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Want to get more done in less time? The best way to turbocharge your productivity is to develop the right habits. Here are 21 habits that will massively boost your productivity in 2023.
When I was in my twenties I had a job working in the wine buying department of a national high-end supermarket… and I always parked my car in pretty much the exact same spot in the car park (parking lot) at work. If ever my ‘usual’ spot was taken and I had to park somewhere else… the EXACT same thing would happen every time I left work…
Every time I left work I would go directly to where I usually parked my car… have a brief moment of panic, thinking that someone had stolen my car… and then remember I’d parked on a different floor that day.
This happened EVERY SINGLE TIME I had to park my car on a different level.
Why am I telling you this story?
I’m telling you to prove the point that habits are powerful things.
No matter how many times I told myself ‘remember you parked on Level 1 today’… or even if I wrote it on my hand, it was no good… I always went straight to my usual spot on autopilot.
You’ve almost certainly experienced the powerful effect of habits in your own life… Maybe it’s that thing of automatically reaching for a beer or glass of wine at a certain time of day… Maybe it’s automatically reaching for your phone the minute you wake up… Maybe it’s automatically checking your emails right after you switch on your computer… Maybe it’s automatically reaching for the snacks when you watch Netflix… Maybe it’s automatically heading for the bathroom when you get out of bed…
In fact, you probably have lots of them… you may even have a similar story to mine!
Habits are super powerful… Sometimes that’s a bad thing, sometimes that’s a really good thing… But the best thing about habits is that you can ‘create’ new habits that support the life you want to live.
And if you want to live a more productive life, you can absolutely develop habits that support that aim!
In this article I am sharing 21 habits that will massively boost your productivity in 2023. Initially it may take some time and effort to develop these habits, but once you are used to doing them regularly, you’ll likely end up doing them on autopilot.
1. Do your highest impact task first
One of the simplest but most impactful productivity habits to cultivate is simply to start your day with your most impactful task.
In truth there are probably a thousand or more ways you could spend your time on any given day… but not all of them will move the dial equally. Some will move the dial a lot, some will move the dial a little and some will barely move the dial at all.
The trick to being truly productive is to first define your highest impact tasks – the tasks which will get you to your goals the fastest. And then spend the majority of your time on these high impact tasks, while minimizing (or ideally totally eliminating) all the other tasks.
The problem is, most people do the exact opposite! They spend all day every day on ‘busy work’ – work which feels like it needs to be done, but doesn’t actually make a difference to their end goals / bank balance.
And the reason? Because most people start the day in reactive mode… checking email, checking social media, checking the news…
These reactive tasks often lead to long rabbit holes, long conversations back and forth and/or major shiny object syndrome.
As a result, the most important tasks – the tasks that would actually make the biggest impact on your goals and on your bank balance, get pushed down to the bottom of your to do list… or fall off it completely!
The antidote? Always begin your day with your highest impact task.
(Not sure what your highest impact tasks are? Use the simple exercise in my ebook to figure out what yours are.)
2. Check social media ONCE and LATER
Checking social media first thing… and every time your phone dings or a red circle appears is a strong habit for many people… but it is one of the most unproductive things you can do with your day.
Starting the day with social media (and emails, see below) instantly puts you into reactive mode. Reacting to other people’s agendas and throwing all kinds of tempting shiny objects into play and rabbit holes to fall down.
And allowing social media to distract you every time a new notification arrives is a sure-fire way to guarantee an extremely unproductive day. (See #4 for more on this!)
The antidote? Never allow yourself to check social media until you have done your most impactful task for the day… and only check social media once a day.
It might sound super draconian, but if you’re serious about maximizing your productivity, it’s essential.
Remember social media is DESIGNED to be addictive (because the longer the social media overlords can keep you on their platform, the more money they make!) Checking your social media gives you an instant dopamine hit (like sugar… or even drugs!) but it’s a major productivity killer.
Checking your social media just once a day… and always later in the day will help you overcome your social media habit.
READ MORE >>> Indistractable by Nir Eyal*
3. Check emails ONCE and LATER
For almost exactly the same reasons, it’s essential you leave checking your email until after you’ve first done your highest impact tasks.
Like with social media, checking email first thing every morning is a very common habit… and even more of a productivity killer.
If you start your day checking email, it’s quite easy to spend the whole day in your inbox – again, reacting to other people’s agendas, falling down long rabbit holes, getting attracted by ‘shiny objects’ and getting involved in long-winded email conversations.
And often, by the time you emerge from reacting to your inbox, the whole day is gone and you never actually get to your highest impact tasks.
The antidote is exactly the same as with social media… get in the habit of checking your emails later – as late in the day as you can – and only once a day.
Not only will checking once per day make you more productive, you’ll get fewer emails! (Because you won’t see the replies to your emails until the next day. Remember, back and forth email conversations = A LOT more emails per day!)
And, as I always say, it’s amazing how much LESS time checking emails (and social media) takes up when you are NOT using them to procrastinate!
READ MORE >>> 10 good email habits for greater productivity
Multi-tasking has been proved time and time and time again to be a highly unproductive way to work, as this article in the Harvard Business Review so neatly puts it:
“Based on over a half-century of cognitive science and more recent studies on multi-tasking, we know that multi-taskers do less and miss information. It takes time (an average of 15 minutes) to re-orient to a primary task after a distraction such as an email. Efficiency can drop by as much as 40%.”
Instead of multi-tasking, learn the habit of mono-tasking… and you will vastly increase how much you can do in a day.
What is mono-tasking? Mono-tasking is simply the opposite of multi-tasking. You do one task at a time.
Sounds simple, right? But most people are so used to trying to do more than one thing at a time that it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds.
If you are used to multi-tasking, mono-tasking can feel really strange at first… and kind of boring. This is because, as this excellent Guardian article puts it…
“Multi-tasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”
But it’s worth persevering because. once you see how much more productive you are when you mono-task, you’ll never look back!
(Think you’re the exception? This study by researchers at the University of Utah showed that the BETTER people think they are at multitasking, the WORSE they are at it in reality!)
5. Write a daily to do list
What does your to do list look like?
For many people it’s just one great long list of ‘everything’ – everything they have to do, everything they feel they ought do, everything they see other bloggers doing and everything someone once said on a webinar they should be doing. A list that only gets longer and never shorter.
But that great long list of everything is actually harming your productivity.
When presented with a long list of everything, most people pick off the seemingly urgent and/or the most fun activities… and those high impact tasks stay languishing at the bottom of the list – forever put off until some mythical ‘one day’ in the future.
The fix? Get into the habit of writing a DAILY to do list – a list of activities you plan to do today and nothing else. Make it short and achievable, and make sure it includes at least one high impact task.
6. Number your daily to do list
Better still, get into the habit of numbering the tasks on your daily to do list in the order you plan to do them. Make sure your highest impact task is #1 and ‘checking emails and social media’ is near the end (ideally last!)
Then stick to your plan – mono-tasking each item.
In other words, start with task #1 and nothing but task #1 until it’s finished, or until it’s allotted time slot is over. Then (perhaps after a short break to get a drink, go to the loo, or get a breath of fresh air) do task #2 and nothing but task #2 until it’s finished. Continue in this fashion until you have completed all the tasks.
7. Write your to do list the night before
For maximum effectiveness, write your daily to do list the night before.
This is one of those habits that has quasi-magical properties.
Firstly, it will help you stop work when you want to and take a proper break in the evening. (And rest / time off is so important for productivity – see #20.) If you know you have a good plan for tomorrow, you can stop working when you want to stop because you know it will all be taken care of tomorrow. No more working until the wee hours because you have ‘so much to do’!
Secondly, it will help you rest and sleep better. Once you’ve written your to do list for tomorrow, you can stop thinking and worrying about work. You will know that tomorrow is all planned and sorted, and so you can relax and take time off in the evening… and go to bed at a sensible time. And you won’t worry about work during the night either, because you have already written your beautiful, short, achievable, prioritised ‘to do’ list for tomorrow, and so mentally it’s all taken care of – you have nothing to worry about.
Finally, it helps you hit the ground running the next day. No more faffing around for 2 hours before you FINALLY get down to some proper work! If you don’t have a clear, numbered to do list ready to go, you are much more likely to indulge in ‘procrast-planning’ for the first hour (or more!) before getting down to work ‘proper’. But if your to do list is already written, all you have to do is look at item number 1 and get started. (Mono-tasking only that task until it’s done, of course!)
8. Write 3 wins
And right after you’ve written your short, achievable to do list for the next day, write down 3 wins / 3 things you’ve achieved in the day.
I’ll be honest, I was super sceptical about this practice, and resisted it for a long time… but then I read The Gap And The Gain by Dan Sullivan* and it totally changed my thinking on this one. (The science is compelling.)
It’s a tiny habit (it usually takes me about a minute per day), but it’s effect is huge – it gives you a sense of progress, helps you see and celebrate the small and the big wins… and ultimately makes you more motivated, and consequently, more productive.
9. Put your phone on silent when you are working
Your phone is your enemy when it comes to productivity.
You can be doing all of the above… but as you are happily mono-tasking on your highest impact task, your phone dings… and it is WAY TOO TEMPTING not to ‘just have a quick check’…
1 hour later, you suddenly realise you’re supposed to be working on your highest impact task.
We’ve all done it, right?
The first and most obvious solution is to simply turn your phone onto silent while you are working… This is simple to do and stops you being a slave to notifications. (Fun fact, I’ve had my phone permanently on silent for about 5 years… it’s incredibly freeing not to be at the mercy of beeps and pings.)
But sometimes even just the phone sitting there is too tempting. If so…
10. Put your phone in another room
Putting your phone on silent AND in another room is even more effective. If you can’t see your phone, you are much less likely to ‘just check’. Just your phone sitting there in your eyeline is incredibly tempting… it’s a constant reminder that there *might* be a notification and it’s is very tempting to have a look and see.
Studies have shown that we are basically addicted to checking notifications on our phone. As this article explains:
“When we check our phones, our brains release a small amount of dopamine. Dopamine motivates us to take action and each time we hear a notification, we check our device. The problem is this dopamine boost is temporary and leads to a letdown. Our brains want more dopamine, which triggers the habit of checking our phones constantly throughout the day.”
To help break this addiction, get in the habit of always putting your phone in another room before you start work. (If you can’t put your phone in another room, at least put it out of sight.)
READ MORE >> Indistractable by Nir Eyal*
11. Turn off notifications
The problem with our phones is we often need to look at them – for perfectly good and work-related reasons.
At which point, if you’ve been good and had the sound turned off, there’s likely to be dozens of those tempting little red circles on all your social media apps (and your email app, if you have email on your phone), all ready to lure you down a rabbit hole of unproductiveness.
A simple solution is to turn off all push notifications (or as many as you can bear / get away with).
It’s easy to do, just look in the settings.
With no red circles, is much easier to ignore emails / social media (until their allotted time later in the day) and get on with the specific task you needed your phone for.
12. Close unnecessary tabs
Just as notifications on your phone are a major productivity killer, so is having multiple tabs open on your computer… It’s so easy to get enticed by a shiny object, flit between tasks ‘multi-tasking’ and get completely lost down a rabbit hole, when you have dozens of tabs open.
The solution? Simply get into the habit of closing down all tabs when you have finished each task on your to do list and only opening the tabs necessary to complete the task you are currently working on.
13. Practice ‘Positive Procrastination’
One of my favourite productivity habits!
This one is adapted from one of my favourite productivity books: Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster*
The idea here is whenever a ‘good idea’ pops into your head, whenever you see a new bright shiny object, whenever you think of something else you need to do… don’t do it immediately! Instead ‘procrastinate’… or, more specifically, write it down under a line at the bottom of your to do list.
When you’ve completed your main to do list for the day, take a look at everything under the line and decide…
- Does it NEED to be done today? If so, do it right away.
- Can it wait until tomorrow? If so, plan it into tomorrow’s to do list.
- Can it wait until a later date? In which case, add it to your calendar for that day (or whatever system you use to capture to dos that need to happen on a specific date in the future… Don’t have a system? Grab a copy of my ebook and steal mine!)
- Or can it just be deleted?
What you will often find is that that bright shiny object that seemed SO IMPORTANT when it was a nice tempting distraction from the task you were working on earlier in the day, suddenly seems completely unimportant at the end of the day, when doing it would mean sacrificing some of your precious non-work time!
It’s such a small and simple habit… but so powerful.
14. Keep a paper to do list
A bit of a controversial one, but hear me out…
You’ll hear a lot of productivity ‘gurus’ tell you to use Google Calendar for your to do list, or to use some fancy app…
But the more technological your to do list, the less likely you are to use it (because it’s a hassle) and the more likely you are to get distracted by it (because you need to get out your phone / look at a different tab on your computer to access it).
While I keep my yearly and monthly action plans on my computer (one simple Excel spreadsheet, designed to be as easy and friction free to actually use!), I use a day-per-page diary for my daily to do lists.
This simple system has several advantages over its tech-heavy cousins:
Firstly, it’s about as friction free as it’s possible to be… it’s right there next to me, with a pen ready and waiting to go, if I need to add to my list, reorder my list… or write any ‘Positive Procrastination’ items at the bottom of it. (It totally eliminates that whole ‘I’ll just write it on a sticky note until I can get round to putting into my fancy to do list app’ thing.)
Secondly, I can see it all the time, without risk of getting distracted by my phone / computer.
And thirdly, it has dated pages for a whole year… So if I want to add a task for a different day, I just jot it down at the top of the relevant day and it’s there waiting for me when I need it.
Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest!
15. Use Google Calendar
Eh? What? You’ve just told me to use a paper diary?
Ah, you see I don’t actually use my paper diary as a diary… I use my paper diary strictly for my daily to do lists – my specific, numbered plan of what I intend to do each day.
But I use Google Calendar for all my appointments.
Using Google Calendar for appointments can really turbocharge your productivity.
Check out this post for more on this, plus lots of brilliant hacks >>> 24 Google Calendar hacks to boost your productivity in 2023
16. Capture Everything
This simple but powerful productivity habit is borrowed from David Allen’s Getting Things Done*.
The idea here is pretty simple. Our brains are designed for processing information, not storing information. The more you store in your brain, the worse your brain is at ‘processing’… leading to stress, feeling messy and chaotic, not being able to think clearly and being unproductive.
(See Getting Things Done* for the science behind all this.)
The solution? Capture everything.
Or, in other words, don’t store your to do list / calendar / anything you need to ‘do’ or remember in your head. Outsource it all to a system for capturing this information and for retrieving it when you need it.
Now, a little controversially, I don’t like Allen’s system for this… (I found it too complicated and not suitable for the needs of a blogger / online business owner), so I invented my own system.
You can read more about my system in my ebook: Blog Smarter Not Harder
Whatever system you use, make it a habit to write everything down – every ‘to do’, every task, every appointment, every ‘good idea’… and never try to store information in your head.
The benefits are enormous… you’ll feel less stressed, much more organized, much more able to think straight… and you’ll be so much more productive. When I first started practicing this habit, my productivity went through the roof!
Don’t believe me? Try it for a week – you’ll be astonished at the difference it makes.
17. Have a place to put ‘good ideas’ and ‘shiny objects’
One of the most important parts of a good ‘capture’ system is to have a suitable place to put all those ‘shiny objects’ and ‘good ideas’ that occur to you throughout the day.
If you have one place where you can put all those things, they are much less likely to derail your day AND you will be able to find them quickly and easily when you need them.
One of the reasons why we jump on ‘shiny objects’ and ‘good ideas’ is precisely because we don’t have a good place to put all those things… and so we worry that we’ll forget them.
In Blog Smarter Not Harder I teach a simple but highly effective way of storing all those ‘shiny objects’ and ‘good ideas’, plus ‘useful resources’ and ‘things I want to do / refer to later’.
But the basic principle is simple – create ONE place (ideally a spreadsheet) where you put all those good ideas and things you want to find easily to refer to later, then make it a habit to immediately put every good idea / shiny object / resource there… then go straight back to what you were doing.
18. Say no… a lot!
There are hundreds – if not thousands of things you *could* be doing with your time. One of the main causes of stress and overwhelm is that feeling of ‘so much to do and so little time’, constantly trying to juggle dozens – if not hundreds – of things, and feeling like you never do anything ‘properly’.
One of my favourite productivity quotes is:
“Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking 20 steps in a singular direction. [The problem is] most people take one step in 20 different directions.”
Dr Benjamin Hardy (Willpower Doesn’t Work*)
The problem is that most bloggers and online business owners are trying to do WAY too many things all at once. And as a result, they end up spinning their wheels and not getting anywhere.
If you truly want to be successful, you need to pick a direction and plot a course to get there – then single-mindedly head in that direction.
And that means saying ‘no’ a lot.
In order to say ‘yes’ to the things that truly matter, you need to say ‘no’ to everything else.
It’s not easy – and it feels counterintuitive, but if you do, you’ll reap massive rewards.
Learn how to do this in my ebook: Blog Smarter Not Harder
19. Batch your tasks
Task Batching is mono-tasking taken to the next level. It helps you use your time more efficiently by ‘batching’ similar tasks together and doing them all at once, rather than dealing with them sporadically.
By dedicating a specific block of time to a specific type of task – for example, writing blog posts or replying to emails – you are able to work in a more focused and efficient way, minimize distractions and produce better quality work.
We ‘batch’ tasks in our daily lives all the time – for example, no-one bakes 12 cupcakes one cupcake at a time, or washes their laundry one item at a time – and the same time-saving principles of batching similar tasks together can also be applied to blogging.
20. Take time off
One of the problems with being an online business owner it’s easy to fall into the trap of working all the time available to you.
This is a really bad idea because rest and time off actually make you MORE productive.
If you don’t take time off, your body will eventually force you to take time off – either because of burnout, ‘lack of motivation’ or illness.
It is much, much better to take ‘proactive’ time off than ‘reactive’ time off.
I recommend that you deliberately plan in ‘time off’ in your week AND regular ‘holidays’ from blogging throughout the year.
For example, I have a rule that I don’t work on my business in the evening or on Sundays. And I take about 6-8 weeks ‘holiday’ throughout the year.
And when I say time off / holiday, I mean completely off all blogging/business related activities – no emails, no social media, no anything blog-related.
It might feel counter-intuitive, but taking regular breaks will make you MORE productive. It will also make you more creative and help you to enjoy your work more.
If you don’t believe me, I recommend you read Willpower Doesn’t Work by Dr Benjamin Hardy*. In it he shares how we as humans are designed for periods of intense work, followed by complete breaks. Very similar, in fact, to when you are trying to build muscle – you need to work your muscles hard, but you also need rest days. Well it turns out it’s the same for every aspect of our lives – and that includes work!
21. Get enough sleep
By the same token, if you want to boost your productivity, you need to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep will make you less productive, less creative, less motivated and more inclined to procrastinate, chase after shiny objects and be inconsistent.
Better still, being more productive can improve your sleep, so it becomes a virtuous circle, as this Zapier article points out:
“If a person gets more sleep, then they are more focused and better at performing tasks. Therefore, they get more done and can feel better about their work. This, in turn, can help sleep because people feel like they have “earned it’.”
21 habits that will massively boost your productivity in 2023 – wrapping it up
I realise this is a long list… and it probably feels overwhelming. If you try to implement all these changes overnight, you will almost certainly fail. It’s much better to make gradual changes over time.
Pick 2 or 3 of these habits and work on getting really good at them. Once those habits are part of your daily routine, come back to this article and pick 1 or 2 more to work on. Keep going in this vein and you will become more and more productive over time, and these habits will stop being something you have to work on and start being second nature – something you hardly have to think about.
Need some help with this?
Grab a copy of my ebook Blog Smarter Not Harder which goes through all of this in a much more structured way and teaches you my whole ‘capture’ system to help you not only ‘capture everything’, but also do it in a way that will help you focus only on what is truly important ‘right now’ – so you can stop worrying about ‘all the things’ and focus solely on what you need to do today.
Over to you!
I’d love to hear which of these habits you found most helpful! Have you started implementing any of them? How have you found it? Or do you have any other habits to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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