How to Be Productive: 3 Essential Tips
How to boost your productivity and stop procrastinating
I have struggled with procrastination for the past 20 years. I read articles and watched videos from credible sources, business leaders, and influencers. If you search “productivity tips” on Google, you will find many tips, ranging from 8 to 42 productivity tips. But, being productive is not that complicated. It all comes down to three essential things, which are Environment, Clarity, and Energy (ECE).
James Clear, author of the NY Times Bestseller “Atomic Habits,” mentions that:
“Motivation is overvalued and overrated, environment matters more” because “environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.”
You do not wear winter clothes during the summer or vice versa. Why? Because the environment influences your behaviors, what you wear, eat, and do. So, what is your environment like when it comes to your workspace? Is your workspace cluttered? Are you having your phone next to you and not on silent? To achieve the ultimate state of focus and productivity, you need to have a good environment. A good environment is an environment that will automate good choices.
So, how can you make sure you have a good environment?
- Clean & Organized Workspace: When you have unorganized things, they can distract you. Small things like files that you need to put away, a dirty cup of coffee, a dusty desk, and many more. You can go from deep focus to “let me clean this real quick.” These things may seem small and harmless, but they can distract you and harm your productivity. Keeping a clean and organized workspace helps you make good decisions.
- Cut Distractions: Stay away from things that distract you the most, such as your mobile device, notifications, the internet, or TV. Sometimes putting your mobile device on silent and in your pocket is not enough. Feeling your mobile device on your thigh can trigger you and send you a cue to check your phone. So, put your phone away, where you cannot see or feel it. Have the TV face the wall instead of your face, put your laptop notifications on ‘do not disturb,’ and close unrelated tabs on your browser. Know your cues and triggers that can distract you.
Having no clarity is like running a race without finish line.
Have you ever go on a trip and ask your significant other or your friends, “what do you want to eat?” and they say, “I don’t know.” Then, you suggest not only 1, but 5–10 places and they still say no. It can be pretty annoying. Well, it’s because we like clarity, and our brain likes it.
Clarity is about having a deadline, a specific goal to do, and an ending. If you’re running a race with no finish line, why start it? Having clarity makes it easier for you to get things done. If you are clear from the very start, it is easier for you to start and finish what you started.
A well-known practice, the Pomodoro Technique, can help you practice clarity. The Pomodoro Technique allows you to break down your deep work session into intervals. Know what you are going to get done within each interval, and know when you are going to take breaks. Experiment with the intervals, find your sweet spot and adjust as needed.
Can you maintain your energy level?
Energy is essential to your productivity. When you have to work for longer hours, your energy level won’t be the same as when you started. You have to find ways to generate energy and maintain your energy level.
How can you generate energy and maintain your energy level?
- Take tiny breaks: Studies have proven that small breaks increase employee’s creativity, productivity, and accuracy. Take a short walk, talk to your co-workers, have a bathroom or water break, or eat some healthy snacks. Breaks help you regain focus, attention, and energy.
- Release Tension, Set Intention: Brendon Burchard, in his book “High-Performance Habits,” suggested this quick-meditation technique. Do this exercise before you start each deep work session and after your breaks.
Close your eyes for the next 1–3 minutes
Take deep breaths
Repeat the word “release” in your mind over and over
Release any tension on your body
What energy do I want to bring into this next activity?
How can I do this next activity with excellence?
How can I enjoy the process?
In life and in everything that we do, there are transitions. If you’re studying, transitioning from one chapter or topic to another. If you’re working, transitioning from one project to another. The next chapter or project can be huge, intimidating, and gruesome. You have worked for several hours, you’re tired, and you are not looking forward to the next one. Yet, we can learn to own these transitions and generate energy to keep pushing by taking small breaks and doing the “release tension, set intention” exercise.
So, these are the three essential things that you need to pay attention to when it comes to productivity. Implementing the three things above has helped me, and they can help you as well. It helped me be productive in the library, coffee shops, office, and at-home remote work. But, this is my personal experience, and you can have a different experience. Things that might work for one person will not always work for everyone. Hence why we experiment and find what works best for us. Take these three practical steps and experiment with them, then make necessary adjustments.