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6 Counterintuitive Productivity Tips

Happy January, AKA the honorary season of getting noses back to grindstones! There is an abundance of productivity tips floating around the internet, and while many are valuable (shout out to the Pomodoro Technique!), it’s important to remember the “behind-the-scenes” tips for productivity.

We like to call them the counterintuitive tips. By examining productivity from a different angle, these counterintuitive tips not only boost your prolificness, but also make you into a happier, healthier, saner person (what is that called…a win-win-win-win? …We lost track).

Here are our top 6 counterintuitive productivity tips for you would-be eager beavers:

1. Learn to say no


Why?: In a culture where positivity is highly valued, it’s easy to forget the importance of this two letter word. “No” truly has a bad rap in American culture and that’s a big problem for productivity.

Our Advice: Let this serve as a reminder that “no” is basically a magical spell that can: banish projects you aren’t truly invested in, do away with commitments that you only take on out of guilt, or guard your precious calendar from that person who wants to pick your brain for the umpteenth time; all for the low, low price of FREE.99! And it’s an instant productivity boost.

Bonus: Your “YES” now has more value.

2. Done is better than perfect

Happee Birthday Harry Cake GIF

Why?: Ye perfectionists out there have probably heard this already (or have been graciously gifted a pencil bag that says as much–thanks Aunt Ruth!).

Getting caught up about having the right margins on your TPS reports is something we perfectionist, productivity-focused humans lurrrrrve to do. The problem with perfectionism is: a) it’s a mask for fear; and b) it’s a time suck.

Our Advice: Dive in and get that project done. So what if it’s not color-coordinated? You can add the bells and whistles later. Plus when it’s done (even in rough draft form) you’ll feel a huge weight off your back and an extra boost of energy to get even more done.

3. Turn off your phone notifications

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Why?: The myth that we should constantly be checking our phones for work is not only unhealthy, but also unrealistic and a productivity killer. Sure, you can address all of your emails and social media notifications RIGHT NOW, but what is this actually doing for that novel you’ve been meaning to write? Hint: not a thing.

Our Advice: If you want to clear some mental space, feel more centered, and get more done, pick a time to deal with phone alerts and turn them off in the meantime. Set your phone to do not disturb mode so only emergency calls get through.

4. Take a break

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Why?: Working without stopping seems like the most straightforward way to get more done, in the same way that drawing a straight line for a road trip from the U.S. to China seems like the shortest distance. It’s um….a little short-sighted and unrealistic.

Not taking breaks is, in fact, a productivity killer. Burn out comes in hard and fast when you don’t give yourself breathers, not to mention that creative ideas don’t have room to grow either. Plus, No Break Nancy is not the Nancy that anyone wants to work with.

Our Advice: Take a break, even if it’s just to walk around for 10 minutes, breathe it out in child’s pose for 5 minutes, or meditate for 2 minutes. Taking breaks will foster your creativity and help you check in with good ol’ perspective…which brings us to our next tip…

5. Think about death

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Why?: Truly. Thinking for 30 seconds about your own mortality puts things in perspective. Really think about it. What is actually important to you? If this was your last day on earth, what would you focus on? This helps you drop into your most important priorities.

Our Advice: When you feel like you’re tackling work that’s aligned with your values, and not just playing whack-a-mole with your inbox, productivity feels richer and more meaningful–which is key to keeping you motivated to do more.

6. Get a good night’s sleep


Why?: Pivoting off of #5, the phrase “sleep when you’re dead” is common, but also a TERRIBLE idea. Studies on sleep deprivation have shown that going a whole day without sleep produces similar impairment as having a blood alcohol concentration above .08% (the legal limit in most states).

Our Advice: How do you expect to be productive if you shouldn’t even operate a vehicle? You have to take care of your body and brain so that it can fire on all cylinders. Bottom line: getting enough sleep is a prerequisite to being a productive BAMF.