DeepWork
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Best way to increase productivity?

Good news: you have a ton of options. All you need to do pick what’s best for your particular goals, needs, and lifestyle.

I have 5 suggestions based on my own experience. These ideas are easy to implement during the day, they don’t take up a lot of your time, and they provide results. Try them all out and see for yourself.

Suggestion #1. Block off 1–2 hours every morning for deep focus.

Why?

It means you take advantage of your circadian rhythm, i.e. you tackle the toughest tasks that your analytical brain needs to complete as early in the day as possible.

How?

  • Don’t waste your entire morning checking emails, making phone calls, and listening to the news for hours. Instead, use the time until lunch to focus on the material that needs your attention the most: reading, taking notes, analyzing, problem-solving.
  • If you have a long commute but don’t have to drive, use the time to brainstorm the work you’ll need to do once you get to school or work, so that you have a head start. Write your ideas down as a list so they’re easier to find when you need them.
  • If your mornings are super busy and it’s difficult to focus, try going to bed a little earlier so that you can wake up a bit earlier too, and have a 30 minute session all by yourself before things start getting busy.

Suggestion #2. Switch off everything that distracts you.

Why?

Because it will take you much longer to complete any task if you’re getting interrupted while you’re working on it. When you take a call or turn away from your work, it takes your brain 20 minutes on average to get back into the zone — that’s quite a cost to you!

How?

  • Block off any noise in your environment with noise-cancelling headphones or silicone ear plugs.
  • Go to a quiet location where you can work without interruptions: a library, a quiet corner or table in your office area, or even a bench at a park if the weather allows it.
  • Switch your mobile phone off during periods of deep focus, or at least turn off the volume.

Suggestion #3. Resist the urge to multitask.

Why?

Because you’re not really committed to any single activity while you’re doing it. In fact, you’re probably just skimming (instead of reading) and rushing through the work (instead of carefully contemplating what you need to do).

How?

  • Start the day with a session of deep focus, then check your emails around lunchtime.
  • Don’t listen to the news while you’re reading or taking notes, and don’t browse your social media for interesting updates when you have a deadline you’re working towards; leave this activity for the afternoon.
  • Catch up with coworkers or fellow students over lunch, and socialize and attend meetings in the afternoon when your circadian rhythm is at its peak for any type of collaboration.

Suggestion #4. Brainstorm how you’ll own your day.

Why?

Visualization is an excellent brain training tool, provided it’s used in a way so you can prepare yourself for what you’ll want to do on a particular day. It’s a technique where you give yourself a few minutes to think through what you’d like to accomplish.

How?

  • Take 5–10 minutes in the morning to close your eyes and visualize your day. Try it before getting out of bed or after you’ve had breakfast.
  • Think of all the steps and tasks you plan to complete. For example, if you are studying something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material (chapters or sections), taking notes on important concepts, anticipating what you’ll do if you encounter a problem (devote more time to it, ask for help, check out other reference material), and writing down questions you want to research later.
  • What’s the benefit? By telling yourself a story on what you’re about to do, you train your brain to anticipate next steps and map out the learning process it’s easier to understand.

Suggestion #5. Give your brain some downtime so it can shine.

Why?

You need downtime in order to process all the inputs you’re exposed to throughout the day. In other words, you should give yourself plenty of time to pause, reflect, and let your brain classify the information, make connections, and store the new inputs so it’s easier to memorize and recall at a later time.

How?

  • Take frequent breaks from your focused work. Step outside for 10 minutes for some fresh air, or just do something completely unrelated to your work such as listening to music, drawing, making yourself a snack, drinking a tall glass of water, or getting some coffee or tea.
  • Go out for some exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything intense; it can be a 20–30 minute walk later in the afternoon, a short bike ride, or a run. This will give your brain a chance to take a back seat, so it can unplug for a bit and process what you’ve covered during the day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being super productive does not mean staying up all night. Long-term sleep deprivation is a guarantee that your brain cannot function at optimum levels. Opt for a solid 7–8 hours at night, and ease into your bedtime by switching off your computer 30 minutes before going to bed and doing something that relaxes you, like listening to music or reading a few pages from a book that feeds your imagination.

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