One of the biggest things people say when they come out of our one-on-one coaching program is they have become so much more productive than they were before. Now, this is not going to be a post marketing our coaching program. Instead, I’m giving you the top 5 productivity tips our clients use to get more done. This helps them feel more peaceful and intentional in their lives.
I run a business called Body Brain Alliance, which is dedicated to bringing compassion-first change into the lives of 1 million people.
If you’re trying to change your life, visit my website and follow along. Every single week on Monday, I drop evidence-based behavior change videos and blogs just like this one.
I really believe that behavior change is individual. You need to figure out what’s going to work for your life, not just try to compile together a bunch of individual tips and tricks that you’ve heard from various people. However, we’ve worked with over 150 clients in the last year. There are some commonalities that seem to work for the majority of our clients. So I wanted to give you the top 5 productivity tips today.
Tip #1: Set your schedule to take breaks every 90 minutes
Let’s get started with tip number 1: Set your schedule so that you take a break every 90 minutes at minimum. A lot of our clients are working on time blocking. One of the things I see that goes wrong in people’s calendars is they set out blocks of times that are 2 or 3 or 4 hours long. And then they ask themselves, or they ask me, Karin, why am I struggling with focus? Why am I struggling to stay on task and study for hours at a time?
Because… you’re asking something completely unrealistic of your brain. Would you expect yourself to hold a barbell over your head for 2 to 3 hours at a time? No, of course not. You know you only have so much energy, and your brain works just like every other part of your body. It. Gets. Tired. Research supports the idea that a 90-minute interval is actually ideal. That’s the amount of time for most people that our brain can be in a deep focused state.
So even if it means just getting up and taking a deep breath and going to the bathroom between the first 90-minute block and the second 90-minute block, make sure you separate your schedule into those intervals so that you are actually giving yourself brain breaks. That is going to make a huge difference in your own ability to focus and your productivity.
Tip #2: Start your week with communication time
Tip number 2 is to start your week with communication time. Let me tell you a story. When I was a PhD student, I was working in a lab doing collaborative research with other students. Most of the things I worked on throughout the week were Google Docs or research briefs. These were things I needed other people to work on. I would time-block my calendar.
I would get to Wednesday or Thursday when I had an hour and a half to specifically look at a particular document and edit it. And I would realize that my coworker had not actually sent me that document, so I didn’t have anything to review. That would get me really frustrated, and then my whole day would be off, etc. You know the spiral well, I would imagine.
Instead, for 30 minutes at the beginning of the week, I would sit down and look at all of my tasks, and I would identify What do I need from other people in order to get this done? What information do I need? What documents do I need? What questions do I need to be answered? I would do this in one batch so that it didn’t distract me and create a bunch of communication energy leaks throughout the week.
Try it out: Give yourself 30 minutes of communication time at the beginning of the week and see if it helps you stay focused and more productive throughout the rest of the week.
Tip #3: Create a NOT DOING list
Let’s move to concrete tip number 3 of the top 5 productivity tips, which is to create a NOT DOING list. When you sit down to work in the morning, you probably ask yourself, What do I need to do? And you might even make a to-do list when you do that. I also want you to identify 2 to 3 things you are NOT working on.
Maybe you have identified that you’re not starting that report until Friday. You are not scrolling on social media in between calls today. By identifying what you don’t want your brain to do, you’re going to heighten your awareness of it. So even if you start leaning towards that behavior, you are more likely to catch yourself. Let’s actually try it out right now.
In the comments below, I want you to write 3 things that you are not doing in the next few hours. This could be something that you’re choosing to strategically procrastinate, or it could be a habit you’re trying to break or a behavior you’re trying to reduce.
Tip #4: Turn. Off. Notifications.
All right, let’s talk about tip number 4. Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to Stop. Right now. I want you to go into the settings on your phone and on your computer. Set it so that you don’t have 8 million notifications coming in from every goddamn app on your devices. I know, I know. Karin, I’ve heard this tip before. But have you actually done it?
I recently talked about this in a Change Academy workshop that we did on how to manage your time. The audience and I had a conversation about how a lot of us have heard this tip before. We know that notifications are distracting. We know that it reduces our productivity, and yet we don’t take action to actually change it. So in the workshop, all of us together at the same time, turned off all of our notifications.
That’s what I want you to do right here.
PS if you're trying to improve your life and you're looking for other friends and people who share the same values as you and are on that journey of self-improvement, make sure you check out my Change Academy membership. We do collaborative events every single month. Things like Study With Me. We do workshops, we have an entire circle community where you can interact with other people who are a lot like you.
Enough about that, back to the notification thing. Studies show that 1 single notification can create a distracting impact on your brain for 16 minutes. Turn ’em off, people, turn ’em off! Unless they’re absolutely necessary for your work, or unless your job requires you to be email-accessible 24 hours a day, Turn. Them. Off.
Tip #5: Body Doubling
The last of the top 5 productivity tips I have for you is to use a concept called body doubling. I use body doubling on days when I am really struggling to focus. When I wake up in a funk and I don’t really want to work.
Body doubling is pretty simple. You work alongside someone else. This can be in a coffee shop setting where you don’t really know the people who are working along with you. Or, it can be in a virtual setting. Try setting up a study group if you’re a student, so you and a couple of friends are working together on Zoom every week.
If you’re looking for other people to work with, also check out my Change Academy membership because we do body doubling events every single month, and that gives you a place to sit by other people and get work done.
Before I go, I want to make sure, I recommend that you watch how to stop self-sabotaging. A lot of our productivity issues are actually self-sabotage issues, so before you go crazy trying to apply these tips and techniques, make sure your productivity issues aren’t a result of you working against you.