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The Psychology of Productivity

Procrastination is something that almost everyone attempts to overcome at some point in their lives. In fact 20% of Americans are actually chronic procrastinators – which means that procrastination significantly impacts their everyday lives.

Contrary to popular belief, research has found that procrastination is not actually due to laziness, or fatigue. Instead it is usually attribute to individuals having lifestyles and habits which prevent them from taking action. The good news is that, even if you find it difficult to be productive, you can use science backed techniques to create a productivity habit.

Step 1 – Create a to do list

The most effective way to increase your productivity is to create a to do list. It sounds simple, but it can be life changing. Include at least 3 -5 items on your list, and each time you find yourself wasting time by scrolling through your phone, or watching tv, pick up your list and tackle an item on the list.

Each time you complete a task, cross the task from your todo list. The simple act of crossing the task of, will release dopamine in your brain, and make you feel more satisfied about having completed the task. This will also make it more likely that you continue on to complete another task on your to do list.

Step 2 – Put your phone on silent mode

The average American uses their phones over 5 hours each day. Imagine all the productive work you could be doing on your phone instead. The problem with our phones is that they are designed to be addictive. In fact scientists have spent years figuring out how to train your brain to feel a constant urge to use your phone.

That is why most of us end up wasting so much time on our phones. The only solution to this is to turn your phone off, or put in on silent when you are attempting to get work done. Picking your phone up for even a second by mistake, will often draw you into a long cycle of procrastination.

You can also schedule down time on your phone for a few hours a day, or place limits on how long you use your phone for each day.

Consider joining a 30 day phone detox if you find it difficult to reduce your phone use by yourself!

Step 3 – Work on your most daunting task first

When faced with tasks that appear daunting, most of us are more likely to put it off in favor for tasks that can be completed more quickly. It’s just human nature. However research has found that putting away the

If you find yourself and minor tasks, most people tend to complete the smaller tasks first, because they think they need more time for the bigger task. However putting away your biggest and most difficult task actually increases the chance that you will procrastinate.

It is best to try and knock out big tasks first thing in the morning when you are still alert. If the big task isn’t something you can do in the morning, do it as soon as possible. Taking care of the biggest task first will help you feel motivated to knock out the rest of the task on your list. You will also often find that the more difficult task took much less time then you thought it would.

Step 4 – Work in Intervals

Our brain can find it difficult to focus on any task for long periods of time. Furthermore the idea of working without a break for hours can feel overwhelming – which is why we often don’t begin working on a new task.

In order to optimize your brain and body performance, we recommend working in intervals. You can begin by working for 20 minutes, and then taking a quick 5 minute brain, in order for your brain to recuperate. .

During your 5 minute break, either go make yourself a cup of coffee, or simply stretch to help yourself refocus again. Moving your body will energize you, and help you remain more focused.

While this will increase your productivity, make sure that you do not fall into the trap of a break that doesn’t end. In order to make sure your breaks remain short, either put an alarm on your phone, or plan what you will do during your breaks in advance.

Step 5 – Set deadlines & reward yourself

Don’t just write tasks in your to-do list without setting a deadline for when they will be completed. Deadlines will ;help move you closer to your goals and allows you to experience wins along the way. Small wins will ultimately help you stay more focused, and more productive.

Deadlines also directly impact your time and force you to prioritize your tasks. While creating a deadline, you should be realistic, but also consider putting some time constraints to encourage you to work harder.

Make meeting your deadlines into a challenge. Each time you meet a deadline reward yourself with something that you love. Research has found that eating a tiny bit of chocolate after any action, makes it more likely that you will do it again – even once you stop eating the chocolate. So rewarding yourself for meeting your deadlines will create a cycle of you wanting to meet your deadlines in the future. And it will help you develop a productivity habit.

Step 6 – Focus on one task at a time

Research has found that our brains are much work at multitasking that we think they are. In fact multitasking can reduce your productivity by as much as 40%. What specifically reduces your productivity is the act of shifting your attention from one task to another. Each time you shift your attention, you lose valuable time.

You will have fewer distractions if you focus on one task at a time. You won’t waste any time, and you will probably be able to finish your tasks faster than the time allocated for them. If you focus on too many tasks simultaneously, you will end up with lower work quality and reduced efficiency, and you may find it hard to retain as much information as you would have done had you focused on a task.

Additional Tips to be productive

Always carry around a notepad

Keep a diary or a notepad with you throughout the day for when you come up with ideas. Writing down the ideas will help prevent distractions. You can check the ideas out at end of the day to see whether you should add them to your to-do list.

Carve out a comfortable workspace and keep it clean.

Research has shown that people are more productive and energized when working in a place filled with things that make them feel comfortable. Take your time to choose the best prints or posts to fill your walls with, add good lighting, and arrange your office furniture in the layout you like best. It doesn’t matter whether you have an office to yourself or you are sharing with others. Ensure you create a comfortable space where you can be productive. You may get stressed if your place is too cluttered because you may find it hard to find the things you need. 

Drink Enough Water (8 OZ/8 times a day)

It is hard to focus when you are dehydrated since it can lead to impaired concentration and energy. Water has many benefits. It improves your focus and helps your body function properly. Drink cold water if you are feeling sleepy or sluggish when doing your task. It will wake you up instantly. Adding reminders to drink water throughout the day will help keep you hydrated. Also, ensure you drink at least 8 oz of water when you wake up in the morning. You can place a large jug or can of water on your nightstand if you are the type that finds it hard to get out of bed once in it.

Eat Healthy food

You won’t be able to focus if you are hungry. Carve out time to have your meals and make sure you eat healthy foods. Avoid snacking while working as it may lead you to overeat.

Play Music

Yes, you read that right. Research suggests that you can boost your energy and remain alert if you play upbeat music. Of course, this depends on the type of task you are doing. If you are reading, this may not be the best option for you. But if you are doing manual labor, listening to fast music will help you work faster. Play upbeat songs if you are feeling drowsy and watch as you regain your energy!

Wake Up Early

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the biggest worm. Getting up early allows you to start working while your mind is alert and active and gives you more time to cross out some of the day’s tasks. You will feel a lot better if you wake up early than you would if you wake up late. You won’t have to rush through your tasks, and you will have enough time to meditate, exercise, or do other things that you won’t normally do when you wake up late on a busy day. 

Waking up early will also allow you some cushion time to slowly transition into your day. Make sure that

Download Efficiency Improvement Apps  

Many apps can make you more efficient, thereby improving productivity. You can download planners, meeting schedulers, and other productivity software. These tools can help you focus more on your tasks and get them done fast. They can also support your goals and save you time by performing tasks you set up. There are automated apps that can help you schedule calls and emails and send them out on time.


Working out is another way to increase productivity. The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to see results, do some home exercises for 20-30 minutes each day. Exercising helps keep your mind alert and, it also makes you feel good. If you are too busy, you can add little things to your day to help you in the long run. You can take the stairs instead of elevators, and you can walk rather than drive.

Get enough sleep (at least eight hours every night)  

When you sleep, your brain refreshes itself, processes information, and consolidates memories. Lack of sleep can limit concentration and affect decision-making. The ideal sleep length is eight hours a night. It will help boost productivity and brainpower. You won’t have to skip sleep if you plan your day well.

Stick to a habit you want to develop

Plan short-term goals if you want to develop a long-term habit. If a long-term method feels unachievable to you, you can start with short-term goals. For example, if your long-term goal is to run 10k every morning, you can begin with 1k or 2k every morning till you work your way up.

Eliminate a habit you want to lose  

Just like creating a habit, if you have a long-term habit you want to stop, you can start by ending short-term habits. For example, if you have a habit of checking your phone eight times per day, you can start by checking it six times daily till you get to your goal. Stopping a bad habit will improve your productivity.

Cut out tasks that waste time

Cutting tasks depends on whether they produced the majority of your results or not. You can remove these tasks if you notice that they don’t add anything to your day or you. Another option is to delegate the tasks to a colleague or automate them using different productivity/automation tools.

Learn to say no.

It is not good to be overly agreeable. Saying no when your plate is full will help you out. If you feel you can’t handle something, you shouldn’t go forward with it as it would only cause you stress. Read a book or listen to podcasts to learn how to say no assertively and with respect.

Declutter and throw things away.

Your physical environment can impact your productivity. You don’t need to work in a cool office a clean space is all you need. You will waste more time than necessary if you always hunt for things you need.

Learn to ask for help

This is not the time to be prideful. Ask your colleagues, experts, or boss for help if you come across a problem that you cannot solve. The truth is that smart people ask for help. If you work alone, you can watch videos or listen to podcasts to solve your problem. Reading about something will help you know about it and will also help you execute it. There are many books, articles, and podcasts that talk about how to be more productive. Listen to them.

Put motivational quotes in your office

Motivational quotes can help you be productive so, why not fill your workspace with them? Place them on your laptop, walls, desk, and even on the background of your devices. Change up the quotes if you think they are getting stale.

Bask in the Sun

Research has shown that people that don’t get sunlight tend to be depressed. You will boost your alertness and productivity when you take out time to go outside.

Revise and Improve your tasks

Reviewing what you have accomplished will let you see what you can improve on. You can note down what you think needs improvement and incorporate it into your plan. It is the time to decide what tasks to keep and what to discard.

Reduce/Cut-off your TV Screen Time

People that spend too much time in front of the television are less likely to be active. Studies have shown that excess screen time can lead to insomnia, obesity, etc. And reduced screen time can lead to lower BMI, improved sleep, lower BMI, reduced aggression, and improved social behavior. You can use the time you would’ve spent in front of the tv to brainstorm new ideas and projects.

Solve a problem or finish a long-overdue task  

You probably have that one task that you keep postponing but never do. Create the time to finally knock it off your list. You don’t even have to do it perfectly. Getting it done is enough. You may be unable to reach your goal without doing that task.

Be accountable to someone

Automated systems notify you of tasks, but they don’t work for all assignments. You can rely on another person to support you when these systems don’t work.

Create weekly and monthly goals

Even if you have a long-term goal, you can break it into steps to help you achieve it. If you have a big objective that you want to accomplish in a year, you can break it down into monthly goals. The same goes for monthly goals. You can break them into weekly goals and break weekly goals into daily goals. For example, if your year goal is to build a house, you can set monthly goals on the amount of money to save, the land to buy, etc. Also, ensure you write down all your goals in your planner.

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