Sometimes, it can feel as if there's too much to do and too little time to accomplish it all.
That's why, in this article, I'll reveal three simple productivity habits that help me save over 20 hours per week.
The most productive people focus on high-leverage tasks. These tasks create a ripple effect that could last for weeks, months, or even years.
The internet has leveled the playing field when it comes to high-leverage tasks.
For example, writing a blogpost requires about three hours of work, but it could reach thousands or millions of people for many years. That’s a powerful ripple effect for a few hours of work.
Creating a digital product is another form of leverage. It requires a lot of upfront work, but once it’s finished, you can sell it for years to thousands of people without any extra work.
Other forms of high-leverage activities are:
As Naval Ravikant writes in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, “We live in an age of leverage. A leveraged worker can out-produce a non-leveraged worker by a factor of one thousand or ten thousand.”
Of course, you can’t always escape low-leverage tasks (like email, administrative work, or most meetings). But if you want to sky-rocket your productivity, you’ll have to spend more time identifying high-leverage tasks:
Which tasks have the potential to create a ripple effect in my life/work that could last for weeks, months, or years?
As Naval Ravikant writes, “With a leveraged worker, judgment is far more important than how much time they put in or how hard they work.”
Do anything to free up more resources (time, energy, headspace) for these high-leverage tasks, as they allow you to achieve far better results in just a fraction of the time.
Flow is a psychological and physiological state of peak performance. It’s where we feel our best and perform at our best — both mentally and physically.
Steven Kotler, author of The Art of Impossible, writes that during flow, “mental and physical ability go through the roof, and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.”
A 10-year McKinsey study on flow and productivity found that top executives report a 400% increase in performance during flow.
In other words, if you work for two hours per day in a flow state, you’ll get as much done as most people do in an average 8-hour workday.
Neuroscience shows that during flow, our brainwave activity measurably changes and we experience a potent shift in neurochemistry.
A combination of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, serotonin, and — sometimes — oxytocin floods the system. This creates a powerful neurochemical cocktail for peak performance and makes flow one of the most enjoyable and rewarding human states.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, and known as ‘the father of flow', wrote:
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Unfortunately, in today’s distraction-overload world, people hardly experience flow anymore. It’s estimated that the average knowledge worker spends only 5% of their workweek in flow.
That’s because the average knowledge worker gets distracted by an email notification or their smartphone every 6 to 8 minutes, according to a study by RescueTime.
Since it requires at least 22 minutes of undivided attention (no distractions or task-switching) before you can enter flow, we can conclude that most people rarely use the full performance potential their brain has to offer.
If you want to work more frequently in a flow state, here’s the flow state routine I personally follow every day:
All in all, learn to access the flow state (the state of optimal cognitive performance) daily, and you’ll be able to get more done in less time.
Time-blocking is one of my favorite productivity techniques. Harvard Business Review even acknowledged time-blocking as the most useful productivity hack.
And Cal Newport, author of the best-selling productivity book Deep Work, stated, “A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.”
Time-blocking is the practice of translating our daily to-do list into blocks of time on your calendar. Each task from our to-do list will be scheduled to a specific time block, providing a clear action plan for the day.
Time-blocking is a powerful peak performance habit for a few reasons.
First of all, studies found that time-blocking reduces procrastination. People who scheduled their daily tasks were 94% more likely to accomplish them compared to their non-planning counterparts.
In other words, time-blocking turns an intention (I want to go to the gym) into a specific action plan (I will go to the gym from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm) that we’re more likely to act on.
Second of all, time-blocking allows us to prioritize our most important tasks. Without time-blocking, the tasks that matter most are usually at the mercy of the tasks that matter less.
We tend to push our priorities to the sidelines because the human brain is naturally drawn to:
As Stephen Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Time-blocking allows us to schedule time for our priorities instead of getting distracted by low-value or seemingly urgent tasks.
One of my core time-blocking rules is to protect the first 2–4 hours of the day for my most important tasks. Only once I’ve completed my most important tasks do I move on to my other to-dos for the day.
Neuroscience has shown the first four hours after waking up are the most productive hours of the day.
That’s when cognitive performance is at its peak, allowing for enhanced focus, mental clarity, and problem-solving capacity.
During these hours, I get into a flow state and work on one of my most important tasks. No emails. No meetings. No distractions. This productivity routine has worked wonders for my daily performance.
Founder Personal Growth Lab
At PGL, we share science-based tools and routines to optimize your health, cognitive performance, and productivity.