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12 Essential Productivity Tips

Published by Nicolas Straut on
12 Essential Productivity Tips

Whether you’re working on a side project at night or trying to hit tough targets at work, it can be hard to find the hours in the day to accomplish your goals. Factor in all of the distractions from social media to unimportant emails and true productivity becomes even more difficult while working. Lucky for you, the right productivity tips can set you on the right track and help you crush the goals that stand in your way.

Below are 12 essential ways from browser plugins to to-do lists to shut out distractions, stay on track, and become your most productive self.

Start time blocking on your calendar

If you work at a company where you hold plenty of responsibilities or you regularly need to discuss project progress with clients, you know how quickly your day can fill with meetings. Most people will fill in the gaps between meetings with work but why not play offense with your calendar with time blocking?

By blocking off time on your calendar with regular times to work on specific projects, you can ensure you’ll get essential tasks and goals complete and fill in the rest of your day with meetings instead of the other way around.

Blocking time off for mundane tasks like responding to emails or data entry will also prevent you from getting distracted from more important tasks and goals.

Limit unnecessary meetings

One of the biggest drains on your productivity are unnecessary meetings. These meetings could be replaced with an email update or Slack exchange but instead pull you away from work. Some meetings are of course necessary and will help you to brainstorm, strategize, make important decisions, or do your job better but many could be replaced with digital communication.

Attempting to replace these meetings can be a precarious exercise but when approached carefully can free up your calendar and help you become more productive.

Use a pomodoro app to stay focused

One of the best tools for keeping yourself on track as you work on essential tasks is the pomodoro timer. This timer allows you to work for a concentrated period of time (usually 30 minutes) with 5 minute intervals of breaks. This helpful tool is best used for tasks that must be completed but during which you may be distracted. Of course for the tasks and goals you’re most passionate about working on and towards, you’ll likely have no trouble concentrating and being productive.

My favorite timer is Tomato One for Mac but you can find many others for your PC, phone, and browser.

Set up a reminder of why you’re working

It can be easy to forget why you’re working so hard without the occasional reminder. Setting up a digital or physical reminder of a macro goal like paying for your child’s tuition or saving up enough to start your own business will help remind you to keep hustling towards short-term goals. Even a family photo on your desk can serve as the motivation you need to keep working hard.

Start a to-do list habit

Another essential way to stay on track with your goals is to begin a to-do list habit. By checking off 6 essential tasks a day, including personal and work objectives, from a list that you write daily, you can be more productive and leave a record of your efforts. To-do lists will also give you a sense of accomplishment with each successful checked-off item which ideally will keep you striving to crush even more goals.

Need a simple to-do list app to help you track your accomplishments?

Download Ivy from the App Store

Take regular breaks

With all that you have to work on, you might not think you have to step away from your desk and go for a walk, grab a coffee, or chat with a friend.

But you definitely should.

These breaks are vital for you to regenerate, gain a new perspective, and clear your head. Burning the candle at both ends will only make you less productive so step away from your computer and make time to not work.

The same goes for personal goals like exercise. Sometimes it will be best for you not to go for that run but to give yourself a night to decompress and let your mind and body rest.

Find a confidante or accountability partner

We all need someone else in our life to depend on for guidance and support.

When it comes to the goals we’re working towards, some might require a person to consult with and vent to while others may require someone to ensure they’re grinding and staying productive. Others still may want both.

If you’re interested in the former, find a trusted family member or friend that cares for you and is always open to listen. For the latter, find a coworker or kindred spirit that knows about your goals and would be open to keeping you accountable in your goals.

Regardless of what you need, make sure you have someone to discuss your productivity and goals with so that you’re not working towards your goals without support.

Try knocking out easy tasks first

When starting out your day, completing easy tasks first can offer a sense of accomplishment that will propel you to accomplish more throughout your day. For example, making it a priority to make your bed or writing down all the things you’re grateful for first thing in the morning will make it that much easier to jumpstart your day and attack more difficult tasks with enthusiasm.

Use a website blocker

Sometimes it can be second nature to click off essential tabs in your browser you’re working in and check what’s happening on Twitter, Facebook, or a news website.

This habit can cost you precious time and reduce your productivity without giving you the regenerating break that walking away from your computer might. If you struggle with this issue, consider utilizing a website blocker to reduce the cognitive effort it takes to resist distracting temptations.

The Block Site Chrome plugin could be just the ticket for staying on track by blocking offending websites at least in the browser you use for work.

Consider deleting distracting apps from your phone

A major source of distraction for many people are apps on our phone, especially social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These apps are built to be regularly used and by their nature can draw you back and become distracting. While they aren’t essential to life, they do serve as a powerful source of connection to friends and family, and as such, it can be difficult to totally disconnect. Fortunately, you can declutter by deleting these apps from your phone and using them selectively from your computer browser on specific occasions. This adjustment to your digital life alone can drastically decrease your usage.

Unsubscribe from inbox-clogging emails

Email is a necessary means of communicating professionally that can become a drag if you begin adopting negative habits like subscribing to daily newsletters that don’t offer value. Though minimal, having to scan through tens of emails a day that aren’t important to your actual work can make you less productive. Rather than putting off unsubscribing or just deleting them on sight, put some effort into sorting through the necessary from the unnecessary and unsubscribe from inbox cloggers today.

Turn off distracting notifications

Phone notifications can be another major distracting influence throughout the day. Deleting social media apps is a start but text notifications and random notifications from different apps can either pop up on your computer screen if your phone is synced or bring you out of your work with buzzes, the lighting up your phone, or pings. Put some effort into turning off unnecessary notifications and sorting whether you should snooze text notifications for certain parts of the day.

Hopefully many or all of the above productivity tips have given you useful ideas for how to better conquer your goals. Remembering that you’re striving to achieve specific goals like saving for your retirement and/or your kids’s college costs, paying down debt, building a fantastic new product, or attempting to solve some problem will help you to better focus your efforts and set aside distractions that hold you back as your work. Perfect productivity is not achievable but you can approach it with the right tactics and mindset.


Nicolas is a Brooklyn-based content strategist at Intrepid SEO, a marketing agency. In his free time, he enjoys running, reading, and learning new productivity hacks that will help him accomplish more.

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