The following is a guest blog post by Adam Fachler, Founder and Lead Strategist of Empower Partners.
Cold brewed, pressed, or even dripped — coffee is the greatest.
So, when I was challenged to come up with ten productivity hacks better than coffee, I got a craving for a cup...
...yet I resisted!
And not only that: I got to 11.
By taking my own medicine, of course!
Here are the tried-and-true hacks I use to keep my head out of the clouds and under control:
Nothing derails productivity like endless wheel-spinning about what you should be working on.
My solution: write down 1-3 goals I have for my next day the night before.
In my experience, it's the only way I seem to be able to avoid an early morning freak-out about what I could or should be doing. I can always change it if need be (though I rarely need to) and it allows me to start unconsciously working over the problem the night before.
(Proof: This article was my goal for today. And now you're reading it!)
Besides avoiding the generally uncomfortable feeling of being unprepared and unmotivated, the other reason I believe this hack works is because it protects us from decision fatigue.
Every decision, from what to wear to how to move my business forward, takes valuable mental energy. So, to the extent possible, separating what you have to do from summoning the willpower to do it can be a saving grace.
Speaking of grace...
Between 10% Happier, Calm, Headspace, and Deepak Chopra, you have plenty of meditation apps and podcasts to give you a greater sense of equanimity in response to the stresses of the day and a caffeine-free focus boost.
You can monitor your breaths in and breaths out for ten minutes, repeat a mantra in your head, or scan your body. My all-time favorite app for unguided and guided meditation is Insight Timer.
Another favorite way to clear my head is...
A productivity hack that's elegant in its simplicity: setting a timer for five minutes and allowing the pen to flow. Don't worry about grammar, repeating yourself, or even making sense.
You're trying to take inventory of what's going on inside your mind so don't judge it, just express yourself freely and get all of the worries that are stuck inside your head onto a piece of paper. You won't believe how therapeutic simply writing down your thoughts can be.
I'm not suggesting you take up a Crossfit class mid-day (I'm actually not suggesting you take up a Crossfit class any day), but a few minutes of jump rope, squats, or even a low-intensity walk around the block always energizes a fatigued body and mind.
On my favorite workout app Trifecta, you can navigate to "Timers→Tabata" for a routine that calls for 20 seconds of movement (jumping jacks, run in place, pushups, etc.) followed by 10 seconds of rest eight times.
In just 4 minutes and 20 seconds, you will be ready for...
If you like to nerd out about productivity (guilty as charged), this will become your new favorite home. As WorkCycle explains in their post, Possibly the Best Way Ever to Get Work Done, categorizing your work schedule into short and easy-to-tackle chunks can allow you to get the most out of your work day without burning out. Try it out, it's guaranteed to change the way you work for good.
The reason I have worked out 5x/week since the pandemic began is not out of fear of developing a "dad bod" once my daughter is born (okay, it's that, too), but because I have a standing 8am appointment with my workout accountability buddy (or accountabili-buddy, for short).
When the clock strikes 8am, I know he'll be there on the other end of the FaceTime waiting for me.
Knowing he'll show up makes me show up; knowing I'll show up makes him show up. It's a virtuous cycle.
Find someone with a goal similar to yours and devise how you might support one another through daily or weekly check-ins.
I was stuck on a task and starting to spiral in front of my computer screen.
So, I closed down and started drawing out my ideas on a whiteboard:
After that, I took a picture of my work and printed it out:
Then I cut out my ideas:
And then I arranged them! Webinar script complete!
Whether it's because it's tactile or because paper doesn't have notifications, there's something oddly satisfying about eschewing your tech tools on occasion for quieter, slower analog ones.
(Post-It Fans: These are the biggest ones I've ever seen and I can vouch from personal facilitation experience that they are very fun to use.)
Whenever you need an extra push, reciting a mantra can help you realign your mindset and get yourself back on track. Ask yourself these questions:
"Is this serving me?"
"Is this getting me closer to my goals?"
"Am I acting with with awareness?"
"Is what I'm doing putting me on a slight upward or downward trajectory?"
I find myself asking these self-corrective queries whenever I have fallen down a LinkedIn, YouTube, or procrastination rabbit hole.
But maybe a personal mantra isn't enough to get you motivated, maybe you need to...
Example: You want to complete a task. You give your friend $500 and say to your friend, "If I don't deliver evidence of completing this [slide deck, presentation, 25 cold calls, etc.], then you will donate this money to [some cause or candidate you abhor]."
Trust me, you will find the drive.
If you want a digital version, StickK makes you put your money where your mouth is by making you sign a "commitment contract" that effectively details consequences if you do not following through.
If all else fails, maybe try....
This one may seem counterintuitive and will not work for everyone (especially if you have a watchful boss during work hours), but a noteworthy Hail Mary for productivity is...
When I'm stuck feeling unproductive or uninspired, I put on instrumental beats, grab a pen and paper, and begin to flow.
Creativity begets creativity and productivity begets productivity.
Drawing, painting, playing an instrument, building, even fixing something could get the brain juice flowing.
Who knows? Sometimes you'll even make a breakthrough during your downtime, like when I wrote out my marriage proposal in a rap.
Often, we need to give our brains a totally new canvas to apply ourselves before we can unleash the genius at our job.
You have 36 tabs open, and you can feel your head going in a few different directions as you waffle about which to close. Will you lose something irretrievable and important?! Take a deep breath and get OneTab which turns mayhem like this:
And ports them into a neat little list like this:
From there, you'll be able to decide what to read now, what to read later, and what to calmly close, knowing you never really intended to read it, but were using it to procrastinate (we've all done it).
I'm not giving up coffee and I'm not suggesting you do either, but if you find this sweet elixir of the gods losing its potency, you will get more bang for your buck by pairing it with any or all of the suggestions above.