7 Lesser Known Ways to Increase Productivity

You’re a productive go-getter, so you’ve probably heard them all, right? Write out lists, eliminate the unimportant and nuke your procrastination. For the getting-things-finished junkies, I’d like to share some lesser known productivity tricks, to give you the edge when you’ve already mastered the basics.

Some of these you might have heard of, or even used, before. But hopefully I can put a new angle of some of these old ideas so they can make sense in the context of organizing, becoming accomplished and just staying sane.

1) Rhythmic Working

Your body is based on cycles. Not only does your body regulate itself on a daily clock, but there are hundreds of different cycles that control your energy levels and emotional state. Rhythmic working means placing your most important work when you are most likely to be in a peak state.

Where is your peak state? Chances are you already have a feel for when you work best. Rhythmic working means experimenting with different time slots to see which fits.

Just remember to give any work-time experiments at least two weeks to adapt. Some energy will be lost simply in adjusting to a new schedule. But you may find that after two weeks of early morning work that it becomes your most successful. Be patient, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

2) Eat Whole Grains

Eating foods that are high in simple sugars (candy, fruit, white breads and cereals) results in a quick shot of blood glucose. Blood glucose is one of the main factors in determining both how hungry you are and how much energy you have to work.

Unfortunately this quick shot of blood glucose is offset by a rise in insulin to utilize this energy gain. This causes the pendulum to swing backwards again, resulting in an energy drain.

The solution is to eat whole grains which have complex carbohydrates. The result is an even level of blood-glucose keeping you alert longer and more consistently.

3) Project List

You probably have a to-do list (if not, why not?). But what about a project list? This is a list that has all projects that need completing. A project is a self-contained group of tasks that result in finishing something. Many big projects often become endless to-do lists as you eat away at the project without finishing it.

Cal Newport author of Study Hacks, suggests keeping a project list as well. The idea here is that in having a separate list you will be motivated to complete entire projects, not just fill up your to-do list with checkmarks.

4) Take a Day Off

When work begins to rise, the immediate temptation is to spread it over the entire week. That way you won’t feel overloaded, right?

Another suggestion is to keep one day a week sacred, devoid of all major work. Compressing all your work down to six days can be tough (with my schedule I know it can be difficult). But the advantage is that you have one day to rest, think and break away from the flow of work.

Having one day can give you the space to zoom outside of the war zone. It can be an incredible source of new ideas, energy and motivation as you gain perspective on everything you are too busy to think about normally.

5) Design Your Office

Music has the ability to dramatically alter a persons mood. A soaring love ballad makes you feel different than punk rock. Your work space does the same thing. Designing your environment can help you become motivated, creative or focused. Depending on which atmosphere you need to thrive, you can design it into your office.

Ask yourself what mood do you want to be in to work. Do you want to be creative? Put up interesting artwork and cycle it regularly. Do you want to be confident? Put up any awards or certificates you receive. Do you want to be calm? Try a simple design with minimal clutter and cool colors.

You can go overboard with design, wasting too much time before tackling important tasks. But if you find it hard to get to work easily, changing the setting can help.

6) Motivational Books on Tape

Sure a lot of motivational tapes are just common sense. But the content isn’t often as valuable as the emotional content. Keeping a tape on your iPod and listening for a few minutes while you commute or walk around can be a great way to focus yourself.

Some good speakers (just do an Amazon Search) include:

  • Tony Robbins
  • Zig Ziglar
  • Brian Tracy
  • Earl Nightingale

7) Information Dieting

I’m a huge fan of measurement. It’s far better to conduct an experiment and go with the numeric results, then just go on a hunch. Knowing how many calories you ingest, hours you spend working, hits to your website or percentage of sales you convert is critical if you want to make targeted improvements.

But most of this information only works in aggregate. I’ve run my blog for over a year and a half. I can say with certainty that the results of one days traffic won’t have any impact on my decision making for future posts. There is just too much randomness involved.

Yet I often see website owners who check stats several times a day. People who answer e-mails as soon as they arrive. All trying to get information in real time.

Because the information doesn’t help decision making unless it is compared with a larger trend (over weeks and months), information dieting can boost your productivity. I limit myself to checking e-mail and RSS once per day, and any relevant statistics only once per week. Information dieting saves time and improves decisions.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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