THE BLOG
01/15/2016 12:00 pm ET | Updated Jan 15, 2017

3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Productivity

3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Productivity

All of us have goals and dreams for the future. But not all of us do what it takes to achieve those goals. We get caught up, stuck, sidetracked, and derailed. Things come up, causing us to veer off track and lose our momentum.

Yet, if we want to succeed in any endeavor we set our sights on, we have to stay productive. When we can't, our progress slows to a crawl, and potentially goes backwards when our self-limiting behavior rears its ugly head again.

However, there are ways that we can boost our productivity. While some might call these productivity hacks, simply put, they are methods that work for helping to trick your brain into getting things done. While no method is sure-fire, so to speak, these three productivity tips will help to boost your progress over time.

#1 -- Wake Up Early

While it sounds straightforward enough, most of us fail to wake up early in the morning. But it's in those early-morning hours that we're the most productive. We have clarity and focus. We aren't bogged down by our daily to-do list and distractions that interrupt our progress along the way.

Still, waking up early is hard. Often, we just want to sleep in and get those extra all-important hours of shuteye. However, there is a way to hack your routine to wake up early over time. It involves something called the micro-change approach.

How does it work? Well the goal is to wake up 2 hours earlier than you do now. Sound severe? Not when you take the micro-change approach. All habits are built up over time, no matter what they are. The simple fact is that we can't go from zero to hero overnight and expect it to stick.

All you have to do is set your clock back 15 minutes every week for the next 8 weeks. That's all it takes. The first week, wake up 15 minutes earlier than you do now. If you wake up at 7:30 a.m., set your clock for 7:15 a.m. and ensure that you wake up at that time every single morning for the next week.

Then, go back another 15 minutes the following week, and 15 minutes more the week after, and so on. This simple method slowly rewires your brain over time. It's far easier to think in increments of 15 minutes than to imagine waking up two hours earlier in the span of one day.

#2 -- Take Frequent Breaks

While most people have this industrious vision of arriving early to work, working extremely long hours, then going home only to do it again the next day after that, the reality is a little bit different than that. We can't all work ourselves to the bone and have any sense of normalcy that includes both physical and mental health.

In fact, it's often the case that those longer hours working can cause more stress on the brain. Like any other muscle, the brain gets stressed when used too much. If you've ever felt yourself overthinking for long periods with a resultant headache, then you know just how uncomfortable this might be.

The trick, if you will? Use the 52-17 rule. In a recent study, it was determined that the perfect mixture of productivity was to work for 52 minutes and take a break for 17 minutes. That specific formula will keep you highly productive throughout the day.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you should goof off for 17 minutes of every hour; it just means you should devote a very small portion of your time to relaxing your mind. If you want to boost your productivity, take 5 or 10 minutes every hour to just relax. Go ahead, and click on those cat videos!

This rule is also reinforced by something called the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the results comes from 20% of the efforts. There's a reason why this rule exists. There's a small portion of our time that's highly productive and ultimately leads to the biggest results we produce on a daily basis.

#3 -- Do One Unpleasant Thing Each Day

Arguably, this is one of the most important productivity methods you could implement over time. The fact of the matter is that all of us tend to procrastinate on things. We have things that we've been putting off for days, weeks, months, and even years for that matter.

In order to tackle the things that we tend to put off, we need to do one unpleasant thing each day. Here's how this works. Make a list, right now, of everything you've been putting off. No matter how big or small it might be, jot it down.

Then, all you need to do is grab your smartphone or any other device with a timer, and set the timer to 15 minutes. Commit to do one thing on the list for at least 15 minutes. Even if you can't finish it in 15 minutes, just commit to 15 minutes.

Why just 15 minutes? Well, the mind often has difficulty grappling with the enormity of certain tasks, especially ones that we've been putting off for a long time. But, when you commit to just 15 minutes, it's too small of a task to fail at. The mind can easily work with 15 minutes.

But, what actually happens here is that once you get going, you've built up some momentum. Even if you stop after 15 minutes, start back up again the next day for another 15 minutes. Keep going until you get it done. Just commit to 15 minutes. That's all.

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