This Is How To Be Productive: 5 New Secrets Proven By Research

This post isn’t mine and first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Some key points from the post:

Sum Up

Here’s how to be productive:

  • Prioritize: Use “fixed schedule productivity.” You won’t get everything done. You will get the rightthings done.
  • Context: Distractions make you stupid. Find a place to hide or work from home in the morning.
  • Habits: Use the “20 second rule” to make bad habits hard to engage in. Follow a plan.
  • Stakes: For dull tasks, reward yourself. For complex tasks, ask why they are important to find purpose.
  • Mood: Manage your mood, especially in the morning. Oh, and puppies, puppies, puppies.
  • *Establish a good morning ritual

Problem 1: Priorities

  • Be realistic and do the right things. Ask yourself, what is important and really needs to be done?
  • Apply the 80/20 rule. You get 80% of the results from 20% of the things you do
  • This is where ‘good’ procrastination may help:put off unimportant things in order to get important things done
  • Relative importance: Is xyz the most important thing you have to do relative to others on your list?
  • Solution: plan backwards. Say you are going to leave at 5:30 and then schedule your day from there. This is known as“fixed schedule productivity.”

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or © something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination.


Problem 2: Context

  • Open-plan offices are a disaster from a productivity standpoint.

…top performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.


Find a place to hide. Book a meeting room where you can get work done or work on things before coming into the office

Problem 3: Habits

  • The problem here? Your brain:

The Prefrontal Cortex: The only one thinking about long-term goals like, “We need to prepare that report for work.”
The Dorsal Striatum: This guy is always voting to do what you’ve done in the past, like, “When it’s time to work we usually start by checking email 9 times, then Facebook, and then Instagram.”
The Nucleus Accumbens: The party animal of the three. “Email, Facebook and Instagram are fun. Work sucks.”

But when you exert effort, the prefrontal cortex can override the other two and do the right thing. Repeat this enough times and you rewire the dorsal striatum: “We usually start reports quickly. I vote we do that again.

  • First, identify the bad habit. Next, make it a pain in the ass to do. Go by the 20 second rule – delay that bad habit by 20 seconds
  • Spend your time on planned activities. Start by using a checklist

Problem 4: Stakes

  • No pressing reason to work on them today
  • We need an incentive to keep practicing. Or, even better: a penalty if you don’t practice.
  • Rewards are important: For dull or simple tasks, offering yourself a reward (or having someone else offer you a reward) is pretty effective.But when it comes to complex or creative tasks, they’re not optimal.

Researchers find that perceived self-interest, the rewards one believes are at stake, is the most significant factor in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work. It accounts for about 75 percent of personal motivation toward accomplishment.


  • For complex tasks go deep and emotional, find the meaning in your task. Ask yourself why is what you’re doing important. When we don’t have meaning or purpose, there’s no motivation too

Problem 5: Mood

  • Being a good mood or feeling that you can improve how you feel can make you more productive. Your mood in the morning affects how productive you are for the rest of the day
  • Do something quick to make yourself happy.

Take a moment to look at puppy pictures on the internet. (If this doesn’t make you happier, you probably have much bigger problems.)

Crazy as it sounds, looking at puppies has been shown to increase performance, as well as reduce stress — which Alex the neuroscientist said can help your prefrontal cortex take control and get you back on track.

Key: Establish a good morning ritual

  • Good morning ritual gives you time to prioritise
    before you reach your office
  • Do some work from home or find a quiet space at
  • Think about your usual bad habits and apply the
    20-second rule
  • How you start your morning and the mood you are
    in (think positive!) is important and sets the tone for your day’s productivity
  • Note: don’t check your email immediately when
    you enter the office (if you can!)

from Tumblr

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