We live in a world full of distractions. Productivity is a finite resource and sometimes hard to come by. The only option to kickstart your day is often to trick your brain into work. Here are 7 tips I use everyday to get the best of my gray matter.
#1 : Binaural beats
Depending on your level of activity, your brain operates at various frequencies. From the lowest (~4Hz) during deep sleep, to the highest (~50Hz) during intense problem solving.
Binaural beats are an auditory hallucination produced by broadcasting a different frequency in each hear, tricking the brain into hearing the difference. Now, you can choose a specific frequency to trick your brain into one level of activity.
For a similar result, you can also listen to nature sounds, like rain or a crackling fire. Why not both?
I use Binaural for macOS every day. It’s a free app that lets you precisely choose your frequency, and add rain sounds. For productivity, I set it to 48Hz.
#2 : Instrumental music
I listen to music all the time, but I’ve come to realize that conventional music is a distraction when I try to get into flow. I tend to focus on the lyrics. Depending on the genre, the music might actually be hindering productivity, or put me in a totally different mindset.
During work time, I listen to instrumental playlists. Here’s one from Spotify. I’ve been shuffling it the last few days, and can definitely recommend it.
#3 : Environmental kickstart
Some days, I just can’t seem to get started on tasks that need my focus. When that happens, I just do the dishes, cleanup my desk, or dice veggies for the evening meal.
Ten minutes of non work-related mindless (but useful) activity around the house always does the trick. My brain gets an easy warm-up, my environment is cleaner, and at that point, I’m ready to go ahead.
I can also do this when I’m feeling a drop in focus in the middle of the day. While watching a quick video or browsing social media would surely distract me for too long and kill the flow for the rest of the day, a quick cleanup in my environment lets my brain rest for long enough, while priming me to go right back to business.
#4 : Checklist addiction
My work technique includes splitting complex tasks into the smallest possible chunks, and listing them in a checklist app.
I use Trello for nearly every business and personal project, including this article. It’s incredibly versatile, and applies to every kind of project, from mapping an article, to complex software products.
Every time I finish a small task, I go back to the checklist and tick it off. This has an addicting rewarding effect. Every time I tick a box, or move a card from the “Doing” to the “Done” list, I experiment a little rush. Am I chasing a high? Yes, but it works.
#5 : Minimum quantity habit
As I said in the intro, productivity is a finite resource, and you don’t get the same amount every day. Nevertheless, I follow one rule: do at least one thing every day.
Whatever my physical & mental energy level, I will tick at least one box on one list. If I have to put a gun to my own head, I will complete at least one task.
Now, here’s the trick: it never ends up being only one.
#6 : Snowball effect
“Now that I’m started, I might as well do that too.”
Inevitably, finishing one task gives me the motivation to start another, and so on.
What started as an obligation to follow my Minimum quantity habit grows into a decent, sometimes huge amount of work.
Tricking your brain with the promise of an easy task makes it easy to go into flow, and once the engine has started, the wheels keep rolling.
#7 : Visualization
When I start working on a software feature, or an article, I take some time to imagine as clearly as I can how the finished product is going to look like.
I try to visualize the overall shape, the architecture, the interactions between moving parts. As precisely as possible.
Once you imagine something in enough detail, implementing it becomes way easier. It already exists in your mind, it’s no longer abstract.
It’s already real, it’s already done.
Doing the work becomes an issue of making external reality congruent with your internal vision.
This may read like corny new-age bullshit, but it really helps, so why would I care?
These are my methods. They work well for me, and are mostly the product of experimentation and learning to know myself. These tricks help me get the best of limited time & energy.
I’d like to hear about your experiences. Do you use some of these tricks? Do you have any of your own? Please share in the comments below.