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To gain insight into effective productivity, here's what I found from my various interviews with busy founders and experts over the years.
1. Schedule breaks throughout the day
One productivity mistake so many of us make is working for hours at a time, sometimes right through the lunch hour, and neglecting to take frequent breaks.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project and author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working, writes in Harvard Business Review:
Our bodies send us clear signals when we need a break, including fidgetiness, hunger, drowsiness and loss of focus. But mostly, we override them. Instead, we find artificial ways to pump up our energy: caffeine, foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, and our body's own stress hormones.
To achieve high productivity and performance, according to Schwartz, you should work the way sprinters in track and field train. This means working with full focus and intensity during the morning hours, for 90-minute "sprints" (but not longer), before taking a proper break.
In other words, concentrate solely on your most challenging and important task for 90 minutes at a time, then give your brain a rest and allow it to recharge. You will be able to work more efficiently and effectively when you return to your desk.
2. Schedule your to-do list items
It is important to take some time in the morning to plan out what you need to accomplish for the day.
Cal Newport, who is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University and author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, suggests that scheduling your to-do list items can help you be more realistic about what you can achieve.
Otherwise, it's just a list of wishes, rather than goals that you can actually accomplish. Newport adds:
Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you're able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you're able to put work into places where you can do it best.
3. Turn off notifications
Managing too many notifications can be overwhelming and distract you from completing important tasks. Rather than wasting time trying to achieve inbox zero, focus on one or two pressing problems each day, and dedicate uninterrupted time to strategically dig into them.
To avoid interruptions from email, texts, and social media notifications, consider turning off these notifications during your allotted work time. This will help you stay in the zone and accomplish more.