Need to focus? Here’s our top 8 playlists and rituals for serious productivity
Struggling to focus? Whether your to-do list is getting out of control or you have a strict deadline to meet, it’s time to get serious about your productivity.
It’s time to power up your productivity rituals.
Productivity rituals are those habits you build to skyrocket your productivity. They are repeated behaviours that signify a change or moment of importance, so your brain knows to kick in and focus on some serious work.
Here are our top 8 rituals and playlists:
1. Take a nap
That’s right – a little napping goes a long way. Research shows naps can boost memory, improve performance, make your brain work better, and even reduce stress.
How much sleep are we talking about? 26 minutes, to be precise. NASA found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes showed alertness improvements of up to 54% and job-performance improvements by 34% compared to pilots who didn’t nap.
2. Make your bed
Sometimes it’s the small rituals that have the biggest returns, and that includes the simple act of making your bed in the morning.
According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit”, daily bed-making kick starts a chain of other good decisions throughout the day, and gives you a sense of taking charge. He says this even leads to “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”
Pretty impressive results!
Still not inspired to make your bed? In this speech US Navy Seal, Admiral William H McRaven says:
“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
3. Eat the frog
How often do you put off difficult tasks? The ones you’re really dreading? Actually, the best approach is to tackle something difficult when your energy is highest.
It could be replying to an awkward email from your colleague, tackling a complicated spreadsheet, or writing a long project report. The idea is simply to get it done early so you’re not distracted by it for the rest of your day.
So, what’s this about a frog? It comes from a famous Mark Twain quote:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
4. Schedule more breaks
As hard as you might try, you can’t be productive all the time. It’s biologically impossible! Human brains work to Ultradian Rhythms, which means we only have 90-120 minute sessions of alertness before we need a break.
If you continue to work when your brain wants to rest, you start using reserve stores of energy to keep up, which can release stress hormones.
But sometimes it’s hard to remember to take breaks, especially when you have deadlines to meet. Try setting an alarm or scheduling breaks into your calendar.
5. Block time for work
Take a look at your calendar. Chances are it’s filled with meetings, appointments, Zooms. But we bet your calendar doesn’t have the one thing that really needs to be scheduled: real work.
Everything else is a scheduled distraction. Meanwhile your real work doesn’t get a look in.
Start scheduling time for important work, so you can focus on high-priority tasks without distraction. There are some brilliant free apps to help:
- Sunsama for helping you organise everything you need to do today in one place – tasks, meetings, emails, you name it.
- Any.do for helping you manage your to-do list and calendar together.
- HourStack for helping you plan, track and report on your time (see how long tasks actually take, compared to what you think!).
6. Take a walk
Work. Walk five minutes. Work. Repeat. Breaking up your day with short walks is proven to boost productivity. A study from the University of Colorado found that 30 minutes of walking broken up throughout the day into short bursts results in higher energy and resilience in the afternoon.
You can even make your walks productive. Next time your colleague wants to meet, suggest a walk-and-talk meeting. Biographer Walter Isaacson noted that walking was Steve Jobs’s preferred way to have a serious conversation. Or if you need to practice a presentation, why not do it on a walk? That way, there are no distractions – it’s just you and the work.
7. Get up and dance
If walking isn’t your thing and you’re working from home, why not put on some tunes and dance?
“I start each day by dancing to a song that helps me feel energized and optimistic. No matter what, I take a moment to dance when I get out of bed because it reminds me that I’m in charge of how I show up in the world.”
8. Put on your productivity playlist
Music is a miracle productivity tool. It doesn’t even matter which type of music you play, studies show. Let’s say you’re having a rough morning: you ran out of coffee, the internet is painfully slow, and your boss is on your back about that looming deadline.
Turn on your favourite tunes and your mood will soar, improving your outlook on work and triggering productivity.
When you’re working against the clock and can’t deal with distractions, the best type of music is without lyrics. That could be classical music, instrumental chillout or even video game soundtracks. Think about it: playing a video game requires a lot of concentration to make it to the next level. So, the music in video games is often very strategic, rather than incidental sound effects.
Try these playlists:
Over to you
All of these rituals and playlists will help you be more productive. But everyone is different. You need to experiment and find what works for you. Be self-aware, listen to your body and mind, and use rituals to build your own personalised power-productivity routine.