similar task, chances are you'll see results sooner, and you'll enjoy the process more. If you get all your chores done, you'll still feel like your day was productive.

11. Assign your priorities

From leading productivity experts Paul Dempsey, Matthew Kelly, David Allen, and more, Covey Quadrants is a practical action plan for reaching goals, becoming more productive, and increasing happiness. The quadrants of the Covey system are:

  • The urgent/important quadrant: This quadrant includes anything that requires immediate attention. This quadrant usually includes emails, voicemails, and phone calls
  • The important/not urgent quadrant: This quadrant includes important but non-urgent, or long-term, tasks.
  • The not important/urgent quadrant: This quadrant includes tasks with little value or importance.
  • The urgent/not important quadrant: This quadrant includes anything that can be done immediately but is of little value.

12. Use a calendar to track your daily goals

While to-do lists are indeed helpful, getting recharged and refocused on a regular basis is a bigger challenge. According to psychology professor Laura Vanderkam, most people just haven't figured out how to accomplish 40 percent of their to-do list. To help you finally get rid of checked boxes, Vanderkam suggests using a calendar. "It's a lot easier to keep track of things on a calendar. And, then use that calendar to update your to-do list. You should set deadlines for when you're going to complete the tasks. And, at the end of each week, review your calendar to see where your time went and how productive you were. If things aren't working out, try scheduling tasks differently."

13. To be more productive, you must review your done tasks once per week

Why? Because if you review your done tasks once per week, you'll see what's working and what isn't.

14. Celebrate your flow

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

Flow productivity is an application that helps people consciously enter flow. It is a methodology that draws on theories of flow and productivity from different areas of science, including psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience. In flow productivity, we help people optimize their abilities by helping them focus on an activity, clear their minds, and deepen their connection and enjoyment with the activity and their work environment.

15. The 60 Seconds Productivity Rule

It helps to set the tasks into task batches of 60 seconds each, with 15- or 30-second breaks between batches. The book "The 60 Seconds Productivity Rule" is a management book by Peter Bregman and explains the theory behind the rule, shows examples of how the rule works in real organizations, and shares a collection of 60-second productivity rules that are proven to work.

16. Structurize your procratination

CEOs say that procrastination is one of their biggest challenges. According to a 2013 study by Harvard Business School, the #1 reason that CEOs say they fail to achieve strategic objectives is because of a lack of readiness. Employees report that 84% of senior managers are chronically late to meetings. Nearly 80% of managers admit to procrastination.

Limit your procrastination to an hour a day. Here's how.

  1. Decide why you're procrastinating.
  2. Identify the tasks that contribute to your procrastination.
  3. Decide how much time you have each day to procrastinate.
  4. Find the tasks you procrastinate on.
  5. Cut down on the tasks.

17. Write down your personal mission

A mission can be simple. It can be as specific as "I want to lead a healthy lifestyle." Or it can be as general as "I want to complete a creative project." But if it has meaning to you, a mission can help you focus your energy.

A mission can also be motivational. Having a purpose can help you keep working toward your goal. And, as research shows, giving yourself a mission can inspire you to learn, grow, and succeed.

Start by writing down your mission. List what the mission is, why it's meaningful to you, and what you want to accomplish.

It doesn't matter how long you've been living on this earth or what your background is. This exercise will help you focus your thoughts, work with others, and grow as a person. As you'll discover throughout this book, having a mission is a 21st-century superpower.

18. Wear Headphones with relaxing music

How to achieve better focus? With relaxing music. Many people, especially those focused on productivity, believe that listening to music while working makes you more productive. With a playlist of calm music in the background, you can focus more on your work. Like in a funnel of concentration.

19. Write down every idea

Writing down ideas is a way of protecting them, says the psychologist.

Not all ideas are worth writing down. But if you find yourself thinking about what you might do differently, or you suddenly have a brilliant idea, it is worth your time to write it all down.

Writing down your brilliant ideas not only protects them from disappearing, it also improves your ability to recall them.

Psychologists call this the "rich-get-richer" effect, a phenomenon in which writing down more ideas actually makes you more creative.

"The reason? Writing better ideas down improves performance," says research psychologist Elizabeth Dunn of the University of Texas at Austin.

"Whenever people practice a task, it improves their performance," Dunn says. "Whenever they're exposed to a novel task, it improves their performance. So there's no way to know what the mechanism is here, but we do know that there is a positive correlation between idea generation and idea production."

20. Plan micro-tasks

Everyone has his/her time. Some watch TV, while for others, it's working or sleeping. And, there's one more way to spend time: Micro-tasks.

Basically, micro-tasks, are small jobs, that can be done from anywhere. In other words, micro-tasks are jobs that you can do while you're commuting, waiting for the bus at home or at your office.

21. Adopt small every-day habits to boost your productivity

Just one tiny change - from keeping your to-do list to following Inbox Zero - can dramatically improve your productivity. Or how, by switching from one task to another on the horizontal plane, you can boost your chances for getting stuff done.

Norman B. Lattner, a time management scholar, suggests we adopt 10 simple habits that, when put into practice, can help us become more productive.

"You can improve your productivity by 10% to 15% by changing the habits that have the most effect on your productivity," he says.

22. Restrict your phone usage

What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If you're like almost two-thirds of smartphone users, you reach for your phone. Many check Instagram or Facebook. Others fire up email. All have one thing in common: You can't check your phone without opening it.

"The average person spends 57 minutes on their phone each day," says James Lee, a neuroscientist and cofounder of MIT-based startup Cycle. He believes cell phones cause stress because they disrupt our natural rhythms, which makes us less productive.

Restrict your phone usage for more productive time. You can block certain apps and apps from appearing on your home screen. You can cut off all communication with the outside world: no phone calls, no emails, no social media. At least for a strict defined time of the day.

23. Visualize yourself having accomplished your goals

Visualization seems to be an effective tool for gaining focus and strengthening willpower. But does it really work?

When we visualize ourselves accomplishing our goals, does that actually make us more likely to succeed? By examining existing research, a RAND study is trying to answer that question.

A RAND researcher took 78 volunteers to a virtual art museum. They were asked to look at 10 images of paintings, and to imagine themselves alone in one of the rooms looking at another. One group was asked to pretend that they were thinking about their physical health. Another was focused on financial health. A third was asked to think about a romantic relationship.

"The results of the study suggest that visualizations of a positive attitude toward future goals may help participants increase motivation to pursue those goals and strategies for accomplishing them," says study co-author Maria Konovalova, a RAND psychology researcher.

So, yes: This ancient technique cultivates the mind-set of a champion.

24. Create behavioral templates to be more productive

These templates work like placebos, priming our brains to make positive choices.

Our natural responses to problems are often automatic. We're hard wired to respond to people, places, and situations in ways that make sense at the time.

While we don't often think of these automatic reactions as rational, they are actually rooted in deep brain networks—and research may one day help us design ways to enable people to make better choices.

"This is an enormous opportunity for neuroscience—and fashion," says Harvard professor Rafael Grossmann. He studies behavioral aesthetics, or the science of how we react to clothing, and is the coauthor of a recent paper in Nature Neuroscience.

25. Create checklist for big tasks

Checklists can be your friend if you have a big task and maybe the secret to success. Once you setup every single task on a checklist, you only have to work on every single task until it is done and you can strike it. When you striked every single task on the list, congrats: You reached your goal!

26. Avoid beeing overwhelemd: Learn to say no

The key to avoid being overwhelmed is learning to say "No" on things you neither have the time nor the expertise for. If you have time, they say, you've got it all. You're never too busy.

Then something unexpected happens. You somehow find yourself with 10, 20, or 30 new tasks on your plate—or worse yet, no room on your to-do list at all. It's tempting to say "Yes" to everything. But that's a recipe for being overwhelmed, burned out, and stressed out.

27. Purge existing commitments periodcally

Studies have shown that periodic renewal, or "Purge," can reinvigorate your life. By clearing your slate of old commitments, you'll gain freedom to try new things, and, as a result, experience a sense of purpose and accomplishment. There's no right way to do a Purge, so try a few different methods and see what works best for you.

28. The 50-30-20 rule

This rule is a guideline for increasing your productivity, and it's based on neuroscience.

The idea behind this "rule" – to schedule work, play, and rest in daily increments of 50-30-20 – has been around for hundreds of years.

In 1859, Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi proposed a new concept: "Scheduled Rest," or "Risposta al Rest." Quarenghi found his inspiration in ancient Roman architecture. For him, the built environment, and the human body within it, were like machines. Builders needed to ensure that they maintained their machines, and humans needed to arrange their days in the same manner as their machines.

The concept was popularized in the Western world by Swiss psychiatrist, educator, and writer Sigmund Freud.

Countless people have referenced it for their days, and for years, we've heard it recommended as a strategy to live by.

29. SUCCES to keep your ideas in mind

When it comes to making your ideas stick, there are two main things that determine how well your idea gets adopted: Do people believe in it? and Can they understand it? If an idea is believable, people say, "I get it." If they can understand it, they become "buy-in" to the concept.

Since 50% of communication is nonverbal, people-watchers know that body language is a strong indicator. Their eyes indicate whether a message is delivered effectively. Their facial expressions say whether the message is credible. Their head movements indicate whether they are convinced.

30. Sleep longer

Americans complain about their lack of sleep. Today's sleep schedules are crazy, and we don't get enough high-quality sleep. Unfortunately, many remedies are gimmicks. A sound machine, for example, is no substitute for real sleep. Sleep is underrated. In fact, it's critical. And it's not just about feeling rested and energized. Research suggests that sleep directly affects our memory, focus, and judgment. Plus health!

31. Wake up earlier

Waking up early is the best way to be more productive. Waking up early will give you the energy you need throughout the day, and by waking up early, you will be more likely to accomplish your goals.

To become more productive, we spoke with productivity consultant, Brian Fanzo, who covers this topic in his book, The Productivity Project. If waking up earlier is something you want to do, Fanzo has a few great suggestions. He explains, "You really need to go to bed earlier, because when you wake up earlier, it's easier because you're already awake."

We also spoke with productivity expert, Dr. Brent Phillips, who agrees. He says that "when you're in that higher chronophase—that early period of the day—you're more inclined to get up and do things, you're less tired, you're more awake."

32. When you start one thing, you should stop another thing to stay focused

When a new task, project, or goal comes into your life, it's easy to start at the beginning and work forward. But all too often, people get distracted along the way and start to feel overwhelmed. It's harder for you to get anything done.

Whether you're starting a new project at work, planning a vacation, or running a marathon, this habit will help you stay focused. It's easier to get started when you've stopped. So force yourself to stop one thing as soon you want to let a new thing in your life.

33. Structure your thinking

Mind maps are a powerful tool for organizing and structuring information. Mind maps help you keep an overview of your ideas, and structure your thinking. They are a great tool to use If you find it hard to structure your ideas, or structure your thinking. Mind maps help structure your thinking by helping you organize your ideas into different branches and levels. Mind maps can help you generate new ideas. Mind maps can help you structure your thinking. Mind maps can help generate new ideas.

34. Always have pen and paper with you to write down every idea or task that come in your mind

One of the best-known tools of philosophers and writers such as Kierkegaard, John Cage, and George Orwell is the pen and ink notebook. The effect, experts say, is that it forces the mind to wander with less resistance, allowing thoughts to flow freely.

Psychologists and psychiatrists say that a "thinking through writing" process reduces stress and fear. It's not uncommon for patients to keep journals of symptoms, treatments, and outcomes.

"It's a way of describing what is going on," said David Seah, associate research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "It's a way of opening up more."

Wes Brown, a psychologist and professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said keeping a journal also helps to "get things in writing," making it easier to remember them.

I still use the Moleskine notebooks. For me, writing things down in a journal is one of the most effective methods of framing problems and brainstorming solutions. And Moleskine has some of the best notebooks on the market. One feature I love about Moleskine is how slim it is. You can put these notebooks in the pocket of your pants, and they're thin enough that they won't take up much room. It's the perfect size for a notebook.

The best part of Moleskine is how durable they are. You can throw it in your bag, use it in all kinds of conditions, and when you bring it back home, it's still perfectly in tact.

35. Take time for yourself

Making time for yourself may be difficult, especially with all the responsibilities you face. But making time for yourself will help you accomplish more, keep your perspective, and feel more energized. Set aside a specific block of time every day for yourself, and use it to do something you enjoy, whether it's reading a book or practicing a new hobby, or doing something that helps you relax, like listening to music or going for a walk.

36. Drink more water

A Harvard professor says you must.

Positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman says water can help people be more productive and creative. His 2012 book, Flourish, is full of tips about how water helps you work better, from exercising to sleeping better.

"The more hydrated you are, the better your cognitive decisions are made," says Seligman, who studies the science behind happiness. "We know that decisions are poorer when we're not hydrated. But if you're dehydrated, you're probably also fatigued, which means you're not going to be productive."

"We can make hundreds of decisions a day, and each one is a decision of the brain," he says. "If you're dry, you're not making as many of these decisions as you could be."

In conclusion, with the tips above, your productivity will skyrocket. Feel free to tell us about your best productivity-trick, we are happy to hear about it! And maybe it is not yet on our list :)

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