Let’s face it. We all feel like we need that extra edge to keep up with and compete in our demanding, creative lives. We dream of a magic, intellect-boosting pill like the one featured in the 2011 film Limitless. Remember Bradley Cooper instantaneously going from sloth-like apartment dweller to financial fast track, tailored suit guy? So many people strive to get this effect that Adderall, the popular drug of choice and one of the productivity hacks for college students, is now prescribed at epidemic proportions for adults.
However, researchers and journalists are discovering the definite downsides to a life chasing a fleeting feeling of adequacy from pills. They cite users needing more of the drug over time and the literature showing enhancement drugs may only make you feel like you’re doing better, without improving cognitive performance at all. It’s too bad that just perceiving that you’re awesome doesn’t help to get the work done any faster.
Fortunately, there are safe and effective productivity hacks which don’t require a prescription to work. Here are 4 productivity hacks to ensure you are safely living your best self.
1. Do This Last Thing Each Night, and First Thing Each Morning
Everyone feels lazy and unmotivated from time to time. Lying in bed, not even inclined to get up and eat breakfast. You need a productivity hack to help you get over your longing for sleep, and exchange it with the eagerness to get all your work done. There is a better way to start your day, and it’s all based on how you end your day the night before.
Before you go to sleep, send an email to yourself with your top 3 goals for the following day. You probably weren’t expecting that. It’s such a simple hack, but it’s very efficient and one that people overlook. Let’s break it down.
Basically, your past self is reminding your present self to quit extorting your future self. First thing in the morning, check your email and you’ll find an unread note from yourself. Whether from stress, exhaustion, or a good night’s sleep, you may have forgotten what you even wrote.
Before you even have the chance for distractions to get in your way, you have clear directives from a more determined version of yourself from the previous day. This one is just a simple matter of habits and having a deliberate routine, but take care that the time spent between emailing your top 3 priorities and reading them the next morning is productive as well. That means getting quality sleep with as few interruptions as possible.
2. Choose the Right Audio Environment for Your Work
When it comes to productivity, concentration is key. This means working in an environment that is just right for you and the work you have to do, especially if it’s work that requires a high level of cognitive processing. But picking the right environment to keep your productivity up isn’t always easy. The places you’d initially think are the best to work in, such as a library or an office, aren’t ideal locations for everyone.
For some people, too much silence in the name of optimal productivity is just as bad as too much noise. In other words, the way you might be distracted by unconsciously listening to your co-worker talking over the phone, is the same way you are bound to be distracted when something noisy suddenly breaks the silence of a library study cubicle. Like when a door slams or you hear footsteps overhead. In the end, the simple truth is that searching for elusive silence can also be a killer to your productivity.
As an alternative, many people wear headphones and listen to music while working, but this may also be counterproductive. Since most music is designed to catch your attention, it can easily distract you from the task at hand.
A better option to create the perfect audio environment is to use scientifically-based music to help you focus. Rather than trying to find the optimal song or playlist on your own. Brain.fm uses patented AI, inspired by an understanding of the mind and brain, to provide you with music made for focusing on the task at hand.
3. Activate Your Good Brain Chemicals With Music
Just how important is music?
You might be surprised to hear that music is an indispensable part of our evolution. Since we first beat the drum or played on bone flutes, music has helped man survive the vulnerabilities of nature, since it sharpens the brain’s ability to sustain attention and anticipate events. Pretty valuable in a fight or flight situation, but it works the same way to hack productivity today.
Listening to music stimulates the production of the brain hormones oxytocin and dopamine. Oxytocin is a chemical that invokes feelings of happiness and helps you trust and bond with others. Dopamine, on the other hand, helps control your brain’s pleasure and reward centers, the same ones that get hijacked by addictive drugs. This productivity hack will work best however, when you love the selected music.
4. Fast Forward Your Life
You only have so many hours in a day, but there is so much you want to listen to and read! Personal development podcasts, that great article that just came out by your favorite writer, and the latest fiction bestseller are on the top of your list, but when will you have time to get to it all?
There is a way to consume all of this information faster. In fact, there are several ways. Go ahead and download everything you find interesting. Get the podcasts, save the articles, buy the books. Then use these hacks to get the knowledge you want more quickly.
- Listen to podcasts speed up to about 1.3x to 1.8x. You’ll find you can still understand and digest the content,
- Use tools like Instapaper or Pocket to read text offline later. Offline reading means you won’t have the interruptions from messages on your computer or phone.
- Instapaper has a speed reading feature that allows you to adjust how quickly you read the content.
- You can use text-to-speech services for listening rather than reading all of the content you want.
- Listen to music designed to help you focus to increase your attention while reading. Fewer distractions while you read means less time spent backtracking to remember what you just read, helping you blitz through any text more efficiently.
Perhaps these productivity hacks won’t turn you into a shape-bending genius like some nootropics claim to be able to do. But keep in mind, even Einstein simply used music to break through plateaus and become one of the greatest minds in human history. He said “I think in music.” Don’t discount the effectiveness of what seems routine and simple, but is actually based on solid evidence. It may be these are the very productivity hacks that give you the largest boost in output.
Jon Reyes is a copywriter in the professional growth and personal transformation space. Since 2013, he’s been using the written word to share his longtime passion for all things “growth.” Currently, he works alongside Brain.fm to help spread the word of how music can play a key role in advancing human potential.