15 Productivity Hacks for Daily High Performance
11 months ago by André Giæver
Productivity is a tricky thing. With so many variables in play that can obscure the flow of productivity, there’s no wonder people struggle with it. Here are some productivity hacks to regain control.
- The 5 Second Rule to get out of bed
- A cold shower to kickstart your day
- Delay phone usage and reading emails
- The charm of 3
- Intermittent fasting on workdays
- Practice Flow
- Braindead tasks vs focus tasks
- Device- and location-specific tasks
- Batch tasks
- Take consistent breaks
- Exercise (some) every day
- End your workday before you have to
- Plan your day ahead
- Tune down in the evening
- Prioritize sleep
- Determine your chronotype
- Some final notes on daily productivity hacks
I’ve researched, tested, trashed and kept productivity hacks for a decade now. The hacks that follow below are among the ones that I personally favor. They are simplistic in nature which makes them simple to follow. They’re also flexible enough to suit most situations.
Let’s now dig in to see what the are, how they work and what situations they are suitable for.
The 5 Second Rule to get out of bed
I’m not a morning person. At all.
This makes getting out of bed a serious issue at times. That is if I even wake up when the alarm bell rings. I used to hit the snooze button so many times on so many different set alarms that getting up choice rather than act.
When I finally “chose” to get up it was purely out of fear. Fear of missing work or other appointments.
Not a healthy setup, I know.
This is where the 5 Second Rule comes into play. I started to test out this rule straight after reading the “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. The rule can easily be applied to anything you dread doing and is as simple as it’s genius.
Here’s how to apply it to get up:
- The alarm bell rings
You hit the snooze buttonNO!
- Count backward from 5-4-3-2-1 and stand up straight.
As soon as you regain the first notion of conscience, start to count down and plant your feet on the floor and stand up. This is kind of brutal at first, but it works and it gets better with each try.
As simple as this hack is, I’m not saying it’s easy to follow through with. However, if you’re like me with real issues getting out of bed, I urge you to set yourself a determined goal to try this for at least a week. It’s been a lifesaver for me.
A cold shower to kickstart your day
Now, you’re probably thinking; “This guy is just a morning-masochist!”.
I’m not. I just happen to know what works with regard to forcing yourself to be highly productive. For me at least, 1 to 5 minutes of freezing cold water does wonders for my brain and body. If you’d like to explore what happens to you physically when exposing yourself to cold water, check out my Q&A: How does cryogenic therapy affect the mind and body?
Here’s how to do it in the least brutal way:
- Start by showering at a nice and warm temperature for a couple of minutes
- Now, keep the showerhead in your hand, away from your body, and turn the nob to the coldest setting
- Quickly point the showerhead at your head and chest for 1-2 minutes
This will definitely kick all your senses and systems into high-gear. You’re allowed the finish the shower with warm water to restore your belief in all that is good in the world.
It’s really not that bad after you have gotten used to the initial cold water shock. Now listen to your body afterward and how it feels. Personally, I get a feeling of being energized and rejuvenated.
Delay phone usage and reading emails
Ever heard of decision fatigue? Almost every situation, every task, every thought requires some sort of decisionmaking. Even if the decision is to not do anything, that in itself counts as a decision.
Our Phones have become our central hub for anything and everything. Thus, it has a profound effect on our attention and often hijacks our ability to prioritize sensibility. If the first thing you do after getting out of bed is to scramble through your phone, checking email, the news or social media, you’re off on a wrong track.
Here’s how you should treat you phone throughout the day:
- Kill all sounds, alerts, pings and pops other than for incoming calls
- Avoid you phone at all cost in the morning (your spouse and kids deserve it)
- Only check your phone at specific intervals during the day.
By doing so, you’ll soon come to realize a couple of things. You’re much more clearheaded without the constant distractions. Email can be read at work, not around the clock. Most importantly though, the world didn’t come crashing down and you got more work done in less time than usual. Worth a try, isn’t it?
The charm of 3
You may plan your day however you want. There’s only one definitive certainty though. Things happen. Unexpected things will pop, others will not go entirely as planned and you’ll get less done set out to do.
That’s why we set up lists. I’m Jedy list master myself, but I’ve come to realize one innate flaw with todo-lists in general. A glitch in the Matrix, if you will.
The more concrete or detailed you make them out to be, the less chance you actually have of completing one within the timespan you estimated. That’s why a suggest another and more simplistic approach to listmaking.
Here’s how I set up my todo-lists:
- I list the 3 things that score the highest in terms of both importance and urgency for tomorrow
- Then I create a second list, listing the next 3 most important and urgent things, and so on
- When tomorrow arrives, the first initial list is all I care about. If I get more done it’s only a bonus
The things I’ve written down on my initial is what I start my day with. No excuses. I mean, really, nothing trumphs that other than getting a cup of coffee.
I’m not saying this is a perfect solution to listmaking, but it has at least on clear advantage. I’m forced to prioritize sensibly and without interference. A nice side effect is that it’s a binary and predecided choice which means I no longer have a say in it. I’m left with at least 3 decisions less that day.
Intermittent fasting on workdays
I know this isn’t for everyone, but it’s still a potent hack for those who are willing to try.
The whole purpose of intermittent fasting is to get into the state of ketosis. When you’re in ketosis your body has partially or completely stopped to rely on glucose for energy. Instead, your body is using stored fat as the energy source.
This has some real advantages with regard to blood sugar, mental acuteness, and sleep quality. Intermittent fasting, especially combined with a keto diet, can help you significantly with weight loss as well.
However, rather than depriving yourself of food you replace unhealthy food with healthy alternatives. This in turn help raise your overall energy level as well as boosting your mental cognition.
This is how I practice intermittent fasting:
- I eat nothing between 8 pm and noon the next day
- For lunch, I usually go all green with organic meat or fish
- For dinner do the same as with lunch but with extra grass-fed butter
I’ve yet to experience hunger with this diet and it keeps my mood, weight, sleep in check. This is because I try to focus on a balanced diet containing long carbs and organic protein and healthy fat.
During weekends I break the cycle slightly by eating breakfast and some occasional late snacks. Fridays however, all bets are off. That’s the day a balance out the otherwise healthy week with whatever unhealthy that comes to mind.
There is evidence to suggest that productivity can increase with as much as 500% percent during Flow. The challenge is that Flow or “being in the zone” is a somewhat elusive state. It’s hard to get into Flow and even harder to retain over any significant period of time. That’s how we need to practice it.
Going in-depth to explain what Flow is and how it works is outside the scope of this article but here are some resources that do just that:
This is the way I practice Flow on a daily basis:
- I work in silence only accompanied by music every Tuesday and Thursday
- I work with headphones whenever I want to get into flow with people around
- I deliberately choose which tasks to work in what order or only for restricted sections of time
How we get into or experience Flow is highly individual but it’s worth exploring what works for you in particular. There’s no better way to become a high performer than with flow. It’s the holy grail of productivity hacks.
The next five productivity hacks all help with getting into Flow in addition to being the perfect hacks for working smarter rather than just harder.
Braindead tasks vs focus tasks
Some tasks require full focus, others don’t. Knowing when to do which is key to getting the most out of every working hour. Normally, I’m more alert during the first few hours of the day. My ability to focus and make good decisions usually fades the last hour before lunch.
Whatever focus-intensive task I’m working on entering that hour I postpone until after lunch. There’s no reason to bang my head against the wall. There’s always some braindead task to attend to instead.
Here are the types of tasks I do when my focus is soaring:
- Web development or coding
- Recording podcasts or video tutorials
- Learning new skills
Here are the types of tasks that just need to get done:
- Replying to email
- Running errands
It’s important to note that I rarely mix these types of tasks. Doing something braindead when my focus is at its peak is both a waste of capacity and decreases the focus accordingly. Use it or lose it.
On the other hand, trying to anything that requires focus when focus is absent is just a waste for time.
Device- and location-specific tasks
Some tasks require a specific device, others are bound to a specific location. Tagging your task with the suitable device and location is a great way of keeping track of and group together what’s smart work on at any given time.
Personally, I use the project management tool Clickup for anything task-related as they keep things intuitive and works on all devices. I also include the tags “Focus” or “Braindead” accordingly.
Here are some examples of how I use tagging:
- Fix bug in the menu on website – Tags: “Focus”, “PC”
- Send invoice to Client – Tags: “Braindead”, “PC”
- Give Client some feedback by email – Tags: “Braindead”, “Mobile”
Whenever I’m at a certain location, I simply filter the uncompleted tasks by the tags that correspond with that location and the devices I have access to. Among all the productivity hacks in this article, this is probably the most important one in terms of work efficiency.
Batching tasks is the fine art of finding commonalities between tasks that make the sense to do in bulk. A grocery list is an obvious example. Other types of tasks that aren’t that obviously linked can also be batched. We’ve looked at different ways of tagging tasks in the productivity hacks above.
Batching is a more holistic approach that lets you group tasks together and schedule them in periodical intervals.
Here are some prime examples of batchable tasks:
- Every week: Preparing next week’s wardrobe along with assessing next week’s private and work-related calendar
- Every 2 weeks: Billing clients together with paying bills and look at financial progress reports
- Every month: Recurring maintenance tasks that require a car and can be completed with a preplanned set of stops
You really just need to get creative and try to batch tasks as you see fit until you find a flow that works for you. I tip is to time yourself to follow your time-saving progress along the way.
Take consistent breaks
Working hours on end may make us feel productive but science there to slap us in the face on this on. Studies show that you need to split your day into chunks of somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes of continues workloads that inklude 5 to 10 minutes of rest in between. If the tasks are especially demanding, the former is better.
I find it easier to start the day with several 55 minutes demanding work crunches with 5-minute breaks before lunch. After lunch or at times where my mind is less focused, I’ll do some longer stretches that are less demanding.
You need to find your own rhythm for this productivity hack to work properly. We all have different natural flows for working. The important thing is that we all need breaks to be prolific over time.
Exercise (some) every day
This is one of those productivity hacks that really struggle with and for good reason. It’s hard to find the time and even harder to muster up the energy.
The thing is that all kinds of movement count. Brisk walking, cleaning your house, and so on increases blood flow, and blood flow is key. Exercising for athletic performance is a whole nother ball game. As far as mental productivity hacks go, 30-45 minutes of continuous movement goes a long way.
End your workday before you have to
Not even Superman can be Superman all the time. Your entrepreneurial mindset is a powerful drive. But with great power comes great responsibility.
You have a responsibility towards yourself and those around you to stay healthy and productive in the long run. Driving yourself to the brink of exhaustion every night is not sustainable.
This is how I know when to quit:
- I set a specific time to stop working before I even get started
- Tasks I wasn’t able to complete simply get paused until tomorrow
I know there are circumstances where you’re obligated to pull an all-nighter, but they are and should be, rare.
It’s important to note that calling it a day is not a defeat even if you haven’t done all you set out to do. Burning the midnight oil is far less productive than heading to bed early and finish of the next morning.
Plan your day ahead
The better you prepare, the more likely is it that things go as planned. Doing your due diligence the night before will help you to stay organized and proactive as the next day unfolds.
Next day preparations shouldn’t take up to much time. 15 to 20 minutes or less should suffice. This is just to touch base and secure that you’re up to date and can hit the ground running next morning.
These are the points I run through every night:
- Scheduled meetings and appointments
- Deadlines and need for replies
- Top 3 priority tasks for the day
Do not succumb to the temptation to open your inbox to send off some quick replies in this process. This will indicate to your recipients that you’re still on the clock and might require you to answer yet another reply.
After you’re finished, put away your phone completely. If you’re waiting for a call or a text you’ll hear it. The rest of the evening is yours along with family or friends.
Tune down in the evening
I “never” work past 6 pm, that is to say never unless I’m personally responsible for f*cking up a deadline that involves others. Tuning down means doing something not work-related.
There are no rules to how you do this. Whatever calms you down is exactly what you should do.
The point of tuning down is to let your brain realize that it’s close to night time. Bright fluorescent light will trick your brain to believe that it’s still daytime and as a consequence throw your circadian rhythm off balance.
Why is this bad? Well, simply because your brain uses the neurochemical Melatonine to prepare itself for sleeping by making you feel drowsy. With junk light all around this process is disrupted.
Unfortunately, the screens on all our devices, TV included, emits this junk light. There are apps you can install to mitigate this by excluding blue light.
Nothing hacks productivity better than sleeping, but it’s probably the most neglected of all hacks. Yet, science tells us that without proper sleep our productivity output plummets.
During sleep, the brain not only sifts through everything that has happened throughout the day, but it also does so so so much more. Your brain is actually more active during nighttime than most often during the day.
Here are just some of the processes that especially REM-sleep and deep-sleep help us with:
- Melatonin that goes to work and help with critical liver functions
- What you’ve learned during the day is sorted and stored in memory
- Restoration of muscles and ligaments after exercise is boosted
As you can see, sleep is not optional. Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for your body to restore itself. This means getting between 7 to 9 hours every night. Realizing how important this is, is the first step to prioritizing it.
Determine your chronotype
Chronotypes refer to what kind of circadian rhythm you naturally follow. Some of us are night owls, others are morning birds, some fall into other less known categories.
This is not to be considered as one of a productivity hack in itself but as an indication of when you’re most likely to benefit from various activities.
There have been established at least 4 main categories of chronotypes that are more or less common among the population. What they all have in common is that they dictate greatly when we’re hungry, when we need to sleep and when we can perform at our A-game.
Here are the four chronotypes:
This website lets you determine your chronotype by taking a quiz.
Some final notes on daily productivity hacks
Hacks for productivity should be all about simplicity. The less time you spend on anything is time saved for something better.
Getting routines in place might seem tedious, but you have to consider the longterm benefits. One hour spent today may accumulate to endless hours save down the line.
As with everything, what you prioritize when choosing to implement these productivity hacks should be measured in how big of an impact they will have on your life. Remember, the 20% most impactful productivity hacks will make up for 80% of the maximal impact.
Published by André Giæver
I'm just a curious and generally positive guy that has a huge appetite for life and a deep passion for simplicity and optimization. This blog and site is my way of paying my knowledge forward so that we all can live fulfilling lives.