Entrepreneur and success coach Ryan Jackson has had plenty of opportunity to test productivity hacks. The usual approach to being more productive is to get more stuff done in less time. This quantity strategy panders to the dopamine hit of ‘crossing things off’ but does it impact on quality? Probably, says Jackson, who recommends prioritising the bigger picture to deliver better, more successful work.
As he points out: ‘High achievers are generally those who consciously set the tone of their day. Aristotle famously said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”’ So, implement these seven hacks, to lead you into excellent habits…
1. Rip Up the To-Do List
Many of us have an instinct for lists – faced with a multitude of tasks, or one big one, the temptation is to break it down into a mammoth To Do List. According to Jackson, far from helping you to stay on top of your game, To Do Lists have several weaknesses: ‘To-do lists don’t account for your time. Nor do they commit you to taking action at a specific time, for a certain duration.’
Not only that, but they may be blocking your ability to innovate. ‘Lists cause you to feel the need to take ownership of tasks that drain your precious energy and time, which stifles creativity,’ he says. You may need to create lists to organise your day but Jackson recommends limiting your daily list of targets to no more than five.
‘Busier isn’t always better – it’s more productive to identify higher value tasks and focus on them first’
2. Focus On The Bigger Picture
Another effect of creating endless lists is that they provide a ready-made excuse to procrastinate. ‘We tend to steer away from the larger, higher value tasks because we kid ourselves into believing that productivity equates to how many jobs you can complete on your to do list,’ says Jackson. ‘Busier isn’t always better. It’s more productive to identify your higher value tasks and focus on them first. This way you automatically prioritise what’s important and erase the natural feeling of being overwhelmed.’
3. Create A Ring Of Isolation
According to Jackson, if you’re attempting to focus on completing a task then other people can be bad news. Unless others are directly helping you complete something, then you need to block out all and distractions, for that set period, and create a ring of isolation.
‘Turn off mobiles, close down your emails, switch your desk phone to do not disturb, inform colleagues that you don’t want to be disturbed. Being able to wholeheartedly focus on any given task will ensure you are always producing your best, regardless of what’s happening around you,’ he says. Once you’re done, rather than diving back into your notifications, a proper break for a lunchtime walk or even 15 minutes of meditation will refresh you and can make you more productive.
4. Create a Blacklist
Search engines are useful tools, but they are also minefields sowed with distractions. Even super-motivated and disciplined people are one click away from their favourite websites, AKA ‘timesinks’. ‘This can often result in huge chunks of time being wasted on sites that have no relevance to your work,’ says Jackson. ‘There are various apps available that help combat this issue, with you simply entering a list of the sites that present the most distraction. The apps automatically block you from visiting the sites for the selected time period, ensuring maximum focus and productivity.’
5. Plug Into An Audiobook
Commuting to work is the norm, which results in a daily time cost. But it also provides an opportunity for big picture personal development. It’s often not practical to work on a commute, but you can fill the time productively, rather than absorbing whatever noise social media, or free newspapers, are churning out.
‘Develop the habit of reading or listening to audiobooks that will develop your mindset and personal growth, and inspire you. Just spending 20 minutes per day will increase your knowledge, awareness and ultimately your value,’ recommends Jackson. A good place to start would be listening to author and business coach Pete Cohen’s ‘Sort Yourself Out’ audiobook.
6. Sweat it Out
One productivity hack Jackson swears by is a morning workout. Getting your blood moving will stimulate the release of endorphins setting you up for the day with a positive, energised mindset. ‘You’ll see the benefits not only physically but also in terms of mind fitness as well as productivity. Exercise first thing in the morning is by far one of the best habits you can adopt.’
‘Aim to devote whole days to certain themes – concentrating fully on one theme helps you to be more focused’
7. Forget The Multitasking Myth
Multitasking used to promoted as a silver bullet by productivity gurus, but studies are now starting to prove that not only is it a dud, but it’s toxic too. ‘Research shows productivity declines by as much as 40% when you play the balancing act moving between tasks juggling to get them all complete,’ reports Jackson, who adds that a leading US University found that multitaskers performed considerably worse than lower tasking counterparts. This is down to the mental switch cost that you incur every time you swap your focus from one task to another.
‘Somewhere down the line we were sold the myth that multitasking is a valuable skill that gives you the ability to get it all done, when in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth,’ says Jackson. ‘Aim to devote whole days to certain themes. Concentrating fully on one theme thing helps you to be more focused, and more productive. And if you are interrupted, it’s easier to pick up the thread again.’
WHAT NEXT? If you are looking for tips to launch your own startup then read the RSNG interview with founder of KYMIRA Sport, Tim Brownstone.
Find out more about success coach and entrepreneur Ryan Jackson