5 Mind Hacks to Steal from Highly Productive People

published Mar 24, 2016
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

In need of a productivity boost? You don’t (necessarily) need more coffee. What you do need is a new frame of mind. If you can train your brain to work harder, you’ll be more diligent and get more done. Whether your sluggish moments come at work or around the house, here are five strategies sure to defeat laziness.

Narrate Your Life

If your biggest problem is staying focused, try mental modeling. It’s a technical term for a really simple concept: Turn your day into a story. An article on The Science of Us paraphrases Charles Duhigg, author of “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,” to suggest that people who narrate their days to themselves are better able to keep focused:

“Those who keep it together under pressure are storytellers, essentially. They narrate their own lives to themselves — things that have just happened, things that are about to happen. They daydream about the day ahead and review the hours that have already passed. In doing this, scientists argue, they learn how to best direct their attention and are ‘better at choosing where to focus and what to ignore.'”

Airplane Days

You know how being on an airplane forces you to stay off the grid for a little while? And how, if you’re traveling alone, you have to stay radio silent with family members or coworkers about what everyone’s working on? Every once in a while (or whenever you get behind) schedule an airplane day for yourself, like entrepreneur Bryan Guido Hassin says he does on Quora: Turn off your phone, close your email, silence desktop notifications and GSD–get shit done.

Empty Your Mind

If you need to clear your mind, try this: Tear a piece of paper out of your notebook and write down everything that’s on your brain at the moment. Any ideas you have or pressing items on your mental to-do-list, write them all down on paper. It doesn’t need to be organized, it just needs to be marked down. From The Positivity Blog:

“When you don’t occupy your mind with having to remember every little thing – like how much milk to get – you become less stressed and it becomes easier to think clearly.”

Quiet Hour

On her blog, Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” recommends a series of mental exercises from writer and author of “Wake Up and Live,” Dorothea Brande. They’re designed to challenge your creativity and mental flexibility, but I happen to think the first exercise is also a great way to keep focused in the early morning or at the start of a new week:

“Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.”

Touch it Once

An author on Byrdie mentions a productivity strategy they picked up from The Chalkboard Mag‘s editorial director, Suzanne Hall: When you open an email or get a text notification or receive an event invite, “touch it once,” which means deal with it right then and there. Respond, reply or RSVP and get it off your brain for good. So now you can deal with more important things.

What do you think? Could you see any of these mind hacks working for you?

Re-edited from a post originally published 3.25.2016 – TW