The No-Nonsense Guide To Being More Productive

I am gonna be clear. I am no productivity guru. Neither am I a billionaire or the first trillionaire who conquered it all through his sky-high productivity. I am just what you would call, a decently successful guy leading a happy life who reads a lot of self-improvement books such as The Productivity Project, The Happiness Equation, Deep Work, Tools of Titans etc.

Productivity Guide

In here, I am going to try and outline what it needs from your end to be more productive. What follows may appear conventional, may not be known to you or may just happen to blow your mind. I don’t know.

This is what worked for me and some others whom I met who did what I did and became much more productive than what their lazy asses were.

#1. Quality vs Quantity – aka Focus Like A Monk

Focus like a monk to boost productivity
But, dressing like one ain’t recommended

You may work for 70-hours a week and watch as your co-worker get the promotion or finish twice as much work whilst working a 40-hour week.

Seems impossible but sadly this happens all around us. We may not notice. We may be kind of blind to this fact but that won’t prevent it from happening. It happens.

Meet, Renu Raj, a woman doc who became an IAS officer. No, not meet, in the literal sense, but hey!

Anyhow, UPSC is one of the most difficult exams in India. Professor Lant Pritchett, from Harvard University had said in 2010: “The Indian Administrative Service is full of officers who have passed an entrance examination and selection process that makes getting into Harvard look like a walk in the park. 

And, those who succeed in the exam, bag some of the most powerful and demanding jobs in India. People kind of, study throughout the day, sometimes for gruelling 80 hour study sessions each week.

However, this doc got the second rank in the exam whilst simultaneously working as a doctor. She studied for around 2 hours a day but got pretty much the second highest score among 1.1 million examinees.

This serves to prove the quantity of time you spend in your cubicle or your office or your study or your library or your home studying doesn’t matter. What matters is focus.

Do you have enough of it?

I don’t think you do. 

The average person’s attention span is less than that of a goldfish although it is debated by BBC to be untrue. Anyhow the matter of fact is that attention span of an average individual is diminishing at a remarkable rate thanks to the handy smartphone.

So, What’s the solution?


Meditation, or to be more precise mindfulness meditation

I know what you are thinking right now (not literally, I ain’t a mind-reader). Meditation will kill your edge…. your business shark feel… but, no.

You need not take this on face-value. Just read the book “Tools Of Titans“. Most successful people in the Wealthy and Wise section meditate. Also, Tim Ferris, states that meditating, particularly mindfulness meditation is a must-have habit if you want to succeed.

And, I also recommend you give my own personal experience on meditation and destroying my ADHD, a read. It’s fascinating both on the perspective of Attention Deficit Disorder and the powers of mindfulness meditation.

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#2. What’s Killing Your Productivity?

One word – dopamine.

Dopamine ruins productivity
The chemical structure of dopamine….did you know it? Neither did I

It’s causing so much harm that you can’t even fathom.

Consider for a second – the Internet – possibly the greatest invention ever made. Aristotle and Socrates may have died for the vast reservoir of unlimited information we now have on our fingertips.

You can learn a goddamn language for free, become an expert digital marketer, learn skills online, as well as create a small business.

But what do most people do with it?

They google up their celebrity crushes, read unnecessary news, keep on checking their social media or just watch porn.

The result is that their dopamine fuelled journey kills their time and prevents them from being productive. Also, if you are like most people, you may keep on checking your instant messaging apps whenever there is a notification.

I can’t just stress enough how damaging this is to your overall productivity.

Multitasking kills efficiency

The thing is, when you start a task, it takes at least 10 minutes for you to get into the flow and actually get your brain wrapped in the work. Constantly checking your phone or email is a form of multitasking and shall constantly distract your brain from your work.

Read this article for more info on multitasking. There is a book, called Deep Work, by Cal Newport (one of my favourite), which I would love to recommend to you, if this is something that kills your productivity.

The book contains actionable tips and strategies that you can start implementing in your life from Day #1. In fact, I too, had an addiction of wasting my time on YouTube videos on my phone. However, the book really helped me overcome my dopamine fueled life!

#3. Why Is Finding Out What’s Important, Important?

I get it! Your main reason for trying to be more productive, is to do more work in lesser time, that is, to be more efficient.

Find out the important to increase your productivity

But, wait, will that help you?

Will that actually make you more productive?

The answer is, “maybe”, that is, if you can prioritize doing that, which is important and discarding the unimportant.

Know Pareto? Pareto was an economist, after whom the Pareto Principle has been devised -…bla….bla….bla…you don’t need to know all that- basically 80% of your efforts translate into 20% of your results and 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results that you seek.

So, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon and trying to get more work done, first try to find which of your work is the most important – which of your 20% tasks will yield around 80% of the results and get going on them.

When you finish those tasks getting back to the 80% of your unyielding work is absolutely not recommended. That would serve to only kill your productivity. On the contrary, you should get into different things – such as, open a business and try to find out the 20% of work that you can do there that will yield 80% of the results.

That will get you even more success in life and make you truly more productive instead of a robot…. a highly efficient robot.

Results Of Spending Your Day On The UnImportant

But, why not do the unimportant also? Why not do the 80% of the work that yields 20% of the results?

Well, you could do that, but then you wouldn’t be productive. You should rather invest the time it would take to do 80% of the work on something that gets you even more success.

That’s how Pareto Principle works and that’s how pretty much all the successful people all over the world work.

#4. Procrastination – The Biggest Efficiency Killer

Procrastination and your efficiency
That’s my pal, whom I infected with my procrastination. I am like a procrastination virus… not kidding!

Ahh! My Achilees heel… I used to be (who am I kidding? I still am) what you could say, a master procrastinator. I would never study when it was time to study. I would get up a hundred times, to drink water, tea, coffee, call up my guys etc…

I don’t know why I got the habit of getting up a hundred times when I sat to study. I still have that habit, such as when I am writing a thesis or an article or proofreading. You need not have the habit of getting up from your workbench a hundred times (that was just the way I procrastinated), but the thing is everybody procrastinates).

Meditation kind of helps reduce the habit of procrastination as you can increase your concentration when you work and also be more mindful when you are going to begin procrastinating.

Also, if your procrastination occurs through your phone, that is, you procrastinate on your work by checking your social media or your phone, then you can use these apps to reign in your procrastinating habits.

Setting up false and looming deadlines that create a sense of urgency is also a great way to get work done fast without procrastinating.

#5. Books, Do They Help?

Yes, totally. I was not much of a self-help book fan, but now, I kind-of have replaced story books with them… and I am also very picky…

So, yeah, self-help books do work. I would never have overcome my ADHD without those books, nor could I have set up my business without it. I couldn’t get consecutive A+ in my tests at the University, not could I have managed to have so much work done in such a short span of time…

If you are into self-help books, here are the ones I would recommend – 

Deep Work, The Four Hour Workweek, The Productivity Project, Tools of Titans and So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

These books are somewhat intermingled with productivity – they are based on other topics as well, but can help you tremendously, if productivity is your goal.

#7. Keeping Yourself Busy

Business is the key to productivity. I know I said, step back and find out what’s important on your plate, a little while ago.

Business can make you more efficient

But by being busy, I don’t mean to say do unyielding, low-priority work and keep yourself busy. Rather, do work that is meaningful and produces huge results… Start your very own business, invest in startups you trust and care about, travel the world and work for free in some shelter home for poor kids… The lesser time that you have on your plate, the smarter you will utilize it.

You will start utilizing Pareto Principle on those work without even knowing it.

The key to get this on, is to start when you don’t have much on your plate.

Having tests the very next week or if your company’s yearly review is coming up – then, it’s probably not a great time for you to start on this ambitious objective.

Rather you should start this when you don’t have much to do… such as when a new semester begins at college. Then, you shall have time to improvise, drop stuff that aren’t important and pick up stuff that are crucial for your success.

This form of filtering out the unimportant takes time and requires trial and error, so you may want to start it when you got the time to do the necessary improvisation.

If you are a person who is always bogged down by work, then I guess, your fundamentals are not on point. I would suggest you do the other stuff on the list before risking this endeavor. If you can’t handle the pressure, it’s useless to build pressure.

But, don’t fret!

10 days of meditation, cutting out procrastination, fasting out on dopamine and trying to find the unimportant will fine-tune your productivity and then you can burst to the next level using this method.

#8. Create a False Sense Of Urgency

Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

Why did I mention it here?

Because, of course it applies to productivity. Heck, if you got to turn in an assignment to your boss and he gives you a month to complete, $500 says you will require 29 days to get it over with. And if you have seven days, to turn it in, it’s gonna take you 6 days.

Timelines make tasks more urgent

Therefore, if you don’t set an artificial time bar to finish your work, that you adhere to, then you are going to take a humongous amount of time to get it done.

So, whenever you have work, set a period of time within which you have to complete it and work your ass off so as to meet the deadline. People usually presume they can finish the task much faster than they actually can, but that’s the catch!

You have to get the job over with, within the set time frame that you, yourself established. 

And, when you get the work over, in the shorter deadline, use the rest of the time to revise the work to make it error free.

Heck, why not use the same artificial deadline for revising also?

#8.1. ShutDown Time

This is a derivation of the above principle that I discovered in Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work. Basically it utilizes the above principle on day to day affairs, and isn’t based upon projects like the previous principle.

Basically, all you gotta do is create an artificial deadline in your day, (like 4 or 5 or 6pm) after which you are not going to do any more work. This principle doesn’t advocate you to be lazy, though.

It helps you in finding out the important work in your day-to-day schedule and working on it with full focus so that you can have the rest of the day to yourself.

And, heck, you could use the rest of the day to sharpen your skills relating to your work, such as, participate in online courses or just set up your very own startup.

#9. Domino Effect

Did it ever happen to you – that, you were on a diet and you wanted to try a cookie… just one cookie. And, as soon as you realize, you have finished the entire jar of cookies.

Domino effect to stop wasting time
One push, and it gets set off

Domino effect means when one act sets off a chain reaction causing one thing after the other. And, in this case, it is when you take one cookie and keep on taking more and more. (Cookies are known as domino effect causing foods – that’s why I used this example).

Anyhow, when you finish a part of your work and think of taking a 10 or 5 minute break and get back to work…..and you start checking up some social media apps on your phone… well, what you are doing, is just setting up a dopamine fueled domino effect.

One app after another… and I guarantee you won’t be able to get back to work before the next 30 minutes.

Domino effect is also a great productivity killer when you use the pomodoro timer (a great productivity hack/tool).

However, domino effect can be used for your benefit too.. Read this article by Stian Pedersen to learn more about domino effect, in particular!

#10. Your Dopamine, Your Way

Dopamine is a super-hormone. Contrary to what the press like to stress that it is a pleasure hormone, dopamine is also a motivation hormone. 

This study found that soldiers with Post traumatic stress disorder, received a small boost in their dopamine level when they heard gun shots.

Thus, clearly dopamine and pleasure was just one piece of the puzzle.. Turns out, dopamine may also be fundamentally linked with motivation.

In the right amounts, it can be amazing and in the wrong amounts, it can cause havoc (my own experiment with dopamine).

In fact, another study shows that those guys who work their ass off for achieving their goals had higher levels of dopamine than slackers… so, if you want to boost your dopamine, try working your ass off..

And this will have another effect. Dopamine and in turn motivation, boosts your productivity, albeit temporarily, till the time you work.

So, to sum it up, set incremental goals and complete them. This will help your brain get the much needed dopamine shots that it deserves and boom… your productivity will skyrocket – a much needed kick in the slow af ass of yours.

Productivity Boost by Dopamine Increase
Sounds, easy enough?

#10.1. Consider A Dopamine Fast

Talk and encouragement sound amazing.. But, you are a lazy ass.. Now motivation won’t get you off that couch of yours and make you put the phone down..

Oh, and yes… shouldn’t you be working right now, instead of reading this stupid article?

That’s the thing with most of you… you need dopamine.. the lovely feel good hormone.. (picture the smirk as I take my cocaine injection to boost my dopamine…………………sarcastic….don’t call 911).

Anyhow, dopamine is what’s stopping you from putting your phone down and getting back to work. Checking social media, replying to instant messaging apps gives your dopamine a surge, which kind-of prevents you from stopping yourself.

Dopamine fast

That’s your instincts after all.. your lymbic system vs your prefrontal cortex..

And, therefore, this method – dopamine fast except through work related inputs (when you work).

In simpler terms, this means, no phone, no social media, no messaging… no email, until the work on your plate is finished… complete.

You can take breaks but no phone or email or Internet. And, if you need the internet, then you ain’t got the permission to visit any website unrelated to your work.

Also, I advise you don’t talk to others over topics unrelated to your task at hand, unless you finish it… I don’t advise you to do it everyday, but just once a fortnight will suffice.

And as for the rest of the days, you can divide your work schedule into mini-tasks and focus on dopamine fasting while those tasks are completed.

#11. Planning and Execution

I won’t lie. This point right here, might be one of the most important action that can boost your productivity, if not the second-most important (meditation, being the first). There’s a quote – “planning is worthless but plans are everything” and I couldn’t agree more.

The thing is, most people quit making a timetable of their planned daily routine because they fail to stick with it. And that’s where they all go wrong.

Man, you are bound to go wrong. You are bound to not finish maybe, even half of what you planned for. But, that’s human.

What is crucial is that you review your daily plans and how you managed to execute them – that’s the basis of this action plan – remember, it has the word, “execution” in addition to planning. Planning is worthless if you just put it in paper and fail to execute upon it.

But, you can’t execute your plan in all perfection.. hell, you can’t even execute it with 50% finesse. So, reviewing is key. That gets your mind in a setting wherein, it can set realistic goals and plans and it also makes you more obedient to your plans… so that you don’t spend the time set to finish the thesis, by binge-watching Netflix (we’ve all been there).

Just jot down your daily plans in Evernote. 

Evernote to boost your productivity

Make sure you write the plan in a form of action plan. For example, instead of thesis on XYZ subject, write, “finish at least 2000 words of thesis on XYZ subject under the sub-heading of ABC” (for representation).

Write your plans in a slightly detailed manner so that it is not vague and does not give you much room to decide what you can do, after opening the Evernote app.

I also recommend, you make a seperate note in the same app for 3 goals daily.

And, after the end of the day, write a daily review wherein you jot down what you succeeded to finish of the plan and what you have to postpone. Also write down how much of your daily goals you could complete and how much you have to put off.

Wrapping it Up

These are my very own productivity strategies (not hacks or tactics) to give you an immense boost in your own working efficiency. The thing about these strategies is that they are the distilled material of my reading of several books, interviewing several experts and business owners and trying stuff out myself.

These worked great for me… and has helped me transform myself quite a bit.

Where you looking for tiny hacks and tidbits instead of long-term strategies? Then this article on productivity hacks according to experts may suit you best. What about some apps to give you the edge to beat procrastination?

And, now it’s your turn. Which of these strategies did you find best? Are you already incorporating some of these strategies? Which one? Let me know in the comments!

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author avatar
Adhip Ray
Adhip Ray is the founder of WinSavvy. He has a legal, finance and data analytics background and has provided marketing consultancy to startups for over 5 years. He has been featured at multiple publications in multiple niches including HubSpot, Addicted2Success, Manta, FitSmallBusiness, Databox, IndiaCorpLaw, Bar and Bench and more!

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