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6 Ways to Boost Productivity and Slay your Day

Updated: May 19, 2023

Master procrastinators beware!

Are you a master procrastinator? Studies show that 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. Okay, maybe you're not that bad, but we all have that one thing that we know we should do, but... not today. Maybe it's cleaning the garage or organizing the closet. Maybe you really want to write a book or you have a vision for a blockbuster screenplay, but you just can’t seem to get it done.

We all procrastinate sometimes. Recent studies indicate that procrastination isn’t just bad for our goals; it also impacts our health. Putting off important tasks makes us feel guilty and that guilt increases stress. That stress contributes to a host of health issues such as poor sleep habits, higher anxiety and depression, and lower immunity. Research maintains that chronic procrastinators are even more prone to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

New studies indicate that our brains are actually wired to procrastinate because we see our present selves and our future selves differently. Research conducted at UCLA analyzed fMRI scans of people’s brains as they thought about themselves in 3 different states: themselves in the here and now, as a celebrity like Matt Damon or Natalie Portman, and themselves in the future. They found that brain activity when describing ourselves in the future is similar to the brain activity when describing ourselves as a celebrity. But brain activity when describing ourselves is the present is completely different. Even though intellectually we know that our future self is the same person we are today just a little older and hopefully a little wiser, wesee him or her almost as a different person who doesn’t benefit or suffer from our present actions.

All of this happens because of a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system (also known as the instant gratification seeker – it lives in the now and loves pleasure and reward). Your limbic system is one of the most dominant parts of the brain. It generates cortisol when you’re stressed out about something and dopamine when you experience pleasure. And it all kind of happens automatically.

The prefrontal cortex is the rational decision maker that can visualize, plan, reason, identify the benefits of reaching the goal and the consequences of putting it off. There’s nothing automatic about the rational decision-maker. You have to intentionally activate it. And the moment you’re not consciously engaged in a task, your default mode is to put your limbic system back in charge. You give in to what feels good for your present self.

Psychologists call this present bias. It just means that we tend to give stronger weight to payoffs that are closer to the present time. The farther in the future the reward is, the less value we put on it – even when the value is exactly the same.

To improve your productivity and get more done in a day, here are six simple strategies that will help you conquer your master procrastinator and slay your day.

  1. Plan with intention: Create a realistic schedule for the tasks you need to complete. Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Allocate specific time slots for each task as well as breaks. Knowing that you have a break coming up in 10 minutes is often enough to keep you focused for 10 more minutes.

  2. Practice time blocking: Allocate specific time blocks for different activities or types of tasks. For example, set aside dedicated blocks of time to answer emails, return phone calls or creative work. This helps you maintain focus and prevents tasks from blending together.

  3. Avoid multitasking: Contrary to popular belief, the brain doesn’t actually multitask but rather it switches back and forth between tasks. The more task switching you do, the less focused you are on any one task. Instead, focus on one task at a time, complete it, and then move on to the next. This approach allows for better concentration and reduces the likelihood of errors or overlooking important details.

  4. Take regular breaks: Taking short breaks throughout the day can help refresh your mind and maintain productivity. Engage in activities like stretching, going for a short walk, or practicing deep breathing exercises. It's important to avoid burnout and sustain your energy levels.

  5. Adopt productivity techniques: Explore different productivity techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for focused 25-minute intervals followed by a short break. Other techniques include the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritization or the Getting Things Done (GTD) method for task management.

  6. Stay motivated: One of the easiest ways to stay motivated and productive is to set daily small manageable goals and track your progress with a visual cue. It can be something as simple as stickers or a jar of paper clips on your desk. Every time you do that thing, add a sticker to your journal or a paper clip to the jar. Each time you see your progress, you’ll get a little boost of good chemicals to keep you focused on that goal.

The next time you think about putting off that thing that you really need to do, remember that if your instant gratification seeker always wants to be in charge. But you have the power to outsmart it.


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