A lot of the hang-ups you’re probably struggling with look like one thing on the surface, but they’re really something else at their roots.
Don’t worry, though.
We’ve got your back with these tricks and hacks to keep your goals on track…
Structure is important.
Consistency is important.
Stability is important.
These are characteristics that actually beg productivity.
Being unfocused, unproductive, and unmotivated are classic side effects of systemic problems that have surprisingly simple cures.
Get some sleep!
Morning routines are invaluable to the life of an entrepreneur. Poor sleep is the key ingredient in the recipe for bad business.
Although all-nighters might make you feel superhuman in the moment, they can throw you way off course.
The next few days will morph into frantic, yet yawn-ridden matches of catch-up rather than fruitful, focus-filled ventures.
Try going to bed at the same time every night – or at least get as close as you can to adhering to a sleep schedule.
It doesn’t have to be precise to the minute, so yes, you can stay up until your hockey team is done playing. But then it’s time to snooze.
See if you can set an everyday alarm on your phone and actually stick to it. This will keep your melatonin production and circadian rhythm in the loop about when you are in work mode and when it’s time to hit the hay.
Your alarm clock is your friend, not your enemy. Please do not smash it into oblivion with a sledgehammer.
Don’t hesitate to plug in your favorite song as the tone. Hearing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” at the crack of dawn would make greeting the day much less painful.
Ditch your irregular trash-heap of a diet (no offense).
Get that milkshake off of your desk.
Don’t you know that cost you four whole dollars?
Do you think that is feeding your brain what it needs?
I bet you didn’t even know that you could score an entire well-rounded, already-prepared, fresh, delicious paleo meal for less than twice that.
This prevents you from eating out or trying to eat cheap – or worse, both.
Admittedly, the thought of signing up for a meal service sounds like some hoity-toity 1% crap, but there are some affordable ones out there that totally deliver on the flavor front.
The beauty here is two-fold, so pay attention.
Of course the meals are pre-planned and proportioned healthily (making sure you’re not overeating just because you have access to giant amounts of food).
The other side of this coin is that having all of your culinary endeavors sorted out before you even get out of bed in the morning means that you are saving inordinate amounts of time.
Time you could spend being productive.
Think of the collective hours you spend deciding where to eat next, actually driving there and back, waiting for your food, and paying for it.
Cooking at home? The same principle applies.
Grocery shopping, prep and cook time, dishes and cleanup. We’re talking quite a bit of energy and clock ticks that you could save with a meal plan.
Some of them come out to about $7 per meal, but think about it this way:
Would you pay $21 for a 26-hour day instead of the standard 24-hour one?
You’d be parting with an Andrew Jackson in exchange for the superhuman ability to create time out of thin air. Can you say, “WORTH IT”?
It’s not just about what you eat, though. Keeping your meal schedule regulated and eating around the same time every day will make a difference as well.
Staving off hunger while you’re trying to keep your nose on or near the grindstone means that you’re resisting one of the most powerful distractions known to man… SNACKS. *shudders*
P.S. DRINK A TON OF WATER.
Sufficient hydration is essential for healthy brain function and helps clear mental fog, keeping you on the ball. Looks like your middle school P.E. coach was right, just this once
Your desk is a freaking mess.
When you are elbow-deep in clutter, it is extra challenging to buckle down.
Keeping folders and documents in neat piles on your desk – or even better, not on your desk at all – allows you to focus on the task at hand without being jerked out of the productivity zone.
Get into the habit of clearing your workstation at the end of every day. Put away what needs to be put away so you can kick down your door the next morning and sit down to a clean slate.
Hitting that reset button does wonders for the think tank.
An 8-hour workday doesn’t have to suck you dry.
Adding a touch of structure to your schedule can help relieve that rush of mid-afternoon fatigue that washes over you daily like a tidal wave.
To prevent this, break your workday up into 2-3 hour chunks of uninterrupted focus on different things.
When you move on to the next task, don’t carry the previous one with you. That’s how hours bleed together into a driveling slop of soul-crushing monotony.
One thing at a time.
Pay attention to how you spend (and waste) your precious time.
None of us really know exactly how much time we are throwing away on a daily basis.
Without facts and figures to shock us into overhauling our lifestyles, how are we ever supposed to change anything?
Give this a try: track your time on a spreadsheet over the course of a month or so. Make categories that apply to your routine and log how many hours you spend doing each activity.
Some examples could be exercising, eating, spending time with your friends or spouse, shopping, working, scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, and so on.
If you want to get really specific, you can even split the Netflix category up into “Watching” and “Waiting for the next episode to load, for Pete’s sake.”
The rat race is so all-consuming that most of us mindlessly participate without realizing how inefficient it’s making us. Breaking things down and quantifying them lets you visualize and comprehend how pervasive (and destructive) your habits truly are.
Hopefully, this will not inspire existential dread and anxiety in you. It’s actually a much-needed opportunity to break free from the cycle of unproductivity that you’ve grown so accustomed to. Chances are that you didn’t even know you were stuck.
Pro tip: You can also try this exercise with tracking how you spend your money.
You’ll be like, “Who the heck spends $128 on alcohol in one week?”
“How does that even happen?”
“I need to get it together.”
Shrink your inner circle – Yes, that means you will have less friends. It’s okay, we promise.
It is perfectly healthy to be picky about your network! Is it scary to end friendships? Sometimes. Is it necessary to end friendships that are a disservice to your growth? Always.
Look at Spongebob. He only has 2 friends, and he’s as happy as a clam. Happier, even.
Remember that it’s okay to have standards. If someone is holding you back, it could be time to kick them to the curb and minimize your network. Quality > quantity.
By that same token, don’t be afraid to spend time with people who are “better” than you, aka people who have what you want.
Jealousy won’t serve you here, so view them as shining examples that you can learn from instead of competition.
Your immediate surroundings have a monumental impact on the way you behave and the habits you develop. The inner circle that you chisel out of the crowd should challenge you intellectually and embody the values that you hold dear.
You can’t become what you haven’t seen or heard. Surrounding yourself with those who are currently killing the game should inspire you and remind you that it is totally possible. If these folks can do it, so can you. Simple as that.
Hanging around the right type of people puts you within osmosis distance of traits and tricks that most resources can’t offer in such an engaging, hands-on manner.
Negative influences can hold you back and knock you off the horse. Trim the fat every so often and reassess which relationships are healthy, positive, and symbiotic, and which are bleeding you like a stuck pig.
“But I don’t personally know anyone who is a positive influence on me. What am I supposed to do?”
This is actually true for more people than you might realize, so don’t feel alone. You can still “surround” yourself with the right people, but on a less literal level. (Don’t worry, it’s just as effective.)
A few handy tricks: listen to podcasts about what you value, read books by inspiring people, watch videos of powerful speakers, and keep positive and inspirational quotes within your eyesight.
Even tossing some scribble-ridden sticky notes spouting upbeat, encouraging messages on a bathroom mirror could give you that extra kick you need to keep your head in the game.
Jam out at your workstation.
In an office setting, the slightest clink of a stapler or glug-glug-glug of a water cooler can be enough to snap you out of the zone and steal your attention – and productivity – right out from under you.
Throwing in some headphones and listening to music can keep you locked in on your work while eliminating distracting noises.
While some people find easy listening music with no lyrics the most helpful because there’s so little going on, others want to blast some gangster rap or brutal death metal.
It’s all a matter of preference, so in the end, go with whatever keeps you motivated and focused on your work. There’s no one road to take, so noodle around on Spotify and find a playlist that loves you as much as you love it.
Your computer setup should look like the command center of the USS Enterprise.
You spend all day hunched over your computer, straining your neck and eyeballs while it burns a hole straight through your poor lap to the unwitting office chair beneath your bum.
The screen is tiny. You keep having to zoom to 150% in order to properly read text on a website or a document, but you don’t want to admit it.
Have you ever thought that this seemingly irrelevant factor could have a tremendous influence on the way you work?
Mainly, this has to do with what you allow into your field of vision.
Say that your screen is 13 inches across. How much of your immediate eyesight does that occupy?
Your peripheral is picking up the trees swaying outside, your neighbor’s cat eating flowers again, and your acoustic guitar in the corner. You might as well pick it up for a few minutes and see if you can remember how “Wonderwall” goes, right?
This is one of the typical traps that small, single screens set. If your work only takes up a puny sliver of your field of vision, this means that deadly distraction is looming at arm’s length, waiting for the right moment to strike.
Also, we know this part is going to sound super insane, but hear us out. How do you feel about having… multiple monitors?
Seems unnecessary, until you consider the research.
Good luck sneaking a peek at the clock when you’re being blasted with 6 jillion pixels of illumination.
Microsoft is one of those companies that will stop at nothing to discover what can extract the highest level of productivity from an employee. They dumped millions into trying to learn the secret, and here are the results.
Using bigger screens, and multiple screens, made the biggest difference across the board as far as creating the environment most conducive to productivity. That’s it.
It saves you from having to click over and over again, maximizing and minimizing tabs, and running the risk of some shiny icon on your desktop catching your eye and luring you in.
You already know from our other articles that keeping each project in its own tab helps eliminate distractions on the sidelines. The same logic applies to giving each piece of the puzzle you’re working on its own screen.
Keeping things organized and differentiating your tasks allows whatever you are doing at this exact moment to occupy all of your attention and maintain your entire focus.
Don’t want to spend the money?
Well, before you toss the idea, consider the ROI.
Would dropping a few bucks on an additional monitor today keep you from peeing time down the drain and ultimately hold your focus in the long term?
Don’t believe it? Well, you should. It’s science, man. Microsoft already did the digging.
“Some of these things seem way too simple to work. I’m not sure if I buy this whole thing.”
That’s the beauty of it all. It is so blatantly obvious, and yet we all overlook these factors repeatedly because they’re right under our nose.
So yeah, it’s simple. But isn’t that better than the alternative? What if we gave you annoyingly complex advice that would be endlessly difficult to apply to your daily life?
Now that would be a rip-off.
This is real-life, actionable stuff that you can put into practice right freaking now.
You’ve waited long enough, and if you’ve read this much of the article, it’s clear that you’re ready to make the necessary changes to boost yourself to the next level.
Manually amending your routines and practices to embody the concepts we’ve discussed here will have a borderline immeasurable impact on your productivity.
Go ahead, give any of these a shot. Feel free to stare into the distance as the very nature of your attitude, and ultimately the product of your hard work, transform.
It’s straight up fascinating.
Read the next part of this series:
If you are seriously working on improving your productivity we’ve taken all of our top productivity blogs and formatted them into one slick e-book for you. GSD* Get Shit Done. Make sure you check it out.