How is one to be productive with all these push notifications pulling us away?
Today more than ever, The Art Of Getting Sh*t Done we call productivity is a constant and growing focus of our daily lives.
According to Columbia Business School research, “a busy and overworked lifestyle, rather than a leisurely lifestyle, has become an aspirational status symbol.” Researchers Silvia Bellezza and Anat Keinan argue that, on top of our desire to succeed professionally, “There is growing pressure to spend our free time improving ourselves or the world around us.”
Productivity is en vogue.
Elon Musk sleeps on the floor of Tesla factories so he doesn’t have to waste time driving to and from work. I’m trying to stop checking Twitter and my fantasy football lineups 37 times every day and I put essential oils in my desk oil diffuser that allegedly improve focus. And across Silicon Valley and other startup-dense cities, founders and other elite professionals use brain-rebooting NAD+ therapy, meditative ketamine infusion therapy, cryotherapy chambers and other technologies as physiological and psychological resetters and boosters.
Coincidentally, in an age of constant digital distractions, being productive, while trending upward socially as a respectable pursuit, has simultaneously become more difficult. Maybe we’re spending more time working and trying to be productive in our personal lives. But are we actually getting more done?
To reach optimal productivity, we must work in “flow state”—a concept defined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975. When we’re in flow—an immersive, focused mindset—we’re up to five times more productive, according to a McKinsey report.
But, according to a study from University of California Irvine, after an interruption—like a text, email, or Facebook notification—it can take us about 23 minutes to return to flow state. Now consider that the average person, prompted by dozens of push notifications, touches their phone 2,617 times a day.
We know how detrimental our social media, email, smartphone usage, and internet browsing habits are to our productivity. But still, they’re hard habits to break. Tech companies, after all, use our psychological tendencies to routinely draw us back in. They intentionally design products to get and keep our attention, as noted in “Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products,” a book by lecturer and investor Nir Eyal.
Of course, many of us are trying desperately to put down our phones, take fewer breaks, do more of true consequence, and bear down on needle-moving professional and life goals and objectives. So how exactly do we best reclaim our productivity? You could swap your smartphone for a Light Phone, “designed to be used as little as possible,” if you simply don’t have the self-restraint to ignore every text, email, and other push notification you receive. Of course, there’s the popular Pomodoro Technique and a growing market of productivity apps.
And below, four successful founders share productivity strategies they use and recommend.
1. Don’t mistake movement for progress (Sami Rusani, CRO at Shipchain).
Early on in my career, I had the bright idea to get three computer monitors. That way, I could keep track of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, news stories, stock prices, and every other online event at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, it destroyed my productivity.
I’d made a classic mistake—conflating movement with progress. The more information you have pouring in, the more it feels like you’re doing something. But in reality, you’re accomplishing less.
Productivity is about getting things done, not watching them happen.
Read more here.
2. When you need to tackle a big, daunting task, don’t put it off—just start (Jaleh Bisharat, CEO of NakedPoppy).
I learned this one from “Hyperfocus,” a book by Chris Bailey about directing your focus.
Our brains are drawn to distractions and instant gratification, like the little heart on Instagram when someone likes your photo.
Our brains don’t react as positively to embarking on a difficult task that requires deep work. So, remind yourself to just start.
Most of the time, once I’m a few minutes into working on a tough project, I wonder, “Why did I struggle to get going?” Once you begin, it’s much easier to get into your flow.
Read more here.
3. Go to bed knowing what you’re going to focus on the next day (Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigmatic).
So much of success is psychological.
The moment you wake up, the day is going to try to steer you in the direction it wants you to go. Which means, in order for you to remain productive and moving in the direction you want to go, you have to have that “target” already defined in your mind starting the night before.
If you wake up to 72 unanswered emails, you’re going to immediately feel behind. More than that, you’re going to feel compelled to respond to them—and adjust whatever plan you had for the day to cater to the people around you.
But if, the night before, you have your priorities clearly defined, then when you see those 72 unanswered emails you won’t react and respond. Instead, you’ll be able to tell yourself, “These aren’t my priority right now. My number one is priority A. My number two is B, and if I tackle A and B then this will be an amazing and productive day, even if I never look at my email.”
Read more here.
4. Get some sleep! (Peter Swaniker, founder & CEO of Ximble)
So many high-achieving personalities, entrepreneurs especially, think that unless they’re working 15 hours per day, they aren’t giving it their all.
Unfortunately, this level of output just isn’t sustainable. At the end of the day, how many hours you put into your work isn’t the most important variable. What matters is how many of those hours are quality hours being executed at the optimal level. And nothing impacts your performance as much as sleep.
As an entrepreneur myself, I know how difficult this can be—especially when you’re stressed, or feeling like you have a million items on your To-Do list. So I find that getting at least 8 hours of sleep on a consistent basis is helpful. It has to be a habit.
If you have trouble falling asleep though, there are a few easy ways to get your brain to start to calm down:
- Put your phone down at least an hour before going to bed.
- Try not to watch too much TV or anything visually stimulating an hour before falling asleep.
- Drink non-caffeinated tea (herbal teas) to ease into a relaxation state.
- Read, relax, do some sort of calming activity that forces you to slow down.
- A newer tactic, but as CBD continues to become more and more commercially available, this is becoming a popular way to relax the body before bed as well.
Read more here.