Productivity is a thing of the mind just as it is physical.
If your mind isn’t in the right state, it may be difficult to get things going even if you were to be phfysically strong.
So, in this article, I’ll be sharing with you some “mind hacks” that you can use to get your mind to boost your productivity.
But first, what’s a “mind hack?”
Though the word “hack” sends a sort of negative supposition (because of the often derogatory term “hacker”), in this context it is meant in a good way.
And here, hack means a tweak, a quick fix, a conditioning, or a positive manipulation.
So, “mind hack” here can be described as a conditioning or reconditioning of the mind to work better. It’s about understanding how the mind (and brain) functions and tweaking it up to work effectively, in relation to how to be more productive.
Having cleared the air on that front, let’s now look at some hacks you can use to get your mind to work more productively.
Mind Hacks to Boost Your Productivity
1. Develop a positive mindset
This is where it starts.
Someone might be working effectively, but with the wrong mindset, they may think they are not doing enough. And so will not see the good in them.
So, the first thing to do in boosting your mind productivity is to change your mentality and develop a positive attitude.
Besides making you appreciate yourself and your work more, it’ll boost your energy level, improve your performance and help you produce better results.
Conversely, the more you see yourself as unproductive, the more unproductive you will become.
It’s like producing a negative energy and reabsorbing the same to boost your productivity.
2. How to be more productive thanks to brain food
You may be wondering what I mean by “brain” food, but here’s what:
Just as there are foods that can decrease mental performance, kill brain cells and shut down the mind in a way ( example: caffeine, sugar, alcohol which causes brain fog etc.), there are also certain foods that can help make the brain work smarter.
For instance, fibres keep your energy level appreciably great and help you to be more alert. Magnesium improves learning and memory.
So, if you eat these kinds of food, you will be able to get your mind to work more effectively before long.
How to be more productive with food? Specifically, here are some foods that can boost your productivity and brainpower:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dark chocolate etc
3. Smell scents
Just as there are brain foods, there are also scents that can meliorate and sharpen the brain.
And getting a whiff of these scents will do the trick.
This is called AROMATHERAPY, the use of naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants and oil to balance, harmonize and better the health and productivity of the body and mind.
Why does this work?
Well, smell is the strongest of the senses and can profoundly influence brain activities and boost your productivity. Equally, olfactory bulbs are part of the limbic system and are directly connected to the areas of the brain that process learning and emotions.
So, getting a noseful of the right scents will improves your memory, mood, learning and focus.
Scents to smell?
Scents from lemon, citrus and herbs stimulate alertness and revitalize the senses, and also make your mind calmer and more productive.
Rosemary (not the girl) is perfect for getting rid of physical exhaustion
Cinnamon improves focus and concentration
Peppermint boosts energy and clear thinking
4. Exercise your body and brain
How to be more productive thanks to your body? When it comes to exercising for efficiency, you don’t need to go overboard with it.
Simple, less intricate exercises will do.
That’s because simple exercises improve hyper oxygenation in your brain, thereby giving you energy and making you more productive.
A simple exercise to try is workout.
Workouts improve your cognitive function, reduce the reclining memory process and fix your blood sugar regulation, making you more energized.
Then you can move on to stretching your body and taking a walk down the street or even around your home.
While physical exercise has its benefits, you can go a step further to exercise your brain, too.
Exercising the brain basically involves training the brain in some way.
For one, playing brain-enmeshed games can help you train your memory, your problem-solving capability and your ability to think fast and diversely.
Speed reading can also get the brain to perform better and improves mind productivity.
Deep meditation also works wonders, increasing the brain’s ability to focus.
5. Define Your Goals
We’ve heard a thousand times that failing to plan is planning to fail.
That couldn’t be more correct.
This means when you plan ahead, you’re prepared and you set yourself on course to accomplish tasks productively and successfully, too. But that’s not all you get.
What we’re saying, in a nutshell, is that you have to chart out your goals. Here’s how to get it done.
The first step is to brainstorm what your goals are. Start with the long-term, overarching objective. It could be something like “make X amount of dollars in Y amount of time.”
How to be more productive through the sense of accomplihsment
Whatever it is, once you have that long-term goal set, you need to break it down into smaller, short-term goals. These are the stepping stones, the benchmarks you need to hit to get this or that specific task done. Following this process of identifying a big goal then breaking it down into smaller goals helps make the task more manageable, and allows you to set a plan of action for getting it all completed.
Once you’ve got an idea of what you want to accomplish, and you’ve identified your long and short-term goals, WRITE THEM DOWN.
Planning ahead also reduces stress and helps your mind to focus on the right things. What are the right things, tough? That’s maybe the most important part. Setting the right goals of what your REALLY want and should acheive is the key.
For example, you want to speed up your business and make sure it run smoothhly. In that case, if you had a business meeting and took out some time to prep in advance for it, you will notice that you feel less nervous versus when you do not prepare at all.
Always plan your day, week, and month ahead.
Rehearse your presentations before getting in front of your audience.
Write down or “pre-think” the points and questions you’ll be raising at meetings, be it a business meeting, a Skype session, or even a date. This will help your mind stay calm and focused, keeps you free from cold sweat and makes you feel less butterflies in the stomach while blazing through in style and excellence
You can use the “SMART” system to determine whether a goal is worthwhile. The general idea is that each goal you set should be:
- Specific (simple).
- Measurable (meaningful).
- Achievable (agreed).
- Relevant (realistic).
- Time bound (time/cost limited).
6. Thin out your to-do list
How to be more productive and accomplish more? Plan less. Sounds counterintuitive? No, it isn’t.
How does thinning your to-do list condition your mind to work better?
Here’s how: If you have lots of items in your to-do list, your mind may chicken out thinking ‘THAT’S A LOT.’
So, in reducing the number of tasks in your list, not only will you have less things to do, your mind will also think in the same way.
Put differently, leaning your to-do list clears your mind and helps you stay more focused.
But what if you really have lots of tasks to complete for the day? How can you thin your list without leaving some things behind?
Well, there are a couple of things you can do.
First off, I noticed that most people include more tasks in their to-do lists than they can complete for the day. Such situations only leave them with a cluttered list, a number of undone or unfinished tasks moved on to the next day and poor performance, overall.
I do not recommend having more than 3-5 important tasks on your list.
Here are 3 methods you can use to cut down on the number of items on your to-do list:
Apply the 2-minute rule: If a task can be completed in 2 minutes, don’t include it in your “long day” list. Complete it right away.
Automate recurring tasks: If there are tasks that you do daily, weekly, or monthly, automating them will not only lean your list, but will also save you tons of time.
Apply the 70% outsource rule: If 70% of something is to be done or can be completed by another person, outsource the whole task. Good thing is, these days, there are startups that are willing to do tasks for you only if you’ll call them up and pay them a little fee. From laundering to babysitting and even to pet care, you’ll find them everywhere. You can even ask for groceries online and have them delivered to you. See?
If you can get your tasks completed more quickly (without sacrificing quality), then you open up the door to relax more (or cram in even more work, if you’re the particularly ambitious type).
Unfortunately, getting to the promised land of less time per task is easier said than done. Here are some tried-and-true methods that can aid you in the journey, rewire your minds and finally learn how to not procrastinate your tasks and to boost your productivity.
Keep this in mind, and you’ll be setting out goals for yourself in no time flat.
7. Pomodore Technique
Pomodoro technique requires the use of a timer that is aimed at helping you break down work into intervals and achieving big goals through small steps (seemingly to famous japanese Kaizen training). Traditionally, the intervals last for 25 minutes and are followed by short breaks. What’s cool is that you can use this technique no matter whether you are writing a case study or crafting a business plan for your new company. It is effective no matter what field you work in.
How does it work?
Planning, recording, visualizing, tracking and processing are among the most important aspects in the process of using the Pomodoro technique. No matter whether you need to come up with a detailed analysis of a Harvard happiness study.
Author of the method, Francesco Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer at college which later on transitioned into becoming the official name for the technique. These days, there is a website where you can set up these 25-minute intervals instead of using a traditional timer. Yet, it’s totally your call. Whatever works for you best.
Working on small parts or taking baby steps is not as scary as tackling the whole problem right away. Therefore, you are dealing with one issue at a time which eventually results in completing the task or finding a solution to the problem you have been dealing with for months.
The technique consists of six simple principles:
1. Choose the task you need to complete.
2. Set the Pomodoro timer.
3. Start working on the task.
4. End work when the timer beeps and make a checkmark on a piece of paper.
5. If you have fewer than four marks, take a 5-minute break and get back to step two.
6. When you have four pomodoros (checkmarks), feel free to take a 30-minute break. If you still have work to do, get back to step one.
To make the most of this technique, make sure you have the following tools on hand:
· A timer (either digital or mechanical)
· A piece of paper
8. Arm Yourself With Tools to Boost Your Productivity
This brings us to a unique productivity boosting step: arming yourself with the tools necessary for success. Now, this can vary, depending on what you do.
Graphic designers, for instance, will need an array of vector art, layout, and image editing programs to ply their trade. Developers will need an error monitoring tool to keep them on the right track and make them focus. Writers, on the other hand, may have more use for word processors and distraction free writing/editing programs.
Arm yourself with one of these and follow our other productivity tips, and you’ll be working less and doing more in no time flat.
These aren’t the only kinds of productivity tools out there, mind you. Thankfully, the merciful internet provides. There’s no shortage of articles from Inc., Forbes, Medium, and others that can help you hone in on your tasks. We could spend all day going over them, but here are a few that broad tool types that are of particular note:
A Good Time Tracking Tool. This will help you keep track of the time you spend working, the time you’ve spent lollygagging, and balance the two so that you can hit your stride and accomplish your goals in the period you’ve allotted.
A Bang-Up To-Do List. Earlier we mentioned writing down your goals. These apps will help you do that, and track them across multiple devices in a colorful visual format that lets you edit, prioritize, boost your productivity and manage them all with ease.
Dynamite Cloud-Based Storage. What can go wrong, will go wrong. Having your files backed up on the cloud is a smart way to ensure you don’t have to redo a ton of work should the worst come to pass. Additionally, you can easily get to your work from multiple devices if you’re having one of those hectic days that’s moving you around from place to place.
Solid Internet Blockers. We touched on them briefly earlier. These programs will restrict what you can do on the internet while you’re working by blocking certain sites during the hours you’re liable to become distracted. If you can’t access the thing that’s sucking away your time, it can suck your time away no longer.
That, of course, is but a sampling of the wider range of individual apps that exist. There are a lot out there, each geared towards different aspects of productivity boosting, so make sure you peruse the lists in full and get a good idea of what you’ll need in your arsenal to succeed.
Truth is, whether you work at home or in-office, most of your tasks would be done using a computer in one way or another. It’s the 21st century, remember.
One sure way to increase your productivity is to perform these computer-based tasks fast.
And you can do this using dictation.
For instance, by using a Speech-to-Text software to dictate to your computer instead of typing on a keyboard, you’ll be able to write faster.
Also, unlike clicking here & there and searching for files manually, using voice command to tell your computer what to do helps you operate faster, boost your productivity and get things done quickly.
Generally, this gives your mind some legerity and allows you to think fast, work, and accomplish tasks briskly.
Don’t know what tool to use?
Here’s a speech recognition software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
9. Lower your expectations
Apart from planning ahead, another hack that calms your nervous system is lowering your expectations.
Sounds absurd? Just read on let me explain.
By lowering your expectations, your mind will not be forced to expect high results.
This doesn’t mean you won’t get good results, but will only do so at a point of rest.
That’s because it’s often the expectation, not the situation, that causes disappointment.
You expect too much, but end up getting very little and disappointed. And unhappy.
When unrealistic expectations are reasonably adjusted, you can manage disappointment, to boost your productivity. and choose happiness.
Even better, this makes you more confident, allows you to relax both bodily and mentally and have more fun.
It makes you not to care about what people think, which mean you won’t be battling in your mind to prove yourself to others.
And yeah, it boost your productivity. This especially works when other people are involved and have decisions to make concerning the situation at hand.
10. Clear your clutter
One thing that we often overlook is that the setting in which we work plays a big role in how much we can accomplish. There is something about de-cluttering your environment, whether mentally or physically.
When you have too much stuff in your mind, room, garage, computer or office, you may feel perplexed, strained, and unproductive, sometimes even without realizing the cause of it.
While a cluttered environment can caused a cluttered mind, a cluttered mind is usually restless and unfocused.
So, it’s advisable that you clear out your clutter from time to time. This will help push your mind to work better, boost your productivity, create space for new and fresh ideas while unfettering and liberating you to explore your world.
Don’t know how?
Clearing out mental clutter is more or less similar to tidying your computer desktop or office desk.
It’s all about letting go.
Physically, you would have to let go of things you don’t need anymore, or things you are simply not making use of.
Mentally, you would have to let go of negative experiences (like regrets, hurtful words from others, unhappiness, resentment, fears, worries, grief etc.) and you would have to re-refine your thoughts.
A hectic work environment with a ton of distractions, for instance, is a recipe for wasting your time. Social Media, YouTube, and Email (yes, that wicked email) all serve as pitfalls that can throw you off task. If you work from home, the kids, pets, and spouse all serve as potential roadblocks between you and getting things done.
How can you handle this so that you can get back on task?
The first thing you can do is tailor your workspace to your personality and cut out all the “fat,” so to speak. When your space is decorated the way you like it, it puts you in a good mood, reduces stress, and makes it easier for you to slip into the zone and start working more productively.
Conversely, if your workspace is drab and dreary, you’ll spend more time thinking about the things you’d rather be doing other than work, which will stop your productivity dead in its tracks.
Next thing you have to do is (figuratively) kill those distractions. We talked about folks who work from home. Make sure you have your own office space and that you keep it secluded from outside influences (kids, pets, spouse) because they can (and will) interrupt you at every possible opportunity to ask some inane question (or play fetch, in the pet’s case).
Every time you’re pulled away from work, it takes a few minutes, sometimes as many as twenty, to get back in the flow of things. Shut that door, keep it locked, and don’t think twice about what’s going on in the outside world.
If you work in a proper office with co-workers or some kind of co-working space, you’re going to have to contend with people in a different way.
Your colleagues may well want to bug you about some meeting, some email, some mundane task that could probably wait until later. Here, you have to set some ground rules. Let them know that when you’re in the zone, you’d rather not be bothered.
Whether you work in a traditional office or at home, one thing that can sap your working hours is the dreaded internet. It’s easy to get caught in a YouTube rabbit hole (you swore you were just going to watch ONE cat video) and throw off your entire flow.
Instead of doing your work with a dozen browser tabs open and alerts coming at you from every which way, limit yourself to the task at hand and resist the temptation to check your messages every five minutes. There’s a wide world of site blockers and online filters to hone your focus. Make use of them to boost your productivity and maximize your workflow and output.
11. Think of the resultant effect of your inaction
This one is a little counterintuitive.
It’s about “negative” self-motivation.
Here’s how it works:
You see, people generally do not want bad things to happen to them and their loved ones. They want the best for themselves. They want to be rich and successful. They want to stay alive and also enjoy life.
Now, you can use this instinct to motivate and drive yourself and mind to work more productively.
The trick is to think of the negative things that can happen to you, your family, future, finances, dreams, relationship etc., if you don’t work hard today and meet your goals. This is negative inspiration.
You will find that just the thought of you and your loved ones suffering some day in the future if you don’t work hard today, will motivate you to actually work hard.
This hack is so powerful— even more powerful than thinking of the benefits you’re likely to get if you were to work hard and succeed. Give it a go.
You can steal some of the motivation toold from the greats.
Now, we’re not talking about plagiarizing their work. That would be wrong. What we’re referring to is studying the methods of some of the most productive humans that have walked the earth, and applying their strategies to your own situation.
Stephen King, for example, is notorious for keeping his nose to the grindstone every day. Beethoven was a coffee fanatic. Agatha Christie worked from everywhere except her desk (apparently she never owned one). Try out some different techniques from the masters of getting stuff done, to boost your productivity and see if one or more applies to you. You might find that they give you just the edge you need to become the busy little worker bee you always wanted.
12. Your Sleep is Holly
You haven’t been feeling like the most productive version of yourself lately. Do you think there’s more to achieve in a day than you currently are capable of doing?
Productivity Gurus Are Terribly Wrong: Waking Up at 6 AM Won’t Make You Successful!
You may be right. Michael Phelps has the same 24 hours we all have in a day, and yet he seems to be doing much more than the average guy his age. How does he do it?
Stephen Seiler was one of the first psychology researchers to provide scientific documentation that clarified how the most successful athletes managed to perform so well. He tracked the training routines of elite athletes in several disciplines. He found that they didn’t necessarily adhere to the “no pain, no gain” model. They actually alternated between sessions of intense work and periods of recovery and easy training.
That’s what scientific research and elite athletes will tell you: train really hard for some time, and then have a period of recovery before you repeat the extreme training. It’s a model that could work for productivity in any other profession. A writer may intensely work on their book when they feel inspired, and then have a period of light editing work and slow progression in their writer before the muse visits again.
Most productivity gurus will not tell you that your body and mind work in sessions. Most of them will tell you the same thing: start waking up early if you want to make the most out of your day. They will tell you it’s hard at first, but you can turn the early rising into a routine that would make you much more productive. And they would be wrong.
So let’s bust that myth once and for all, shall we?
Why Waking Up Early Won’t Make You More Productive
We’ll get to the scientific facts right away, but first, let’s take a real experience as an example.
George Umson, a writer, tried that strategy. “I’m usually spending at least 9 hours of my day writing. It’s a lot of time in front of the computer, so I felt like I was incapable of doing anything else once I was finished,” – he says. “So I started waking up earlier, with the intention to squeeze a morning physical practice into my daily routine.
I couldn’t do it. I just kept thinking about the work I was supposed to do and I could not focus on the exercise no matter how hard I tried. By the time I got to the computer, I felt really guilty for not starting earlier and my entire day was practically ruined.”
So what did George do? “At first, I thought I just needed to get into the routine, so I continued waking up early and doing that workout. One day, it simply hit me: I feel most inspired when I wake up, so that’s my working time. I don’t like waking up early, so maybe I should simply get my healthy sleep and work later throughout the day.
How to be more productive through changing your sleeping pattern
I work from home, so that’s a manageable routine that actually works. Don’t worry; I still exercise! I just do it in between working sessions, when I know that I need a break from work. I get energized, I take a shower, and I’m ready to continue writing afterwards. I’m not saying this system will work for everyone. I’m just saying it works for me.”
This brings us to a serious question: should we simply do what we think works for us? Now would be the perfect time to see what science says about it.
There’s something called individuality, which these productivity gurus often forget about when giving tips. They found something that works for them or some people, and they try to turn it into a universal rule. There are no universal productivity rules that apply to everyone.
Have you noticed that some of us are morning people are others are night owls? That’s because we all have our own circadian rhythms. That’s the mental, physical, and behavioural pattern throughout a daily cycle. The light-related circadian rhythm gets you to sleep at night and wake up when it’s day. It’s the biological clock that makes you sleepy and makes you feel energized at different times of the day or night.
So what’s the normal amount of sleep and what’s the normal time of waking up?
There is no rule. Researchers will tell you that sleep is related to a multitude of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors. The “normal sleep” reference varies from individual to individual, so we should simply understand and accept our own patterns.
If your circadian rhythm determines activity later in the night, you can still force yourself to wake up early. You’ll just set the alarm and drag yourself out of bed. What you cannot force yourself to do, however, is to go to sleep early to boost your productivity. Your mind will be active and you’ll just torture yourself if you go to bed at 10 PM. So you’ll practically shorten your rest, and you’ll suffer from chronic sleep deprivation if you do that consistently.
Yes; you may reset your circadian clock, but that requires individually timed light exposure. In other words, you’ll have to forget about the blinds and start letting the uncomfortable light waking you up in the early morning. It works for some people, but again: we’re all individuals and that strategy doesn’t work for everyone.
The most important question to ask at this point is: why? Why would you want to force yourself to wake up early if that makes you feel groggy for the rest of your day? You’ll still have the same number of hours being awake; you’ll just feel miserable throughout them.
If Waking Up at 6 AM Doesn’t Work as a Productivity Hack, Then What Does?
Instead of forcing yourself out of bed when you really need to sleep some more, you could do something else: monitor your body’s rhythm and identify your peak hours.
In other words, you need to find your prime time, when you feel most alert and productive.
- Understand Ultradian Rhythms
If the term circadian was complex for you, wait for this one: you also have to understand your ultradian rhythm. While the circadian rhythm determines your body’s functions over the course of 24 hours, the ultradian rhythm determines its activity within shorter period spans of few hours. Your brain works in 80-120 minute wave frequency cycles. That cycle includes activity and rest. When awake, for example, your brain is active for 90 minutes and then wants to get 20 minutes of rest.
When you force yourself to wake up early and get the most out of your day, you practically ignore your rhythm. You might wake up in the middle of a rest phase, and that’s exactly why you feel so confused and you can’t help but hit the snooze button.
So why don’t you just wake up when your body is ready for it? If you don’t have to be at work at a precise time, you can actually allow yourself such a luxury. If you do have to be at work early, don’t set the alarm clock too early. Just give yourself enough time to sleep.
When you’re awake, you have to think about resting in between working sessions. That’s how you’ll respect your body’s ultradian rhythm.
- Make an Experiment to Discover Your Activity Peaks
It’s time for a tedious spreadsheet. Don’t worry; you won’t have to do this measuring all the time. One week should be enough.
Write yourself a mark on your activity for each half an hour during the time you spend awake. You’ll do this in a spreadsheet. If you can give yourself three weeks to do this, you’ll be even more accurate in the measurements and boost your productivity.
You’ll definitely notice your activity peaks. You’ll recognize the moments of your day when you feel most awake and most active. That’s your prime time. To capitalize on it, you should schedule your most important activity for that hour of the day. If you’re focused on hard training, that’s when you should train. If you’re focused on improving your working productivity, that’s when you should do your most important work, removing your most time-consuming activities.
- Do a Morning Routine that Works for You
Some people love walking their dogs in the morning. Others enjoy a good run around the neighborhood. Some hit the gym as soon as they wake up. If it works for them, it works. What works for you?
The most important thing is to be completely awake. You’ll get that surge of energy only and only after a sound sleep. Once you get that covered, you can experiment with different routines in the morning, so you’ll see what the most efficient choice is.
About 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. In plain-speak, that means they sleep for short periods throughout the day.
Think of your poor, little dog.
Humans aren’t polyphasic, but monophasic sleepers, which means our 24-hour day is divided into two distinct periods—one for sleep and one for wakefulness.
Now, here’s the thing: Most people end up depriving themselves of sleep because of a busy lifestyle and sleep deprivation is one major cause of fatigue and unproductiveness.
Power naps can be a way of taking care of sleep deprivation, and ultimately, unproductiveness.
Equally, even if you got a good sleep at night, but feel your brain isn’t working as great as you’d like, then taking a 15-30 minutes snooze can help reset your system, get more energy and boost your productivity.
How exactly does naps connect to your mind productiveness?
Well, naps boost cognition, memory, performance, reaction times and alertness. It enhance creativity, recharges and reboots your mind, which let’s you stay on top of things.
Famous men like Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Napoleon, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein and George W. Bush are all known to have valued daytime naps.
So, next time you feel tired or unproductive, give yourself a quick boost by napping. Of course, not throughout the day.
Productivity starts from the mind. Literally.
A productive mind can get a rather unwilling body to work, but the other way round? Things mayn’t go the same.
So, it’s important you get your mind working if you want to to boost your productivity and get things done better and smarter.
There are two stages in doing this: Getting to know how to get the mind working and actually getting it working.
I’ve taken care of the first part by sharing with you these mind hacks. The other part, unfortunately, I cannot handle for you.
It’s your thing.
So, here’s what to do: Implement the hacks I’ve shared above and you’ll be able to to boost your productivity and get things done in less time.