I’ve tried various techniques to be more productive. Some worked for me and others didn’t. Here are 4 simple things that consistently help me to be more productive:

1. Turn off ALL distracting notifications

Distractions trick your brain into feeling a sense of “accomplishment” that you really shouldn’t feel until you’ve completed the actual task at hand. I used to get a ding on my phone anytime an email would come in, a ding for facebook, another ding for paypal, etc. I quickly realized that if I was working on a time consuming task, every distracting ding was stealing my attention. I would look at the notification and then act on it. Emails were replied to and facebook posts were checked. With each “ding” I felt compelled to react. With each reaction I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was staying super busy and feeling like I was getting a lot done. The problem is that I was getting a lot of unimportant stuff done and I was putting off the important stuff. Solution: Turn off ALL distracting notifications. Do you really need to know immediately when your friend distant acquaintance “liked” the picture of your lunch? Do you really need to know about every email you get in realtime? Fight the urge and stick to what’s most important.

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2. Work in Intervals

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s usually hard to sit and work on a task for longer than 15 – 30 minutes. My most effective work is done in short bursts of concentration, instead of long bouts of meandering. The New York Times reported in 2012 that the amount of time you put into completing a task doesn’t necessarily mean more will get done. I personally like to work in 25/5 increments. I work hard for 25 minutes (one task at a time) and then I take a 5 minute break. It’s during my break that I will check email, facebook, twitter, and everything else. I also try to get up and move around during these breaks. After my break, I close the email application (to avoid distractions) and I close other non essential programs and get right back to work. Depending on the task or other circumstances, I may change the timing to 30/5 or 45/15 or whatever fits best but the important thing is to take breaks and reset your mind! You can accomplish more in 25 minutes of focused intensity than you can in 60 minutes of average meandering.

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3. Write a daily to-do list

This is one of the most powerful habits I’ve acquired as an entrepreneur. When I get to the office, the very first thing I do is take a out my Behance Action Pad (yes I actually use pen and paper) and I write down my top to-do items for the day. I start by listing  2 or 3 top priority “must do” items for the day and then I list out any other to-do’s after that. I use asana and evernote regularly for all my tasks and notes but I love using an actual pen and paper for the daily to-do list. I start with a new sheet every day, even if I’m carrying over to-do’s from the previous day. By writing out your to-do list every morning you will learn to be pro-active about what you do throughout the day. Pro-active tasks grow your company while reactive tasks just keep it alive. 

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4. Avoid multitasking

Forget multitasking, monotasking is the way to go! Keep your brain tuned on the most important work at hand. Don’t believe me? Watch this 3 minute TED talk by Paolo Cardini:

[ted id=1622]

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What strategies or techniques do you use to stay productive? Please share them in the comments.